A/N: Hello there. This is my first fanfic, so please, be gentle.
I hope you enjoy.
Disclaimer: Harry Potter does not belong to me in any way, shape, or form.
Summary: A reclusive Draco Malfoy, barely-recovered from the war, stumbles across Hermione Granger in Oxford, surrounded by books and spires. When he realizes she has no memories of her life of a witch, he finds himself promising to see her memories restored and her life returned to her. DM/HG (EWE)
14th June 2005
They called it 'the city of dreaming spires' and Draco Malfoy, despite previously held opinions, was very much inclined to agree. He couldn't help but feel that Oxford – if ever there were a place on Earth – came close to rivalling some of the sheer grandeur and spectacle of the wizarding world. Almost, but not quite. Though he was there on business, he allowed himself time to meander through the streets, admiring the beautiful architecture, endless towers and spires, for which the city was famous. It was something he would never have permitted himself, in a different time. It had been a different world, a broken one. He had been a different person then, too.
Someone he wished to forget, but couldn't.
His route took him through the sprawling university campus, vast and beautiful, stopping at the Bodleian Library, an imposing building, handsome, with an air of solidity, and it reminded Draco of Malfoy Manor in that regard. He hadn't been there in years - it didn't even belong to him anymore. He had apparated, instead, from his home in London to Oxford in search of a manuscript.
It was not the first time he had ventured into the Muggle world in search of a rare tome. The Muggle world was almost as rich in magical texts as the wizarding one, something which amused (and occasionally perplexed) him to no end. Most of these texts were not strictly magical, in that they had no overtly magical properties, but they frequently documented, quite clearly, magical rites and traditions, and even magical historical events and incantations. Of course, the Muggles dismissed them as mysticism, or paganism, or religion, whatever. It would simply never have occurred to them that what they were reading was real, tangible magic.
He had stumbled across these Muggle texts quite by accident; while hunting down a different book, and hitting upon nothing but dead-ends, he had, in sheer frustration, expanded his search to include the Muggle world. And though he had felt it highly unlikely that a magical problem could be answered by anything in the Muggle world, he had been proven wrong. He had, unwittingly, unearthed himself a treasure trove.
He entered the library and took a deep breath. It never failed to delight him, this place. Belying the imposing facade, the interior of the library was utterly beautiful. It reminded him of Hogwarts library, and each time he was here he half expected Madam Pince to come charging around a corner, twitching in indignation. The afternoon light of late June spilled in through the high windows, hitting the towering bookshelves, the balconies and vaulted ceilings, gilding everything it touched with a deep, warm gold. There was a rich silence, a muffled calm that felt almost sacred, reverent. He was met after a couple of moments by a woman with short dark hair, wearing gold-framed glasses and a pleasant, open smile.
"Good afternoon. You must be Mr Malfoy. I'm Dr. Juliane Turner," she said, holding out a hand for him to shake, "We spoke on the phone."
"Nice to properly meet you, Dr. Turner," he replied.
"So, did you have any trouble getting here? Where was it you said you were coming from?" asked Dr. Turner, as they walked through the vast library.
"No, far from it. I'm based out of London; I've travelled much further afield in search of a manuscript. Usually for purchase, though. This is a special case," said Draco, with a polite smile.
"Yes, you certainly have impressive credentials. I have colleagues twice your age with less to show, and well...," she laughed, "this is Oxford. I'm surprised they haven't tried to lure you onto the faculty."
"You're being generous. Besides, I'm very content working for myself; I don't deal very well with other people."
"Ah, a hermit. Well, you wouldn't be the first, would you?"
They had arrived at a door and paused for a moment.
"So," asked Dr. Turner, "let's get down to business. Coffee before, or after?"
"Oh, definitely before," replied Draco, "You can tell me some more about the book while we're at it. I have notes, in that regard, but maybe you have some further insights?"
"Oh that I do. I actually did one of my doctorate papers on this very manuscript."
After a quick coffee with Dr. Turner, where she went through his notes and gave him a more comprehensive overview of the manuscript, its history and irregularities – a stroke of luck, on his part, as it was these very irregularities which would help him to recognise the references to true magic amid the... elaborations of Muggle nonsense – they left the cafe and Dr. Turner brought him to the 'lab', as she called it, which was located in the New Bodleian Library.
"I'm sure you understand," said Dr. Turner, as they walked down a bland, beige corridor, "It's still in good condition, for an illuminated text, and its age, for that matter, but because of its age we really do need to take extra care. So we'll be viewing the text in more sterile surroundings than is normal – temperature controlled and restricted light - but that said, it is extremely rare for anyone to even be allowed in here for such a viewing."
"I entirely understand. I have more respect for books than I do for most people, so you can be sure it will be completely safe with me," Draco replied.
She stopped in front of a door, and swiped her card to open it.
"Good," she said, as she pushed the door open, "Right, well, after you."
Draco walked through to a white, sterile looking room. There were two large tables in the centre of the room, and at each end of the room was a desk with a computer. A number of chairs sat underneath the windows, which had the blinds pulled, to limit the amount of light entering the room. Dr. Turner followed him in and made towards a door at the far end of the room. The smaller room was windowless, and two of the walls were lined with sleek, white cupboards, while another wall was taken up with a row of counters and a sink. Dr. Turner opened a cupboard and began taking out a number of things they would need for the viewing, while Draco made for the sink and proceeded to wash his hands and sterilising them, at her request.
"Right," Dr. Turner began, looking down at a file she had taken from one of the cupboards, "I'll just set this stuff up at one of the tables, and one of my colleagues should be up with the book shortly. We will only have it for two hours at most. Rules and regulations, so much red tape, you know? It's unfortunate that we don't have the book on microfiche yet, but it is due to be archived soon."
"That's fine, Dr. Turner. If I need to, I'll arrange another viewing. Can I give you a hand with some of that stuff?"
Just as Dr. Turner was about to reply, there was the sound of the door opening in the other room, and an urgent voice called out.
"Jules? You in here? Stan said you were..."
A plump blonde woman entered the room, looking somewhat frantic.
"Oh, there you are. Listen, there's a bit of a to-do down below. It's rather urgent. Can you...?"
"What is it?" asked Dr. Turner.
The blonde woman leant in to Dr. Turner and murmured something into her ear.
"Oh my, not again. Mr. Malfoy, please excuse me for a minute. You don't mind?-" Draco didn't "-Please help yourself to tea or coffee. You'll find everything you need above the sink. I'll be as quick as I can, but I really am required."
And with that, she left. Draco decided to take the woman's advice and have another coffee. He fetched a cup and pulled his wand out, and a stream of piping hot coffee poured into his cup. He turned and walked back into the main room and set up one of the tables there for the viewing, before heading over to the tables. He could feel impatience starting to creep in. He had been researching this book for quite some time.
The Liber de Silentia, as it was called – The Book of Silences – was one of the oldest Muggle manuscripts he had sought out, and almost unique in its content, as well as style. Draco liked to think he was a patient man. He was unafraid to spend hours meticulously researching, poring over old records and listings, examining articles and papers, reading book after book on art history, ancient art... And in the case of the Silentia, he had more than paid his dues.
But now it was time to collect on all those hours spent searching, and checking and double checking, and yet he was here still waiting. He fought against the impulse to curse Muggles incompetence, because he knew they were not really inept, not really... though sometimes, sometimes, he found it difficult. It was just a book. Though, really, he'd be lying to himself. It wasn't just a book. And he hated being made to wait. He sighed heavily and took a sip of his coffee.
Behind him, he heard the door opening again, and he turned, expecting the return of Dr. Turner. Instead:
"Granger?" he heard himself say.
Startled dark, dark brown eyes met his. She was different, yet still instantly recognisable. Her face had thinned, and her hair, still brown, was shorter now, the wildness of it tamed into curls that sat just at her collarbone. She was casually dressed in a loose-fitting white shirt and jeans, holding a strange-looking box. She looked good, though Draco was too shocked at her appearance to actively register it.
"I'm sorry... do I know you?" came her confused reply.
"What? Of course you do."
"No... I'm certain I'd remember you," she said with an amused smile, as she sat the box on the table.
"You are Hermione Granger, aren't you?" he asked, narrowing his eyes at her, suddenly suspicious.
"Yes. And who are you?"
She shot him a look. It was definitely her. What in the name of Merlin was going on?
"Of course I am. I wouldn't have asked otherwise," she said, with a hint of tartness to her tone.
"I'm Draco Malfoy," he said, waiting for the reaction.
"With a name like that, I'd definitely remember you," she said, smiling, "but I really am sorry, I don't know you."
This wasn't right. He may not have been her best friend in school, but they had known each other for more than a decade. She wasn't so petty as to just ignore him for the sake of it. Could she have forgotten... been made to forget? It was a possibility. There was something... something he was missing...
"Can I ask you a couple of questions?" he asked her.
"Sure," she shrugged, frowning at him now.
"Where did you go to school?"
"St. George's Upper College, in Salisbury, then here at Oxford. Why?"
"Tell me," he continued, disregarding her question, "does the name Hogwarts mean anything to you?"
There was a momentary flicker, there, in her eyes, then a frown.
"No...," though she sounded unsure, "What is it? Is it a place?"
"What about... Harry Potter? Do you recognise that name?"
She had to know this. She had to.
"Hmmm..." she scrunched up her nose, "Do you mean Harry Peters? He wrote a number of, well, rather dry papers on the manuscripts of the Ottonian period. They're very, very... detailed. Rather good bedtime reading."
Somehow, somehow, Draco found himself laughing, in spite of his growing certainty that something was seriously wrong.
"One last question, if I may?"
She nodded, amused.
"Does the word-" Draco began to speak but he was cut short by the door opening, and Dr. Turner walking in.
"My apologies, Mr Malfoy. Oh, Hermione. And you brought the book. Excellent. Would you care to take a quick peek before myself and Mr Malfoy get down to it? Are you all right, dear?"
Granger looked somewhat dazed, but was quickly recovering her wits.
"Yes, of course. Myself and Mr Malfoy were just discussing the Ottonian papers by Harry Peters," she replied.
"Oh dear. Have you read them, Mr Malfoy?" asked Dr. Turner.
"No, actually, though it sounds as though I've had a lucky escape."
"I wouldn't recommend them. Very dry. Now, let's get things set up here."
However, as soon as Dr. Turner's hands touched the box that Hermione had left on the table, her mobile phone began to ring.
"Oh, for heaven's sake, this is getting ridiculous. I'm sorry, just let me step out and take this call," she said, looking very flustered, and heading towards the door.
Once again, Draco found himself alone with Hermione Granger. This strange girl who looked familiar, and yet somehow was profoundly different. Taking a step towards her, he decided to try again. A different approach. But before he could, she spoke.
"What was it you were going to say?" she asked, with that eager, curious look he remembered from school.
"I can't right now," said Draco, eyeing the door significantly, "but, if you really do want to know, want to talk to me, I'll give you my card. We can meet later, or another time, if you want."
He closed the distance between them without thinking, his fingers drifting towards her forearm, where he knew a damning word lay carved upon her skin, hidden now by the thin cotton of her shirt. He would not touch it. Memories threatened again, like ink to his vision, but they were kept at bay by... what? By her? The mystery of what had happened to her? He knew he was missing something there, and it was unlike him to ignore the details. That rankled.
"Just think about it," he murmured, as she looked up into his face, her eyes large, and very dark.
"I will," she breathed, as he stepped away from her and set a small white card on the table.
He tapped his fingers against the table, thinking quickly, then threw a glance her way. She was watching him, with those dark eyes of hers, with a sort of glittering wariness that seemed familiar to him.
"Are you certain you don't remember meeting me, ever?" he had to ask one last time.
She looked at him a long moment before giving him an answer.
"Quite sure. I meant what I said before. I'd remember you," she paused, then added as she moved towards him, surprising him, "Trust me."
She placed her hand on the table, and kept her gaze on his as she stood next to him, her eyes filled with a curious warmth that Draco had never expected to see directed at him. It was... a heady experience, the more so for being unexpected.
She skimmed her fingertips across the table, close, close, to his hand, and then away again before picking up the card he had left there. She was still standing close enough for him to catch the soft allure of her perfume, to notice the faint remark of gooseflesh on her skin, a quiet hint that she was not as cool and unaffected as she let on. Draco turned his body so he was facing her, and he found himself wanting to touch her, to let his fingers linger on the arch of her brow, the faint freckles dusted like brown sugar across her cheeks, the elegant line of her collarbone. It was a surreal sort of moment, because he had never anticipated meeting Hermione Granger here, on this day, never imagined himself looking at her like this, and really seeing her.
And furthermore, liking what he saw.
It ended as the sounds of Dr. Turner at the door disturbed them. Draco stepped away from the girl in front of him, while she pocketed the card and sauntered over to Dr. Turner, throwing a quick, considering glance over her shoulder as she did. Dr. Turner shut the door behind her, and turned off her phone, sighing exasperatedly.
"Finally! I am so sorry Mr Malfoy. I promise you, there will be no further interruptions."
"Don't worry about it, please," Draco answered, his earlier impatience gone.
"It's a disaster down below," Dr. Turner turned to Granger, "I'm afraid you'll be needed. Do you mind awfully?"
"No, I have a few exams to run over, but it's only a bunch of Norman's first years so it'll keep," Granger replied, " Do they need me now?"
"I imagine so. I am sorry about this Hermione. Come up to me here, before four, and I'll give you a look at the book, if you want. I know it's a favourite."
"Will do," nodded Granger, as she moved to the door, all business "I'll see you in a bit, Jules. Nice to meet you Mr Malfoy."
Then she was gone. The ball was in her court now. Draco wondered if she would play.
A/N: So... there it is. I'd love some feedback - please let me know what you think in the reviews. Thank you to everyone who reads this.
Also, I'm not from England, and I've (sadly) never been to Oxford, nor have I ever handled an illuminated manuscript so if I have anything wrong, it is entirely my own error, and if there are any mistakes, feel free to let me know.
Thank you! :)
Edit: Following some fantastic reviews and feedback from readers (thank you so, so much, by the way - I am simply agog!), and a few re-readings with a critical eye, I've run an edit over this chapter. It feels a bit cleaner - the formatting is better, I think.