Ficawesome Gift Echange- TAKE 2

Title: Breakthrough

Written for: Fanfic Reader aka reader-giggles

Written By: Rae Marie

Rating: K+

Summary/Prompt used: 1) Our couple meets again after a few years apart
2) Our couple meets in the gym...it wouldn't hurt to start this in a spinning class.
3) A crowded train, a rainy night...thunder...

If you would like to see all the stories that are a part of this exchange visit the facebook group: Fanficaholics Anon: Where Obsession Never Sleeps

Hermione Granger wiped the sweat from her body before chugging the last fourth of her water bottle. Swinging one leg over the bike, she smiled. She had only been going to spinning class for a month, but she could already feel how toned she was becoming. She flipped her bottle upright for the last few drops and then dropped it into her bag along with her towel and slung the whole thing over her shoulder. Normally she would have brought a change of clothes, but being late from work, she was lucky enough to have a pair of bicycle shorts and an extra t-shirt in her bag. She wasn't too concerned about her appearance however; this was Muggle London, which practically ensured she wouldn't be running into anyone she knew.

With that thought in mind, she smiled to herself again, sure that anyone she knew would be shocked to see Ms. Granger, Senior Under-Secretary to the Minister, looking anything less than perfect. That is, until she ran full on into the person turning the corner and she fell back onto her butt. Lucky I wore those padded shorts today, she thought as she reached for the bag she had dropped.

"Granger?"

She heard the word, but refused to process it. Only one person spoke her name with that precise drawl and there was no possible way he could be in her gym, in her hometown. A hand appeared in front of her face and she slowly followed it to a black clad arm attached to a magnificent chest. She swallowed before risking a short glance at his face.

"Bollocks," Hermione muttered.

"What was that, Granger? I didn't hurt you, did I?" His voice sounded closer than she anticipated. She looked up again, finding he had crouched down, and a pair of bright blue eyes met her own in an intense stare.

"Concerned are you Malfoy? Well I would be better if you got out of my face." Hermione winced at the tone of her voice, but she didn't take it back. His eyes had unsettled her because she couldn't quite understand the emotion running under the surface of them. It wasn't the condescending glare she remembered. Although she hadn't seen him in years, since his trial in fact; she couldn't shake the memories of all the times he had bullied her in school. But this time, he had not called her 'Mudblood' and he had seemed genuinely concerned about knocking her over.

As she sat there contemplating, she didn't even notice that Malfoy was still there until he spoke again.

"Granger?"

"Well, if you are going to stand there, at least help me up!" she snapped, still confused, and getting more frustrated by the minute. How could he just stand there and not help her? She knew for a fact that he hated everything about her. It was inconceivable that he would speak to her with kindness, let alone go out of his way to help her. But there his hand was, lifting her back onto her feet. It was all she could do to keep her mouth from falling open as he bent down and picked up her bag. She stuttered a thank you as he handed it to her and then walked away. If she had been in more control of herself, she might have noticed his mouth curl into his signature smirk as he turned the corner.

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Hermione could not get Draco Malfoy's strange behavior out of her mind. She sat slumped at her desk, idly spinning her quill between her fingers, trying to decide if he had been mocking her the day before. She had decided last night as she lie awake in bed that he had changed and was simply being shyly polite. It had made sense in the dark of the night in her snug room, but in the bright light of her office, the theory was preposterous. The look in his eyes was anything by shy, but she could not read it any further. Above all else, that is what bothered her. She was Hermione Granger; she devoted her life to figuring things out. Yet, Malfoy's actions had her stumped. If only she knew what he had been doing at the gym, surely that information was the missing piece of the puzzle, the one piece that would make everything else fall into place.

She shot up, not even noticing that she had dropped her quill and a long line of ink now ran down her robes. Did she or did she not work at the Ministry with full access to every file? She could just take a quick peek at the Auror's Reports on former Death Eaters. She was not positive that Malfoy was still being monitored, but it was worth checking.

Ten minutes later, a triumphant Hermione sailed back into her office, closing the door firmly behind her. Although she was sure she was not breaking any rules, she still did not want questions about why she would be reading this particular file. That same reason had prompted her to fetch the file for herself instead of sending an intern for it.

She sent one last guilty look around the room before easing the file open. She greedily ran her finger down the page, her eyes swiping back and forth at a furious speed. She read page after page, fascinated by the life of one Draco Lucius Malfoy.

She closed the file gingerly upon completing the last page. She tapped her chin thoughtfully as she took it all in. She still hated the bastard, but she now understood his part in the war.
She smiled ruefully to herself. Perhaps that is why she did not attend his trial. Harry had testified on Draco's behalf, but Hermione had stubbornly refused to go. Thinking back, she realized that she subconsciously knew that upon hearing the facts, she would sympathize with the git, and at that time, she was still too raw from the war to be able to handle that.

A knock at her door broke Hermione out of her musings and she quickly shoved the file under some paperwork. When she was sure it was completely hidden, she called a terse, "You may enter."

A smiling redhead bounded in and perched herself on the corner of Hermione's desk. "Hey Hermione! And lighten up! You work too hard. Just look, you're getting wrinkles from frowning so much," Ginny said with a grin.

Hermione smiled her first true smile of the day. It was impossible not to be affected by the boundless joy of the youngest Weasley. "So what brings you all the way up here?" Hermione asked quickly as Ginny began idly rifling through the papers stacked next to her. Careful to make sure Draco's file was still hidden, she grabbed the entire stack. "And these are private, thank you very much," she added, hoping her smile still looked genuine.

"Sheesh, Hermione. Someone might think you've nicked these files from somewhere. The way you're acting."
Hermione's scoffing protest either came too fast, or wasn't satisfactory because Ginny's eyes lit up and she renewed her attempts to grab the files back. "Ooh, ooooh let me see! Harry never lets me see anything this good!"

"Ginny!" Hermione admonished and knowing that the girl would not let the issue go without an explanation, she began speaking. "Well these particular files aren't anything good."

Ginny eyed her speculatively and tightened her grip.

"Really, these are just my notes on new wand making regulations," Hermione said the first thing that popped into her head. Taking notes had been her plan before thoughts of Draco interfered. "With Ollivander gone, Britain's new wand makers have been producing shoddy work. Did you know that—"

"Ok, ok. I believe you," Ginny interrupted her. "I just thought you might be up to something fun for once."

"I have fun," Hermione said, slightly hurt. She might not be as vivacious as the girl currently seated on the edge of her desk beaming, but it she knew how to have a good time. Well she did when she wasn't working. Just last week she had, oh wait, she had skipped that to catch up on sleep. Oh bloody hell, she didn't have fun very often did she. Hermione came to the realization with a start. Shaking the thoughts out of her head, she continued, "You never did tell me what you're doing up here? Harry's not in today, he's out in the field with the Minister."

"Oh, I know that, I came to search through Harry's office. You know, to look what he's buying me for my birthday, if he's hiding any liaisons with slags and general snooping. Only his secretary won't let me in after last time… So I thought I'd pop by and see how you're doing!"

Hermione's grin grew with every word tumbling out of Ginny's mouth. "So you're up to your usual antics."

Ginny laughed, "Basically." She drew in a breath, looking uncertain for the first time since she wandered in. "Are you ok?" she asked softly. "You look like you've been working too hard for too long. You never come out for girl's night anymore and I can't even remember the last time you went out on a date. I'm worried about you. We're all worried about you."

"We, meaning who?" Hermione interjected. "Have you been talking about me with Harry again? I told you, I'm FINE."

Ginny crossed her arms. "Fine is what people say when they are not doing well. 'Fine' means that you are having problems, but you refuse to admit it to others, or worse yourself. Fine is NOT ok. Hermione, I really am worried that –"

Hermione cut Ginny off with words so sharp they could cut, "Ginevra Weasley. If I told you I'm fine. I'm FINE. I don't need you, or Harry, or anyone getting in to MY business. I'm the youngest Senior-Undersecretary to the Minister in two and a half centuries. Who are you? Nobody. You think everyone should be as carefree as you are flying around all day then going home to an adoring fiancé." Her tone grew bitter, "It's not all rainbows and sunshine. Some of us have to work to get where we are. Some of us didn't kill the greatest threat to the Wizarding World or are dating said hero. Some of us didn't grow up in the Wizarding World and have to catch up on EVERYTHING."

It was as if that last word broke Hermione and she collapsed forward onto her desk defeated. Ginny raced around the desk and pulled Hermione into a deep hug. "You are the brightest witch of our generation Hermione," Ginny said slowly, emphasizing each word with care. "No one would dare dispute that."

Hermione sniffled. "I know that. I'm just so bloody tired of having to work twice as hard as everyone else." She took a shuddering breath. "It's not easy being muggle-born you know." Before Ginny could protest, Hermione held up her hand. "Just let me finish, ok?" Ginny settled herself against the desk as Hermione continued.

"At first, the idea of living in the Wizarding World was like a dream come true for me. As a child I would imagine myself in a fairy tale world, where all of the strange things I could will into happening weren't strange, they were magic. And then I got my letter to Hogwarts and it was like I'd stepped into one of my beloved fairytales. I was finally home. But life at Hogwarts wasn't everything I dreamed it to be. Being muggle-born sets you apart. It paints a target on you. Not everyone was as obvious as the Slytherins about it, but I noticed. I always noticed. I could see the speculation in certain teachers' eyes when I was the first to raise my hand. I could feel how other students would look at me when I didn't understand some basic rule of Wizarding life."

Hermione sighed and Ginny moved closer, laying a comforting arm across her shoulder as Hermione continued speaking. "Now that I've left school, it's even worse. I know the only reason I have this job now is because Kingsley is Minister. No other minister would have hired me, a muggle-born, barely of age, as an intern, let alone as his personal aide."

"You deserve everything you have and more. Really you do," Ginny said soothingly, rubbing small circles on Hermione's back. "Hermione, anyone with half a brain can see how brilliant you are."

Hermione laughed bitterly. "I wish." She turned to look Ginny in the eye. "I've heard my co-workers talking about me when they think I'm not there. They say things like 'she's fortunate to have made friends with The Chosen One before he became famous.' Or they believe the trash written about me in fourth year and think I am charming my way into positions of power."

Ginny gasped. "They think you're sleeping with Harry?"

"I'm sure that's one theory, but most seem to think I've bewitched the Minister. Lesser women than me have managed it."

They both shuddered at the memory of Umbridge. She may not have been that bright, but she sure did have Fudge wrapped around her pudgy finger.

"But surely people can't be that stupid? Kingsley is old enough to be your father and he's much to sensible to allow a witch to manipulate him like that."

Hermione shrugged. "People see what they want to see. And unfortunately, that's not a muggle-born in power."

Ginny just hugged Hermione tighter.

Hermione sniffed miserably a few times. "Hey Ginny?" she said as she stood and smoothed the wrinkles from her shirt. "Let's go search Harry's office."

Ginny bounded up, eyes glittering mischievously. "Only if you want to."

Wiping a stray tear from her eye, Hermione smirked. "Just watch his secretary try to stop us."

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Hermione pulled her cloak tighter to her body as the wind swept around her. She had not wanted to go straight home after work. Even though the sky was darkening, and thunder rumbled overhead, she continued walking. Thoughts of Draco would not stop plaguing her. Why couldn't she get him out of her head. She hated him. Didn't she?

Hermione's heart skipped a beat. She didn't hate him. She came to that realization with a start. And if she did not hate him, then what?The sky picked that moment to open up, and she was drenched within seconds.

She stood there for a moment. Slowly, she spread her arms out wide and began to spin. Lifting her face to the rain, she laughed.

She had come to realize that she did not hate Draco Malfoy because she loved him. Well "love" was stretching it, she thought with a giggle. She did not know him well enough to make any decisions, all she knew was that he was not the same horrible boy who sneered at her blood status Second Year. He had changed over their years at school. She knew that, but as a member of the so-called "Golden Trio," she had been almost contractually obligated to hate Draco along with Harry.

Then, yesterday happened. Draco had finally shown her proof of a different side of him, a better side. Combined with everything she had read in his file, she knew that she wanted to know him better. Maybe it was nothing, but she wanted to believe in something. She wanted to believe in someone. She wanted to believe in love again.

Hermione hugged her cloak closer to her chest for a moment and sighed. She did not know what tomorrow would hold, but she could not wait to see Draco again and find out.

A/N - FFR, I really hope you enjoyed this lovely! It's all for you!

Mezzmerizeme is incredibly awesome for looking this over last minute. She is seriously the best.