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The two weeks that followed The Revelation, as she had started to call it, were awful. Hermione felt weary from exhaustion and all attempts to remain unconcerned around her, now very cool and aloof, co-worker. Ever since that night, over a tipple or two too many, when they had realised the truth about the daydream charm, things had been stilted. She couldn’t quite work out whether he was angry with her, or just wished it had all never happened.

She hadn’t realised quite how much she enjoyed his company, his mocking comments about her hair, which she had always thought she hated, and the sight of him before her, poring over texts in her small office. It was quite a revelation to her, just how much she missed it, how ordinary their relationship had become. She only knew it now, recognised it for what it was, because it no longer existed. Draco Malfoy rarely looked at her, and when he spoke, it was only out of necessity and with a sort of impersonal politeness she had never experienced from him.

It made her ache, deep in the pit of her stomach, because she was so confused about how things had come to be the way they were. There were times, when she was most in denial, when she would wish she’d never had that dream and seen him quite in that way. It haunted her now: his remembered touch, the taste of his mouth. But she was a realist, and if the surge in the pit of her stomach told her anything, it was that the charm had only brought to the forefront of her mind something that had lingered hidden beneath the surface far longer.

What made the whole situation worse was the fact that her birthday was mere days away. She was turning 21 and having a special celebration, the kind she’d never had when the world was war-torn and she was distracted. Harry and Ginny had arranged the whole thing, in cahoots with her mother, and it was to take place at her family home. Although she had been rather uncertain about the idea at first, she couldn’t deny how much she wanted it, if for nothing else than to have her parents there and so actively involved.

The reason this party, which by rights ought to have been exciting, was causing her such turmoil was that she knew she wanted him to be there. Somehow along the way she’d come to want his presence around her even when she was outside the context of work, and she wasn’t quite sure how it happened. She only knew that it had.

The difficulty, of course, was that with everything being so strained between them, and his often surly disposition, she didn’t really know whether he would even come if she did ask him. It was for this reason that she left it so late asking the question. She didn’t want to make it seem like the very important thing that it was.

She was sitting at her desk and had made several half attempts to leave her seat and ask him the question. Finally, when Hermione recalled his biting remark about her being a coward, it grated on her nerves sufficiently to motivate her into action.

She took a deep breath, and used the most calm and unconcerned voice she could muster when she finally approached his office and peered inside.

‘What is it, Granger?’ He was seated at his desk and didn’t even look up at her. Already he had her on the back foot. Damn him, she thought.

‘It’s my birthday on Saturday,’ she blurted out, with a complete lack of coolness and finesse. She kept her fidget-prone hands still and watched him as he dropped his quill and turned to look at her. He said nothing, but stared as though waiting for her to say more. She did.

‘Well … they’re throwing me a party, my parents that is, and I thought—’ She was just about to ramble inconsequentially when he interrupted her.

‘I know. Potter told me.’

‘What? Oh.’ She paused and the awkwardness set in again. ‘When … when did he tell you that?’

‘It’s an occupational hazard, bumping into Potter around here … and he seemed to be under the impression you would want me there.’ He was staring at her, and all she could think was how beautiful his eyes were.

Before she could say a very fervent yes to that statement, and wonder a little more closely at Harry’s perceptiveness, Draco continued. ‘But I find that hard to believe … given the fact that you’re only telling me now, two days from an event that was planned over a month ago. Am I wrong?’ he questioned and her heart jolted.

‘Sorry, I was … of course, I want you to come.’ She could feel her teeth worrying her lower lip. ‘We’re friends, aren’t we? I just … I didn’t know if you would want—’

‘Friends?’ he interrupted, gracefully extracting himself from the desk chair, and coming to stand before her. ‘We’ve never been friends, Granger.’

He pushed his hands into the pockets of his elegantly cut trousers, and shrugged before leaving the office. He seemed to be making a habit of doing that. She felt completely and utterly wretched.


*


The light wind kissed Hermione’s bare shoulders, and she relished the cool caress on an otherwise warm evening. She was standing in the back garden of her parents’ house, watching with amusement as her motley group of family and friends, wizards and Muggles alike, came together in celebration of her birthday.

Even though she’d been classified, in the wizarding world, as an adult for several years now, it meant a lot to her parents to be able to celebrate this with her. They had missed out on so much that was vital to her life, and she couldn’t bear to deprive them of what was a very special night for them.

She watched her mother and father for a couple of moments, holding back a short laugh at the enthusiasm of Mr Weasley, who was sharing with them his very great excitement over the discovery of their sprinkler system. Her mother had spent all day in the kitchen cooking up a feast, and Mrs Weasley had even helped by making an enormous birthday cake. The garden was decorated with pretty fairy lights, the variety made of glass and electricity instead of small elf-like people, and music mixed with the smell of food that lingered in the air.

It was lovely, she thought. Hermione was distracted from such musings when she felt an arm deliberately bump her own. She turned to grin at Harry who was gazing out at the scene as well.

‘Great turn out.’ She nodded in agreement. ‘So are you enjoying yourself? You’ve been rather quiet.’

She turned quickly and rather guiltily toward him. ‘Of course, I am, Harry!’ She paused and sighed before responding. ‘It’s just been a long week … that’s all.’

‘So, I suppose he’s not here yet.’

She raised a brow in question. ‘Who?’

‘Malfoy,’ said Harry with the air of someone all-knowing. ‘Since you’ve been beadily watching the doorway all night, I assume you’ll be the first to know.’

She sniffed in response. ‘I wasn’t staring at the door! And, anyway, what’s all this business about you inviting him … that was, well … surprising.’ She gave him a small smile.

‘Yes, well …’ He was clearly trying to fathom it all himself, judging by the wrinkled brow. ‘Clearly you like him for some reason or another … and I suppose he’s not so bad now … in small doses.’

She cast him an appraising look, amused at his tremendous effort toward civility. Despite what both he and Malfoy said on the topic, they each seemed to rub along without much fuss. Relations between the latter and Ron, however, were an entirely different story.

‘Well,’ she said. ‘It won’t matter much anyhow. I don’t think he’s coming.’

Harry threw an arm over her shoulders and leaned in conspiratorially. ‘And why is that?’

‘He said we’re not friends.’ She didn’t mention how wrong it felt to say that, and how bereft it made her feel.

‘Of course you aren’t,’ Harry agreed readily. ‘What is it with women always wanting to put that friend label over every relationship … makes things bloody confusing. Ginny and I aren’t friends,’ he said as though this were some huge revelation.

‘Of course not, you’re much more than that … You love her.’

He nodded, cast a sidelong look at her, and said, ‘Exactly.’

The look she sent him in return was one of bewilderment. ‘Just when, Harry Potter, did you get to be so wise?’

He tugged on a curled tendril of hair and grinned. ‘Somewhere between the drinks table and here, I suspect. But I have every confidence it will pass.’ His gaze shifted from hers and he gave her a quick peck on the cheek. ‘Happy birthday, Hermione. I believe that’s my cue to leave.’

A funny sort of spasm seemed to erupt in her stomach: that odd thing, anticipation. When her gaze fell upon the back door, she noted the tall man there, the pale crown of his head glowing in the semi-darkness. The air rushed into her lungs in a gush, so that it felt like she’d been holding her breath all evening. It was a funny twist of fate that of all the people she was happy to see, he was the one to cause such giddiness.

She wandered toward him as calmly as she could, but she still felt a slight quiver in her legs. She’d planned everything she wanted to say to him if he did show up. Whilst she was eternally grateful that he had, and indeed saw it as a kind of gesture in itself, she was rather nervous about what to do now. The mere sight of him, so bright and shiny in her parents’ garden, was rather startling.

Her skin tingled when his gaze fell on her, reminding Hermione how it had felt to stand bare and exposed before him in the dream. This moment felt a little similar.

His voice was low when he whispered happy birthday, and there was something about the softness of the words that made them feel secret and special, and only for her ears.

‘We should … can we talk?’ She rubbed her arms in spite of the warm evening air.

The fair arch of his brow seemed to indicate his agreement and so with her muttered cue that he follow her, he did just that, through the house and to the footpath out front.

‘Granger, where are we going?’ he asked in an irritable voice as she walked stiltedly, further from the house.

She turned to look at him and smiled tremulously. ‘Actually we’re nearly there … it’s just the park behind here.’ When they entered the clearing, Hermione pointed toward the old swing set she played on in her youth. ‘I used to come here a lot,’ she said. ‘The first time I experienced magic was here … I got stuck up the top of the bar and couldn’t get down for an hour.’

The look on his face as he watched her warmed her cheeks. It seemed strange to Hermione to be sharing something personal like that with him. Strangely good.

‘How did you get down?’

‘I jumped,’ she said. ‘Broke my leg in two places.’ She grinned as he shook his head, amusement lingering around the curve of his mouth.

‘That sounds about right,’ he said. ‘So did you lure me here to regale me with stories of your youth?’

‘How’d you guess?’ She stuck her tongue out at him in a childish manner that was reminiscent of when she was four and hadn’t quite overcome a mild tendency to brattiness. His eyebrows shot up in amusement.

Hermione pulled the metal links of the swing toward her, before sitting gingerly on the perch. Her feet kicked off and she felt the giddy rush of air against her face. She cast her gaze at her companion, who was looking at the other swing with a look of confusion and mild disgust. He even prodded the seat with his wand, but did it so quickly and subtly that she almost missed it, which was probably his intention. Draco Malfoy didn’t like to be viewed as ignorant of anything.

‘You sit on it.’

Why?’ His disdain for the pastime rang clear in his words, and she almost cackled at the thought of him being afraid of a little swing.

She shrugged and kicked her feet off the dirt again. ‘This is how Muggles fly.’

Her heartbeat thrummed a new rhythm as she watched him lower his lengthy form to sit precariously on the seat. Draco Malfoy immersed in the places of her childhood was a funny thing to behold. That he even bothered to try the swing out caused a fizzy burst of hope to sing in her veins.

His feet barely kicked off the ground and he looked extremely uncomfortable, but shockingly he made no criticisms to her. In fact, they sat in complete silence for a moment or so before Hermione finally spoke up.

Her voice was the barest of whispers in the salty night air. ‘It meant something, didn’t it?’

He stopped all attempts at swinging and turned to look at her. His gaze was clear and bright in the moonlit park and it seared her to her core. Her cheeks flushed when he didn’t respond, and she was about to make some sort of flippant comment and flee before he nodded.

‘Yes.’

She blew out a gust of air. He would choose now to be succinct, despite all of times she’d listened to his endless monologues about one thing or another.

Her toe moved in swirling shapes in the dirt. ‘How could it have been there … before … and I didn’t even know?’ She wasn’t so much asking him as she was posing the question to herself.

He spoke then, his usual exasperation coming through. ‘Some things you don’t learn from books, Granger. Shocking though that may seem. Surely you have some degree of intuitive thinking?’

She scoffed. ‘Right, and you do?’

‘Yes.’ He stared at her simply and she was silent for a moment, processing.

‘You knew? When?’

He looked away, so that all she saw was his profile, glowing in the surrounding darkness. ‘A while.’

He gave up all pretence of swinging, and stood up next to the pole. She followed suit, and when she slipped, she felt him grip her upper arms to steady her. The touch of his hands made her bare skin tingle.

He spoke up again. ‘You spend too much time worrying about other people … people you don’t even know, and all of your causes, to think about much else.’

‘I’ll have you know—’

‘This is a reasonably important moment, Granger, so please don’t fuck it up by talking.’

He kissed her then, right when she was preparing to lay into him for such unnecessary rudeness. And although she could still recall the way he had felt in her dream, it was nothing like this, because this was real. His touch and his taste were of Draco, and although her mind had been incredibly ignorant of the fact that she had wanted this, him, for so long, another part of her had clearly known it.

He tugged her closer, one hand carding through the thick mane of her curls, moulding her head so it was flush with his. He tasted of warmth and sweetness, and a heady sort of rush shot through her.

He pulled back and she stared at his mouth before he laughed a little raggedly. ‘You keep looking at me like that and we’re never going to make it back to the party.’

She squirmed and he grinned down at her. ‘You know,’ he said, and moved a finger across her heated cheeks, ‘I never would have taken you for one to blush … but I was very pleased to discover you flush that pretty pink all over.’

Goodness that was embarrassing. The memory of the dream shifted back into her thoughts and she flushed again. The uninhibited sound of his laughter rang out in the still night air. She tried to keep the strange desire to grin at bay as they began walking back toward the house. She almost restrained herself from indulging her curiosity, but the urge was too strong.

‘I was wondering, though … if that was a, well, shared dream then where did your … part come into it?’ She turned to look at him, her head tilted.

The slight dilation of his pupils before he responded had her catching her breath. ‘I assure you ... my fantasy, or one of them, certainly crept in there. In fact, I would say it was the most vivid part.’

His grin was wolfish and her heart did funny acrobatic things in her chest. ‘Ah,’ she murmured; she definitely remembered that part.

‘Whilst we’re on the topic of fantasies … I’m definitely interested in further exploring the part about you being tied up and at my mercy …’

She was hardly going to tell him but, Merlin, so was she.

- The End - 

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