Disclaimer: Do I need to say it? Hi, I'm not JKR, but I play one on FanFiction
I own nothing but this laptop and a first run of the Potter books on hardback.
Hermione Granger is standing alone in dark jeans and a red, leopard-print coat, long of tail and flipped of collar, hiding her face from the brisk breeze as best she can inside the jacket. Staring ahead, she is focused on a zoological exhibit she finds unsettling. She can feel wards crackling in the air, keeping the creatures at bay. The elegant animals are stoic and angry and she can feel their glare. Like they think she could do something for them if she were brave enough. Strong enough.
Sighing in the cool wind, she breaks her gaze from the unicorns and hustles on, away from the sight. They are aggressive and menacing, wild horses with higher function, but she finds she feels nothing but sorrow for them.
Seven years ago these same animals wandered the forests and ruled the land. But then everything changed. The day that Voldemort fell marked the end of centuries of tradition and heritage for the wizarding world. Could he possibly have anticipated what his rise to power would bring?
Voldemort. What a fucking fool.
Head down, scowling in frustration and aggravation and contemplation and, probably any other "ation" you can throw at her, Hermione walks on, her saunter increasing in speed until she has reached the level of 'brisk pace'. Harry should be here soon.
"I'd started to think I'd been stood up." Her black haired friend with the tell-tale scar is standing just where he said he would be. But he is not alone.
"Sorry I just nipped into the zoo to check on… well to see if everything seems okay," she says mustering a confidence she doesn't quite feel. She has been concerned for the various magical creatures housed within these confines ever since the muggle world started capturing and putting on display the animals of her youth. Like insects in a jar, writhing beneath a pin, these creatures are ill-suited for domestication and enslavement. She can see the spark in them fading as the years progress and it breaks her heart. But the unicorns are the lucky ones. Muggles love fantasy creatures and beauty. Other animals have been less fortunate. Manticores are already extinct; pieces of them left only as the hide of expensive boots or heads on hunters' walls.
"I can't stand to look at them. Prefer to try and pretend they're not there. At least the UN finally passed the protection laws."
Hermione nods in agreement. "Should keep any more species from disappearing."
"In some countries at least," he mumbles a little sarcastically.
Her silence is understood as agreement. It's hard enough being a magical creature, and indeed a witch or wizard, in some of the more modernized countries. But Harry and Hermione both fear for the likes of dragons in North Korea or the Jengu in parts of Africa.
The figure next to Harry shifts. Indeed Hermione had hardly realized he was there, standing in the shadows as though the softer light can help him vanish completely. Hermione eyes him but he won't meet her gaze.
"Does he have credentials? Pounds?"
"Of course. He's fully registered. And you know the great thing about galleons: At least they fall into the gold standard."
She nods. She's thought the same thing more than once. Most magical families would have been destitute after the Great Integration had galleons not been made physically of gold. They didn't have quite the same "value" as they had in wizarding terms, but they were far from worthless.
Harry hands over a large pouch, tied with string. "Identification, bank information, everything he'll need is in there."
She takes the package and then turns her head to focus on the other man. "Well, best get to it then."
Grey eyes look to her with an indignant and proud air. There is a pause and she readies herself for a fight but finally he just nods, looking away from her gaze and studying nothing at all very, very closely.
Harry shifts from foot to foot, slightly uncomfortable with the arrangement he is currently facilitating. "Right. Well then I'll leave you to it. Next Saturday, Hermione? You still stopping by the flat? Ginny's making some sort of stew she found online."
She smiles. "Sure, sounds great. Should I bring…?" She hooks her thumb at their silent companion.
"Of course. I assumed you wouldn't be ready to leave him alone yet by then anyway. Too much technology to break in your flat."
They both laugh. It's a little forced on both parts but still, a bit of healing blooms from the sound, a balm to their war wounds.
"Alright then. Come along, Malfoy. I'll show you where you'll be staying."
He steps in behind her as she walks away. She hears him when he pauses and mumbles back to her friend. "Thanks, Potter."
"Anytime. See you around."
Quickening his pace, he quickly gains on Hermione's petite frame and has to slow his gait to keep stride. "What? No automobile, Granger?" She stiffens as she can almost taste the sneer she knows is there without looking.
"I do have, yes."
She can tell he's eyeing her from the corner of her vision, waiting for clarification. She huffs at herself for feeling the need to explain further. "It's less than a kilometer to my place. I thought you could handle it," she answers curtly.
"You seem less than thrilled by my presence."
"Does that surprise you?" She glances over with an expression best described as perturbed.
"So why take the assignment? Why not pass me off on Potter or one of the Weasels?"
She stops walking and turns to glare at him, hands on her hips. She feels like she's sixteen again and scolding him in the schoolyard. Feeling the tirade begin, she stops it just as fast as it starts to rise, the tide threatening to tip her away from the "calm blue ocean" she strives to maintain.
"You are assigned to me and I intend to do what I always do: The best I can. If you will pay attention to at least some of what I tell you, you might just make it okay. You're not stupid, Malfoy. Just pick up the basics and you can get far away from me as soon as possible." She misses the slight change of expression at her harsh words.
What she meant to imply is that presumably he would want to get away quickly.
What he hears is that she can't stand the sight of him.
This is how misunderstandings are made.
She turns on her heel and starts walking again. Hermione Granger is generally a kind, happy, fun person these days. At least when she doesn't let unicorns and UN laws drag her down into reflection. She has a good life really. Harry and the Weasleys are like family, her parents are thrilled to be able to share their daughter's extraordinary life with the world, and her job with Integration Services pays very well and is quite rewarding… usually.
The problem is that just seeing his platinum hair and arrogant sneer drags her back to who she used to be, as though time stood still from Hogwarts and they are still adolescents at each other's throats. It seems she is going to go from zero to bitch in 2.3 seconds if she lets him get to her. She has been anticipating he will be cruel to her and so perhaps she is being a bit defensive, creating a self-fulfilling prophecy of sorts. Taking a deep breath she looks back and tries to offer a calm smile. "Coming?"
He looks at her with an obviously unhappy expression but then picks up his feet and trudges forward at her side.
Hermione slides the key in the lock of her door and opens it in front of her. Stepping aside, she waits for Draco Malfoy to enter before her.
He is slow of movement and takes a large step over the threshold, as if afraid some invisible barrier will stop him if he doesn't clear it by a meter. Once inside, he steps to the middle of her sitting room and stands there. His head sweeps the room but he doesn't look her way.
Hermione closes the door and throws her keys in a little bowl on a table in the entryway. "So this is home. Not what you're used to I'm sure." She sees him flinch and feels a twinge of guilt. "I didn't mean… sorry." Really what can she say? I meant your wealthy life from childhood, not prison? It will be taken as either a catty comment about his privileged (now defunct) past or an insensitive one about incarceration. Either way, best dropped.
She lowers her eyes and starts to unbutton her coat, forging ahead through the awkward moment. "You'll have your own room with your own loo. The kitchen is just ahead of you through that doorway. Dining room just on the other side. I don't mind making meals for you since I'm used to cooking for myself anyway. It would just be nice if you helped with the cleanup. I'll start showing you how to make some simple dishes when you're ready. And of course you can always get take-away-"
"I know how to cook, Granger." His voice is nearly a growl.
She stops mid-sentence, her coat just slipping off her shoulders. "Oh well. Right then. Good." Once she has placed her coat on a hanger in the closet, she pauses, watching the material swing lightly as her fingers leave the metal hook. She stares intently to prolong the need to face him.
"I'll take you shopping tomorrow. For clothes. And anything else you need."
Hermione dares a glance back and is met by the image of his back, still turned to her. His fists are clenched at his side. "Are you hungry at all?"
"No." His fists unclench and return to fists a second later. A beat passes and he adds a nearly polite, "I'm fine thank you."
"I'll show you your room then. This way." She starts down the hall assuming he'll follow. Really, what choice does he have?
At the end of the hall, she turns and sees that he is slowly moving toward her, his hands shoved in his pockets. In front of her finally, towering and glowering, he looks down into her face, waiting. She's struck by how blasted tall the man is. No longer is he the boy she slapped in the face; at that time only inches taller than her own form. She thinks she would do well to remember that in all things: This is not the boy of her youth. For better or worse or indifferent, she needs to be both cautious and open if she is to complete this assignment successfully. She reaffirms in her mind that he is no longer her personal bully and this is not school. She digs deep and pulls her professionalism up to the surface, dousing her ire and indignation with patience and kindness.
Gesturing with her right hand, she points into the modest bedroom. "This is where you'll stay. The toilet is just there," she points at a door on the left. "I've bought some basic toiletries and stocked the room: Shampoo, toothbrush, etcetera. There's a wardrobe there. Though I suppose you won't need that much until we go shopping tomorrow. Can I get you something to sleep in? A t-shirt or something?"
"Don't know that I'll sleep much tonight."
"Oh? I'd have thought you would sleep great. Being on a real bed and all…" she trails off, slightly uncomfortable again. Hermione isn't sure if she should be tip-toeing around her former rival or not, but she feels guilty mentioning anything about the last few years he spent no doubt sleeping on a hard slab and eating crusty bread. Though part of her will always remember what a colossal prat he is and allows herself to feel decidedly less bad.
She gestures to a clock on the dresser. "That's an alarm clock there. I can set it if you want to be up early. Or maybe it's best you just sleep as long as you can. I can wake you for breakfast."
"Sure." He steps around her into the room and flops down to sit on the bed. She stares at him a moment as he seems to take in the room. Only when his eyes meet hers does she move to leave.
He doesn't speak, only holds her gaze with his own melancholy stare as she gently closes the door.
A/N So I don't know that starting a new multi chapter a week before I leave for vacation is a great plan but I can't help myself. I have a couple more chapters written.
On my last story I tried for a daily update and, after about 5 weeks, really struggled to keep up with it around work and a toddler (and my husband screaming "come play Elder Scrolls with me!)". I am going to try for more of a once or twice a week schedule this time around. I'll definitely throw up chapter 2 before I leave for Mexico since it is ready to go, but I do like to sit on it for a couple of days first. I don't have a beta so I take the editorial process seriously and proof read for a few days. Still, mistakes sneak through and for that I apologize. I still cringe when I look back at the last chapter of Hermione Bergeron in which I refer to Hermione as being 'wonton' (like the soup... 'wanton' was the intended). ::oops::
Of course I am hungry for favorites and reviews. They are inspiring, they push me to write faster, they tell me what I'm doing right or wrong. They are the currency by which us fanfic writers assign value to the worth of our works.
If you enjoy this Dramione, please check out my profile for Hermione Bergeron, finished earlier this month. And Review! Thank you for reading!