Disclaimer: These characters do not belong to me.

The bar was crowded and dirty. She wasn't sure what it was about these places that attracted her; at an earlier point in her life she would have been repulsed by the drunks in and the odors of such an establishment. But she supposed it was simply her way with dealing with a traumatic experience. Some people drowned their guilt in food, others bottled all of their feelings inside. Hermione Granger went to bars and drank cheap beer, listening to the stories of people who had also messed up their lives. Their stories usually weren't as bad as hers, but it was still a comfort.

It was an unhappy path, this beer-and-cigarettes life.

The worst part of it all was that she never truly forgot. No matter how drunk she was, or how many cigarettes she smoked, or who she went home with a 2 A.M., the memory was still in the back of her mind. The alcohol numbed it, but it never disappeared completely. But feeling numb, however self-destructive her methods, was better than feeling.

It had been a particularly bad day, one spent watching TV and eating microwave dinners. A don't-feel-like-moving-day. Those were the days when she felt the worst, and consequently the night that followed were usually filled with a great many bad decisions. As the sun set, Hermione knew that the night spots would be beginning to fill. She pulled herself together and got ready for her night out.

A new bar had opened across town; typically, she frequented the same bars again and again but had grown tired of seeing the same faces night after night. There was no comfort in a place where all the stories were the same, and that was really the important part of the night, the stories. Slipping out of her flat, Hermione began to walk.

Walking was not always the safest way to get to a bar, and it was especially not the safest way to get home. However, it had been a long time since she'd been inside a car. And as for any alternative methods of arrival, well, they were out of the question.

A brisk, long walk later she found herself inside the hot, crowded pub. It was claustrophobic; people were pushed against each other, talking loudly, laughing. She was so close she could smell the alcohol on their breath. That may have disgusted her at one point, but now it was only an accepted norm.

She signaled the waitress and ordered herself something to drink, waiting for it to arrive and searching for someone, anyone, to talk to. She wanted to collect another story; perhaps she would find someone tonight whose life story rivaled her own. It was not often that she heard one quite so sad.

Managing to find a stool, she glanced about the room for another lonely soul who had come to the pub. Most people were in pairs or larger groups, standing about, laughing and dancing. Loud music was playing in the background, clashing with the sound of the large television sets that were playing the latest football game. She tried to concentrate on the action for a moment, but her attention waned when she noticed England wasn't playing.

Drawing her eyes away from the screen, she was glad to see another person sitting alone. He was hidden behind two larger groups, staring intently at the screen and nursing a beer. Although she couldn't make out his face, Hermione decided to join him; perhaps he had a story to tell.

"Mind if I join you?" she asked as she sat on the stool opposite the lone young man, assuming that he would agree. Setting her purse down on the table, she moved her eyes back up to the match that he was so involved in. She didn't bother to see who it was she had joined; it didn't really matter.

There was a silence, and Hermione assumed that he was still watching the game. However, her stranger cleared his throat, and said, "…Hermione Granger?"

She smiled; the voice was familiar. It was probably someone she'd met at another bar, come for the grand opening of this one. Turning her head, though, she was arrested with a completely different visage. After a moment of surprise, she was able to reply.

"…hello, Draco." Another pause. "How have you been?"

The blonde not-quite-stranger looked perplexed, and ignored her question. "You look like hell." He stated, shaking his head.

"Oh, Malfoy," she laughed, turning back to the game, "You're still a charmer."

He laughed this time, following her lead and beginning to watch the screen again. "Did you seriously mean that 'how have you been' question? Surely you know already." His tone was resigned, indifferent. She felt her self becoming excited; Draco Malfoy had a story.

"Actually, I don't." she answered, matter-of-fact, "I haven't been in contact with…that world in, oh, six years or so."

At this point, the waitress wandered over with her drink, obviously a little annoyed that she had changed positions. She smiled at the girl, apologizing and taking a swig of the beer. The sweet numbness began to roll in.

They didn't talk for a few minutes, each of them refusing to tear their eyes away from the screen. Somehow, football had become the most fascinating thing in the world to both of them. Interrupting this pause, however, Draco began to talk.

"I've been rather horrible, actually. I was tried for Dumbledore's murder. My father's lawyer managed to bump the sentence down a bit, though I was charged as an accessory."

Hermione was stunned enough that she tore her eyes away from the television. "How are you out and about, then?"

"The sentence was suspended on the condition that they'd break my wand and I'd sever all ties with the wizarding community." He said casually, "And I took that deal."

"I'm surprised. Your heritage was always so important to you."

He laughed bitterly. "Yes, well it was either that or be ridiculed and hated for the rest of my days. At least here no one knows me. At least in this world I can have a fresh start."

"Well, I completely understand that." She said, nodding.

"Whatever happened to you, Granger?" asked Draco. Now he was looking away from the television, also. Its spell was broken over the pair.

Hermione didn't speak for a long moment. Did she want to share her story with someone? She'd heard so many tales, and yet had never told her own. Not around muggles—how she loathed the terms from that world—they wouldn't understand. She took a deep, shaky breath, and then began.

"Well, you know they killed my parents. The death eaters, that is." She glanced at him for visual confirmation that he was, indeed, aware that that had happened. "My parents. They could never truly grasp that I was a witch, do you know? Oh, it was not because they were narrow minded. They encouraged me to pursue what I wanted. But it was just outside the realm of their comprehension, you understand, they just didn't get it. And they tried so hard to understand because they knew how much it meant to me. And the day they died they had this whole party set up to celebrate my return from school. I never got to see it without all of the blood over the decorations, but I'm sure it looked fantastic. They had bought little witch hats and had tried to replicate the flag of Hogwarts and everything. I bet it would have looked great.

And oh gosh, I don't know. I don't even know. The death eaters came in and slaughtered them in our home, only about an hour before I arrived. I was the first to find them. I walked in to these bloody decorations and their bodies—oh Malfoy, it was like nothing I'd ever seen. You can never be prepared for something like that. It just—it kills me, you now, that they died because of me. They wouldn't have been targeted if I wasn't a witch. They died trying to understand me, this strange little daughter who they didn't get to see much and who was so involved in this world completely outside them. They died seeing the absolute worst part of that world; that was their last impression of a wizard. They tried to hard to not be prejudiced and to accept my life only to be killed by it."

When she finished speaking, a tear plopped into her beer. She ignored that, and took a huge gulp before turning slightly reddened eyes toward the television screen. There was a long pause before she added, "I've never told anyone that before."

Draco Malfoy stared at this girl he had ridiculed so long ago for quite a while before he spoke. "So, you just left?"

"The wizarding world, you mean?"

"Yes."

She nodded. "The second that happened, the second I felt the responsibility for their deaths…I just left. Did not say goodbye to anyone. Did not leave a note. I broke my wand, left my home and got a lease on flat."

His beer was empty; he flagged a waitress and asked for a new one. He also ordered Hermione one, as hers was rapidly disappearing. "I can't even believe it. I mean, no regrets? You were the smartest witch of your age." He was staring at her incredulously, yet she was defiantly watching the match.

Her eyes didn't leave the screen. "I was a mudblood, right? I didn't deserve to be a witch. Just because I had the ability didn't mean I should have pursued it. I wish I'd never even done it."

Both of their beers appeared and he began to drink his down, scoffing at her remark. "I doubt that. You mean you would take back every year if you could? Every friend? Every memory?"

For the first time in the entire conversation, Hermione looked directly into Draco Malfoy's eyes and held the gaze. She then said, evenly, "I would take back every second. Every single bloody second, if it meant that my parents would be alive at this moment." She looked away for a moment, taking a swig from her drink, but then stared at him again. "My parents never really understood me or knew me past my eleventh birthday. And what did I sacrifice that bond for, a few magic tricks? If I could do it again, I'd tear up that letter and live my life in this world and this world alone."

They didn't really talk the rest of the night; neither one had anything else to say. They'd shared their stories, and that was the important part. Both stayed until the end of the game, each finishing a number of drinks. Draco called a cab; they were both too drunk to do anything else. She spent the night at his house. Yet when the morning came, she was dressed and out the door before he ever awoke.

There wasn't any room for attachment in the beer-and-cigarettes-life.

A/N: I don't really have too much to say. I don't write too often anymore. Feedback would be much appreciated. Please review! Thank you!