The Unexpected Run-In

Hermione Granger strolled along the sidewalk of Diagon Alley, window shopping for her new flat in London. She was excited to be moving our of her temporary - and very run-down - flat that she'd been living in after the war. Well, she guessed she couldn't really call it 'temporary', considering she'd been living in it for five years. Nevertheless, at twenty-two years old, Hermione was ready for a nicer place to live to go along with the nicer job she'd recently acquired.

Therefore, she needed more things to fill the bigger place, hence the reason she was in Diagon Alley. Right when she spotted a reasonably acceptable lamp, something else caught her eye. No, she wasn't one to stare and/or giggle at handsome men like a hormonal girl, but this particular man caught her attention. It was first because of his hair. She would know that hair anywhere, but surely it couldn't be . . . ? He was reading for one. He was also sitting at a tiny cafe. He was also in a very relaxed stance and was not making any rude comments to people around him. Not to mention, if Hermione hadn't taken a second glance and applied her previous knowledge to the face, she would've guessed he was a nice, handsome, intelligent fellow.

This is why she just couldn't comprehend that is was Draco Malfoy sitting at the nice little table outside of the quaint cafe. Anything 'nice' and 'quaint' shouldn't go into the same sentence as Draco Malfoy, but that's all Hermione could describe it as. He didn't look the same at all. Maybe it had to do with the fact that he didn't have the snobby aura to him, but he just seemed different overall. He was in a casual white T-shirt with gray slacks and she again noted that 'casual' shouldn't be used to descirbe him, either. Not even his hair was the same. It was still the same color, of course, but it wasn't styled into that disgustingly slicked back way - it was disheveled, unruly. And - oh, dear Merlin, he had stubble! Draco Malfoy had stubble! And it was sexy!

Oh, no. Now she was calling his hair disheveled and unruly, and calling his stubble sexy. What had the world come to? She never thought she'd apply any of those words to Draco Malfoy, unless they were put into a sentence that went something like this: 'Hermione, Harry and Ron had watched Draco die a nice and quaint death in a casual manner, and his hair became disheveled and unruly as he fell to the ground in a sexy fashion.'

Ugh. That was certainly a disturbing sentence.

Hermione concluded that this whole situation was just not making her stable, so she needed to do something about it. During this little observation, Hermione had meandered over to the cafe, almost in a dream-like state, to the man she had been speculating for the past couple minutes.

"Draco Malfoy - reading?" Hermione mused in a sarcastic manner, her wits returning at the last second. "I never thought I'd come to see the day."

Draco turned his indifferent blue-gray eyes up to her and raised his eyebrows. "Well, well, if it isn't golden girl Granger," he replied dryly, shutting his book and laying it on the table. "What brings you here on a Saturday afternoon?"

"Shopping, obviously," she said, indicating her bags. "Although, I admit I wasn't expecting to see you reading at a cafe in the middle of Diagon Alley."

He crossed his arms over his chest. "And why is that? You thought I'd be terrorizing people and banding together with physco Death Eaters instead?" he guessed a little too lightly for her comfort and many people around gave him wide-eyed glances. "No, no. I'm afraid I've changed, Granger."

"Yes, I see that by the way you still refer to me by my last name." she responded, pursing her lips.

"Merely an old habit," he insisted, waving his hand nonchlantly, "But I wasn't expecting you to believe me anyway."

She shrugged. "You were right."

He raised an eyebrow, studying her for a moment, before clearing his throat. "How're Wonder Boy and Weasel?"

She rolled her eyes. "Changed, indeed," she muttered, "Harry and Ron are fine, not that you actually care."

He eyed her curiously. "You and Weasley still dating then?"

She locked her jaw, feeling a pang in her stomach. She put her bags onto his table before putting one hand on the back of his chair and the other on the table. She leaned toward him menacingly and he stared at her with raised eyebrows, his mouth open in almost amused shock.

"Listen, Malfoy. Just because we're older and more mature now doesn't mean I forgot everything that happened during Hogwarts or how good it felt to punch you in third year. If you have the audacity to ask me about my personal life again, it'll give me the excuse to do it again."

She leaned back and grabbed her bags, ready to leave.

"Touchy." Draco noted lightly, supressing a chuckle.

"Shut up." she snapped, starting to walk down the street.

Draco grabbed his book and gracefully walked into step with her, grinning. "No, no, I'm enjoying this now. What happened?"

"I really hope you didn't think I was kidding about the punching thing." she muttered as she turned into the store that had the lamp she was looking at before.

"No, I don't doubt you, Granger, but . . . I'll take my chances," he explained, winking at her. She grimaced. "So? What happened?"

"None of your business, as I so kindly put it before." she said, exasperated.

She found the lamp she'd been looking at and lifted the price tag cautiously. She contemplated the slightly too-expensive price with pursed lips.

"It's ugly." Draco said suddenly.

Hermione snapped her head up to look at him, shocked. "What?"

"The lamp - it's hideous." he repeated like it was obvious.

She tried to keep her temper in check as she took a deep breath, finally turning her full attention to her arch nemesis. Or ex-arch nemesis. She hadn't decided on which he was yet.

"How about you go pester someone else, Malfoy? Pansy? Zabini? Have your pick."

"Blaise and Pansy are on a date, actually," Draco said, grimacing, "Which I have no intention of joining, and, besides them and my parents, I have no one else to pester . . . besides you."

"How lovely." she muttered, finally deciding to just leave the lamp. But not because Draco said it was ugly. Certainly not.

"So, where is this new place you're moving into?" he asked casually as they started to walk down the street and she gave him a bewildered look.

"What, are you planning on stalking me now? And - how did you know I was moving?"

"Granger, no one shops for lamps just because," he said exasperately, "And I was just curious, I wasn't planning on stalking you. . . ."

She breathed a sigh of relief.

"Just bugging you relentlessly until the day you die." he finished, grinning.

She glared at him. "Funny."

"Yes, I like to think so." he murmured happily.

"And I'm living in London."

He paused, frowning. "Muggle London?"

"Yes." she replied, watching him carefully out of the corner of her eye.

"Smashing. I am as well."

She stopped short, gaping at him. He took a few steps before he realzied she'd stopped and he turned around with a smirk. He knew she'd react this way.

"W-What?" she gasped, "You? In Muggle London? Is this a joke?"

"I'm afraid not," he said and walked towards her, his smirk widening. "I told you I've changed, Granger. Whether it was willingly or not, I've changed."

Well, if anything convinced her, that did. Unless. . . .

"You're not - hiding, are you?" she asked suspiciously.

His eyes flashed and he locked his jaw. But then, his expression cleared and he smiled slightly, looking amused.

"Of course not." he responded lightly.

"Right," she said slowly, "Well, as fun as this was, I'm going to have to leave you."

"I'll get a raincheck on the Weasel scoop, then?"

She glowered at him. "You're infuriating."

And, without waiting to see his grin in return, she Apparated into her flat in London.

XXX

Draco Malfoy wasn't nessecarily in trouble, he just had nostalgic, phsycotic Voldemort-worshippers chasing after him. Him and every other 'Death Eater' who'd - gladly - let go of their service to Voldemort after he'd been killed.

So, if you called that trouble, then . . . yes, technically, Draco was in trouble.

However, his parents had been driving him crazy with their paranoia, so he'd moved out long ago, when he turned eighteen. He barely saw his father anymore, but he'd seen his mother for the first time in a long time only a week ago. Blaise and Pansy didn't know about his 'trouble', which is the way he preferred it. He also preferred to ignore it unless he was forced not to - in other words, if one of them broke into his apartment and tried to kill him. Then he was forced to dispose of them in one way or another. No, he didn't kill them. He'd Apparate them to various places tied up or he'd just curse them pretty harshly, leave them wherever the fight had taken place and relocate somewhere else.

Which brought him to Muggle London. Who would ever think Draco Malfoy would be living among Muggles and in London, the center of the bustling wizarding world? Although he did like to ignore his 'trouble', yes, he still needed a semi-permanent place to feel at least somewhat safe.

Draco walked into his flat later that night, slightly woozy from the amount of Firewhiskey he'd consumed. He would admit that, yes, he'd been drinking quite a bit these past few years - it did indeed make things seem easier for a short amount of time. He threw his coat onto the nearest solid object and collapsed into an armchair, cradling his head in his hand.

Hermione Granger. One whom he had always noticed, but never paid attention to. That is, until after she had punched him in the face in third year. Then he had sort of studied her whenever he wouldn't get caught. He thought she was audacious and atrocious, punching him and acting like she was higher than him. He hated her in a way, just for that.

What a fool he was. He hadn't hated her - he'd envied her. She was able to act upon something, to react to something that she thought was wrong. He couldn't do that, not with anybody - not with his father, not with Voldemort. He did as he was told. He did what was safe. That's why, secretly, he was rooting for the Light to win the war. Also because everyone knows the good guys always win - and Draco Malfoy liked to win.

Therefore, after the war, he'd changed, because, one, he'd been given the chance with Voldemort dead, and two, he wanted to prove, for some reason, that he wasn't like his father. He wasn't and never would be - he'd learned from Lucius' mistakes as well as his own, and Draco wasn't going back to the way he was before.

If only he didn't have bloody Death Eaters chasing after him, he would have a chance to show everyone. He'd attempted to make an appearence today, and, of course, it was the day Hermione Granger would come up and tell him off. It was quite refeshing actually, it sort of brought him down to earth again.

That's why he wanted to see her again. He'd find a way - Malfoy's were very determined. Persistent. Annoying. And those were a few things he wasn't planning on changing. He -

"Obscuro!"

A blindfold wrapped around Draco's eyes and he cursed, standing. His wand was out in record time and he ripped off the blindfold right as a curse was flying his way.

"Protego!" Draco yelled.

His attacker stood in the darkened kitchen, just behind the living room, his wand pointing unwaveringly at Draco.

"Crucio!" he screamed.

Draco dodged it, but only barely, and exclaimed, "Stupefy!"

"Protego! Impedementa!"

Draco flew back against the fireplace with a sickening thud, and he groaned as he hit the floor.

"Draco, you coward - you fool," the man hissed, "Sectumsempra!"

Draco felt the gashes cut through his shirt, but it was nothing to hearing that spell again. Snape had told him it was -

"Yes, we learned some little tricks from Snape, that traitor," he chuckled darkly, then mocked him, "You really thought we wouldn't find you? Us, the Dark Lord'd servants?

"Voldemort is dead." Draco said, stumbling to a standing position.

The man howled in outrage. "Avada K - "

"Furnunculus!"

The attacker cried out and fell to the ground as boils started to cover every inch of his body.

"Stupefy!" Draco exclaimed.

Finally, the man passed out, and Draco murmured, "Incarcerous."

Ropes tied themselves around the black-robed body and Draco caught his breath before actually taking action again. He felt the blood drip down his chest and knew he needed to make this quick so he could heal himself. He grabbed the mans body and Apparated him to a place he knew in New York, an alley beside a deli he once went to with his mother. Not a moment after he left the body there did he Disapparate back to his flat. He stumbled onto the couch, but found there was persistent knocking on the door.

"Is everything alright? Hello? Is someone in there? Has something happened?"

Granger. Draco quickly got over is surprise and struggled over to the door, swinging it open. Hermione stood there and, upon realizing who it was, she gasped.

"Malfoy?"

"Fancy seeing you here." he murmured, giving her a forced sarcastic smile.

"What happened?" she hissed, letting herself in and closing the door.

She put his arm around her and led him over to his couch, laying him down onto it. She quickly turned on the dim lamp on the table and turned her attention to his wounds.

"Nothing." he replied lamely, groaning as she gingerly touched a gash.

"Sorry." she muttered, then gently tore his shirt open where it was already ripped and took it off him.

"You know, if I didn't know any better, I'd say you were pulling the moves on me." he breathed weakly, smiling.

She gave him an exasperated look before pulling her wand out. "Tergeo." she murmured.

The bloody slowly disappeared as she ran her wand over the wounds and Draco was finding it was taking effort to stay conscience.

"No, no, don't fall asleep yet, you could have a concussion," she fretted, putting her hands on either side of his face, "I'll take care of it in a second."

He forced his eyes open and narrowed them playfully. "You sure you just don't want to have a nice chat with me?"

"You are impossible," she muttered, her eyes on his chest, "Episkey."

A cool feeling enveloped Draco and his chest didn't hurt so much anymore.

"I probably didn't do the best job, but - "

"Thank you." he breathed out, his eyes drooping.

She stared at him for a moment. "You're welcome." she murmured.

She made sure he didn't have a concussion (a nifty spell she'd learned when she went back for seventh year at Hogwarts) before letting him go to sleep. Afterwards, she didn't know what to do with herself. She was guessing this wasn't nessecarily the safest place for Draco, whatever situation he'd gotten himself into, so she Apparated him to her place. Obviously, it wasn't going very far, but it was better than his place. Luckily, she'd managed to Apparate right onto the couch, or Draco would've had a significant bump on his head. She sighed and was about to go to her bed, but then she heard him groan. She slowly turned to look at him and found, with wide eyes, that Draco Malfoy was having a nightmare. His eyes moved beneath his eyelids frantically and he shifted restlessly. It was such a . . . human thing to do, that it shocked her. She'd never really thought of the cruel, bullying Draco Malfoy she'd known at school to nessecarily do normal, human things, as naive as that was. But this wasn't the Draco Malfoy she'd known at school. She saw that now. She'd have to force herself to wipe the slate clean, because she couldn't resist helping someone in need, and, most obviously, Draco was in need.

With that thought in mind, she carefully sat down in an arm chair next to the couch and watched him until she herself drifted off to sleep.