A/N: So this has been festering for a few weeks. Finally decided to write it, much at the expense of my Scripting lesson but hey, it's only university. Hope you enjoy it, let me know what you think!
She let out a cry, half of frustration, half of pain as her foot caught the troll leg umbrella stand. She tripped, just managing to catch herself on the door frame before her trip became a fall.
"All right?" said Harry, looking up from his treacle tart. He waved his wand and the oven door opened, a foil covered plate whooshing out into the air and landing neatly on the table. The foil scrunched itself up and deposited itself in the bin, leaving behind a steaming plate of sausage and mash.
Hermione sat down and picked up her knife and fork, though she didn't start eating. As good as it looked and smelled, she just didn't feel hungry enough.
"Bad day?" Harry asked, reading her mood like it was an article in Quidditch Weekly.
"Don't get me started," she replied with a sigh. "How was your day?"
"Pretty dull. I always thought being an auror would be a bit more exciting."
"Yeah, well since you defeated Voldemort I suppose you've rather put yourself out of business haven't you?"
Harry chuckled and returned to his tart. Hermione began eating her dinner slowly, but after a few mouthfuls, she gave up.
"I'm going to bed," she said. "Make sure you tell Ron that we're supposed to be going to the Burrow at the weekend."
"Yeah, yeah," Harry said, waving a hand that didn't quite manage to make Hermione feel assured that he would remember to tell Ron, but she didn't argue the point.
"Night," she said.
She clambered up the stairs, and shivered as she crawled under her bedsheets, the chill of the fabric not quite so welcome in the winter as it had been in the summer. Eventually, after much tossing and turning and adjustment of her pillows, she fell asleep.
She had her nose in a file, only occasionally glancing up to check that she was wandering down the right corridors. She flicked the page, just as she collided with something very tall, and very firm.
When she had gathered her senses, she also realised that that something was very blonde. She expected a sarcastic response, perhaps to be told that she should watch where she was bloody well going (and if she was being honest, it would be a very reasonable comment to make).
Instead, she was handed her file, which had fallen to the floor when she knocked into him, scattering papers all over the corridor, various Ministry wizards hopping and dodging to avoid leaving muddy footprints on the crisp white sheets.
"Granger," he said politely.
"Malfoy," she replied in the same, formal, but almost friendly tone.
"How are things in your department?" he asked, leaning against the wall and folding his arms casually.
Hermione was rather taken aback by this. Yes, since that night at Hogwarts where they'd saved his skin more than a few times, there had been a mutual respect between them, though it had never crossed over into the lands of interest in each other's lives.
"Same as usual," she answered, in what she hoped was an indifferent way. "The goblins are still harking on about Ludo Bagman even though I've told them that the last we heard he was running a wizard's bar in Venezuela. What about yours?"
"Nothing much happening over there actually. For once, amazingly, the budget's fine. It's quite boring, not having to make up excuses as to why taxes are going up."
Hermione pursed her lips in disapproval at the thought of him sitting in his office trying to find a way to brush over the fact that the Finance Department's Christmas party had drained a good portion of public funding because they most definitely had to host it at the top of the Eiffel Tower.
"Well, I'd best be off, I've got a meeting in -" she checked her watch. "Oh!"
She ran, file clamped under her arm, a bemused Draco Malfoy watching her as she darted between equally bemused Ministry workers, before finally disappearing round the corner.
"I can't help but feel this is a bit weird," Hermione said, her voice muffled by her thick woollen scarf.
He put an arm around her, pulling her closer. She was almost shocked at how warm he was. His cold attitude and icy features had always suggested that he was cold all over, but she now learned that this was far from the truth.
"It is weird," he agreed, turning his attention away from the new Firebolt on display in Quality Quidditch Supplies and back to her. "Still, I'm sure we can get used to it. Shall we go for lunch?"
Hermione nodded, and his arm slipped away from her shoulders, his hand taking her own and leading her away from the frosty shop window.
She loved Diagon Alley at Christmas. Wizarding Christmases made her feel like a six year old in the way that muggle ones never quite managed to after she found out that Father Christmas was just an elaborate work of fiction.
Everywhere was bedecked in Christmas decorations - tinsels, fairy lights, little sleighs racing around in the open air, much to the delight of the children who tried to catch them. There was a small cart run by an ageing witch, selling hot mince pies, and a few shops along, Florean Fortescue had a shop that was overflowing with people, each clutching a bowl of his mulled wine ice cream, charmed so that instead of giving you brain freeze, it would warm you from your head to your toes with each mouthful.
A small group of wizards were singing carols nearby, the hats at their feet brimming with knuts and sickles. A small dog trotted past, a pair of bright red antlers with bells on magically attached to his head. Hermione would have frowned, but the little thing seemed quite unperturbed by his new head gear, and was more than happy to play with the wide eyed children who stopped him on his way.
The Leaky Cauldron was packed, and Tom was rushed off his feet, serving people non-stop, smiling toothlessly at each customer as he took their orders.
"What would you like?" Draco asked, after a few minutes perusing the menu.
Hermione skewed her lips, weighing up her choices. "Chicken soup," she said, closing the menu with a snap before she could change her mind. He nodded, and awkwardly got out of his chair in the small space that the surrounding chairs and tables allowed him, before weaving his way towards the bar, and placing their order.
He returned a short while later, squeezing back into his seat. His eyes stared at something just above Hermione's head, and after frowning, she tilted her head up to see what had caught his interest.
She pulled a face when she realised what it was.
"Cheesy," she said, firmly, meeting his eye.
"But a good excuse."
He kissed her, and Hermione was oblivious to everything, including Ginny, who was sitting with friends on the other side of the pub, wand out, having just conjured up some mistletoe. They giggled, and drank their Butterbeers, courtesy of Draco.
She had become far too used to the spring filled mattress at Grimmauld Place, and as she lay next to Draco, she realised that she ought to invest in a better bed. She had come to the conclusion that a good mattress was one that you barely realised existed. To get a truly good night's sleep, you needed to feel like you were sleeping on air. It needed to be silent, too, so you weren't jerked out of your slumber by a creaking spring simply because you moved your arm.
She voiced this opinion to him, and he rolled onto his side so he could look her directly in the eye.
"I imagine you buying a new bed would be a waste of money."
"I don't think so."
"Well, you won't be spending many nights in it at all after you move in with me."
Hermione frowned. "And when exactly am I moving in with you?"
She didn't get a chance to verbally agree, because he had kissed her. If he couldn't figure out her response from the way she kissed him back, then he was truly an oaf.
Despite not getting much sleep, they got up early the following morning, and headed over to Grimmauld Place to pack up her things.
"I kind of wish I was on it," she said vaguely as the clock struck eleven.
He looked up from his book. "Why?"
"I never got to finish. I wasn't quite ready to leave, I don't think. Don't you ever want to go back?"
She didn't follow the subject up, and instead got up and went to make some tea. The sun streamed in through the kitchen window, glinting on the gold band that encircled the fourth finger of her left hand. She smiled, and put the kettle on, before opening the cupboards to see if there was anything she could snack on.
The kettle began to whistle just as she found a small stash of chocolate she had hidden away a few weeks ago, and she took it, popping a small square into her mouth before she began pouring the tea.
It felt like her stomach was bubbling, and she wondered if that was normal. Would it be that way for the foreseeable future? Or would it lower to a simmer after the first few weeks?
He was about to pour some wine for her but she stopped him. "Just water, thanks."
He frowned. "Are you not feeling well?"
She didn't answer, and he touched the side of her face with warm fingers.
She shook her head and he let out a sigh, conjuring her a glass of water and setting the spare wine glass down on the coffee table.
Her mind worked over time as she tried to think of a way she could tell him, without sending either of them into a panic. She was scared, more scared than she had been at any point during the war. In the war it had just been herself she had to worry about.
Now she was worrying for two.
He pulled her close, and she slumped against his chest, her fingers fiddling with the hem of his jumper as he sipped his wine.
After much internal debate, she broke the silence.
"We're going to need to get a bigger place."
"Somewhere with two bedrooms."
She heard the clink of glass on wood as he set his wine down.
His hand found his way to her stomach in that smooth, snake-like way that he managed to move in, and his hand rested on her belly, thumb moving back and forth like a pendulum. A warm, soft pendulum.
He kissed the top of her head and the bubbling went away.
"What do we do with her?" he asked as he peered down into the cot at the small, fleshy little being that had burst into their lives.
"I don't know," Hermione said, leaning against him, her eyes also fixed on the tiny person that was half Hermione, half Draco.
"Blonde or brown?"
"I hope to Merlin she's brown, or everyone'll think she's as inbred as you."
He tutted. "Just as long as she doesn't have freckles. Honestly, I shan't have a daughter who constantly looks like she's suffering from Spattergroit."
"What house d'you think she'll be in?"
"She's a Malfoy. That answers the question."
"No, it really doesn't. Remember she's my daughter too."
Draco huffed. "Just as long as she's not in Hufflepuff."
Hermione nodded in agreement.
She wasn't quite sure where the years had disappeared to. They had definitely happened though. She had stayed up late the previous night with Draco, going through a large pile of photo albums, showing Isobel at varying heights, with varying lengths of chocolatey brown hair. (Hermione had won that one, though thankfully for Izzy, while she had inherited the colour of her mother's hair, she had been gifted with the smoothness of her father's.)
Despite the changes in clothes and hair styles, Isobel's grey eyes remained twinkling and mischievous throughout, hinting that trouble was always going to be just around the corner whenever she was around.
"Come on now, onto the train," Hermione said, chivvying her towards the door.
Isobel spun round to face her father, who was standing with his hands clasped behind his back, a cool expression disguising what Hermione knew to be masses of worry for his little girl.
"I hope I'm in Gryffindor."
Hermione smirked, and Izzy grinned, catching her eye.
"I hope you manage to find somewhere else to live next summer."
Izzy's eyes widened, unable to distinguish between jest and honesty. She looked at her mother for an answer, and realised that he was just being a silly Slytherin.
"Bye Dad," she wrapped her arms around his middle in a quick hug, and was on the train before he had a chance to reciprocate.
James followed her onto the carriage, while Albus and Lily watched sulkily, clinging onto Ginny with sour expressions.
Teddy was chatting animatedly with friends a few yards along the platform, and Harry whistled, catching his attention. He looked up, and Harry jerked his thumb towards the train, just as the whistle sounded and steam began to puff out of the chimney at the front of the train. Teddy grinned, waved at them, and scrambled onto the train with his friends.
The train pulled away, the chug of its wheels becoming faster and faster as it gathered speed, and soon it disappeared in the distance, leaving a trail of steam in its wake.
The hours passed by slowly, and silently. There was a definite tension in the room, as they waited, and waited, and waited.
Finally, just as they had resigned themselves to the fact that the start of term feast had been far too exciting for Izzy to remember to owl them, Marius appeared at the window, tapping his beak against the glass.
Draco had crossed the room before Hermione had even gotten off of the sofa, and unfurled the roll of parchment the owl had brought to them. Hermione read over his shoulder.
Relax, I'm in Ravenclaw. Happy?
Professor Slughorn seemed disappointed when the Sorting Hat said it, but oh well, I expect I'll be invited to the Slug Club anyway. James is in Gryffindor, but then we all expected that.
The food is amazing, and my dormitory is so cool, but I'm not sure how I feel about sharing a bathroom with four other girls. I think things might get a bit messy.
I'll write in a couple of days, when I've actually got something to tell you.
"All right?" Hermione asked.
"I suppose Ravenclaw is a fair compromise."
Hermione smiled. "Come on, let's go to bed."
She slapped her alarm clock with her hand and it fell to the floor with a crash, though thankfully, it had stopped ringing.
She blinked as she opened her eyes, the cracks in the ceiling coming into focus as her brain started to operate slowly. She groaned as she realised a spring was digging into her back, and turned onto her side, the bed creaking loudly, causing her to wince.
A few seconds passed, and then Hermione sat bolt upright, wide awake in Grimmauld Place.
She scrambled out of her bed and over to the mirror in the corner of the room. Her reflection informed her that she was still only twenty years old, and a glance down at her left hand suggested that she was single.
Twelve miles away, in an apartment with a comfortable bed, Draco Malfoy awoke in a cold sweat.
"You all right?"
Hermione shook her head and sat down at the kitchen table.
"What's wrong?" Harry asked, putting the Daily Prophet to one side.
Harry touched her shoulder sympathetically and asked no more. He poured her a cup of coffee as Kreacher trotted in with a tray held expertly over his head, laden with plates of toast, bacon, eggs, sausages and other breakfast-y things that Hermione didn't really feel like she could stomach this morning.
She drained the last of her coffee and went over to the fireplace as Ron appeared in the kitchen in his pyjamas.
"You off already?" he asked sleepily.
"Yeah," Hermione replied quietly. "See you."
She arrived at the Ministry moments later, and was soon in her office, writing letters and dealing with several dull pieces of bureaucratic paperwork. In the afternoon she found herself speed-reading her way through a file on Crup laws, her mind concentrating on the words in front of her, as opposed to the people.
She collided with something tall and firm and blonde, and her file dropped to the floor, papers littering the corridor.
He looked awkward, as though he hadn't expected to ever run into her in the place where they both worked. It was a ludicrous idea, after all, that people should meet in a corridor that they both walked down four or five times a day, everyday.
The warmth of him was still lingering on her skin where she had made contact with him. It spread, right out to her fingers and toes, and she was sure that a faint blush had risen in her cheeks.
He waved his wand and her file flew back together, pages neatly arranging themselves into the correct categories, and he handed it to her.
"How are things in your department?"
Hermione's stomach dropped, and she noted that this time he wasn't leaning casually against the wall. He was standing uncomfortably, as though his limbs didn't really know what to do with themselves.
"Same as usual," she replied. "What about yours?"
Hermione nodded. "Well, I have to go. Meeting."
He nodded, but as she walked past, he caught her by the arm. "D'you want to, maybe, go for a drink after work?"