Hermione sighed and continued toward her book store, trying to avoid touching her lips with her fingertips.
Draco was a confusing sort of person, but, then again, she figured she was too.
When she got to her store she was surprised to see that it was closed. There was a sign that said “Be back in twenty minutes,” in Clementine’s writing and the time that she had posted the sign on the bottom.
Not even five minutes ago.
Hermione used her key to get in, but left the sign in place before she made her way to the stacks. She knew she had a few books concerning wizarding genes, but she was giddy from the way Draco was treating her and was unsure of what exactly she needed to be looking for.
She pulled a book called “Wizarding Genealogy for Idiots” off of the shelf and started riffling through it haphazardly. Her heart really wasn’t in it right now, but she knew she needed to get her head in the game if she was going to accomplish anything.
She took the book and sat in a chair that wasn’t noticeable from the windows, turned her back to the door and ran her finger down the index.
She was about halfway through when her vision went and she was suddenly thrust into darkness.
She couldn’t immediately comprehend what was happening to her and she reached up and realized that someone had covered her head in such a fluid movement that she didn’t even hear or see anyone. She screamed and tried to remove it but it wouldn’t budge from her head, so instead she screamed louder in the hopes that someone would hear her.
All she could think about was the fact that someone was attacking her in her own store, and her own traitorous bell hadn’t tinkled to inform her of someone’s arrival.
She was going to smash that bell to smithereens at her first opportunity.
She was reminded of her terror as a large hand enclosed around her arm, and a rough voice said, “Shut up, bitch, or you’ll only make it worse for yourself.”
Hermione clamped her jaws shut as she was yanked from the chair and forced down a row of stacks before being taken into the back of her store. She was getting cold now, so she knew they were in the very rarely used office room and she was shoved unceremoniously through a doorway where she landed hard on her knees and one elbow, the stone scraping her skin roughly.
All she could think about was Harry, for a few moments.
“Crucio!” she heard before she was writhing in pain, and in some small part of her brain she couldn’t help but wonder why someone would be even using an Unforgivable Curse on her. The searing pain stopped and the bag was removed from her head, but that did nothing to alleviate her fear. Standing above her were three men, large men, and each one of them had their face obscured by a strange black mist, and they were all wearing thick travelling cloaks and gloves, even though it was a warm summer day.
She opened her mouth to scream but it came out as a painful moan as she was slapped hard in the face, causing something inside her cheek to break open, blood smearing across her teeth.
She was quickly descended on by all three of her attackers, each of them hitting her systematically in different parts of her body. The Cruciatus Curse long forgotten as the attackers used their obviously preferred method of inflicting pain like muggles, and she realized that if she was being beaten like a muggle on instinct, the men had to at least have been brought up in a muggle environment.
She was being beaten thoroughly, but not to the point where any bones were being broken. She was going to be bruised severely by the end of it, but she had definitely taken worse beatings in her day. The people had obviously been sent to scare her, and maybe harm her a little bit, but they weren’t doing any lasting damage, she thought.
“You need to stop your research,” a man with a deep, somewhat familiar voice growled at her, “stop it, before you come across something you’ll regret knowing anything about.”
Hermione whimpered in pain as the man squeezed her throat tightly, and she wasn’t sure how much longer she would be able to hold onto her consciousness.
“Do you understand?!” another man all but screamed at her, and Hermione agreed in a small voice, knowing that if she nodded it might be her undoing.
“Good,” the third said harshly, before spitting on her and apparating away. Two loud cracks followed and Hermione was sitting alone, broken and beaten in the semi-darkness of her own office.
Hermione remained sitting on the floor for a few minutes, breathing deeply and trying to figure out what in the name of all that is good just happened. Even though she had agreed with the men about stopping her research, she was more spurred on now. There was obviously a huge secret being covered up, and now, thanks to these three men, she knew just where to start looking.
This attack had nothing to do with Harry, but this thought wasn’t very reassuring as she thought through what had just occurred, laying on her back on the cold stone floor so she wouldn’t pass out.
Stupid of the Ministry to send someone she knew to threaten and attack her, really.
Hermione stood up on shaking legs and walked across the room, feeling weak and unstable. She made it to the main room of Pleasure Bound and noticed that all the lights had been extinguished.
Where the hell was Clementine?
Hermione started to make her way to the door, knowing she wasn’t in the right mind to apparate. Maybe if people saw her in such a state, she would be able to get someone to take pity on her and accompany her to St. Mungo’s. As she got closer and blinked to clear her vision, because for some reason all she could see was a hazy red for a moment, she saw, to her complete surprise, Draco. It looked like he had just walked up; he seemed to be reading the sign on the door.
She limped forward as Draco was trying the knob. She knew it would open because she hadn’t locked it behind her when she came in. He threw the door open, the bell still not making any noise, and strutted through with his usual gait, probably looking forward to the preferential treatment he received from Hermione’s part time employees, but he stopped dead in his tracks and stared at Hermione for a moment.
“Draco,” she choked out seconds before falling forward into his arms.
Draco swore loudly and gently picked her up, looking around the store incredulously. Seeing no one, he turned on the spot.
Hermione opened her eyes and was surprised to recognize her surroundings. She was in her own bedroom. She sat up and gasped as her head swam, she dropped it into her hands and clutched at it, moaning at the pain throbbing throughout her entire body.
She realized at that moment, as well, that Draco was beside her, curled up and sleeping restlessly and even in her pain she blushed when she realized that he wasn’t wearing a shirt. His eyes opened, as though he could feel her looking at him, and he sat up quickly when he saw that she was awake.
“What happened?!” he asked her immediately, obviously upset.
“How long have we been here?” she asked, instead of answering his question.
“Since yesterday. I brought us here because I couldn’t apparate you into my manor without you holding onto me tightly, and I didn’t want to take you to St. Mungo’s without knowing what exactly happened. You don’t have any broken bones anyway and I have some healing balm at the Manor for your bruises, so I didn’t think it was a big deal.”
“I slept that long?!”
“Yeah, restlessly, but yes. I didn’t want to leave you here alone” he said, looking almost uncomfortable, “sorry I slept in here too but your couch is ridiculously small and lumpy.”
“My couch is not lumpy.”
“And you undressed me?” she asked, changing the subject from her ‘lumpy’ couch, because she knew for a fact that it was exceptionally comfortable, gesturing to her pink tank top and the boy shorts that she was wearing as knickers.
“You kept getting all twisted up in those weird pants you wear,” Draco said, avoiding eye contact.
“Thanks for that, I guess,” she answered.
Hermione was not body shy, despite what people thought about her.
“What happened?” he asked her quietly.
“I was attacked,” she said, stopping to take a sip of the water that was on her bedside table, “I was looking for a book and then the next thing I knew I was in my office with three men.”
“Who were they?” Draco growled, obviously angry.
“I can’t be sure, because they all had this strange black mist covering their faces, but I’m pretty sure I recognized one of their voices…”
Hermione trailed off and closed her eyes, trying to remember the details of what had happened to her the day before. The voice, she definitely knew the voice.
“I know who it was, well at least one of them.”
Hermione sighed, “I swear it was Dean Thomas.”
“We went to school with him, Draco, he was in our year and in Gryffindor. He was on the Quidditch team to cover for Alicia… oh you didn’t play that year,” she said, trying to cover the fact that they both knew it was his fault that Alicia was off the team for quite some time, “He dated Ginny Weasley for a while there…”
Draco shrugged. He had no idea who she was talking about.
Hermione stood from the bed and reached for her robe; Draco was having a difficult time thinking of anything when she was standing before him in her knickers. “You need that healing balm desperately,” he said, but she chose to ignore his words because she could feel the bruises on her body.
“I probably wouldn’t have recognized him by his voice at all if I hadn’t just talked to him about three months ago. He was in Pleasure Bound looking for a new collection of Muggle mystery books and I gave him a hand. I saw him almost every day for a week,” Hermione said, walking to the bathroom so she could look at herself in a mirror.
“Well, where does he work then? Maybe we can start there, since obviously wherever he works wants to put an end to our investigation.”
Draco had followed her out of the bedroom and was standing behind her, ignoring her gasps when she looked at herself. Then her eyes met his in the mirror and he could tell that he wasn’t going to like her answer at all.
“The Ministry of Magic.”
Draco felt as though he were falling for a moment.
“Where were you called to for work, Draco?” She asked casually, turning around and looking at her back in the mirror at all the bruises, before she got her face right close and ran a finger down a cut on her cheekbone.
“It was a mistake. I was called to Theydon Bois to help clear up a matter of a child who had gotten a hold of his father’s wand, but when I got there it had already been taken care of by an associate of mine… you don’t think it was a setup to get me away from you?”
“I do, and I think you do too.”
Draco said nothing, just stared at Hermione for a moment, totally caught off guard by this information. “Why would the ministry be killing babies of magic?”
“You know just as well as I do, Draco, but now I want to figure this out more than ever.”
“What does Thomas do at the Ministry?”
“He’s an Unspeakable.”
Draco groaned, this just got better and better.
“I think we should lay off for a couple weeks,” Draco said, “I don’t want another episode like that to happen.”
“I think it will be fine,” Hermione said before grabbing a pair of pajama pants off of the floor, that she had left there the morning before and heading to the kitchen.
Draco, still shirtless, followed behind her and took a seat at the kitchen table while Hermione made tea and toast.
“I don’t know, Hermione. If they attacked you like that, they had obviously been watching to know I was gone, they could do it again. Anywhere.”
She shrugged and started buttering toast and Draco saw a folded piece of parchment on the table with his name on the front.
“Tea or pumpkin juice?” she asked, moving to her refrigerator.
“Whatever,” he answered flippantly, picking up the parchment and unfolding it.
It was dated for a few days previously and let Draco know that she had left for Harry Potter’s house. Hermione had even gone as far as to put down the time she left her flat, what she was wearing, and exact coordinates to Harry’s property.
“What is this?” he asked, and his voice sounded much more accusing than he meant it to.
Hermione turned around sharply at his tone, saw the paper, and laughed.
Her laugh sounded extremely forced, in Draco’s opinion.
“I was just being paranoid before, don’t even worry about that.”
Draco stared hard at her for a moment, seeing the lie beneath the surface.
“I told you I was going to leave you notes whenever I left, in case I didn’t turn up when you were expecting me. Everyone knows how detail oriented I am, so I obviously left all the information I could.”
“Why do you need to leave information at all?”
“Just in case.”
“Malfoy,” Hermione mocked as she passed him his toast.
He rolled his eyes but dropped the subject for now.
“Shit!” Hermione said, the moment she had swallowed some toast, “I wasn’t there to open my store this morning!”
“Don’t worry,” Draco checked the time before saying, “My little fan club will be there in about half an hour to open up for you.”
“It’s already 11:30? I didn’t even work out this morning,” she groaned.
Harry tore around his cottage flinging things from shelves and kicking at walls.
What the hell was Draco Malfoy doing in Hermione’s bed with her?! Something was wrong, terribly wrong.
Didn’t that blond idiot know that Hermione belonged to him?
The rational side of Harry’s mind reminded him that Hermione didn’t even know yet, but they would both figure it out, sooner or later.
He wanted to hex the man in his sleep the moment he realized what was happening, right on the spot, but he contained himself, if Malfoy was staying at Hermione’s house then he would get his comeuppance sooner or later; Harry’s sole purpose to visit her flat the night before had been completed at least. He loved his trusty little vial.
That almost didn’t stop Harry from hexing the fool though and he literally saw red when he peeked into her bedroom; people didn’t share a bed in their knickers for no reason.
He’d have to keep his eye on them.
Harry slapped his hands to his face and groaned, moments before he gripped his fists tightly into his black hair and started to pull.
His face the epitome of madness.
Draco apparated to his Manor and returned with healing balm for Hermione, who straight up refused to leave her flat until her bruises were erased and the cut on her face fixed.
“Vain much?” Draco asked.
“Like you’re one to talk,” she replied, but then added, “besides, the papers have a picture of you holding my hand yesterday, you wouldn’t want them to jump to the conclusion that you did this to me.”
Draco hurriedly and willingly helped her apply the balm to her back after that comment.
They left her flat once her bruises were faded and Hermione insisted on walking to her bookstore, which was about fifteen minutes down the lane. She had missed her morning workout and wanted to get in exercise whenever she could that day.
Three steps out of the lobby Hermione stopped in her tracks.
Harry was standing across the street watching her; he looked like he wanted nothing more than to lunge at her and rip her eyes out.
“What are you doing?” Draco asked, turning around to face her.
“Nothing,” she replied, and Draco grabbed her hand and pulled her down the street. Hermione twisted around slightly, but Harry was nowhere to be seen.
Freya squealed when Hermione and Draco walked in, throwing a copy of Witch Weekly onto the counter and jumping up and down. Hermione sometimes felt like her employees were years younger than her, instead of only one.
“Is it true?”
“What?” Hermione asked, and Draco sniggered at the fact that she hadn’t put two and two together. He strutted forward and picked up the glossy magazine, smirking at the photos of them holding hands and walking companionably together, as well as him leaning down and placing a quick kiss on her lips. He didn’t even realize there was a photographer around, at that point.
“They don’t waste any time, do they?” Hermione asked, scowling at the magazine.
“Is it true?!” Freya asked again, even more excited.
Hermione and Draco shared a glance, but neither of them confirmed nor denied Freya.
“Have you two not talked about it yet?” Freya asked, eyeing them each in turn. “Am I making you feel awkward by asking these questions?” she had raised an eyebrow and was looking much too mischievous for Hermione’s liking, and Draco went back to casually reading the stupid magazine.
“We were just stopping by to make sure that you opened the place alright. Sorry I wasn’t here this morning to open up.”
“Where were you?” Freya asked, her eyes twinkling.
“At home. I slept in by mistake.”
Freya gave her a knowing look, and Hermione decided to stop talking because she was clearly just digging herself into a deeper hole.
“Clementine is probably freaking out right now! She’s got to be so excited, because we totally knew this was going to happen.”
“What was going to happen?” Draco asked, and Freya looked like she was ready to faint because he was speaking directly to her without being snarky.
“That you two were going to end up dating.”
Draco didn’t say a word, but he lifted an eyebrow at Hermione, who felt her face reddening.
“Let’s go,” Draco said, dropping the magazine on the desk and sauntering forward. He entered her personal space very quickly and wrapped his arms around her. She embraced him back out of habit and he ducked his head, his lips meeting hers as he tightened his arms around her and turned on the spot.
The last thing Hermione heard before the deafening feeling of apparation was Freya squealing like a school girl.
She swatted at him as soon as they were in his library, and he laughed, a gleeful laugh that she had never heard from him before while she pouted.
“What’d you do that for?”
“She’s never going to stop, now.”
“Let’s go for sushi tonight.”
“Okay,” she said easily, “I need to fill out an order for those books too, maybe tonight before we eat.”
Definitely comfortable with each other.
“People are staring,” Hermione said, trying her best to not let it bother her.
“I know, a lot of people have seen the article, it seems.”
“It’s a lie.”
Draco didn’t say anything, opting to eat a piece of sushi instead.
He wanted Hermione to think about his words before they got into an argument about them, which he was sure was going to happen. At the moment, she seemed to be thinking.
“How is it not a lie? We aren’t dating.”
Draco shrugged casually, “We could be.”
Hermione looked shocked.
“You want to date me?”
“I’d like to see where it goes.”
“Are you taking the piss?” she asked seriously, nervous that he was trying to jerk her around.
He grinned and ate another roll, she quickly followed suit so she didn’t have to be the first one to say anything. Hermione schooled her features so she didn’t grimace; she wasn’t enjoying the taste of her dinner tonight, which was odd considering how much she usually loved sushi.
“I’m not,” he said finally, “I think it would be interesting to see what happens.”
“That sounds way too casual, for me,” she answered haughtily, dipping a piece of tuna tataki in the provided sauce.
Draco smiled widely for a moment, “You’ve never had a boyfriend before?”
She almost choked.
“Of course I’ve had a boyfriend,” she said, her eyes narrowing at him, “I dated Ron for a while,” Draco made a noise in his throat, but she chose to ignore it, “and I dated a few other men, but they were all… disappointing. I have a firm rule that when a man dates me, he dates no one else.”
“And you think I’ll have a problem with that?”
Hermione stopped and cocked her head to the side for a moment. Now that she thought about it, she hadn’t seen any other females around Draco, and she was around him a lot; she hadn’t heard him speak of any other girls, either.
“Maybe not…” she said, pursing her lips for a moment.
She shrugged slightly, wondering if they were going about this too casually, but then she thought that maybe nothing else ever worked out for her because she took it too seriously too quickly.
“Draco Malfoy, if you’re trying to ask me out, then go ahead and do it already.”
Draco picked up his large can of imported Japanese beer, taking a delicate sip just to waste some time and make her uncomfortable.
“Why would I ask you out when we’re already out?” he asked, gesturing to the restaurant around them.
Hermione wanted to hit him.
He knew it.
“Fine. We’ll see how it goes.”
Draco raised an eyebrow at her and she gave him a cheeky grin before shoving a sushi roll in her mouth in a very unladylike manner, she needed to eat enough so he didn’t think she was having an issue with this meal as well; she would feel beyond rude if that happened.
Draco rolled his eyes and they ate in a slightly uncomfortable silence for a few moments.
“I’m going to go see Harry tomorrow,” Hermione stated, since it was a Saturday.
“I hear he’s completely barkers now.”
“You’re such a prat.”
“You’re such a bint.”
“He’s… having a hard time, I think, and that’s why I want to go see him.”
“Where do you want to go for dinner tomorrow night?”
“What? I don’t care.”
“Great, I’ll choose.”
Hermione just stared at him.
“And if you aren’t back at your flat by the time I pick you up, there will be a letter on the table letting me know your exact outfit, coordinates, and hairstyle. I know the drill, although I still don’t know why you’re so worried.”
“That story is for another time.”
They sat silently together while finishing their meal, and once Draco paid for it they stood up. He took Hermione’s hand tenderly, earning her glares from every witch in the place, attached or not, and they exited.
Draco chuckled to himself lightly and Hermione looked up at him in question.
“Who would have ever guessed, Draco Malfoy dating Hermione Granger.”
“Prick,” she said under her breath, eliciting another laugh from the strange man.
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