Disclaimer: J.K. Rowling owns the Harry Potter franchise. I do not. Thank you. Enjoy.
It was six-thirty in the evening. Work was over, and three best friends were walking from the Ministry back home. Harry Potter was content with the day. Not every day was perfect since he had more than his share of paperwork and complaints from the Aurors below him, but he was thinking of a warm dinner with his wife waiting at home, and that made his day worth it.
Ronald Weasley was thinking of the homemade mashed potatoes his mum made and how delicious they were. A goofy smile spread across his face as he walked blissfully, slightly unaware of his surroundings. His mum had sent her mashed potatoes that morning for his dinner. Nothing could beat Mum's cooking.
Hermione Granger, the third of their trio, was the one who had cursed, breaking the blissful reveries of the two blokes. She was franticly searching through her bag for something that wasn't there; her precious book.
"What is it, Hermione?" Harry asked in concern. She wasn't one to curse often.
"I've lost my book! Hogwarts: A History!"
Ron rolled his eyes. "Merlin sakes, 'Mione, just get another one! That thing was getting ratty anyway."
"Shut up, Ron! That book's full of memories!" In truth, Hermione had written a several notes here and there to immortalise the memories she'd had with the certain events described in the book. And she'd begun writing notes on the inside cover for the second and updated edition she had privately taken upon herself to write.
"Maybe you just left it in your office," said Harry. "Don't freak out."
"I'm not freaking out!" she squeaked. Then she took a deep breath. "You're probably right. It'll be in my office tomorrow."
It was not in her office tomorrow.
Hermione almost tore the whole department apart looking for it and asked her coworkers, but no one had seen it. Sitting at her desk in her overturned office, she took deep breaths. "No worries," she reassured herself. "I'll just…put up signs. Someone will return it."
It had been three days since she had smothered the Ministry walls in "Lost Book" signs, and she was going mad. "Where could it be?" she cried when she entered her office on the fourth day. She was going to give up hope. And then she saw one of her flyers folded neatly on her desk. Curious, she opened it.
I found your book. Meet me in the cafeteria at eight a.m.
Hermione was intrigued by the note, but she was too relieved to be suspicious. She had half an hour till then, so she worked furiously, time going by too slowly for her liking.
When the clock struck eight, she dropped her things and rushed to the Ministry's cafeteria. Eight o' one. No sign of anyone. Eight o' two. Eight o' three. Hermione took a seat at her usual table, confused and upset, thinking she'd been had. At eight ten, she'd leave, embarrassed at her gullibility.
Eight o' five.
One of the interns, it looked like Zabini's, came in and spotted her in the empty room. "Ms. Granger," he said politely. "I was told this belongs to you."
Hermione's eyes brightened at the sight of the rectangular parcel. She snatched it and opened it. It was not, however, her book. "There was a note" was what the intern said, and she saw a blue post-it note inside the front cover. She suppressed the urge to scream.
Follow the sticky notes, it read.
Hermione frowned and looked around. "Do I have to?" she asked the intern. "Why are you sending me on a scavenger hunt?"
He looked surprised. "I was just told to give this to you."
He smiled and turned on his heel and left.
"Hey! I'm talking to you!" she called, but he was gone.
Frustrated, she stared at the book. The Treasury of Classic Muggle and Magical Mysteries by Myste R. enormous treasury she had wanted for years but had never had the proper funds or time to buy it. She traced the gold-outlined title. "This is stupid," she muttered, then sighed. She'd do it for her book. She'd had that book since she was eleven years old. She wasn't about to let it go now.
Hermione gathered her things and stood, looking around to find the first post-it note. She checked everywhere, finally finding it stuck right underneath the table she had been sitting at.
Time is too slow for those who wait, too swiftly for those who fear, too long for those who grieve, too short for those who rejoice, but for those who love, time is eternity.
Hermione smiled. That was her favourite quote by Henry Van Dyke. The riddle was simple; the clock. But which? Hermione stared out the door. Suddenly there were one too many clocks in the department.
Thankfully, it was the wall clock in her office that held the post-it note. She would have seemed rather unhinged if she had barged into peoples' offices to look at their clocks. At least the sender was considerate. And rather sneaky.
When it is dark and I look around, I see you and my day gets brighter.
She frowned. This one was tricky. A smile quickly replaced the sour look on her face. She loved having her intelligence challenged. The answer suddenly hit her like a hammer. The sun was shining through the window right then and onto her desk. Behind one of the curtains peeked a little blue post-it. She couldn't help but smile.
You can never judge a book by its cover.
Easy. The ugliest or most boring-looking but most interesting book on her shelf. Hermione went to her bookcase and searched, finding the ugly book about house elf rights, but there was nothing in it. She put it down and grabbed another.
By the time she was through her shelf, she had gone through seventy-five books. It was the last one on her shelf, one with the average cover, which held the note. Curiously, Hermione looked at the title. In the Head of a Pureblood: The Journal Entries of Harriett McDowall.
Hermione was surprised. Interested in what made purebloods tick, she had also been eyeing this book for some time. It too had been overpriced for her thin pocket. She smiled and read the post-it on the inside cover.
With the eye of the storm you will find peace.
Hermione blinked. Eye of the storm? Storm could mean internal or external. Or maybe they literally meant "eye of the storm?" Which meant someone with grey eyes. Grey eyes. Who more infamous than Draco Malfoy for his "stormy grey eyes?" It had been the topic of many girlish water cooler conversations among her female coworkers. Hermione sighed. So much for not trying to have a confrontation or conversation with him. She hadn't talked to him since school.
She trudged over to his office, smiling a little at how creative the finder of her book was. He seemed well-off enough to buy her these expensive books, observant by how he knew what she had wanted—if not a little creepy—, and intelligent enough to know how to capture her attention. She really wanted to meet him or her.
Hermione entered Malfoy's office. He looked up.
"Yes?" he asked.
'Grey as a storm,' Hermione thought. "Do you have a book here for me?" she asked.
"Uh, yes. Here." He poked a brown parcel wrapped nicely with a ribbon sitting on his desk.
"Thank you." She didn't want to open it just yet. Her excitement would be hard to contain. "Did you find it?" she asked.
Draco shook his head. "Someone told me to give it to you."
He shrugged. "How should I know?"
"Who was it?"
"Can't tell you." Draco turned back to his work.
"Please tell me, Draco. Please?"
He closed his eyes. "No! I was sworn to secrecy." He opened his eyes. "You have your book now. I have to do work."
"Just tell me one thing; is it a male or a female?"
Draco hesitated. "Male. Now get out."
She huffed. "Fine. But I will find out."
When she exited his office, she unwrapped her book slowly, and found her copy of Hogwarts: A History inside. She smiled, overcome with delight, and flipped through it. She stopped at the back cover, where another post-it note was covering her scrawls about her future updated edition. Her cheeks burned at the thought that someone had read that.
If you published the second edition, I would buy it in a heartbeat. You have the confidence to try, so do it.
Hermione felt it unreasonable to feel the need to search, but the red flyers came back, only this time with the words: "Who are you?" The Ministry was smothered again.
The next morning, not a single flyer was found and Hermione hurried to her office. There was no note in reply. She was disappointed. She would try again. After all, she had to give the finder the reward he had earned as well as praise. And perhaps her friendship.
The morning after, Hermione went early to work, arms full of flyers. However, when she stepped onto the Ministry grounds, she saw the very first corkboard carrying a bright yellow flyer. Her heart swelled. She ripped it down.
She dumped her flyers, holding the yellow one close, and went to her office. It was covered in flyers as well. But these were different. She took a few.
You shouldn't meet me. The text was in a speech bubble coming from a cartoon cat meowing. It looked eerily like Crookshanks. Hermione smiled.
"Grang—whoa." Malfoy looked around her room. "What happened in here?"
Hermione turned quickly and vanished all the papers except the one she was holding.
"None of your business. What do you want?"
"Nothing, nothing," he said, hands up in mock surrender. "Just wanted to say good morning, and Potter has a message for you. He said he's not going to be able to make it to lunch. Something about training the Aurors-in-training."
Hermione narrowed her eyes at him, suspicious, but nodded. "Thank you."
Draco nodded curtly and turned and made to leave.
"Wait." He turned at her call. "Malfoy, can you, um…" She took a step towards him. "Could you tell the person that gave you the book that I want to meet him?"
Draco was slightly startled. "What?"
"Well, since you know who gave me the book, could you tell him or her that message?"
"I…I suppose I could."
She smiled. "I'd be much obliged. I want to thank him properly."
Draco just shook his head and his eye caught something on her desk. A smirk came to his face. "Granger's got a secret admirer?" he teased, and she glanced over and blushed. There was a flower on her desk; an aster, her birth flower. Hermione blushed even more, and Draco's smirk grew. "I'll give him your message," he said, and left. Hermione sat on her desk, picked up the flower, and sighed. It was a pretty purple colour, and Hermione smiled to herself. It was only a matter of time until she would meet her mystery giver. She had to meet him.
Later in the day when Hermione saw the intern, she told him to tell the mysterious person the same thing, and he agreed to. And all Hermione could do now was wait.
She didn't have to wait long. When she came back from her lunch break, there was a note on her door. She tugged it off. There was a drawing of an otter swimming around with a speech bubble saying, Are you sure? You may not like what you see.
Hermione smiled. Her Patronus was an otter. How did he know? She went inside, coming out quickly with several sticky notes. She placed them all over her door. One should never judge a book by its cover.
The notes stayed on for three days before they all fell off. In that time, Hermione was waiting anxiously for a reply. She was intrigued by this person, and she wanted to meet him. He, whoever he was, was absolutely delightful and wonderfully mysterious. Hermione smiled to herself, imagining who it could be. Someone knocked.
Hermione's head snapped up.
"Um, there's an envelope taped to your door. Thought I'd let you know."
Hermione leapt out of her seat. "Thank you so much."
The intern nodded and stepped out.
When he closed the door, Hermione tore the envelope open, scanning the letter with greedy brown eyes.
Mon cherie, I have no other option than to do as you ask. If you truly believe that you cannot judge a book by its cover, we shall have dinner. Seven o' clock tomorrow night, Le Mystère. It'll be under your name.
Hermione clutched the letter to her chest, breath caught, heart pounding, hands tingling. She'd only read about things like this happening, and now that it was really happening to her of all people, she deemed the feeling it gave her breathlessly exciting.
At dinner that evening, her friends were chiding her. "Hermione, you don't know if this is safe," said Harry.
"Yeah, you don't even know the bloke," added Ron. "He could be dangerous."
"Yes, you never know. But I think it's sweet," said Ginny, smiling. The other three turned to her. "What?" she said defensively. "I think it's sweet."
"Thank you Ginny," said Hermione, cutting into her pork chops. "And it doesn't matter what you all say. I'm going and that's that."
"Stubborn one, she is," Ron muttered to Harry who nodded in agreement.
Hermione huffed at them and put the piece into her mouth.
"On another note, Ron, these are Mum's mashed potatoes," Ginny piped up.
Ron's eyes brightened. "Really? Hand 'em over."
His sister laughed. "You pig." She shook her head. "Hermione, I swear this bloke is ruining every girl's fantasy about romance in the Ministry. Now we're all going to be envying you. Who can be more romantic than your mystery man now? Good riddance to Ministry romances."
"Lucky you don't need to find any more romance in the Ministry then, right Ginny?" said Harry, and his wife smiled sweetly at him.
"Of course, darling."
Hermione put food absently into her mouth without really tasting it. She was too busy thinking about tomorrow night. She didn't know what to expect, or whom to expect. It was all so…mysterious. She loved it.
The next afternoon was spent trying on robes nice enough for a classy French restaurant. "Does this look good? Ginny, I don't know what to wear!"
Her best female friend laughed from her seat on the bed. "Just wear whatever you want, Hermione. I'm sure it won't matter either way. He's pretty creepy, whoever he is, to know all your likes and dislikes."
She put on violet dress robes. "I know, but at least its information that people like Harry and Ron would know. Do you think these are pretty?"
"Yes, tight enough to keep you from looking like a prude but it leaves a lot for the imagination."
Hermione blushed. "Ginny! Don't tell me that! But I'll wear this." She took it off and put it back into her closet, changing into her work robes once again. "I'll have half an hour to get ready when I come back from work."
"Good thing we picked it all now, then," Ginny said. "Oh well. I'm going to work. Good luck on your date!"
Hermione rolled her eyes, but the thought of having a date with her mystery person warmed her unexplainably. "No matter who he is, I'll accept him," she said to herself. Then she Apparated back to the Ministry.
Seven o' clock sharp found Hermione at Le Mystère's door. The maitre d' found the reservation under Hermione's name just as the letter had said, and led her to a dim, secluded table for two. Hermione was feeling nervous and sat facing the door. She wanted to know if she could spot him.
Ten minutes later, she checked her watch. What was with this guy and being late? Though the first time it had been the intern's fault. A red origami flower suddenly twirled down from the air onto her empty plate. Its petals were folded nicely and she looked up, but there was no one there. She opened it.
Love at first sight leads to fight or flight.
Hermione frowned. What?
"Waiting for someone?" Hermione looked up. There was Draco Malfoy, dressed to kill. Was that…cologne she smelled?
"For your mystery man, eh?" He pulled out the chair and sat across from her and grabbed a menu. "Let's see what's good."
Hermione was thoroughly confused by him. "What?" she blurted, then collected her thoughts into an actual sentence. "Do you mean…you're my mystery man?"
Draco smirked. "I wouldn't go as far to say your mystery man." He turned back to the menu.
Hermione was still sitting there, confused. "So do you mean to tell me that you bought me those books I wanted, you sent all those post-it notes, you broke into my office and put flyers and post-it notes everywhere?"
Draco grinned awkwardly at her. "The way you say that makes me feel uncomfortable. You ready?" He didn't wait for her answer, but turned and held up his hand. "Waiter!"
"Draco…" Hermione didn't know what to say. Thank him? Lecture him for spending so much money?
The waiter came with an attentive gaze and a pad of parchment and a pen. Draco looked back down at his menu, obviously concentrated.
"I'll have the Gratinée de Coquille St. Jacques, please. Bring some red wine too, if you will." He turned to Hermione. "And you?"
Hermione was still staring at him. "Um, I…" Her face flushed as she turned to her menu and pointed at the first thing she saw. "I'll have the spinach soufflé."
"Good shoice, madame. I shall be back wiz yo' order."
Hermione thanked him and went back to staring at Draco. He looked at her face and smirked, then laughed.
"Merlin, Granger, don't look like that. Your mystery man got embarrassed and asked me to show up for him. He's a pretty shy guy."
"Oh." Hermione blinked, not knowing how to feel. She tried to think of who was close to Draco. There was Theodore Nott, but he wasn't in their department. Then Adrian Pucey, but he didn't really seem like the romantic type. Blaise Zabini? Hmm. Did he have a girlfriend?
"You seem disappointed," Draco said, smiling. "Were you hoping to meet Prince Charming here?"
Hermione frowned. "Of course not. Just a new friend." Hermione actually had been secretly hoping to meet her Prince Charming, no matter what she said. Call it childish fancy. "Well, I suppose we'll make this dinner worth it. If you're paying." She smiled and he smirked.
"Of course. I have enough money for the both of us."
"Good, 'cause I hardly have enough for myself." It was a statement that begged ridicule, but Draco gave none. Hermione, a little surprised, smiled a little wider, and their food came.
All in all, it was a very enjoyable dinner, though Hermione was disappointed that Blaise hadn't come. It was obvious, now, and she wondered why she hadn't seen it before. The intern was working in Blaise's office, and Draco was his best mate. He was known to be romantic, at least from the gossip she'd overheard, and quite the smooth talker. It all made sense, except for the shy-guy part.
Draco walked her to the Apparating point, and Hermione smiled. "Thank you for a lovely night."
"You're welcome. I'm glad you enjoyed yourself, even though Prince Charming didn't come."
"Are you going to give up on finding him?"
Hermione smiled. "When I want something, I'm pretty determined. And I want to find the identity of this guy."
Draco nodded. "Understandable." He winked. "I'll make sure to tell him you're a feisty one."
"I'm sure he knew that before." She smiled. "Well anyway, goodnight."
They shook hands, smiled, and both Apparated away.
The next morning, Hermione wore her best work robes and Apparated to the Ministry, intent on seeing Blaise and ending this confusion. He was talking to the intern when Hermione approached him. Blaise always looked very spiffy and clean-cut, and Hermione found that attractive.
"Zabini, can I have a word?" she asked, and he looked at her, surprised that she had approached him.
"Yes, of course. I'll talk to you later, Bill."
The intern, Bill, apparently, flashed a smile at Hermione and left.
"What is it?" Blaise asked, and Hermione felt herself blush.
"Well, um, I just wanted to ask you about the book I'd lost."
"Ah, yes, Hogwarts: A History, right? I saw the flyers everywhere. Made quite a spectacle with them, you did." He smirked and Hermione felt a little irritated by his tone in her predicament.
"Yes, well, did you find it and give it to me?"
Blaise frowned, teasing gone. "What?"
"Well, a mysterious bloke returned it to me without revealing himself and I've been trying to find out who it was. Yesterday Malfoy told me that it was one of his mates, and the intern that gave me one of the books was your intern, so naturally my conclusion pointed to you."
Blaise smiled, and Hermione knew he was going to let her down. "No, sorry Granger. I didn't find your pretty little book."
"You mean you didn't put all those sticky notes on my door and all?"
Blaise looked a little amused. "No. But that sounds interesting." He gave her that I-know-something-you-don't-know smirk, and Hermione was irritated again. "But let me know when you find out who it is." Was he lying to her then? Did he want her to get more proof before she confronted him?
The mystery was back on regardless, and Hermione had to admit she was a bit glad that it was. The little adventures in her life nowadays were ones that she had to hold onto.
"Well, sorry about the confusion. I'll see you later." Hermione walked past him, embarrassed, but determined to find out who it was.
She studied the handwriting on the post-its she had kept as well as the drawings. The handwriting was quite neat and the drawings decent, but not recognisable. She smiled. She knew it was irrational to be falling for someone just because of this mystery they had set up for her to figure out, but she felt her heart swell at the thought that someone cared for her enough to do all this for her. She just wanted to know who.
Bill entered her office.
"Hey, Ms. Granger," he said. "I have some parchments for you. And a couple stray memos from the Minister."
"Did you look at them?" She was a little preoccupied.
"Er, no. Did you, uh, want me to?"
"No, that's fine. I—" She suddenly looked up, registering Bill's presence. "Bill!"
Bill looked uncomfortable. "Yes, Ms. Granger?"
"I need you to tell me who the man who gave me back my book is."
Bill grinned. "Aw, that'll take the fun away from it!"
"There's no way I can contact him or anything, and I need to know."
Bill pondered for a moment. "Miss Granger, I can't."
She put her hands on her hips. "And why not?"
"I'm being paid for all of these…trips."
Hermione narrowed her eyes at him. "Isn't that illegal here?"
"No! I'm a paid intern, I'm just making a little—never mind."
"Tell me who he is."
"I'm sorry, I can't."
Hermione sighed. Well, if you can't beat them, join them. "Will Galleons do the trick?" She could've sworn his eyes lit up.
Greedy young man. "Three Galleons if you tell me who it is."
Hermione nodded and fished out the three gold coins from her coin purse. "Three. Gold. Galleons."
"All right, I'll tell you since you haven't found him yet. Wasn't it obvious?"
"Spit it out!"
He stuck out his hand and Hermione huffed before dropping them into his palm. They disappeared into his pocket and the sneaky little git grinned.
"It's Mr. Malfoy, of course," the intern confessed.
Hermione frowned, lost Galleons momentarily forgotten. "What? But why? How? Why would he do this?"
The intern rolled his eyes. "Because he wants to rub how fabulous he is in your face of course!"
Hermione thought for a moment. "That does sound like something he'd do." The intern groaned. "What?"
"Excuse me, but are you completely thick? He's in love with you. Why else do you think he'd do all this for you?"
Hermione scoffed. "Draco Malfoy in love with me? All hell would freeze over first, as cliché as that sounds."
"It's true." The intern looked at the slightly open door before leaning in closer. "I overheard him telling Mr. Zabini about his plan too before he approached me to be his delivery boy," he told her softly.
Hermione's brown eyes were tea saucers. "What? But we haven't spoken since school, and I hardly even know him."
"You know him pretty well. You just don't think about it." The intern winked. "I'll see you later. And thanks for the you-know-whats!"
He left Hermione to her thoughts.
"Draco?" she said, knocking on his office door.
"Come in," he said, and she acquiesced. He looked up. "Ah, Granger, what can I do for you?"
"Draco," she said tersely, and closed the door behind her. He frowned.
"What is it?"
"I know you did it."
Draco frowned. "Did what?"
"Don't play stupid with me. I know you did it all. Finding my book, putting up the post-it notes, taking me out to dinner. Giving me flowers."
Draco pressed his lips together. "I suppose there's no denying it, is there?"
"No." She sighed. "Draco, that's…that's the nicest thing anyone's ever done for me." She could feel herself getting a little choked up to her disdain. She had practised saying this all in a stronger voice.
"Well, you apparently don't have the nicest friends," he said with a smirk.
"Why would you do all this?" she demanded, approaching him slowly.
He looked up at her from his chair, a little hint of a smile on his face. Hermione was feeling emotional, and she acted rashly in her next movement. She grabbed the lapels of his robes and brought his upper body closer to her so she could kiss him. And kiss him she did.
Draco's hands came up behind her, pressing into her shoulders and attempting to bring her closer, though it just ended up with her in a slightly awkward and uncomfortable position.
Hermione pulled back to look at him. His face was flushed, as was hers, and he was a little disoriented. But he smiled and closed his eyes again when she pressed a soft kiss to his brow.
"Mon cherie amour," he whispered, and she smiled.
"I didn't know you spoke French."
He opened his eyes again, smiling. "I know a little."
"I should have known when you ordered that thing from the French restaurant with a perfect accent," she said, saying the last word in a faux French accent.
He just smiled, and Hermione pressed her lips to his again, when a sudden thought came to mind. She pulled back just as suddenly, and he was unfocused again.
"Why all of this all of a sudden?" she demanded. "You don't talk to me for two years since we started working here, and now this in a few weeks?"
Draco smiled. "I had to work up my courage, you know. After I saw your list of those you'd forgiven in the back of your Hogwarts:AHistory, and I knew I had to take a chance."
"Work up your courage for two years?" she asked, purposely ignoring his other comment. It was rather embarrassing that he'd seen her list.
"I'd say three." He winked and Hermione rolled her eyes.
"So you've been stalking me for three years?"
"Well, I wouldn't call it stalking, per say, as much as being keenly observant."
"Still have you here now, don't I?"
Hermione smiled. "I guess I should say romantic coward, then." And she leant down for another kiss, but pulled back as another thought came to mind. Draco huffed, but didn't say anything.
"Where'd you find my book?" she asked.
"Well actually, Bill found it and put it in the Lost & Found box, and I saw it in there, recognised it, and took it out."
"There's a Lost & Found box?"
"It's become something of a room now, but yes." He grinned. "You dolt."
"I say it with all the affection in my being," he said, still grinning.
Hermione looked down at him and put a hand in his light hair. He watched her with a smile. She didn't doubt that she held all the affection in his being. He very nearly had all of hers after this whole stunt. He reached up for a kiss, and she met him halfway.
And that was that.