She loved it.
The cold, that was. She loved the way the icy wind made her cheeks rosy, and how she felt so smug, all warm and toasty in her thick brown coat. She loved wrapping a scarf round her neck a ridiculous number of times, and loved the inconvenience of having to take her gloves off every time she had to tie a shoe lace.
She loved it, and she didn't know why.
She loved the park too. One of the smaller ones in London, not like Hyde Park, or St James' Park or any of those. Just nice and fairly empty, you could always get a seat next to the lake, throw the last bit of your sandwich to the ducks before you upped and left, heading back to wherever you were needed, or wanted, it doesn't really matter which.
She used to wish the summer away. Had done since she was eleven years old, although then, she had wished it away so she could get to Hogwarts sooner, rather than enjoy the cripplingly cold weather. She didn't understand why people liked summer; always so hot and humid and full of people showing more flesh than you really want to see. All the headaches that came with dehydration, the sunburn, the inability to cool yourself down. No, she definitely liked winter the best.
Besides, summer was when the war had been at its worst. The smells of certain plants would bring back the most repressed of memories, and she'd have to stop, close her eyes, clear her mind, and keep walking. There were some things that would haunt you forever.
She was just popping the last piece of her iced bun into her mouth when someone sat down next to her. Someone she actually thought she'd never see again, not as in old pals who lost contact long ago, but someone who she thought must have died, for their lack of presence over the last ten years.
"Long time no see," he commented. She swallowed down the now mushy end of her iced bun and turned to look at him.
"Skip the country?" she asked conversationally.
"No, just kept my head down."
"How did it work out for you?" It was the question that had to be asked, when meeting someone who you hadn't seen for a long time. It was a selfish question really, because you just wanted to make sure you wouldn't put your foot in it. You cared a little of course, but never as much as it seemed. Everyone knew it, because everyone was guilty of doing the exact same thing.
"Badly," he replied shortly. "I would ask you but I know things turned out peachy anyway."
"It was nowhere near peachy," she said, her voice as cold as the breeze gusting around them. She turned to look back toward the lake.
"Sorry," he said quickly. "I shouldn't have."
"No," she said simply. "You shouldn't."
"How are Potty and Weasel?"
"You're twenty seven…" she told him exasperatedly.
"I know. I wasn't asking how old I was."
"They're fine. Stop trying to be polite. We both know you don't care."
"I was bought up with manners Granger-"
"And look where your upbringing got you!" she interrupted, turning to him quickly. "You'd have been a lot better off as a mudblood."
"Maybe so. It doesn't matter now though does it? It's all over for most of us."
"Yeah, just for those who weren't there."
"You know you're the first person who's actually spoken to me properly for a long time," he said thoughtfully. She didn't reply, so he continued talking. "Why are you even acknowledging me?"
"You never really caused much damage. I think school grudges can be dropped, don't you?"
"It depends on how much they counted in the first place."
"There are bigger problems in the world than grudges."
"Very depressing aren't you? Are you always like this or is it the time of year?"
"Winter's my favourite month," Hermione replied simply. "And yeah, talking about the old times, doesn't make me the jolliest of people."
"If you could go back and change-"
"No, I wouldn't." She knew what the question was before he'd even asked it. "Would you?"
"Some things. I'd like to just go up to my younger self and just tell him to…" his voice trailed off.
"Tell him to what?" Hermione asked, her gaze intent upon him. He looked up to meet her eyes and for the first time, it sounded incredibly stupid, but for the first time, she realised Draco Malfoy was human.
"Tell him to stop being so gullible." Hermione nodded in agreement. "I'll see you later, I have to go." Before she could even so much as think about saying goodbye, he was gone, striding back towards the entrance of the park, back to where he had come from.
"What is that?" he asked, his lip curling slightly. He sat down on the bench and rubbed his numb hands together in an effort to coax back some of the feeling in them.
"Iced bun," Hermione said, without batting an eyelid. She took another bite, savouring the sweetness of the bright pink icing that was never too sweet and never too thick. She looked across at him and broke him off the end, passing it over so he could taste the exquisiteness that was an iced bun. He frowned as he took it, surveying it carefully as though it were jinxed, before putting it in his mouth and chewing it slowly.
"It's nice," he said, sounding slightly surprised. Hermione rolled her eyes and slid down slightly on the bench, feeling thoroughly lazy. "That's bad for your back you know."
"Don't care," she replied, closing her eyes and just enjoying the last lingering tastes of her iced bun.
Draco Malfoy smiled, and sat in silence with Hermione Granger.
Something hard, yet crumbly hit her on the head.
Judging by the fact that she'd had to brush snow off the bench, she assumed it was a snowball. She turned around and saw Malfoy, his eyes alight with mischief, another snowball cradled in his slightly raw looking hands. This snowball hit her square in the face, and he laughed.
Hermione smiled. She'd never heard him laugh properly before. It was always just the little nasty laughs that came out of him insulting someone, and even then it wasn't funny, so he didn't laugh much.
Dumping her iced bun (still in the paper bag) down on the bench, she got up quickly, darting behind a bush for cover, and quickly made herself a snowball. Of course she didn't think it was cheating to replicate them with a handy little spell she'd found in the back of an old charms book, but Malfoy seemed to think otherwise. This didn't stop him using the same trick though, and he even resorted to using an engorgement charm on one, to make an incredibly huge snow boulder. He was about to levitate it with his wand when Hermione stopped him. He looked at her questioningly before she said brightly, "Snow man!" He smiled reluctantly.
"Why on Earth are you spending your time rolling out that pitiful boulder?" he asked in his usual drawl.
"It's more fun the muggle way, you actually have to do something."
"Yes, and get slushy hands while you're at it!" Hermione rolled her eyes and continued with the boulder.
"We'll call him Draco."
"We will not," Hermione protested. "How about something grand and posh?"
"Like I said, Draco." She waved his suggestion away impatiently.
"William," she said finally.
"William," she repeated firmly. She looked at her watch and sighed regretfully. "I have to go back to work, see you."
"They ran out of iced buns," she explained, her voice hollow, after he'd asked about the lack of her normal lunchtime treat.
"It's lucky I bought a substitute then," she perked up instantly at this, and grinned when he opened a bag with two chocolate éclairs in,
They sat in silence, both enjoying their chocolate éclairs and not really feeling the need to talk. Hermione swished the slushy ice that covered the ground around with her feet, causing great big piles of it surrounded by clear patches of ground. "What are you doing for Christmas?" Hermione frowned.
"I'm going to the Weasley's. It's always brilliant there at Christmas." She smiled wistfully. She had manage to go the last few years, her parents had practically had to force her to stay home the last few years, because some relative that she'd never heard of was coming for Christmas lunch and they wanted her to be there. Hermione spent the whole time smiling falsely when they told her how they hadn't seen her since she was knee high, and how her mother had told them all about how well she was doing with her University Degree and her job. Hermione had snorted at this, causing her mother to send her a look.
Of course some of Hermione's relatives knew of her powers, but the older, and more liable to gossip to their neighbours relatives were kept in the dark, quite successfully as well.
"What about you?" she asked finally, ripping herself away from her memories.
"Oh, same old same old," Malfoy told her, waving a hand that suggested he wasn't overly fussed about the occasion. She didn't push the matter, and they lapsed back into companionable silence.
"Merry Christmas," she said as he sat down next to her, handing him a small box wrapped in red paper with green Christmas trees dotted over it. He smiled and unwrapped it. It was a thick silver ring that had a intricately carved snake winding around it, with a green stone for each of its eyes. "I just saw it and thought of you," she replied a little sheepishly. He put it on his middle finger and admired it.
"Thanks," he smiled at her, before handing her a similarly sized box, this time wrapped in gold paper with a thick ribbon tied around it. She gasped when she saw what was inside; a fine silver chain with a long, slender figure hanging down from it, thin and delicate wings coming from behind it. It was clasping an opal in its hands and was looking over to one side. "It's a guardian angel," he explained. "It's charmed so it deflects any minor jinxes. Not that it'd be much use now, I don't suppose you get in many duels, but I thought it was nice anyway."
"Thank you," she said quietly, a smile stretched wide across her face. "It's absolutely beautiful…" He smiled at this, obviously feeling rather pleased with himself for picking a present that evoked such a reaction.
After half an hour of mindless chatter, Hermione sighed and stood up, her new necklace glimmering around her neck. "I have to go," she told him regretfully, "the lures of my office are too strong to defy the temptation to go back to them." She smiled, and was about to turn away when he spoke.
"I'll walk you back." Hermione hesitated. They had never been with each other except on the bench before. Why did he suddenly want to change things? Did he expect anything of her? What if someone saw them and told Harry and Ron? What if someone saw them full stop? All these thoughts and a hundred others like them were running through her head, even after she had smiled and said that it would be lovely if he walked her back. "So what is it you do?" he asked. Hermione smiled and began explaining about her job.
An elderly woman sat on the bench and watched the pair walking away with a wistful expression etched across her lined face. She smiled when the taller of the two took the girl's hand in his own, and she stopped only for half a second, and then carried on walking, moving slightly closer to him.