Post Hogwarts: A chance encounter with Hermione Granger in a Muggle café leaves Draco Malfoy aching for more. D/Hr with mentions of B/Hr, H/G, and R/L. Disregards the events of HBP. Will eventually contain mature content, i.e. sex, so if this offends you, best stop now.
Author's Note: My first fanfic ever, so I'm a little nervous about posting it. Reviews, including constructive criticism much appreciated. Also, I do not have a Beta; in fact, I have no idea how to even go about looking for one. If you find serious offence with my grammar or spelling, please feel free to volunteer for the position :)
Disclaimer: If I owned Harry Potter, I would sit around writing in exotic locales everyday. Unfortunately, that great honor goes to J.K. Rowling. I am merely playing pretend in her universe.
It was like having been caught unsuspecting by a blow to the chest. He couldn't move, couldn't breathe; only stare. She sat at a table by the open window, wearing a pale yellow sundress and reading a book. Her fine cheekbones were flushed a healthy pink and her pouty bottom lip bore just a trace of a berry-colored gloss. The light breeze from the open window caught some of her springy brown curls and they seemed to float about her, glowing in the afternoon sunshine like a jar of honey held up to the light. He wondered if anyone else in the world knew that Granger could be that beautiful.
Draco had been walking home to his Chelsea flat, enjoying the mild weather of early spring, and had stepped into The Mermaid Café, an old favorite, on impulse. It was a charming Muggle café with walls covered in Byzantine tiles of blue and turquoise, and artfully mismatched antique chairs and tables. He'd ordered a cup of tea from the counter and was looking around to find a table where he could sit and read his book, when he'd spied Granger and felt his lungs seize up.
Draco had not seen her in person since their graduation from Hogwarts. As a close friend of Potter's and a heroine of the war, he had heard her name mentioned sometimes when he mingled among Wizarding London society, and he recalled seeing her name or picture from time to time on the society pages of the Daily Prophet, especially when she began dating the oldest Weasley brother several years ago. As he had spent a great deal of the last few years attending to business matters abroad, he'd gotten out of the habit of keeping track of society gossip, and therefore knew little regarding her current state of affairs.
With a bit of effort he forced his lungs to suck in a bit of air and wondered if he dared approach her. Surely she had married that Weasley prat by now. From what he recalled, the relationship had been quite serious and met with universal approval by those who knew them. Yet, as he watched her absently twirl one of those curls around her finger as she lost herself in her book, he felt compelled to speak to her, to see if she was as lovely up close as she was from where he stood now. Certainly there was no harm in speaking to her, he thought. At best, he'd be catching up with an old schoolmate and find himself bored to tears with stories of her perfect marriage with her perfect Weasley. At worst…well, he had always found a somewhat truculent pleasure in the verbal sparring of their youth. Certainly, she wouldn't hex him in a café full of Muggles.
On silent feet he crossed the café to the table where she sat, stopping just behind her and peering around her shoulder to catch a glimpse of the cover of her book. Neruda. Draco repressed the smirk that tugged at his lips.
"Love is so short, forgetting is so long." Draco quoted softly, "Why, Granger, I'd have never taken you for a romantic."
She turned slowly, her pretty mouth turned up in a smile to greet whichever of her acquaintance had spoken. Her smile faltered as her large dark eyes widened in recognition.
"Malfoy." She greeted him wearily.
"Granger." He returned, willing his breathing to remain steady. To his delight he found she was even more alluring up close.
"A friend of mine," Draco mused, trying to keep his tone light, "quite a fan of those poems himself, once said that the key to a man's character lay in which of range of Neruda's work he was drawn to. Now, I would have pegged you as having more of a political or historical inclination. Canto General or maybe Song of Protest. And instead I find you reading a book that was considered controversial at its publication for its blatant eroticism. My, my, Granger, you're not the same girl I remember."
She blushed prettily, but managed to shake off his flustering comments to retort, "Apparently, I could say the same for you, given your surprisingly intimate knowledge of a Muggle poet."
He smirked at her, "This is one of my favorite cafés. I've never seen you here before. Do you come often?"
"Whenever I can," she replied, "My work had me traveling a great deal in the last year, but I've come here as often as I can. I like this café, too."
"Do you live here in Chelsea?"
"Yes, I have a flat near the park."
"The park? Really? That's a rather posh area. Does your husband like it?"
"Yes, I thought you were married to that Weasel?"
"Ron?" she said carefully, "No, he married Luna Lovegood two years after graduation."
"No, the oldest one. Bill, isn't it? Weren't you dating him for quite some time? I assumed you'd be married by now."
He saw his mistake almost immediately. She'd been attempting to misdirect him, but he'd not seen it in time and as soon as he mentioned Bill Weasley, her cheeks flushed scarlet. Her voice was considerably quieter when she answered.
"No, Bill is married, but not to me. He married Fleur Delacour several months ago."
"What about Potty and Dumbottom?" Draco asked, attempting to divert the conversation from the older Weasley, "Has anyone been saddled with those two yet?"
"Harry married Ginny Weasley the summer she left Hogwarts. Neville married Susan Bones two years ago. They had a baby just before Christmas." Hermione answered, her blush fading and a small smile crept up on her face. "All we need is a 'Mudblood' from you and a 'Ferret' from me, and the regression to our school-ages selves would be complete."
"Ah, but I don't use that word anymore. I guess we'll have to settle for being adults then, shan't we?" He made a point of looking around the café, then back at her table.
"May I join you?" he queried hopefully, glancing at the empty chair across from her.
Her eyebrows raised, lips parting in momentary surprise at his request, "Oh— er—…of course. Do sit down."
Draco slipped into the chair across from her, setting his book and cup on the table, and feeling very pleased with himself.
The next few moments passed in silence as Draco calmly studied her face and Hermione's eyes flitted around nervously. Her eyes fell on Draco's book and another expression of surprise glanced across her features.
"Dinesen? You're reading Dinesen?" She asked him in surprise.
"Out of Africa is considered to be one of the greatest books ever written." He said calmly.
"Yes…by a Muggle."
"From your tone, I would venture to guess you're surprised to find me reading it?"
"Well…yes." She said honestly.
"I'm stung by your opinion of me, Granger," he said, the humor in his eyes betraying his scornful tone, "Common sense should dictate that, what with my impeccable upbringing and considerable academic achievement, finishing second only to yourself, if I recall correctly, that it would be quite within reason that I should find enjoyment in a lyrical masterpiece such as this, Muggle author or no."
"Yes, how foolish of me. I suppose all the racial slurs you slung at me during school are clouding my sense of reason." she returned, cocking an eyebrow at him.
"Obviously. The absence of reason might also explain why the ever-logical Ms. Granger is reading a book of poems about love. Or perhaps, you've just grown up. Perhaps you've realized that your old ideals are not as cut and dry as they were when you were a girl."
She said nothing, merely watched him with interest. Swayed by his sudden attraction to her or maybe just the weight of years of introspection, Draco suddenly felt daring. He took a deep breath, steeling himself to be honest with her as he crossed his arms on the table and leaned forward on them.
"What would you say if I said I'd grown up, too? That I had realized my beliefs were simple and flawed?" he paused, looking down his hands, "Would you believe me if I told you I was sorry for all the things I said as a child? That I don't believe them anymore?"
He glanced up at her, and she held his gaze, searching his eyes as though to gage his honesty.
"I would say, I'd like very much to believe it was true." Hermione said cautiously.
Draco looked out the window, pausing a few moments before he quietly continued, "I was just a boy, Granger. What child doesn't have unconditional faith in everything his parents teach him? It took years to realize how misguided I'd been on so many things. I still hate Potter, I'll always hate the Weasleys, but regarding you and all the things I believed in regards to blood, I was wrong."
Hermione seemed to mull his words over for a few minutes before responding, "I suppose it follows, given your change of allegiance 7th year. If you'd never questioned those beliefs, you would have died defending them like all the others. Or at least, declared neutrality instead of helping us."
She looked at him intently for a few moments, then, averted her eyes out the window to the street, smiling shyly, and he knew he was forgiven.
"I presume this means you'll be wanting to be friends next." She said, looking back at him.
"Would that be so bad?" he replied, noting her good humor and suddenly feeling more hopeful than he had in ages.
"Well…I don't know. I know ever so many people, and until one of them dies, I couldn't possibly be friends with anyone else." She said solemnly.
His jaw dropped and he stared at her in shock, then, at a thought, narrowed his eyes suspiciously at her, before smirking triumphantly.
"It seems to me, Miss Granger, that, as we read the same books and apparently, watch the same movies, it would greatly enhance your overall social enjoyment to favor me with friendship and ouster one of the, no doubt, vast number of idiots lucky enough to be counted among your acquaintance. Percy Weasley comes to mind as a viable candidate, though I must say I've always found Ernie Macmillan to be a rather pompous git."
"Oh, are you implying that arrogance is a questionable quality, because if you are, I daresay you might be endangering your own nomination."
"I would never imply anything of the kind. I see nothing at all wrong with arrogance so long as one has the substance to back it up. What with my estate, career, connections, charm, wit and devastating good looks, my attitude could hardly be thought unfounded. Macmillan, on the other hand, is more like a short, dumpy ostrich with eyeballs bigger than its brain, yet boasting of its own cleverness. Look, look how I stick my head in the dirt! Aren't I just brilliant? Bow down before me lest I peck you to death!"
Her hands flew to her mouth in attempt to stay her laughter, but it escaped her anyway, making Draco feel pleased and anxious to hear it again.
"So," Draco said, "Have you actually read Dinesen or are you just indignant on behalf of all Muggle authors on principle?"
"I've read it. Twice, actually. You were right about her prose style being particularly lyrical. My mother loved her too. She even named an old oak tree in our yard Ehrengard." Her eyes glazed over a bit, a look he recalled her exhibiting whenever she spoke of books at Hogwarts. "I love the part where she talks about wishing for forgiveness from the giraffes bound for the menagerie in Hamburg. It made me cry. What have you liked best so far?"
"Hmm, though it's hardly fair to say so without having read the entire book, so far I think the part about the iguanas. Something about that story, in particular, just…struck me."
"I can see that." She said thoughtfully, " 'I have conquered them all, but I am standing amongst graves.' "
He met her eyes from across the table, and for the first time in years felt the world may not be as bereft as he feared.
An hour later, they were still laughing and finishing a second cup of tea.
"I've really enjoyed myself. I had no idea you could be so much fun, Malfoy." Hermione smiled as she slipped her book into her bag and stood, pulling her sweater from the back of her chair.
"Do you need to be somewhere?" he queried, standing as well, reluctant to part company from her.
"I don't have any appointments or anything. I'd just planned on stopping by a record store before I went home."
"The one a few blocks up off King's Road? I know that store. They've an excellent selection. Diverse."
"Do you own a record player?"
"Yes. Are you shocked?"
"Quite. Whatever would your friends say? I'm sure it would be quite the scandal."
"Yes, but the most scandalous things are often the most enjoyable, wouldn't you agree?"
"I'm sure you know better than I. Would you like to come with me? That is if you've nothing better to do?"
"I'd be delighted." Draco said, gathering up his book, his hand gently grazing the small of her back as he guided her out of the café.
The title of this fic is taken from a Joni Mitchell song off her album "Clouds." If you've never heard it, I insist that you immediately depart for the nearest library or music store and find the CD (or LP if you are cool enough to own a turntable.) I am not a big fan of song-fics, but I may incorporate a few references to various songs of hers throughout the fic. Props to anyone who can pick them out.
Canto General and Songs of Protest are books of poems written by Chilean poet Pablo Neruda. The book Hermione is reading is intended to be Twenty Poems of Love and a Song of Despair, by the same author. Draco quotes a line from Poem 20, commonly known as "Tonight I Can Write the Saddest Lines."
Out of Africa is a memoir written by Danish author Karen Blixen under the penname Isak Dinesen. Hermione references the chapter called "The Giraffes Go to Hamburg" and quotes a line from the chapter entitled "The Iguana." Ehrengard is a novella by the same author.
Hermione's quote regarding having too many friends is from the 1963 Audrey Hepburn/Cary Grant film Charade.