Title: Somewhere in Between
Summary: "Malfoy, I am not stalking you and I am most certainly not obsessed with you." – A coincidental run in, the aftermath, and the little moments in between.
Disclaimer: I do not own Harry Potter. The song belongs to Everlife.
Warnings: Not epilogue compliant; no other warnings for this chapter.
Word count: 4605.
Just when you learned the game of life
All the rules change overnight
The first time she saw him wasn't at all how she expected it would be.
She was walking through the halls of the Ministry to her office, having just returned from a lunch date with Ron, when she spotted him walking in the opposite direction of her. Tall, lean, and wearing robes that were probably far too expensive, Draco Malfoy looked no different from the boy who had taunted her in school. And the closer he got, the more Hermione prepared herself for some sort of snide remark that he was known for.
Instead all she got was a simple nod of acknowledgement as he passed by her.
She barely had a chance to give him her own nod before slipping out of sight. She immediately chastised herself for expecting the worse of him. After all, look as he may, he was not the same boy he had been at Hogwarts. The war had changed him. It had changed them all. It was only natural for him to behave differently than he had before. It was perfectly normal.
Still, Hermione could not help but glance back over her shoulder at him. Much to her surprise, he turned his head back at the same moment.
It was a strange feeling, her eyes meeting Malfoy's. There was no judgment, no prejudice, no disgust about him, just a simple curiosity hiding behind his eyes. And it struck her that maybe, just maybe, he had been expecting the same from her as she had been from him. Her side had won and his had lost, and after all the taunts he had given her once upon a time, it was only reasonable that he would expect the same from her now. She – a simple Muggle born – had surpassed his entire ancestry as far as the Wizarding World was concerned.
"Oh Merlin, I'm so sorry!"
Her thoughts, however, came (quite literally) crashing down when her distracted gaze caused her to run into another employee. The witch apologized profusely to her, helping her up and gathering her things. Hermione forced a smile and did her best to assure the witch that it was quite alright and that it was her fault for not watching where she was going.
But when Hermione glanced back again, Malfoy was nowhere in sight.
The second time it happened, she was sure she must have been dreaming.
It was nearly a week and a half after she had seen in him the Ministry. She was shopping at the Third Hand Book Emporium when she caught a peak of blonde through an open space in one of the shelves. His fingers brushed against the spine of a first edition copy of Greatest Wizards of the Eighteenth Century before pulling it off of the shelf. He spent only moments flipping through the pages before snapping it shut.
Hermione's breath hitched as Malfoy turned to leave. Spinning on her heel, she turned her back to the bookshelf, pretending to be searching for a book. It proved to be ineffective, as she did not hear any indications that Malfoy had moved from his spot. She counted to five before selecting a second edition copy of Sites of Historical Sorcery (a book she had, in fact, been searching for before) and adding it to her basket. Taking a breath, she turned to leave, only to find Malfoy watching her through the same space.
They stared at each other for a moment, neither quite sure of how to act. Part of her was scolding herself for acting so foolish, telling her to just leave already. Another part, however, was convinced that it wasn't actually happening. It had been nearly two years since she had last seen the Malfoy face-to-face, yet they had stumbled upon each other twice in the past two weeks. Because things like this have not happened to her since the war and there was absolutely no reason for them to start again.
Slowly, a smirk tugged at Malfoy's lips and his confusion was replaced with a smug amusement. Instinctively, a scowl formed at her mouth, which only seemed to amuse him further. But then his gaze met hers again, and Hermione could almost swear that she could see something swirling in the grey of his eyes.
"Hermione, are you done yet? Ginny is going to kill us if we're late for lunch again!"
"Um, yes, Harry. I'm coming." She called back, breaking her gaze from Malfoy's and turning to leave. As she did, she could hear his footsteps fading away in the opposite direction.
By the next time, Hermione was starting to get suspicious.
Not three days later was she in St. Mungo's to meet Padma. Despite what many people thought of her, she did have friends outside Harry and the Weasley family; she had actually liked the Ravenclaw girl. However, between Padma's Healer schedule and all Hermione's work at the Ministry, they barely found the time to meet. So when Padma had owled her asking her to have lunch with her one afternoon, it wasn't exactly something Hermione could deny her friend.
She had barely made it ten steps into the floor when she felt the hairs on the back of her neck prickle up. And sure enough, sitting in one of the seats in the waiting room was none other than Draco Malfoy, staring at her with crossed arms and a cocked brow. And even though there was apparent confusion written across his own face, Hermione's eyes narrowed at him. This would be the third time as of late that she had seen the wizard.
Maybe he had the same thoughts as her, because he stood from his seat, his eyes on her.
"Mr. Malfoy, you can go in now." The witch behind the counter told him.
He stared at Hermione for a moment more before turning to the witch and giving her a smile so arrogant it had to belong to a Malfoy. "Thank you." He nodded before walking into one of the back rooms.
A hand tapped her on the shoulder before she even had the chance to react. "Hermione, you ready to go?"
Hermione turned to face Padma, smiling at her. "Sure, let's go."
It wasn't later until Hermione began to wonder why exactly Malfoy would want to visit someone in St. Mungo's.
The fourth time Hermione saw him, she was sure something had to be happening.
She was at a restaurant ordering carry out for dinner, when she saw him sitting alone at the bar. His head was bowed down, reading some sort of document, but there was no doubt that it was the youngest Malfoy.
Now there were two ways that Hermione could handle this. First, she could ignore it and toss the whole thing to a very strange coincidence. After all, it wasn't as if the Wizarding World was as large as the Muggle one, and there were bound to be times where she ran into her old peers. Or she could calmly approach him and confront him about it. Only two weeks had passed since their first encounter in the Ministry – their first in nearly two years – and honestly, the time for strange coincidences had passed. Besides, one could not be friends with Harry Potter for long and believe that such coincidences really did exist.
She stood at the bar, between his seat and another empty one. Malfoy looked up from his document with a cocked brow.
"Granger." He nodded, taking a sip of his Firewhiskey. "Why doesn't it surprise me that you're here?"
"I could ask you the same question, Malfoy." She said. "Would you care to explain why you've felt the need to follow me these past few weeks?"
He snorted. "Trust me Granger, I've done no such thing."
"And you've just so happened to be in the same locations at me at the same time?"
"As odd as I find it, that seems to be the case."
Hermione stared at him for a moment. Part of her felt foolish for thinking such a thing, but another part of her (one that reminded her a bit of Ron and Harry) wasn't sure she believed him. It would, after all, have to be an incredible coincidence for their paths to cross so many times after hardly seeing each other for years.
"Sorry I'm late, darling." A voice broke her train of thought and Hermione had to glance past Malfoy to be able to see the younger blonde witch who had come over. "I lost track of time."
Malfoy smirked at Hermione for a moment before turning to face Astoria Greengrass. "It's quite alright, darling." He stood and kissed her on the cheek.
It was only then that the other witch seemed to notice Hermione's presence. She glanced between Malfoy and Hermione. "Oh! I didn't realize you were meeting someone else as well."
"Nonsense. I was just informing Granger here that I was meeting you." Hermione did not miss the amused tone in his voice. "Isn't that right, Granger?"
Hermione blushed. "Er, right."
Without another word, Malfoy wrapped his arm around Astoria's waist and led her away, leaving Hermione alone and feeling completely daft.
The fifth time she was with Ron.
They were being fitted for a new pair of dress robes. Although the honouring of the Second Wizarding War's victory was still months away, Hermione wanted to get the task done and set aside rather than wait until the last minute. Somehow Twilfitt and Tatting's had caught wind of this and (probably in attempt to clear their old pure-blood elitist reputation) offered Hermione and Ron new dress robes free of charge, just so the war heroes could be seen shopping there.
"Aren't you finished yet?" Ron half whined, collapsing in a waiting chair as the witch continued to shorten the trim of Hermione's robes. His robes had not nearly been as difficult to fit.
She rolled her eyes. "It's only been twenty minutes, Ronald." But she shook her head nevertheless. "Why don't you go ahead and go then? If you pick up lunch, I'll meet you back at the flat."
Instantly Ron's eyes lit up and a grin spread across his lips. Hermione couldn't help but smile. "Really?" He was already on his feet. "Thank you." He kissed her on the cheek before all but running to the door.
It was just as his fingers were about to brush against the door handle that it opened and revealed none other than Draco Malfoy.
"Weasley." He nodded. His gaze turned to the centre of the room where Hermione was being fitted. He still seemed slightly confused to be seeing her again, but he also seemed more amused than anything else. His eyes traced the dress robes she was in, but he made no comment.
"Malfoy." Ron all but spat out before Malfoy could speak again. "What are you doing here?"
To his credit, the other wizard merely gave him the same cocked brow he had been giving Hermione. "I would think it would be obvious, Weasley. I'm here to pick up a new set of dress robes." He paused and then added, almost as an afterthought. "But perhaps I've given your intelligence far too much credit. It wouldn't be the first time that happened, now would it?" Malfoy turned away from Ron before he had the chance to comment. "Sadira, I'm here to pick up my last fitting."
The witch was already pulling a bag out. "Here you go, Mr. Malfoy."
"Thank you." He took the bag. "As lovely as it's been, Weasley, I'll be taking my leave now." He turned to Hermione again, this time nodding at her. "Granger."
"Malfoy." She nodded back.
Without even so much as sparing another glance at the now annoyed Ron, he slipped out the doors.
The next time it happened Hermione didn't even notice him entering the room.
She was sitting in a small cafe, sipping coffee and lost in the world of her book, when she heard a chair at her table slide. Marking her place (careful to never rush and lose the information), she put the book down to find none other than Draco Malfoy across the table from her. And for some reason she could not fathom, Hermione was honestly surprised to see him.
"Granger." He nodded, already pulling out his copy of The Prophet, but gave no further explanation as to what in Merlin's name he was doing.
"Is there something I can help you with?"
"Actually," Malfoy turned the page of his paper. "I thought I would help you out."
"Is that so? Well, how gracious of you. Would you care to inform me with what exactly?"
"Yes. Because you see, your insistent need to follow me has become all too obvious–"
"I am not following you, Malfoy. You were the one who just approached me."
Malfoy, never missing a beat, put his paper down and continued as if she had not just spoken. "And so there are three ways in which I could go about this. First, I could chose to ignore you, but you and I both know that this has not been a very successful solution. Second, I could have you reported, but you see, that would involve alerting the authorities and signing paperwork and frankly, I neither have the time nor patience for such things. So finally, I could just join you and hope to Merlin you will get past this silly obsession of yours." He paused. "Though, I can't see that happening anytime soon. I am very easy to obsess over." He added, almost as an afterthought.
"As interesting as your theory is, you seem to be neglecting the possibility that I may not be stalking you. After all, wasn't it you who said that we could very well just be going to the same places at the same time?"
"Yes, quite a few run ins prior. But your stalking has grown more and more obsessive since."
"Despite what you might believe, the world does not revolve around you."
"Oh, I'm quite aware. However, under the circumstances, what else could I possibly be led believe? Admit it Granger, you're obsessed with me."
"Malfoy, I am not stalking you and I am most certainly not obsessed with you."
"And yet here you are, sitting with me."
"Because I was here first."
He shrugged her comment off. "Whatever you say, Granger. Now if you don't mind, I was in the middle of quite an interesting article." And then, as if he was at his own table, he leaned back into his chair and returned his attention to The Prophet.
Hermione stared at him for a moment, not sure what to make of what exactly he was playing at. However, he did not even bother to give her a second glance as he was far too engrossed in his paper. For a moment she considered gathering her belongings and moving to another table or even leaving the cafe all together. But it almost seemed overly dramatic given the situation, because despite the annoyance of his appearance, Malfoy had not actually done anything horridly offensive. Granted, he had accused her of stalking and obsessing over him, but she had a hard time believing that he truly meant it. Something in his voice lacked the harshness he had used against her as a child.
Against her better judgment, Hermione sighed and returned to her own reading. They were no longer children so surely they could manage to share a table without a problem. She would remain seated, but if Malfoy made any indication of meaning his comments, she would leave.
Much to her surprise, however, the remainder of their meal passed in peace.
The following week when she returned to the cafe, she found it overfilled, not a single free table in sight.
"I'm sorry, Ms. Granger, we have no empty tables at the moment. I'm sure one will open up momentarily, however."
Hermione opened her mouth to say that she would just have her lunch elsewhere, but paused at the last moment. Out of the corner of her eye, she spotted a familiar blonde wizard.
"Actually, I think I am meeting someone here." She mumbled and without waiting for a reply, she walked past the host to a table in the far corner of the cafe.
Sure enough, Malfoy sat alone at a table in the back corner. Hermione did not bother to say a word as she pulled out the chair across from him and took her seat. He had, after all, taken the liberty of inviting himself to her table before. It was only fair that she be allowed to do the same now, especially seeing as there were no other free tables.
And the moment she was actually seated, she noticed the book in his hand. "Of all books, why doesn't it surprise me that you would be reading that particular one?"
"Good afternoon to you too, Granger." Malfoy marked his place before putting his copy of History's Greatest Wizards down. "And I take it you weren't a fan of it?"
She crinkled her nose. "It completely neglected any of the wizards of the thirteenth centaury, not to mention the Magical Reform Movement of the sixteenth centaury in Belgium."
"Of course it did; there was nothing of the sort even worth mentioning. The thirteenth centaury did nothing apart from founding a few schools. As for the Belgians, what have they ever done that wasn't already done by the French or the British first?"
"Opening up an academic institution is no simple matter, even today. Besides, it had no problem mentioning Highmaster Gellert of Durmstrang or Madame Viviane of Beauxbatons. And the Belgians may not have been the first to accomplish what came from their Reform, but it was done completely independent of the knowledge that the others had already done the same. So in some ways, their discoveries were original as well."
Malfoy scoffed. "Only you would believe such a delusion, Granger. None of the schools opened in the thirteenth centaury brought any great wizards and are all but gone now. If they were unable to produce a single wizard noteworthy, then the school obviously is not worthy of mentioning. And as for your precious Belgians..."
The next thing Hermione knew, nearly two hours had passed of them simply debating. And for some strange reason, though no actual conversational words has even passed between them, and even though Malfoy did not see eye to eye with her even in the end, Hermione couldn't help but realize it might have been the most she had enjoyed herself all week.
Three weeks passed with four more run-ins with Malfoy, but despite the strangeness of the start, not a single meeting had been as awkward as anticipated. Actually, she almost found herself looking forward to them.
Malfoy was far more intelligent than Harry, Ron, or even she had ever given him credit for. And though his sources and opinions (but mostly his opinions) often differed from hers, he was always well informed on any subject they chose to debate about. And Merlin, did they debate.
Sometimes they would get furious. Sometimes it would even lead to petty insults (the type she was usually above). Once it had even led to one of them storming off and not returning until their next meeting. But somehow, it was alright the next time their paths would cross. They would ignore their previous discussion – both believing they had won – and move onto a new topic. It was odd, but somewhere in between all the debates, the yelling, and their differences, they had found this strange compatibility.
Hermione had never expected to have such a relationship with Draco Malfoy of all people.
And apparently, neither had Ron.
She had barely taken three steps into their flat when she spotted him on the couch, face red and a copy of what she assumed to be The Prophet in hand. The moment she stepped into his vision, he was on his feet screaming.
"Malfoy? Of all people, Malfoy?"
"Ron, what in Merlin's name are you talking about?" She asked, truly not knowing. She had been working late at the ministry again, it had been a few days since she had seen the blonde wizard, and he was honestly the furthest thing from her mind.
"Don't give me that, Hermione. I know you've been meeting him behind my back!" He slammed the crumpled copy of his paper on the coffee table. On the front page of the section was a photograph of Hermione and Malfoy at the cafe. It had been one of their rare moments of agreement on a topic, and a relaxed smile rested on Malfoy's lips while Hermione sipped her coffee.
"What do you mean 'oh that'? You've been meeting Malfoy behind my back!"
"I am doing no such thing, Ron. Calm down."
"Then what do you call this?" He waved the paper in her face.
Hermione sighed, took the paper from his hand and put it on the couch. "Lately we've had this tendency to go to the same places at the same time and we just thought it would be easier to stop avoiding each other and simply go with it. That's all."
"But it's Malfoy."
"Yes, Ronald, I'm quite aware of that." She rolled her eyes. "Things are different now, though. We're not in school anymore. We run into each other, we have a discussion, we move on. It's as simple as that."
"But you're seeing him behind my back!"
"I am not. I just did not think it was anything noteworthy enough to share." And it was true. But she knew better than to bring up because she knew that Ronald would over react and think it was something more than it really was. "Nothing's changed, Ron." She took a step closer to him and rested her hand on his arm in an attempt to comfort him. "Malfoy is just..." She paused for the slightest of moments. What was Malfoy to her? Friend didn't seem like an appropriate word for their relationship, but neither was he just an acquaintance. "Someone I run into from time to time. That's all."
Ron stared at her for a moment. His face, though still slightly pink, had faded from the red he'd had when she arrived. And for a moment, Hermione knew he would understand. He may not like it, but he would trust her enough to understand.
"Don't see him again."
"Hermione, he's Malfoy! He can't be trusted. Don't you remember everything he did to you in school?"
Her eyes narrowed. "I seem to recall someone else who was cruel to me during school, Ronald."
Ron winced. "'Mione, that's..."
"I'm going out. Don't wait up for me."
And without another word, Hermione apparated away.
It really shouldn't have surprised Hermione that he was there.
But when she arrived at the coffee shop and spotted him sitting there, she bit her lip, unsure for the first time in weeks on what to do. It was, after all, meeting him that had caused her and Ronald to have this spat, so perhaps it was wise to try to avoid the blonde wizard for some time. But she quickly shook the thought from her head. She was doing nothing wrong and Ronald had no right to try to control her life like that.
Malfoy looked up from his paperwork and gave her an amused look. "I take it Weasley didn't take well to today's issue of The Prophet."
"He completely over reacted." Hermione scanned the menu before ordering a coffee and a lemon cake. "He actually had the nerve to tell me not to see you again. As if he has control over whom I can and cannot see!"
"What did you expect?"
"I expected that he would trust me enough to make my own decisions."
Malfoy snorted. "You expect far too much from him."
"How is it wrong to expect that much from someone?"
"We're not talking about someone, Granger, we're talking about Weasley. He doesn't trust someone who so much as breathes wrong around him. Everything is a threat."
"But there's no threat. We haven't even been trying to meet; it just happens. I told him that. It's not like I'm planning on leaving him for you or some rubbish. He should know that."
"And there you go again, Granger, expecting too much from him."
"So you think I shouldn't expect basic trust from Ronald?"
"Of course I do, but I know better than to expect that of you." He continued before she could say anything. "He's not this hero you've built him up to be, Granger. He's not even Potter. He's Weasley." He took another sip of his coffee.
"He's better than you give him credit for."
"Possibly. But you give him too much credit."
An awkward silence passed over them and Hermione's fingers toyed with her cup. She desperately wanted to defend Ron, but she wasn't quite sure if she could. Did she expect too much from him? He did have a tendency to get upset over things she thought to be insignificant. His reaction to the paper's article about her and Malfoy was only the most recent example of his overreacting. But did that really mean she should start expecting worse of him? Weren't you supposed to expect the best out of the person you love?
"So what do you suggest I do then? Not expect anything good from him? That's rather awful, don't you think?"
Malfoy sighed dramatically. "Merlin, you're impossible. You should expect him to be Weasley. Not this person you've built him up to be. He's Weasley, he has faults. He's not perfect." He smirked and added, almost as an afterthought. "He's not me, after all."
Hermione rolled her eyes. "And you say I'm impossible." She took a sip of her latte. "So is that how you see Greengrass? With all her faults? No higher expectations?" Malfoy didn't reply. "Astoria Greengrass, right? I read that you were engaged. So you knew how she would react to the article?"
He smirked. "And here you claim to not be stalking me."
"Don't change the subject."
Malfoy stared at her, a strange expression in his eyes. But he broke away before she could have the chance to even begin an attempt to figure it out, and gathered the papers he had on the table. "Goodnight, Granger." He said, dropping a few coins onto the table.
"Wait one minute, Malfoy!"
But he ignored her, instead walking past her and outside to the apparition point, leaving Hermione annoyed, confused, and alone.
When life starts making sense
The world is upside down again
Go Figure, Everlife
Note: So I decided to take the risk and just post this. I was paranoid about posting this because I feel like my writing level has dramatically decreased in the past year, but when I was talking to my dad this morning, I realized the only way to get it back is to continue writing. I only have half of the next chapter written and none of it typed out, so hopefully posting it now will encourage me to continue writing it.
This was my original idea with Curiosity and Need (I hadn't yet thought of Moment) so when I sat down to start working on Moment, this started coming out instead. Yes, I'm aware this chapter is probably boring and yes, I'm aware that my writing isn't so great in this chapter, but the coming ones should be better. I have the whole story planned already; it will be three parts split into six chapters. Any feedback on how I can fix my writing/grammar would be highly appreciated.
Special thanks to Muffintine who saved this story from being a complete grammatical mess. (Seriously, I'm still breaking the habit of writing English like Turkish.)
Review, please. =]