Her One Desire
By Marmalade Fever
Disclaimer: I do not own nor claim Harry Potter or any related insignia, which is the property of J.K. Rowling. No profit is being made.
On every witch or wizard's one-hundredth birthday (should he or she be lucky enough to live that long) they are given the chance to take a look into one of the few remaining Mirrors of Erised. Today was Hermione Granger's one-hundredth birthday. She had lived her life happily enough, though she had never married and often regretted the fact. She had worked for more than fifty years in the Department of Mysteries as an Unspeakable and had later become Hogwarts' Headmistress (much to the chagrin of the entire Slytherin house.)
And so when Hermione's birthday came, she, being the eldest of any of her remaining friends, was presented with the mirror first. She had not expected to see anything spectacular. She had lived a good, long life. Most at her age were simply content to still be living. Her only spectator while she slowly unveiled the mirror was Moaning Myrtle, who couldn't see what Hermione viewed anyway. She and Myrtle had become bosom chums of sorts. While Hermione aged, Myrtle remained resolutely the same, a constant reminder of Hermione's own youth.
Hermione had not been prepared for what she saw in the mirror that day.
All had been fairly quiet in her office, even the portraits of such great Heads as Dumbledore and McGonagall had ceased in their snores to take a gander at the birthday ritual. But the moment Hermione pulled the sheet off over the mirror, Myrtle bugging her to find out what she saw, Hermione had stopped hearing things altogether. In the mirror stood the exact replica of herself as a teenage girl (judging by the length of her hair, she guessed herself to be about eighteen, or nearly so) and beside her stood someone who had not crossed her mind in many a year. He was caressing her cheek and whispering something in her ear that must have been pleasant, because a smile crossed her mirror self's lips. The younger girl turned to him and prodded him in the nose, to which he grabbed her and began tickling her. And then… the two reflections kissed and the real Hermione grabbed at her heart. She'd seen enough.
After all this time, her one desire was to be in love with the man she had long-thought she hated. The man who had died while barely into manhood. The shock of silken white-blond hair was enough to bring her back, thinking of memories long forgotten. Of taunts and teasing, of murmurs of that horrible rhyming phrase mudblood. But then Myrtle whined and threatened to call in Peeves if she didn't tell her what she had seen.
She told her that she'd seen herself on a beach in Bermuda, getting a tan. Myrtle had always thought she was off her rocker anyway.
Yesterday, Dumbledore's portrait had recalled for her that he had once told Harry that he had seen himself with a good pair of socks. Hermione had guffawed with him at the time, but now she understood the reasoning for keeping one's deepest desire a secret.
So she asked Myrtle, with much politeness, to leave her alone for a while. The ghost had obliged, but only before leaking pearly, translucent tears and roaring in rage. As soon as the pale shadow of a girl had left, Hermione went to work. She had not done experimentations in time travel for nothing, after all.
It took Hermione another good fifteen years to complete her work. Everyone called her a hermit: the old lady who lived in her office. Over the years, Harry passed, as did Ron. Wizards may have an unnaturally long life, but they were mortal, nonetheless. It was actually on her birthday, her one-hundredth-fifteenth birthday, that she completed her work and grinned in satisfaction, her very wrinkled cheeks creasing more so than usual. If anyone had known what she had been doing locked up in her office all those years, they would have died of shock. Hermione was being selfish.
Just as the clock struck twelve at the end of the day, Hermione put the last finishing touches on her invention, closed her eyes, and leaned in.
Draco's heart hammered uncomfortably in his chest. This was it. This was his moment of reckoning. Any second now he would round a bend and emerge beside Dumbledore, and then… all of his worries would be over, at last. His hand shook with his overflow of adrenaline, though at the same time he felt close to fainting, at one second chilled and the next sweating in droves. He was almost there, his hand tightening around his wand, and then… There was woman. An unnaturally old woman, just standing there, grinning at him. Her hair was frail and grizzled, and he could only guess that it had once been brown, matching her aged eyes. "Get out of the way!" he yelled. It was the first thing to come to his head, not that he was usually one to be disrespectful to his elders (Dumbledore excluded, of course.)
She clicked her tongue. "Put your wand away, Mr. Malfoy. I'm much too old to waste my time on frivolities such as this."
And, somehow, Draco lowered his wand. "Who are you?" he barked, wondering briefly how she knew his name, until he remembered that almost anyone could pick out his telltale hair a mile away.
She smiled, a gentle, irritating smile. "Come now, Draco, you know who I am. We've met on many occasions." She smirked. "No?"
"No, now get out of my way," he said, beginning to raise his wand again. She put up a hand.
"Hear me out. Trust me, you don't want to do what you've been ordered to do," she said, none-too-gently.
He sneered. "No? You'd be wrong, you old hag. I'll give you to the count of three and then I'm cursing you!" he warned, raising his wand once more.
She simply rolled her eyes and crossed her arms. "One!" he counted.
She yawned. "Two!" he cried, his voice unsteady.
"Go ahead, darling, give it a blast," she said, shrugging.
"Three!" he cried, but didn't say anything more. He couldn't just go about cursing innocent ancient old women. What would his mother say?
"There now," she said, smiling gently at him once more. Draco lowered his wand again and watched her. "Draco, I've come from the future to give you a bit of advice."
He blinked. "You what?"
She stroked her aged old chin. "Don't I look familiar to you?" she asked, raising an eyebrow slowly at him, but Draco shook his head. He had to get around her soon, or else… She sighed. "I've come for two reasons. The first is to tell you not to kill Albus Dumbledore. Go with him when he offers you safety, boy, and you will live to see your seventeenth birthday. That I can assure you."
"I die?" Draco croaked, uncharacteristically.
She nodded. "Killed by your own Dark Lord for failing your next assignment: killing Severus Snape."
Draco felt his knees weaken. He shouldn't be listening to her, but he was… he felt an innate impulse that told him he could believe her. His throat was dry. "And the second thing?" he asked. Although his stomach was churning, he knew already that he was going to follow any advice the old woman could give him.
Her eyes sparkled in the dim light of the torches, and she reached into her pocket and handed him a letter. "Once you are safe, open this and follow the instructions." Her eyes flickered down to her left wrist. "My time here is almost up."
"Who are you?" Draco repeated.
She smiled at him again, reached out, and stroked his cheek. "You'll find out soon enough, love." The second she had drawn her hand away, she vanished in a puff of smoke.
It was three days later and Draco had been smuggled safely to a house out in goodness-knows-where. Albus Dumbledore lived, though he almost seemed surprised about it. Here Draco was given a small, drafty and dusty room of his own, far away from prying eyes. Despite the damp and unworthy conditions, he could feel himself breathing properly for the first time in months. It was as if his lungs had been frozen before.
He turned the letter over and over in his hands, wondering at the loopy and somehow exactly precise lettering that his name was spelled out in. It almost looked like type, but it wasn't. He reached into his breast pocket and removed a small dagger he used as a letter opener and slit the letter open, like he would if he were gutting a rabbit. Out of the envelope fell a single piece of parchment with one sentence on it.
Ask Hermione Granger out on a date.
That was all. Not one more word, even after an hour of trying every decoding spell he could think of. However, it was enough time for him to realize one very crucial point. That old woman did know him. He just knew her as a much younger witch, was all. So he very slowly began to set his mind around his task. Asking out Hermione Granger was something more easily done by, say, Ron Weasley, but not by himself. Besides that, he wasn't entirely sure he was going to go through with it in the first place. It would be entirely Slytherin of him to not go through with it.
But somehow he doubted that there wouldn't be consequences to his actions if he didn't ask her out. Her older self had certainly gone through much trouble to get him this message if it weren't important. He doubted she just wanted to be able to have a good snog (gag) and just that. No, his gut feeling told him he had better do what she said and ask the little mudblood out. It didn't say, after all, that he actually had to go on the date, or even that there would have to be more there after. If only it had been phrased "Ask Hermione Granger out," then he'd ask her to get out. So much simpler that way.
In any case, he didn't think he'd have an opportunity to actually do the deed anytime soon. But boy was he wrong about that one.
It was exactly one week later that Draco was moved to a different house. This one clearly had its origins in a family of dark magic purebloods. The main reason he was able to decide it was because there were walls and walls of mounted house-elf heads. A bit too foul for his own tastes. He had just been ushered through the main entrance hall where there were a bunch of curtains hanging over monstrous paintings when he saw her. Right smack in front of him. And he felt his stomach drop to the very tips of his toes. And boy did she look unhappy to see him.
Beside her, Weasley and Potter were looking equally, if not more so, ill at ease with his presence. Granted, Potter had a rather mixed look on his face. Why, he could only guess.
It took a total of five hours for Draco to be able to get her on her own. The wonder twins didn't seem to want to be separated from her, but did they ever want to be separated from him. She had gone up to inspect a large tapestry that held what appeared to be a family tree of the Blacks. (He himself was even listed on it.)
"Er, Granger," he began, feeling a small crop of sweat leak onto his forehead. Why should he be nervous?
"Leave me alone, Malfoy. I've got my wand and I'm not afraid to use it on you," she warned, not bothering to turn around from her examination.
He coughed to clear his throat. "It's not what you think," he said uneasily.
She turned. "Is it ever?" she asked, the slightest hint of a smile gracing her features. Of course, it almost always was what she thought.
Now that she was facing him, he felt his cheeks burning, and he mumbled. "Wangoutwitme?"
"Excuse me? I don't speak Gobblydigook," she said, her eyebrow raised.
"Hang it all!" he finally said. "I asked if you want to go out with me." He waited, his features frozen, while she processed the request in her head.
"No," she finally replied. "But thanks for asking." She turned and began to go out the door, but he gripped onto her wrist and pulled her to a halt.
"Look," he hissed. He fumbled in his pocket and pulled out the letter and shoved it into her hand.
She stood frozen for a minute, looking it over. "Where'd you get this?" she asked, cautiously.
He sighed. "A very old woman, who I think was you by the way, gave it to me."
She quirked her head and gave him a look. "This is my handwriting," she said simply. "But why on Earth would I tell you something as strange as all that?"
He shrugged. "I dunno. You wanted one last snog before you bit the dust?"
She looked revolted for a second. "This letter doesn't say anything about snogging, Draco," she reprimanded. "In fact, I think it's fair to say you've pulled off your end of the deal."
Draco let go of an uneasy sigh. "You sure?" he asked.
She tilted his head. "Do you mean to say that the offer's still standing?" And Draco nodded, though he wasn't entirely sure why.
"In that case," she said, a sparkle in her eye, "I change my mind. I accept."
The date had gone eerily smoothly, though Draco was sure his favorite part had been telling Weasel and Potty just exactly why they were leaving together. She had ordered pasta, he had ordered a steak, and it had gone… well. They had talked. She had laughed. He found… he rather liked it when she laughed. It sounded like bells. Not perfect bells, but sort of broken ones. She had smiled at him more than he had ever though possible. And her teeth were straight, perfect lines of white gold, gleaming in the candlelight. He almost didn't want to say goodnight when she had retired to her own room back at Grimmauld Place. In fact, if the other two members of the Golden Trio hadn't been there… maybe he would have kissed her after all. But, in a hushed voice, he had done something he hadn't been expecting. He'd asked her out again. And she had said yes.
Maybe that old crone had been onto something after all.
A.N.: That idea's been floating around in my head for about a week. What do you think?