Author's Note: A special thanks to my beta, T. This story was created for the H&V "Reverse Challenge," in which I was inspired by Ningloreth's art (link).


The late spring air was full of electricity. Hermione Granger had missed it, what ever it was, that intangible quality she couldn't quite name. She wanted to call it magic, but as a practical witch she knew better than to associate any natural mysteries or instincts with spells and charms. Placing her bag over her shoulder, she inhaled deeply before grinning to herself, glad for the walk to work.

The Floo Network had been jammed for the past three days. The Department of Magical Transportation was backed up and malfunctioning with numerous relinking issues. At first, Hermione despised the longer commute times and the disruption of her perfectly crafted schedule. Now, with a new-found energy around her, she was thankful for the interruption. She often forgot about the world outside of her office and beyond her bubble of literature. There wasn't much time for walking in the Wizarding World, anymore—not when countless public places were starting to invest in new fireplaces for the readjusted Floo Network. In fact, hardly anyone stepped outside of their designated lives, anymore—be it office or home, bar or school. With the huge economic burst upward for the past few years, the commercialism of the Wizarding World seemed to be headed in the right place.

Hermione looked both ways before crossing the street, her black pumps hitting the gravel with a modest click. Reaching into her over-sized purse, she grabbed the Blackberry her mother had recently given to her as a gift. It was always strange, using Muggle technology within her magical society. Somewhere along the way, Muggle electronics made their way into the Wizarding world and Hermione, as a pragmatist, had never looked back.

She quickly scanned through her emails and overlooked her missed calls. There were a few personal messages from Ron and Harry which had mistakenly been forwarded to her business email, but other than that, it was business as usual. She placed the cell phone back in her bag, pushing open the two large, impressive glass doors of an equally impressive building: Vicis Verto Publishing.

Hermione released a content sigh when she read the name of her company in the lobby. Usually, she'd use the Floo from her flat and emerge on the other side of the lobby, out of reach from the ground-floor secretary and other staff, unable to read the wand-crafted company name in large, script font.

"Morning, Ms. Granger," an employee said, headed in her direction.

"Good morning, Tony," she responded, a smile on her face. "How's Alice?"

"She's doing well, thanks," the wizard replied with a bounce in his step. Hermione wanted to laugh, but no sooner did she smile when he said they were expecting a baby in April.

Her eyebrows raised in surprise. "Tony! Wow, that's fantastic. Congratulations!"

She embraced Tony with a squeal and he hugged her tightly. "The good news doesn't stop there," he said as they released each other. "Roswell's—the one in Diagon Alley—is looking to stock their shelves with all of our books."

Hermione's jaw dropped. "I've been pounding their door for months, how did this happen?"

"It's all of our best sellers," Tony responded. "They've been topping the charts for the past few weeks, and there's a lot of good press going around about us. The Daily Prophet is even set to release that interview sometime this week."

She laughed and brought a hand to her forehead. "I completely forgot about that!"

"I'm not surprised. Your schedule's been pretty busy."

The two said their goodbyes and Hermione made her way to the lift. With a wave to Martin, the first-floor receptionist, she stepped inside and headed to her office.

Hermione headed to her office, wordlessly unlocking her door with a spell. When she arrived at her desk, she noticed a small stack of what looked like commission contracts set right by her quill and computer. She didn't feel like negotiating over the phone just yet—not since last Friday's talk with the loss of Theodore Nott as one of their authors.

Hermione sat in her plush leather chair and woke her computer from sleep. The first of countless emails to greet her was a recent book deal—the new author wanted to haggle royalty rates, again. Hermione personally hated the book, but understood the audience it was aimed at and what profit it could make for the company. Grudgingly, she forwarded the email to her research department with a note asking them what they thought of the higher percentage demand.

Thinking about advanced payments and potential sales, markets and revenue, production and value…it tired her out. Rolling her neck back, Hermione mentally kicked herself and picked up her quill. As with all Mondays, she felt it was going to be a long day of paperwork, notices of rewrites, and arguing with freelance designers over typography and book covers.

Hermione didn't look away from her desk until after lunch. It wasn't until she heard a knock on her door that she noticed she was hungry.

Her secretary peaked inside timidly. "Ms. Granger," she squeaked. "Sorry to disturb you, but there's a couple here to see you."

Hermione waved nonchalantly. "Take a message. I'm busy, and we're overstocked on couples' paperback advice or revelations."

The witch hesitated. "Mr. Weasley seems quite angry—"

"Ron?" Hermione asked herself, momentarily lost. Realization hit her suddenly. "Oh, blast! Lunch!"

She stood up and hurried as best she could to the door. Before she could reach it, Ron strode inside with Pansy behind him. They both looked angry.

"I'm really, terribly sorry," Hermione started. "I lost track of time—didn't even remember it was time for a break—"

"Oh, shove it, Hermione," Pansy snapped. "You know I hate getting stood up."

"It's technically not getting stood up if you're seeing me now, right?"

Ron laughed. "We brought Ethiopian food from across the way. Thought our lunch meeting might of slipped your mind."

Hermione grinned. "Delicious. Thanks, you two." She went back to her desk and shut the monitor off, then wandlessly lifted three chairs to seat around her coffee table.

"New shade, Pans?" Hermione asked, trying to soothe the former Slytherin.

She raised a manicured hand to her hair, and Hermione couldn't help but notice the light shade of pink—the same pink Pansy had worn since Hogwarts. "I got it done this past weekend. Ran into Theo and Draco as well."

Hermione slowed her movement. A glance from Ron told her to tread lightly. "Oh?"

Pansy nodded. "Draco said he had a couple things to say to that reporter who kept knocking on his flat. You know, the one from the Daily Prophet? Something about a story on you."

"I briefly recall," Hermione said.

"Theo's relatively upset about the whole ordeal, you know."

Ron ripped a piece of his injera off and dipped it in the chili sauce. "Fresh wound. The bloke will heal."

"I referred him to a number of other publishers," Hermione responded, immediately entering business mode. "He shouldn't have a problem finding a respectable—"

"Oh, please," Pansy said flippantly. "Everyone knows you can be a real corporate bitch when you want to, Granger."

Hermione frowned. "I wasn't trying to—"

"You did the right thing," she continued. "Very capitalistic, take-no-prisoners. Didn't know you had it in you, is all."

Ron coughed and took a sip of his drink. "So are you throwing any parties soon, 'Mione?"

"You know what would be great?" Pansy said. "A party in the lobby for the front page article—and that new book you're releasing. What was it called, Ron?"

"The one about loveless magical marriages, I think."

"I wouldn't be surprised if that's a hit," Pansy muttered. "To think I almost followed tradition and the rest of that rubbish."

Hermione looked out the window as the two continued talking. The relaxing, calm spring wind she experienced earlier had been replaced by the magically enhanced air conditioner running through the building. She thought suddenly and unexpectedly of Theodore and wondered how, after the past several months, he was able to maintain a relationship with Draco. She could never understand his calm exterior when she finally told him about her drunken romp with Draco in her office at last year's Christmas party. His lack of a reaction forced her to repeat herself…and just like that, it was over.

Hermione was feeling restless by the end of the week. The only good was the release of the Daily Prophet with the Vicis Verto article.

Hermione entered the lobby with smile and headed straight for the front desk. She could hear Martin's good-natured laugh as she approached.

"Morning Martin," she said. "Do you have the Daily—"

He handed it to her before she could finish. "Morning, Ms. Granger. And congratulations—you made front page."

Hermione allowed herself the pleasure of squealing in excitement. Her hair bounced wildly with her as she headed for the lift. Head down, her eyes took in every word off the page. As she ascended to the third floor of the building, her smile began to falter. Her eyes narrowed as she flipped through the pages, following the story.

She stopped in the middle of her office when she saw it. A large photograph, right in the middle of the layout, taken candidly of last year's Christmas party. She had rented out a hall for employees, authors, friends and family to gather in celebration of the season and Vicis Verto's success.

The photo was of her and Harry. Their glasses clinked together in a toast of some kind. As the two sipped on their drinks, Theodore entered the frame with Draco behind him.

The moment had been snapped before the Weasley twins spiked the drinks, Hermione reasoned. She watched the picture in disbelief: angry that it was there, confused about its purpose, and reminded of her failed attempt at spontaneity through inebriation. In the photograph, Harry extended his arm to Theodore in a congratulatory handshake. Theodore placed his free hand at the small of Hermione's back as he smiled and conversed with the Gryffindor. Draco used the opportunity to say something to Hermione. She was no good at reading lips, but she remembered their conversation extremely well.

"Quite a streak of luck you've got going for you, Granger," he had noted, his smile still present for the cameras. He took a sip from his wineglass rather delicately. Hermione had to fight the urge to call out at his brazen attempt at snide subtlety.

"I don't believe in luck, Malfoy," she answered coyly. "Luck that isn't brewed, anyway."

He had smirked and raised his glass. Hermione watched herself reluctantly raise hers in response.

She slammed the paper down on her desk, fuming. Underneath the photograph, a caption read: Hermione Granger pictured with former beau and author, Theodore Nott, alongside friends Harry Potter and Draco Malfoy.

"I can't believe this, Harry," Hermione said, her voice strained.


"The picture," she said shakily, "should not be here. It's not appropriate at all—"

"What's wrong with it?"

"Harry, you know what's wrong with it," Hermione exclaimed. "That's the night I lost all sanity and slept with Draco Malfoy!"

Harry took a bite of his noodles. "No one else knows that, Hermione," he said. "Certainly not the readers. It's not like the caption even mentions it."

"But that's the thing," Hermione countered. "The caption, it's completely suggesting the wrong thing with this ridiculous picture—Draco and I? Friends? And the article—"

"Hermione," Harry stressed. She paused her ranting for a moment to let him speak. "I think you might be…overreacting."

She crossed her arms and leaned forward, away from the comfort of her chair. "Overreacting?"

Harry sighed, placing his plate of take-out Chinese food down on her desk. "I can't understand why this is such a bad thing. Draco's a good guy; I never knew why you hated him. It's not like he's trying to ease his way into your life and somehow destroy what you've built."

"Of course not," she responded. "That's rubbish reasoning, anyhow. What I'm trying to say is that he's finding ways to sneak into my life and manipulate everything."

"Paranoid, much?" Harry said as he readjusted his glasses. "Just how is he doing that? By being my friend? Going with me to functions?"

She rolled her eyes. "You're not taking me seriously."

"Just trying to understand your angle."

Hermione reached across her desk and picked up Harry's chopsticks. "You read the article, right?"

"Of course."

"So you noticed how they took quotes from my friends, my employees, some of the authors, a few literary institutions—"


Taking a clump of noodles into her mouth, she chewed before speaking. "Then why in Merlin's name would Draco Malfoy be quoted, even pictured, in that article? We're not friends. We're not really acquaintances, for that matter. He must have had some connection."

Harry sighed, again, and took his chopsticks back. "Maybe you should just walk to his flat and ask him."


"Well, you can't very well use the Floo, and I certainly can't picture you flying there—"

Hermione stammered. "I can't—well, I can't just…go to his flat," she finished lamely. "That would be strange."

"I have no idea why this is bothering you," he answered. "I mean, he said good things about you."

Hermione grabbed the paper off her desk and pointed to a highlighted section. "Here," she said. "Read this."

Harry sighed for the third time. She chose to ignore his restlessness and handed the paper over.

"'She was a know it all in school,' Malfoy recalls with a laugh. 'Bookworm type. I'm not surprised in the least bit at her choice of venture. The success does seem a bit overwhelming, though.'"

She jumped up in her seat, pointing an accusatory finger at the inanimate object. "See? See!"

"What's so bad about it?" Harry asked. "You were a bookworm. It's not something to be ashamed about."

"I'm talking about the last part," Hermione said, snatching the paper back. "He's being sarcastic. I know he is."

"You should know better than anyone that text is very different from speech," Harry cautioned. "The other day, I sent Pansy an email…and Merlin forbid I say anything remotely serious without a smiley face. When I came home, Ron was ready to tear my—"

"Harry!" Hermione snapped. "This isn't about your problems. Or Ron's love life, for that matter."

"I already told you what I think, and I told you what I think you should do about it."

It was Hermione's turn to sigh as she leaned back into her chair. After lunch, Hermione piled up approved manuscripts on her desk and stared at it with a contempt she never knew she could muster.