AN: Like all of my stories, this was thought up quite a while ago. I finally got around to finishing it, but I couldn't remember where I was going with it originally. I guess it turned out alright, though. Read & review please!
How did that old adage go? "All is fair in love and war"… fair? Fair was one of the few things the war hadn't been. In the end, they had won, but it was… it was an empty victory. Years upon years of fighting had torn the world apart, ripped it in two; and it had left naught behind but a few thousand survivors, a state of anarchy, and painful memories. By the Final Battle, practically every civilized wizarding society had suffered enormous losses. But years had passed since then, and the communities which had been destroyed were slowly building themselves back up.
After the war, she had landed herself an amazing job right away—head of the Department of International Magical-Muggle Cooperation, which had been altered after the war in order to keep the bonds between the Wizarding world and the Muggles as strong as possible. So many Muggles had been killed, some sort of move had to be made before their entire world had been exposed. Lately there had been whispers of her being promoted to Undersecretary to the Minister. It amused her to think of the horrible, toad-faced Dolores Umbridge holding the same position. If she ever did get the promotion, she would do it the right way, and show everyone how an important member of the most powerful wizarding Ministry in the world should act. She buried herself in her work, determined to help get things back to being as normal as possible. In her mind she knew that she deserved the job—she had been hailed as the smartest and most valuable witch throughout the war—but her heart couldn't help but remind her that there had been better people than her in line for the job. She was forcibly reminded of Percy, though he had lost his chance at the job after the whole fiasco with Fudge. There were others below him who had waited longer than he for that job. It was their position, and she was… an invader. An invader who had lost her place in the world, and had taken someone else's instead.
That was how she felt wherever she went, really. There had been nothing left for her, and she was out of place. Harry… Harry was gone. But, she supposed, she should be grateful that he was around as long as he had been. He should have died so many times before he actually did. But, due to what had been either an act of God or of his determined, stubborn nature, he had lasted until the last minute. He needed to see his lifelong enemy defeated before moving on. His performance in the Final Battle defied all logic—the village of Little Hangleton up in flames, the battle raging below them, he had met the Dark Lord on a hill near an old cemetery and a crooked mansion house, and taken at least three of the Dark Lord's curses as easily as if they were childish hexes. He had killed Riddle with a curse so strong it put Avada Kedavra to shame, and then proceeded to hack off his head with the sword of Gryffindor…just to be sure he was dead, to see proof of it, to watch the mask of death fall over that man with his own eyes. As she and Ron had finally made it to the top of the hill, they saw him fall to his knees, leaning on his now bloodied sword for support. A few seconds later, his heart had stopped beating.
After he had…had left, things had just seemed unreal. Her relationship with Ron, shaky from the start, had crumbled beneath the weight of the war. About half of a year before Harry died, she had been captured and taken to one of the Death Eater's fortresses as a valuable prisoner of war—very few people on the Light Side had more information than she did. Odd as it was, her time there had served as a sort of a spiritual retreat, and, beyond the war and her books and the life she had known, she had found herself. She had been too hurt and confused and lost to have a relationship of any sort since they had taken her away from that seclusion. She knew it was insane to think of it as "taking her away", since they had saved her, after all; but she couldn't help but think that she had needed more time away from everything.
The first time she had seen him after the trials was when she was at work, in her office, sorting through the files of various reports regarding some buffoons who had made one too many offenses under the jurisdiction of the Misuse of Muggle Artifacts. When the door slid open and he entered, he looked so unfamiliar that she had paid him no mind at first. He had a gaunt look about him, and the sneer she had grown so accustomed to had entirely vanished. In its place was a rather dreary and desperate-looking expression, much like that of a child who needed someone to care for them. When she finally ceased looking through her papers long enough to glance up and see who he was, she immediately looked down and continued sorting the files, determined to keep her composure.
"I… I'd like to ask about arrangements to live in a Muggle city. I know there are restrictions and I'll have to register to reside there, so if you could help me with that…."
She looked up and blinked, wondering if she had heard him quite right. Any color his features had once held had drained from his face, and though he was still handsome, he looked rather sickly. But, she supposed, spending years in jail would do that to you. After a moment, she realized she was staring, and quickly looked down again. "What… what areas are you interested in?" She flinched mentally. How pitiful it was that this was the first thing she said to him after such a long time. "There are spaces available for registration in…," she shuffled through some parchment, "in… Bristol, and… in Chester. Oh, and there's a spot in Bath… or if you're interested in going a little more North, there's—"
"Hermione… I'm sorry." He was looking intensely at her left forearm, which was covered by the sleeve of her deep blue robes and the collared Muggle shirt beneath it.
She turned around and busied herself by looking at a map on the wall behind her, which was adorned with little circles and crosses indicating Muggle communities in which wizards were or were not residing. New laws had put a limit on the number of wizard households in densely populated Muggle areas in order to keep tabs on who interacted with Muggles on a regular basis.
"There's… well, there's lot's of registration spaces available in Scotland, if you're not opposed to going that far." She paused, pretending to look over the map. Finally, she took in a deep breath. "Well, where do you want? Haven't you got any idea where?"
"I do have a bit of an idea where I want to be, but I'm not quite sure where that would be, really."
"What's your idea, then?"
"Hermione, when was the last time I spoke to you outside of the Ministry? It hasn't been since the day they all seized Slytherin's castle… since they took you away…."
"Dr—Malfoy, don't." She turned around to look at him, a weary look on her face. "Things are too complicated. Now isn't the time for—"
"The time for what?" He interrupted, his impatience becoming more and more apparent. "For relationships? Can you honestly say you haven't thought about it? Hermione, the rest of the world is fixing itself, why…," his face fell, looking defeated. "Why can't we get fixed, too? Are you really that scared?"
"Ron… Ron wouldn't—"
"Oh, sod Ron! You haven't been with him for years—with anyone for years, as much as I've heard. Why d'you care what—"
"I've been seeing…Fred," she lied. "Ron would care if I ditched his brother for his worst enemy." There. It was only half of a lie. And, if you looked at it one way, it was the truth, really. She had seen Fred before. With her eyes, of course….
His face went blank. "You've been seeing Fred?" He blinked in a mixture of disbelief and confusion. The door to her department squeaked open and a young, slightly pear-shaped, red-headed woman entered.
"Hey, 'Mione… dinner's gonna be a little late, so if…," the newcomer trailed off and she paled when she recognized the blonde in the office. He glanced at her out of the corner of his eye before turning back to the desk and swiping a pamphlet—"How to Go Unnoticed in Muggle Majorca and Still Use Magic!"—off of a small stand.
"Well, thanks for the help, Granger. See you." He turned and slipped past the redhead, ignoring her presence.
- - - - -
He'd come too late. Weeks, months, years in Azkaban had been spent figuring a way to get her back to him, and he'd been too goddamn late. He'd been too unsure of himself and paranoid of her reaction to bring himself to talk to her before now. Fucking Weasleys… now he saw why his ancestors, bastards though they might have been, had always hated them. Dirty, redheaded, woman-stealing slobs….
He pushed through the door leading to the main corridor of the level, and stormed his way towards the lift at the end of the hall. He entered and pressed the button to bring him to the main atrium, glaring with annoyance at the memos fluttering around his head. The lift moved excruciatingly slow, and he could think of nothing but getting the bloody hell out of that place.
- - - - -
Hermione couldn't peel her eyes away from the door he had just walked out of. He had just thrust himself back into her life, only to dash back out of it minutes later. Seeing the longing look on her face, Ginny sighed.
"Hermione Granger, if you don't go after him right now, I'm never going to speak to you again, on account of you being too stupid for me to associate with." Hermione wretched her eyes away from the door to look at her friend, and her expression softened. She sped over to the door, and glanced back as she turned the knob.
"Thanks, Gin." And, without another word, she raced out the door towards the hall.
"You'd better not let that get back to my brothers!" Ginny shouted after her. As Hermione disappeared around a corner, she groaned to herself. "I can't believe I just helped a Malfoy…."
- - - - -
The doors of the lift rattled open and Draco exited, entering the atrium of the Ministry. The large golden clock in front of the lifts indicated that it was a few minutes after five o'clock—time for people to be getting home to their families. The majority of the Ministry's workers were buzzing around him, heading for the gilded fireplaces that would lead them to the people that they loved. At this thought, Draco allowed himself to let out a sigh, which was swallowed up by the noise of the busy mob the moment it left his mouth. In the midst of this bustle, he came to a stop, standing in front of the Fountain of Magical Brethren.
- - - - -
When Hermione reached the end of her department's hallway, she found the lift gates closed and the lift itself disappearing up its shaft. It wouldn't be back for at least a few minutes, after Draco would have already left it and Apparated home. She wrenched open the door to the stairwell and started up the stairs as fast as her body would allow.
- - - - -
Like so many other things, the fountain had changed after the war. The wizard's features had been altered, and it now bore a striking resemblance to Professor Dumbledore. It also now held a scroll, which trailed into the water at the wizard's feet. This scroll was a list of all the men and women who had died in the war. Naturally, Harry's name was emblazoned at the very top, just above Dumbledore's. He looked down, at the small plaque that proclaimed all coins placed in the fountain would be donated to St. Mungo's Hospital for Magical Maladies and Injuries. He reached into his robes for the leather bag that served as his wallet, and, stupid though he knew it was, made a wish as he dumped its entire contents into the water.
- - - - -
Hermione reached the top of the stairs, panting and feeling as if her heart might just give up on her. Her eyes darted around, searching for Draco amidst the crowd. It took a few moments before she spotted a flash of silver-blonde hair towards the fountain. She weaved her way through the masses of people, praying he wouldn't leave before she could get to him. But he remained in the same spot for an unusual amount of time, intently staring down into the water.
She was only a few feet away from him now. She tried to call out, but her voice caught in her throat, for she was either too nervous or running all those stairs had taken the wind out of her. As a rather large wizard passed by and got directly in her way, Draco began to move. No, she was too close! She couldn't lose him now! This buffoon in front of her… she had to find her voice.
He stopped, not entirely sure if he was imagining things or not. He turned to find Hermione tripping over an abandoned briefcase on the floor, rather ungraciously falling forward, and bumping her head on the base of the fountain. His eyes widened and his heart leapt into his throat as he saw her, and, for a second, he was frozen in shock. He gave his head a slight shake and rushed to her side.
"Hermione! Are…are you okay?"
She was sitting up now, rubbing her head and wincing slightly. "Yeah…," she muttered, momentarily distracted by the pain that was now racing through her head. Then her head seemed to clear and she remembered what she had been trying to do in the first place. "Draco, I—"
"Here, let me help you up," he extended his hand towards her. "You know, someone as smart as you should know better than to rush around without looking wh—" He cut himself off as she flung herself into his arms, hugging him tightly.
"I'm sorry. God, Draco, I'm sorry." She mumbled apologizes into his robes, her embrace only getting tighter, as if he might slip away if she let go.
"Hermione…," he said softly. Wrapping his arms around her, he placed a kiss on her forehead. "It's okay…stop that; you don't have to be sorry for anything." Her apologies faded into nothing at his words. "Hey…," he leaned back slightly, releasing one arm to tilt her face up with his hand. He stared into her eyes, and she saw a warmness in them that she hadn't seen for years. He leaned his head down and kissed her. It was simple and there was nothing particularly special about the kiss itself, but Hermione thought that might just be the best one she would ever receive. Breaking apart from her, Draco looked down, a slight smile dancing about his lips. "Now, what were you going after me for?"
Hermione laughed—honestly, truly laughed for the first time in years—and drew herself even closer to him. "I love you, you idiot."
Draco grinned widely. "Oh, is that it? Well, then… I don't suppose you would object to a nice night out with said idiot, would you?"
"No, I don't suppose I would." Hermione squeezed his hand tightly.
"Good. We'll have to stop at Gringotts first, though… it appears all my money has been thrown into the wishing fountain." He shook his money pouch upside down for emphasis.
"Ah, of course. And did you make a wish, Mr. Idiot?" Hermione raised her eyebrow inquisitively.
"Has it come true yet?"
"I daresay it has…." He took her arm and turned them towards the exit, leading her down the sparkling blue hall. A small flush of color had returned to his face, and a warm glow shone in his eyes. Finally.
- - - - -
By the time Ginny had rode the lift up to the atrium, the evening rush of people had thinned out to a few stragglers chatting with each other as they made their way home. Her eyes focused in on a pair next to the fountain, staring intently at each other with big, stupid grins on their faces.
She rolled her eyes and sighed as she started to make her way over to them. She was twenty feet away when they started moving as well.
"Hey!" she called.
Still no response. Sighing once again, she broke into a jog to catch up. "Hermione Granger!"
Hermione jumped and turned around. "Oh! Ginny! I'm sorry, I—"
Ginny shoved Hermione's bag and cloak into her hands with a smile and a knowing look on her face. "Don't worry about dinner. I'll tell everyone you'll be coming home late tonight."
Hermione smiled back and gave her friend a small hug. "Thanks, Ginny. I'll see you later."
"Yup!" She exchanged a small wave with Malfoy before the two turned and stepped into a fire grate.
She stared at the grate for several moments after they had disappeared, smile still on her face. "Really, its about time." She muttered to herself as she hopped in after them. "Now I just have to find one for me…."