"Stop!" I ordered quickly, turning away. He tucked himself back into his trousers. I didn't look at him until I heard his belt fasten. "Right. This is not good."
"I fucking know that!" Malfoy snarled. I glared at him.
"Pissed that you like a Mudblood?" I sneered. I had learned both the word and the tone from him and we both knew it.
"Yes!" He retorted though with less vehemence than I expected. "You've ruined everything. I don't want to deal with this. I don't want you leading me around by my prick."
"Well I don't want that either." I walked back to the bed and sat down. Being close to him encouraged me to notice how handsome he was. How the light gilded his silk-fine hair and all that nonsense. "So we are going to discuss this like sensible adults?"
"Kill me now." Malfoy groaned, wiping his palms on his thighs before clenching his hands over his crotch. "If you mention 'research' or 'library' I am going to throttle you."
"We don't have to accept this." I deliberately used the plural pronoun. He shook his head.
"This will kill me, Granger. I'm already on a suppression potion. Spending my life like this, addicted to something I can't have and craving nothing else, is not how I want to live." He closed his eyes and didn't see me flinch. I'd become so used to his stare that without it I felt alone. Lonely, even. Damn it.
"I'll go on hormonal birth control. That should ease some of the feedback. Veela can bond to other mates. If I make myself unavailable then you'll choose someone else." I wasn't planning to go as far as Ron suggested. I wouldn't use a child as a Get Out of Jail Free card. "You can't give informed consent in your current state."
"I fucking consent, Granger. Yes! You, me, now! I'll get down on my knees and fucking beg!" Malfoy shouted, standing up from the chair so fast he knocked it over. The noise of it hitting the floor made us both jerk. He stared at me again, his pupils dilated. Mutely, he knelt, sitting on his ankles, palms flat on the floor.
Shite. And hot damn. I realised then how much power I had over him. I could make him do anything I wanted. I could make him apologise for being a vicious bully. I could make him grovel, kiss my feet and beg for forgiveness. I wanted to hear him say how sorry he was for all the cruelties he had ever inflicted on me.
But I had learned a very important lesson when Bellatrix Lestrange carved my blood status into my arm. I learned I was not her. I would never be her. I wanted never, ever to hate anyone so much that I could laugh as they screamed in pain writhing on the floor.
I didn't like Malfoy. I probably never would. But I was not Bellatrix.
"This is what we are going to do." My voice shook only a little. It was getting hot again. I cast another Cooling Charm because this was absolutely the moment for a cool head. "I am going to help you. But it will be on my terms. Whatever happens between us will be just between us. I want total privacy because I am not having my life disrupted by your family's insistence on inbreeding."
"Alright." He looked at me with grey eyes wide, not trusting but so very very willing.
"We'll work out a contact schedule. I know you'll start climbing the walls if I just send you away." Having him hang around wouldn't be fun. Maybe if I had him sit quietly in a corner I could ignore him. Hopefully he had a lot of books he wanted to read. "I want you to take a Calming Draught, if it won't interfere with the potion you're on, and try to get some sleep. I'm not going to hang you out to dry."
He stared to cry and I could see he hated it. More than anything he prided himself on his control. That cold Slytherin mask was in pieces. He feared being vulnerable. He'd told me so himself and now I was seeing it.
I knelt beside him, consciously mimicking his position. My shins objected to the hard floor but I could stand it for long enough to do something I never thought I would. I hugged Draco Malfoy.
The world did not end.
He shook, wracked with sobs half from exhaustion and half mortification. I knew that feeling. I'd cried a lot in the tent during that miserable year. It was soothing sometimes to weep so I didn't try to shush him or cheer him up. I rubbed his back.
Someone knocked on the door. I felt the spasm shoot down Malfoy's spine as he tried to quiet himself and regain his composure. His face was a kabuki mask of red and white. I took pity on him because I really can't help myself.
"Go into the bathroom. I'll deal with whoever it is." I got to my feet and went to the door, giving him time to retreat before I answered the knock. Narcissa Malfoy stood there as implacable as a caryatid. Her gaze swept the room behind me then paused on the bathroom door.
"Have you agreed to my son's request, Miss Granger?" Her tone was bland as though she was inquiring whether I wanted tea. She was difficult to read but at the sight of the Weasleys' furious faces over her shoulder, I assumed they'd assumed Malfoy would convince me to let him have his wicked way with me.
"I haven't." I tried, really I did, not to smirk. Getting Narcissa off-side over her son might not sign my death warrant but I would certainly not enjoy life. With her husband in Azkaban she literally had only Draco to live for. "But I will help him. My way."
"You don't have to do anything for that snake, Hermione." Arthur, normally mild, would never stand by to allow someone to be coerced by a family like the Malfoys.
"I know. I won't be rushed into anything else either. Ron and I aren't ready to settle down, so I'll find a way to solve this problem that works for all parties involved." I caught the slightest narrowing of Narcissa's eyes. "That includes Draco. He's hardly over the moon at being infatuated with me."
There was a chorus of half-restrained comments from the Weasleys and Harry. Molly looked disappointed, more I expect from the lack of an impending marriage. As sure as the tide, Harry and Ginny were going to get a lecture this evening on their living arrangements.
"So you are content to allow my son to suffer by prolonging this?" Narcissa asked again in that 'would you like scones' tone. I saw a chasm open before me and as much as I wanted to jump in with a cheery Gryffindor affirmative, I didn't. I did twist the knife a little, which I'm not proud of.
"All Malfoy has to do is trust me and he won't suffer. Surely he can do that." I smiled. And scratched my left arm where her sister's scar was still livid. It was itchy. I wasn't entirely doing it to thumb my nose at her. "I'm going to fix this, Mrs Malfoy. I think you can depend on my track record."
All she did was nod crisply and walk away to sit on one of the waiting room chairs. The Weasleys approached for a conference.
"I'll shift to my parents' house for a week or so while I get Malfoy stable. He's clearly not been sleeping." I saw the question Molly was going to ask and shook my head. "I don't need anyone to stay over. He'll just annoy more people that way."
Ron muttered something about Malfoy's innate gift at irritation. He wasn't wrong. But I didn't want anyone else seeing the power I held over him. I wasn't wholly comfortable with it and I knew Ron and Harry would try to provoke Malfoy until I had to use the leash.
"Are you sure that's wise?" Arthur asked after his wife covertly jabbed him. "His aura will try to persuade you. It's a powerful lure, Hermione. We want you to be careful."
"I will be very careful. I'll lock him in the guest room if I have to." I glanced at Narcissa sitting so very composed on the uncomfortable institutional chairs. "I'd like Percy to look up the laws relating to Veela mates, if he wouldn't mind. I'm not going to let the Ministry or the Malfoys make me do anything. We've all had enough of that."
That seemed to be the right thing to say. I got a round of hugs and promises of assistance. The Weasleys wouldn't spit on Malfoy if he was on fire but they'd gladly help me. Ron looked a bit sulky, however he gave me an extra long hug and promised he'd let me handle it. For a week or until Malfoy needed hexing.
I shut the door with a sigh. I needed to do some research and build a workable treatment plan. Having a chat with Fleur and Bill would probably be sensible too.
When I checked on Malfoy, he was glaring at himself in the mirror. He'd made an effort to tidy up and looked a lot less like a man one step from the edge. I invited him to sit in the visitor's chair so we could talk. He walked past me quite composed. Until he sniffed.
He was fast. He whirled around and slammed me against the wall, his face twisting into something inhuman as he grabbed a handful of my cardigan and brought it to his nose.
"You smell like him!" He hissed. So close I could feel his arousal. It didn't scare me. It made me angry.
"Let go!" I snapped. Our eyes met. He bared his teeth at me even as his fingers released my clothes. "Sit down, Malfoy. We are going to have a little talk about courtesy."
He sat. He looked like he wanted to curse me. I wondered where his wand was, as I hadn't noticed it when we were touching. To be entirely honest, I'd really only noticed his other wand. And my reaction to him. Bastard.
"Because I don't want to torture you, I'm not going to sleep with Ron until we have this issue under control." Veela were very possessive of their mates and while Malfoy wasn't a true Veela, he clearly wasn't going to share. I didn't mention that Ron and I hadn't had full intercourse yet. I didn't consider myself a virgin, we'd fooled around very pleasantly, but with Molly on the war-path over Harry and Ginny we'd opted to wait.
"You smell like him." Malfoy said wretchedly, sweating again. I cast a cleaning spell with a cedar scent I had always liked then held out my arm to him so he could sniff. He inhaled deeply then rubbed his face against my palm.
"I said I'd help. But you have to meet me halfway. No going off the deep end becase my boyfriend hugs me." I watched him hide a wince. I curled my fingers in his hair and tried not to enjoy it. "The end goal of this arrangement is to get you a nice pure-blood girl who won't mind being raptuously devoted to you. Maybe even get what's her name your fiancee back."
"Astoria Greengrass." He informed me sullenly, leaning into my touch.
"Quiet girl, long brown hair, two years behind us?" I remembered her vaguely as being no trouble to me as a Prefect. She'd been polite, which made her a notable exception among Slytherins. "She hasn't graduated yet."
"The Greengrasses have a lot of daughters to shift." Malfoy said it like they'd ordered too many robes from Madam Malkin's. I tightened my grip, the spun sugar strands sliding over my fingers impossibly fine.
"It's that sort of attitude that makes me want to leave you to your misery." I told him. "But because I'm not a bitch, instead you're going to stay with me, catch up on your rest and when you're more clear-headed, we'll work out a visitation schedule."
"I don't want to stay at the Weasel hovel." More of the Malfoy I remembered from school surfaced. It was ironic my presence made him more himself, arrogant toe-rag he was.
"We are going to stay at my Muggle parents' house. It's a lovely semi-detached in Kent. You'll hate it." I let go of his hair. He looked bereft and I felt the lack of contact too. First thing tomorrow I was going to my GP.
"What will you tell your parents?" He asked, trying to sound normal even though he was staring again.
"Nothing. They're in Australia. And that's all you need to know about it." I slammed the door on that conversation hard. It was a sore spot. All my fault, and one of the reasons I wanted to be very clear on his consent.
"Just you and me, Granger?" Malfoy smirked and deliberately tracked his eyes lower to my breasts. He was definitely feeling better if he was capable of being crude and annoying simultaneously.
"That's right, Malfoy." I agreed, leaning in to whisper, which was stupid but he smelled nice. "And you're going to behave. Because you want me to help you. Because I am asking you politely to refrain from being a total arse while I try to keep you from going mad."
He agreed. He didn't really have much choice but I had carefully phrased my request as a request and not an order. We left the hospital room and while I spoke to the Healers, he spoke to his mother.
Physically I was fine. They were sympathetic though they didn't have many suggestions. The wizarding response to Veela was to lie back and think of England. I thanked them anyway as I expected to be a frequent visitor for the next little while.
We Apparated to my parents' house. It wasn't my childhood home. We'd moved a lot as my parents had shifted for jobs before finally opening their own practise. We'd been in this house for only a year before I received my Hogwarts letter. The place was nice but it didn't hold many memories.
"This is small." Malfoy remarked, sticking his head into the living room and frowning at the lounge suite. My parents were careful with money. They bought second-hand furniture so they didn't have to fuss about it.
"It's fairly standard for two professionals in a good neighbourhood." I probably could have said anything, I doubted Malfoy had any idea what Muggle life was like. I took him upstairs and showed him the guest room. "The mattress is orthopaedic so you should sleep well. The bathroom is down the hall. I'll give you a run through after I've had something to eat."
"We're not?" He stopped himself, grimacing likely at how needy he sounded. He straightened, his hands going to adjust the tie he wasn't wearing. "I would like to share a bed. The only sleep I've been getting has been out of a potion bottle."
My first and second instincts were to refuse. I didn't trust him and I definitely didn't want to sleep with him. But I did want him to sleep. The dark smudges under his eyes were as bad as they'd been in Sixth Year. I mentally kicked myself.
"We will trial it." I used my Ministry voice, wanting to keep this as impersonal as possible. "We can share the master bedroom, on three conditions. Firstly, you will not touch me unless I expressly request it. Second, we will be clothed at all times. Thirdly, if I consider you are being inappropriate, you will go to the guest room without argument. Do you agree?"
He agreed. No surprise there. We have a scratch lunch of soup and sandwiches. A Malfoy elf arrived with his luggage, monogrammed of course. I showed him around the facilities. He showered and changed in the en-suite, emerging in grey silk pyjamas that suited him very well indeed.
I changed into my usual sleeping ensemble of t-shirt and soft shorts. I thought about doing the full flannel nightie and drawers but it was April and I hated sleeping hot. I brought my wand and a book, which Malfoy eyed.
He eyed my legs too but kept his hands to himself as he tucked himself into the bed. I got under the covers but propped myself up on the pillows so I could read. Malfoy rolled onto his side facing me and I brushed my hand through his hair before I caught myself. He smiled as he closed his eyes.
He slept for sixteen hours straight. I read for the first three then got some reports from work I needed to finish. I padded downstairs at around seven o'clock to make dinner, which I ate alone. I put his share in the fridge, went back to bed and did some more work then brushed my teeth. And debated with myself about sleeping alongside him.
As Malfoy was still insensate, I opted to give him a chance. One stray finger on my person and he'd be banished. I slept better in company, which I was not going to tell him. During our final year, Ginny and I had pushed our beds together so we had someone beside us. The nightmares were less frequent for both of us that way.
I went out like a light, waking up when Malfoy arose to use the loo. I ducked to the upstairs bathroom and freshened up. He was going to say something to make me regret indulging him, I just knew it, but until he did I could pretend to be civil.
"I'm hungry." He looked at me expectantly.
"Hello, Hungry. I'm Hermione." I replied automatically, mimicking my dad. I had to blink and pretend I was looking in the chest of drawers until I was sure he wouldn't notice the tears. I wanted my parents back.
"Very funny, Granger." His voice quelled my maudlin feelings like a bucket of ice water.
"If milord wishes to break his fast, he will find cold chicken pasta in the fridge." I told him, slamming the drawer shut. When I turned, he was standing there as though he required more information. Oh yes, the pure-blood master race didn't do appliances.
I showed him how to use the microwave then I ate Weetabix when he consumed half the larder. Last night's dinner went as did the leftover soup from lunch. He kept eating and I let him. He'd lost all the weight he'd regained since the end of the war. I'd pick him up some vitamins when I went to the chemist.
"Feel better?" I asked when he finally paused. He nodded. "I'm going to my GP. I'll be about an hour. You are not coming with me." I clarified when he looked at me. I wanted to undo his pyjamas button by button with my teeth then kiss my way down his chest. I was stopping that idiocy as soon as possible. "I would like you to have a shower and do all the Malfoy fancy hair stuff you usually do. Get yourself back up to snuff."
"That's rich, coming from you." Malfoy sneered, staring at my hair. His fingers twitched as though he wanted to reach out and touch it but he obeyed my rule.
"That's right, Ferret. I'm criticising your grooming. You can't be all superior if you look like you've been on a month long bender." He actually looked quite a bit better, ridiculous urges to kiss him aside. Still tired but less brittle. "Trust me. We'll soon have you smirking around town again."
He didn't say anything to that. He went back upstairs and was asleep again when I checked on him. A little sulky defiance never hurt anyone. I washed, dressed and went to have a matter-of-fact conversation with my general practitioner that left out quite a lot of details. The usual sort of talk I have with Muggles. I find it rather depressing.
I had twenty minutes of my hour left to spare so I Apparated to the Ministry to put in a request for leave. Probably due to ridiculous cronyism, my application was approved. I was happy to get out of the building. Not many people had actually seen me faint in the Atrium but gossip had ensured everybody knew.
I took the Floo home as I was a bit pissy to Apparate. I hate being whispered about. Fortunately there was no mention of Veela. The only comment on Malfoy was that he'd argued violently with Ron and Harry. With luck everyone would think it was the same old feud.
I changed into my trackies because I was on holiday and comfy is what I wear on holiday. Malfoy was still asleep. He really must've been strung out. I'd have to remember to ask him what sort of dosage of Dreamless Sleep he'd been on. Long-term use of that potion must be carefully minded.
I took the first of the contraceptive pills. There probably wouldn't be much of an impact for this menstrual cycle but it should do something to ease the symptoms. Or I'd get very good at casting Cooling Charms. I sat on the bed casting all the minor air spells I could recall to see if one got rid of the salt smell.
I hadn't had any noticeable success by lunchtime. The lure of cooking brought Malfoy into the kitchen. He sat at the counter watching me fry bacon and boil eggs for a Caesar salad. I thought he was staring at the gas stove until I realised his eyes were on my bum. I glared at him.
"I still want to fuck you." He said as though it was polite conversation.
"I bet you say that to all the girls." I replied tartly, not mentioning that if he'd been more polite about it I might've been persuaded. I was warm in spite of the charm and the way the sunlight caressed his skin made me wonder what he tasted like.
"Just you, Granger." He grumbled, swearing to himself as though I was some sort of filthy perversion.
That was probably why I said it. While I would like to wholly blame the prat for irritating me enough to run my mouth without engaging my brain, I can't. It was mostly sarcastic. Like I can mostly resist the urge to think lewd thoughts about him. I was going to have to take a look at that suppression potion he'd mentioned and quaff a bucket of it.
"I might believe you if you grovelled." My version of the Malfoy sneer was there. And it wasn't an order. Not exactly. But he stood and walked around the breakfast bar and sat at my feet, staring up at me with stormy eyes.