Author's Note: Alright, so I started writing this probably during the summer and have yet to post it for a number of reasons. I'm rather busy and usually don't have time to write fiction like this on a daily basis, and so I'm never sure when I'll be able to post an update. I was also having issues with a title.
As of now, I've completed seven chapters of this fiction and I have a pretty good idea of how it will go, and I feel that is sufficient enough to re-enter the world of fanfiction that I've been away from for a significant period of time. I hope any readers I have who have been so faithful to me might stick around to lend an opinion in a review, and new readers are the reason I'm writing in the first place.
This is Post-War, more emotional than adventure, so if you're searching for fascinating sub-plot upon sub-voldemort-plot, I know there are plenty of those out there. If you're looking for what I hope to be a view of the self from two of my favorite characters, give it a shot.
This is, of course, DM/HG, though with a bit of HG/BZ mentioned, and as well I've done two chapters of a separate Hermione/Blaise fic that I will be posting soon also. Anyway, sorry to have put you off so long already, please enjoy and let me know what you think!
Disclaimer: I only own certain portions of the plot, the rest was created by a mind much more incredible than my own.
It was a bleak evening, the type where no one particularly wants to do anything other than sip cocoa, huddled beneath fleece quilts. Certainly, no one begrudged the magical communications workers, who were beside themselves with anxiety trying in vain to stop the Floo connections from being thrown off course by the heavy winds.
Beyond the frosted window panes, snow banks were tall and growing. The atmosphere was uninviting, helped along by the frigid and bitter air.
This evening found Hermione Granger, Ronald Weasley and Harry Potter in a small flat in the heart of wizarding London, sharing a light-hearted chat between old friends.
"I saw Draco Malfoy this morning," Harry stated, taking a long swig of his black coffee. Hermione glanced up, fidgeting with her blanket.
"Yeah? How's he doing?" she asked in mild curiosity.
"Good," Harry nodded. "Keeping busy, at least. He was such a wreck after the war, I was almost concerned." The three laughed.
"We all thought he was about to lose it, I reckon," Ron added. Harry glanced between the pair of them, nerves evident on his features.
"I invited him to Christmas dinner with us," he blurted. "I hope you don't mind. He's just... he's got no one left."
"Are you sure, Harry?" Ron asked, failing to cover his insecurity. "We still don't know him well."
"People change, Ron," Harry said quietly. "If you need evidence, just look at what he did for us in the war."
"It's fine with me, Harry," Hermione interjected. "As long as there are no old Quidditch house rivalries between him and Oliver." She looked worried.
"I'm sure Wood's mature enough to be able to handle this, Herms," Harry joked. "Where is he this weekend anyway?"
"The team went to an indoor facility to get in some good practice while their pitch is under snow. He'll be back in a few days," she informed them, a grin sliding onto her features. Harry shook his head.
"I've never seen anyone with a stranger relationship than the two of you," he said, laughing.
"What's so wrong with it?" Hermione frowned, shrugging. "Neither of us are interested in a serious commitment, so we just..." She trailed off.
"You sleep together? A lot?" Ron broke in, grinning as well.
"Ron's right, Herms. It's a little weird that you're in a mainly sexual relationship with my old Quidditch captain," Harry added, and received a pillow to the face.
"It's not that weird, is it?" She pulled a face.
"Not that weird," Harry agreed. "Other than the two of you having nothing in common and him being four years older than you."
"Weirder than Ron dating Padma after the hysterical breakup he had with Parvati only three months ago?" She asked hopefully, a smirk creeping onto her face. Ron scoffed, looking away.
"Yes, weirder than that," the redhead replied quickly. "That was hardly anything."
"Ron," Harry said, laughing. "You were engaged; you call that nothing?"
"Fine," he sighed in defeat. "Of course, Harry reigns as king of the good relationships. How's Ginny, by the way?"
Harry looked at his friend over the top of his glasses, smiling. "In what aspect, Ron?" He quirked his eyebrows.
"In general, Potter," he grumbled as the other two laughed.
"I see. Well, Gin's fine, I'll let her know you were asking," he teased, waving his wand lazily at his now empty mug.
Hermione leaned deeper into her seat, sighing in contentment.
"Can I just stay here tonight, Harry? I can't gather enough energy to actually consider leaving." She put on a nervous grin, and Harry nodded his head.
"'Course you can, Herms. I'll even get Ron to surrender his room and he can sleep on the couch," Harry yawned, ignoring the glares he was receiving from Ron. "I think I'm going to sleep, though. Continue this discussion without me, if you wish."
"I'm exhausted," Hermione admitted, hugging each of them and running towards the redhead's room, so as not to get colder than necessary.
He had actually shown up. He stood at the door, hands numb and face flushed from the cold, as the snow blew around him. Hermione almost thought he looked like a silly blond caroler from the Christmas books she had read excitedly each year as a child. In an awkward and twisted sense.
"Well, come in, I suppose," she stated, moving out of the doorway as he followed her into the flat. "No need getting sick." For good measure.
"Thanks," he replied softly, holding out a rather frozen cake, which she took after a beat.
Things had never been too good between them, even after the slight improvement when Draco Malfoy had finally confided that he needed help. The two had never quite gotten past the frustratingly helpless phase, the one where nothing can be said beyond forced conversation about the weather.
Harry and Ron had taken his begrudging admittance better than Hermione might have thought, preferring to take what they were given, rather than protesting it. And so, in the time when Hermione could have been spending her seventh year, he had become a tentative ally. The word to be taken lightly.
He had stopped tossing petty insults and rude names, but that was when he had stopped talking in general. Nearly at all.
She bit her lip, glancing at his uncomfortable expression as he looked around the room. No need to make the evening worse than it was bound to be, even from the mere silence.
"Everyone's in the dining room, through there," she gestured to the door. "Would you like a drink?"
"Water's fine," he said in a strained voice, waiting until she was gone to walk out of the entrance.
When Hermione arrived in the other room, clutching a tall glass of water, and another of Firewhiskey, (for Ron), she wasn't surprised to see an animated conversation of Quidditch. She should have seen it coming, to put such a group in each other's company, including Oliver Wood, keeper and captain of the English national team.
If they could make the effort, she certainly could. She distributed her drinks, taking a seat next to Harry. After failing to comprehend the discussion, she noticed Draco wasn't talking so much anymore, and had downed his glass of water on a third gulp.
"Would you like..." she began, stopping as he shook his head.
"I'm good, thanks," he replied in a low voice, setting the glass onto the side table. She nodded, wracking her brain for anything to say, coming up short.
Within the next ten minutes, both Padma and Ginny had arrived, and Hermione had failed miserably in her quest to strike discussion with Malfoy. Other than her pathetic mention of the intense blizzard, after which she promptly groaned and buried her head in her hands.
Before she had time to feel appropriately embarrassed, she had looked up to see the slightest of smiles upon the blond's features, and she was too surprised to realize her stereotypical blunder of commenting on the weather when there was nothing else to be said. Hermione almost imagined a mischievous glint in his eyes.
At dinner she found herself between Draco and Oliver, unsure whether to feel at ease or not. While the others were lively and talkative, Hermione remained silent, chewing her turkey thoughtfully. Which suited her fine, because the two on either side of her were quiet as well. She didn't particularly feel like starting a conversation across the table.
After she had finished eating, Oliver snuck an arm around her waist, leaning in to mutter something in her ear. She paid little attention, because at that precise moment, she noticed Malfoy's gaze flicker in mild shock, before settling on hers. Her eyes narrowed almost automatically, and he looked away, abashed, as Hermione forced a smile for Oliver.
Oliver leaned back in his seat as if nothing had occurred, seemingly put off. Hermione entwined her fingers in his, though he kept his vision steadily on his plate for the remainder of dinner. Another five minutes passed, and Hermione could feel the heavy tension among the three of them so strongly that she was almost itching to get away from the table.
Screw conversation, fuck trying to get to know the blond; she was tired. And while Harry and Ron flirted shamelessly with their girlfriends, she was stuck between an angst-ridden ex-Slytherin and a moody keeper. She almost wished she could get a book, but that would be construed as rude and anti-social. And it was bloody Christmas.
Oliver sighed loudly for no apparent reason, before pulling his hand out of hers, and excusing himself to the washroom. No one noticed. Hermione leaned back in her chair, allowing her head to hang over the back as she shut her eyes tightly.
As she returned to her upright position, no less frustrated, to see the conversation continuing merrily, she was almost affronted to see Malfoy watching her, eyes mirthful.
"You look bored," he commented, glancing away. She let out a cruel 'ha' before sinking back into her chair.
"What gave me away?" she asked, humouring him. Of course he would want to talk when she was angry with the entire group. A selfish anger, but anger nonetheless.
"If I gave you the list, you'd be further bored to tears. It's obvious," he replied simply.
"If I..." she began, mind churning. "I could go get a drink, and it wouldn't be considered leaving the table, would it?"
He shook his head. "Hate to break it to you, but somehow I doubt they'd notice," he confided, and she shrugged in agreement.
"I believe in manners," she stated, standing quickly.
"Wait," Malfoy said in a low voice, stopping her. "I'll come with you. I'm hardly having more fun than you are."
She was taken aback, but felt lonely, so she permitted a small grin, and he stood as well. It had been ten minutes, and Oliver hadn't returned. She imagined he had gone off somewhere. Sometimes he was too much of a free spirit.
Once in the kitchen, the silence was eerie. Hermione poured them each a whiskey; Malfoy had complied to something stronger than water, and they sat at the small round table.
The air was tense, and Hermione spent no short amount of time dredging up the courage to speak.
"So what do you do?" she asked, clearing her throat as if lack of use was taking its toll.
"I work at Mungo's," he replied, setting down his drink.
"Oh," she said, surprised. "You're a healer?"
"Not exactly," he began, looking thoughtful. "I work with patients who've had their brains affected by magic in some way. I don't have many healing spells perfected, but we use different methods. More abstract, I suppose you could say."
"In the closed ward?" she asked, suddenly worried. Her visit to the ward in fifth year had been once too often.
"Yes and no. We work with the patients who are recently admitted, or show signs of improvement. If we have no luck, they get transferred." He frowned. "Those are never the good days."
"I can imagine," she empathized, staring absently out the window.
"You like snow?" he asked, following her gaze.
"From a distance, yes," she replied, lips quirked into a grin. "I prefer rain."
"I do as well," he confided, finishing his drink. "Do you live here?"
"Harry and Ron are flatmates here. I lived here before as well, but moved in to Oliver's a few months ago. His old flatmate moved to Scotland, so he invited me to move in."
"I see." He nodded, thoughtfully, lapsing back into silence. Hermione stood wisely, before she could be trapped by the blinding quiet once more, and walked into the living room. Oliver was back, once more discussing Quidditch with Harry and Ron, while Padma and Ginny gossiped among themselves. The whole group had moved from the dining room sometime during her conversation with Draco. He followed her through the doorway, taking a seat once more, as did she next to Oliver.
Hermione watched Oliver stare indifferently at Malfoy, before turning his penetrating blue gaze on her. She fought back a shiver, feeling inappropriately nervous.
"Where did you go?" she asked him quietly, aware of Malfoy's eyes on her back.
"Just out. I promised my seeker I'd let him know the details of our new strategy."
"He needed to know on Christmas, did he?" she said, somewhat amused. He shrugged.
"I missed you, though," he muttered childishly, grinning. She smiled back lazily, wrapping her arms around his neck, kissing him.
"Will you two cut that out for once," Ron groaned sarcastically. Hermione's eyes snapped open, and she took her time in withdrawing from Oliver, tossing the redhead a dirty look.
"As if you and Padma never do it," she muttered, noticing the elicitation of a smirk from the blond in her peripheral vision. She smiled, resting her head against Oliver's shoulder as Harry and Ron put in a movie on the television. Seeing the look of astonishment on Malfoy's features, she laughed. "It's entertainment." He nodded, raising an eyebrow.
With one final glance over, he leaned back in his seat, watching the film with pursed lips. She bit her lip to keep from laughing when he spontaneously jumped at the sound from the speakers behind him.
Before Hermione realized, the movie was over and she was in the doorway, distanced from Oliver. She hugged Harry and Ron tightly, wishing them a Merry Christmas, before remembering the blond who was also standing feet away. She just couldn't picture herself holding the other man so affectionately like she did with her two best friends.
She suddenly felt terribly awkward, refusing to meet his gaze, but at the same time wondering if he had noticed. Curiosity won out, and she jerked her eyes up to meet his, feeling somehow worse when she noticed he looked similarly uncomfortable.
Giving her the faintest of smirks, he lifted one arm, shaking her hand firmly, almost comedically.
"Good seeing you Granger," he muttered, leaning close to her ear. "Maybe I'll owl you sometime." He hadn't asked in the form of a question, but she recognized it as one anyway, nodding her head lightly in acquiescence.
The owl had come much sooner than Hermione had anticipated. If she had even expected any owl at all. She wasn't entirely sure.
It came less than a week after the Christmas dinner, the day before New Years Eve. The cursive was untidy and minute, and Hermione was forced to read it three times to gather the full message. Almost as if it had been written in a hurry.
He had addressed her as Granger, and signed himself as D. M. The letter took several lines to ask if she had plans for new years.
Hermione found it ironic. He had turned a simple question into a babbling of unimportance. And yet, it had been written quickly.
He was in "a dilemma" as he put it.
She lifted a quill from her desk, dipping it into the ink well, placing it above the back of the parchment.
At the moment, I have no plans. Harry and Ron are too lazy to celebrate with me and Oliver's going to be away. Explain to me your dilemma. Perhaps, at one o'clock at the new coffee place in Diagon Alley. I have some shopping to do anyway.
It was such that Hermione found herself so overcome with nerves to be seeing her old enemy again so quickly, and alone nonetheless, that she nearly jumped when she saw him walk towards her table at five to one that afternoon.
"You're early," she commented, flushing.
"Yes, well, so are you," he replied, but didn't take a seat. Hermione was irritated with herself to feel so intimidated with him looming over her like that.
"You had a dilemma?" she asked, changing the subject quickly, relieved when he finally sat down across from her. He took his time in calling over the waitress to order a coffee, and didn't speak until he had received it.
"Yes, the dilemma." He frowned thoughtfully, taking a deep gulp of his drink. "I don't know if you remember Blaise Zabini." He inclined his head slightly, and Hermione nodded. "Ah. He's given me two tickets to a rather elite New Years celebration he's been planning for the better part of six months." Hermione nodded stupidly once more, wondering where she came into the equation.
"But, I've recently separated from my girlfriend of the past year, and I know she's managed to acquire a pair of her own tickets. If it were merely a matter of showing up, I probably wouldn't bother, but... she and I are in a bit of a debate at the moment, and if I were to be absent, or even go alone, it will be like handing her victory." He spoke calmly, breaking for coffee.
"I almost understand the difficulties of high society, Malfoy," Hermione began, lips quirked, "but how does this involve me?"
"You, Granger, need to come with me." His tone turned to that of poorly concealed desperation. "You'll know no more than five people there, and you won't need to talk to any Slytherins. I just need you to be seen with me, maybe dance with me a couple times. Plus, you'll have New Year plans, and at a costly party even."
"Your situation is tempting. Why me, Malfoy?"
"A number of reasons." He held up a finger. "She has no clue who you are, and if I say you're of influential blood, she'll believe me. Don't get me wrong, I've long since left behind my blood issues. Two, I've seen the way you clean up, and they'll believe I'd bring you to such a party." He held up a second, and then a third finger. "I need you to understand that I'm not the high class arse that I was at Hogwarts, and the very least, I have no other options. If you say no, I'm pretty much fucked."
She gaped at his grin, detecting a hint of his old smirk in the expression. She had to wonder if he had just complimented her.
"It's not a date, is it?"
"Of course not," he muttered absently. "I'm not looking for anything yet, and you aren't even single. Truthfully, it'll be my first foray into high society for quite a while, and hopefully my last. Blaise is actually forcing me into it. I just can't allow her grudge to defeat me."
He was looking at her from behind pleading grey eyes, and pouting lips, and Hermione felt herself crack. She sighed loudly.
"You'll owe me," she said finally, allowing a weak smile.
"Great. Really Granger, thanks. I'll pick you up at seven." He downed the last of his drink, standing to leave. "Oh, and don't eat." Before Hermione could question him, he was gone, and she had somehow made herself an almost non-date with Draco Malfoy.