Summary: After the war, Hermione takes a much needed holiday and escapes to one of the greatest and most populated cities in the world. It's only natural then, as fate would have it, that she run into the person she least expected.
Disclaimer: I own nothing.
A/N: There is no real direct inspiration for this story (more of a mix, really) but I've always loved the idea of boy meets girl and they spend the day together, enchanted.
A/N2: Music is entirely engrained in my life and occasionally makes an appearance through my fics. This is one of those times. Four songs are featured, all absolutely amazing. Pavane Pour Une Infante Défunte by Ravel, Träumerei by Schumann, As Time Goes By from Casablanca and Violin Romance no. 2 in F by Beethoven. I highly suggest you head on over to YouTube for a bit and give these songs a listen (preferably the piano versions -with the exception of Violin Romance-).
"Pepperoni!" shouted a boy from behind the counter, holding up a paper plate with a steaming slice of thin crust pizza, pepperoni slices littering the top. He looked to be around Hermione's age and had a wiry build and messy brown hair.
"Right here," Hermione shouted loudly, raising her hand from behind the gaggle of people crowding the counter. She pushed her way through and thanked the pizza boy with a smile before grabbing her slice and making her way out of the dim interior to the outdoor patio, weaving her way towards the table nearest the street and setting down her ice-cold water and beaded bag before sitting down to enjoy her lunch.
She could feel the heat of the sun on her back and was thankful for the slight breeze or else she'd be burning up. Even in mid-September, the city was stifling hot on this autumn day.
As she munched away on her slice of cheesy goodness, Hermione sat back and casually watched the steady stream of people that were walking by, living and enjoying their fast-paced lives.
A man who looked to be in his late twenties walked by casually while chattering away on his mobile and Hermione watched as he stepped to the side as a woman in a grey track uniform raced by. The man's eyes following the woman's small white poodle keeping up with the pace on its fluffy little legs. A smile briefly graced the man's lips before he turned away and continued down the street. She watched as two women coming his way eyed him, giving him the once-over, before passing by. The shorter one looked behind her as he passed and elbowed the taller one, grinning playfully. They were both sipping what looked to be iced lattes and were talking animatedly with each other. The first was taller with dark brown hair that was done up in a messy ponytail. She had on fitted blue jeans and brown thigh-high boots. A light and airy white lace tank-top peeked through a flimsy army green jacket, and her brown purse hung on her elbow. The second, the one that had peeked appreciatively at the man's backside before, had vibrant and wavy red hair that went down to the middle of her back. She was wearing a short and fitted black dress with elbow-length sleeves that Hermione, watching the way the soft knit fabric swayed with the woman's steps, thought looked to be incredibly comfy.
With a wistful smile, Hermione watched the two women walk past, thinking that they reminded her strongly of she and Ginny. She glanced back at them and giggled, trying to picture Ginny in cowboy boots. No doubt the youngest Weasley would take on the challenge once Hermione mentioned it.
She finished off her slice and tossed the paper plate in the rubbish bin, carrying her half-full water bottle out.
As she spent the next hour strolling around Greenwich Village and poking through tiny shops, Hermione was once again reminded of how thankful she was to be on this trip.
The idea had sprung forth while camping with Harry during their seventh year at Hogwarts. Ron had left, leaving the two to hunt for Horcruxes on their own, and they had just returned from Godric's Hollow, alive but frightened. The Forest of Dean was beautiful and vast and for a brief fleeting moment, she'd entertained the thought of staying there forever. It was then that the idea of a trip, by herself, away from everything, entered her mind; she'd never been able to let it go, even after Harry had defeated Voldemort.
Her parents, surprisingly, were the easiest to agree to her plan. This was barely a cause for celebration, however, as Hermione knew that the only reason her parents agreed so easily was because of their wariness around her.
Hermione, accompanied by Ron in a failed attempt to kick start their relationship, had left after the war ended to retrieve her parents in Australia. After reversing their memories and explaining what she'd done and why she had, they never fully trusted her again. It had taken three full days of arguments and tears before they grudgingly accepted the reasons she had behind her actions.
Never again, however, was their easy and affectionate relationship restored with their daughter, fearful now of the power her magic had and realizing that she had become a woman without their knowledge.
If their daughter wanted to erase their memories and move them halfway across the world, she could. How were they to deny permission if she wanted to travel to the States for a couple of weeks by herself? Clearly she was capable.
They'd barely even blinked when she'd revealed when she'd planned to take the trip.
Hermione, however, was unsure how she felt about her new found independence.
Their only real concern had been her safety and her monetary means, both of which she'd addressed and set them at ease. The war was over and she was a capable witch amongst Muggles and could handle herself if something untoward happened. As for the money, well, she'd been saving up for years and this seemed as good a time as any to enjoy it.
Harry and Ron, however, were a completely different story. Any and all resistance that she'd expected from her parents had instead come forth in the form of her best friends.
It had taken practically a whole arm and leg for her to convince them that she could travel the journey by herself and not need at least one of them to tag along. Hermione giggled, remembering what had come next when she'd revealed during which month she'd planned on traveling. They'd damn near blown a gasket and it had taken her another arm and leg to calm them down.
In the end – literally, as they'd continued arguing with her up to the point she'd placed her finger on that international Portkey – they'd grudgingly agreed and let her go.
The worry and outrage had been heartwarming, really, but they could be such drama queens sometimes.
Hermione turned a corner, sipping on a delicious iced tea before stopping short and feeling her lips curve up into a delighted smile. A bookshop!
She quickly left the heat of the sun and stepped into the coolness of the shop, a small ding above her head signaling her arrival. As she walked further inside and looked down the aisles of worn books, she noticed the staircase and looked up, realizing the shop was three floors, one above and one below. Her heart fluttered in excitement, her fingers itching to flip through all the titles, discovering the possibilities.
She took a random turn, finding herself in the philosophy section, seeing familiar names like Socrates, Locke and Nietzsche. She plucked off Meditations on First Philosophy by René Descartes, her favorite philosopher, and thumbed through the text, leaning against the bookshelf as she read her favorite section which was incidentally Descartes' most famous argument. She'd always taken comfort in the idea that the question of existence was solved by the power of the mind.
The brunette closed the book and carefully put it back on the shelf in its rightful place, aware of its fragile binding, before wandering down more aisles.
She spent the next hour happily flipping through various books from the different sections of the store before grabbing The 50 Greatest Poems of William Wordsworth and sitting down in one of the many quirky and oddly shaped chairs littered throughout the shop. This one was shaped like a giant hand, her bum perched in its upturned palm. Despite being made out of granite, it was surprisingly comfortable.
Here it was that she spent the next half hour reading words by her favorite poet and here it was that an ex-schoolmate found her, shock etched across his angular features.
Something felt off.
After a year of being on the run from Death Eaters and the Ministry with her two best friends, she'd learned to become hyper aware of her surroundings and had recognized what the little tingles at the back of her neck were telling her – something was not right. Constant Vigilance! her inner-Moody would have called it.
Prior to this feeling bursting forth, she had been completely absorbed in the book, vaguely aware of the scuffles of customers as they wandered through the store, and only pausing once to look up when a young shopkeeper had bumped into her while trying to put books back on the shelf.
But this feeling, this was different. Not dangerous, just different.
The atmosphere hadn't seemed to change at all. She could still hear the scuffling of feet on the carpet, the clanks of dishes and soft murmurs from the café, and therefore nothing that would set off the tingles on the back of her neck – but nevertheless, there it was.
And as she paused in her reading to look up, she realized why. Draco Malfoy was standing six aisles away, staring at her with a slightly disbelieving look on his face, platinum blond fringes falling across his forehead and hiding part of the intensity in his grey eyes.
What in the world?
She hadn't seen much of him really in the past year and a half since the final battle. She'd been too busy helping rebuild the wizarding world and trying to figure out her relationship with Ron to think about something so trifle as Draco Malfoy's whereabouts. Beyond attending his trial, she hadn't heard much else about him either. He was pardoned from Azkaban, she knew, and sentenced to six months of house arrest, which should have ended nine months ago… and apparently he had decided to come to the States?
"What are you…how did…what are…wha-" she stuttered before giving up in her attempt to make a logical sentence.
The Slytherin raised a blond eyebrow. "In all the years I've known you, Granger, I don't recall you lacking in eloquence. Weasley rubbing off on you, then?"
She scowled. "My ability to articulate a sentence is just fine. I see you're still as big a prat as ever. What are you doing here, Malfoy?"
"Why I'm browsing through a bookshop, Granger. I thought that obvious," he stated innocently, causing her ire to fly higher.
He was harmless, she knew. Unpleasant and an arsehole, yes, but not cruel. Not evil. She'd been at his trial and had seen the look of utter regret and despair on his face – a look that had been forever burned into her memory. The war had forced her into realizing the world wasn't made up of black and white. Everyone had light and dark inside them, as Harry had put it. Draco Malfoy just happened to be in one of those grey areas. He'd been forced into that role, too young to fight against the powers against him – his father wanting retribution for their family, his mother vying for their safety, and he feeling the need to keep his family alive, no matter what the cost.
With Harry's statement to the Wizengamot, he had been freed. The same, she knew, couldn't be said for Lucius who had been sentenced to ten years in Azkaban. At least Malfoy still had his mother, since she'd also been pardoned with Harry's statement.
However, even though she knew there was no true evil in his heart, he was still an arrogant and insufferable git that had tortured her endlessly throughout their school days with cruel words and biting comments meant to demean her status and diminish her will.
It hadn't, though. She was still standing and wouldn't let him, ferret-extraordinaire, get the best of her.
"In New York, I meant. What are you doing here in New York?" she asked calmly. She'd sit here for the next few minutes exchanging cordial (or as cordial as she and Malfoy could possibly get) conversation and then leave and never look back. He certainly wasn't going to ruin her lovely holiday with his presence. She wouldn't allow it.
He shrugged carelessly, and that was when she noticed with a lifted eyebrow that he wasn't wearing his usual black suit, but was dressed in Muggle wear. She gave him a brief once-over and saw that he was wearing a white t-shirt underneath a dark brown leather jacket and had on a pair of dark-wash jeans. A brown leather belt and dark brown dress shoes completed the effect. "Took a much needed holiday. You?"
"The same," she answered truthfully.
An awkward silence followed, one unsure as of what to say to the other. It wasn't every day that you ran into your childhood nemesis all the way across the Atlantic. Especially when said childhood nemesis was considered reformed and steadily proving himself to be so – he hadn't insulted her or called her Mudblood once. He hadn't even sneered in her direction. She was a bit flabbergasted and didn't quite know how to deal with this Malfoy.
She'd just decided to call this a truce and get up and leave when his voice stopped her.
"What's your favourite?"
"What?" she asked, her eyebrows drawing together as confusion struck her.
Malfoy nodded his head towards the object in her lap and with a small "Oh!" she lifted the book slightly towards him. "Wordsworth. You've heard of him?
He nodded as he walked towards her, stopping in the space in front of her towards her left, leaning back against the bookcase, putting his hands in his pockets.
"Um," she paused, contemplating the contents of the book in her hands. "Probably 'Tintern Abbey'. Yours?"
He looked at her with an indistinguishable expression on his face before replying softly, "Same."
Hermione, uncomfortable with his intense stare, looked down at the book in her hands and a thought popped in her head. "How do you know about Wordsworth? He's a Muggle."
"He was my mother's favorite poet and the only Muggle writer Father would allow in the Manor."
"Really?" she asked, her head snapping up at the idea of Lucius Malfoy accepting anything Muggle in his home.
He nodded, a small smirk playing at his lips.
Hermione almost couldn't understand it, first the unbelievable likelihood of running into him in one of the biggest cities in the world and then proceeding to have a decent conversation about poetry. She could see he'd changed somewhat from the self-righteous bigot that she'd known from their school days, but was unable to fully wrap her mind around the idea.
Years of taunts and sneers had left her wary, and as she looked into his eyes with feelings of trepidation, she was unsure how she felt about this new Draco Malfoy.
A loud clang startled her and they both broke eye contact to look towards the café.
Malfoy looked back towards her and with a playful lift of his eyebrow he asked her a question that nearly knocked her socks off. "Fancy a coffee?"
"Thank you," Hermione said softly before accepting the beverage, her fingers accidentally brushing against his before they slipped away. She froze for a millisecond, shocked at the touch, before quickly regaining her senses and retracting her hand to take a sip – thankfully he had turned back to grab his own drink and had therefore missed her brief moment of respite.
After eight years of knowing the blond man in front of her, Hermione realized that other than that slap in third year, this was the first time they'd ever had actual physical contact, as slight as it might be, and she was surprised to note that he was not cool to the touch, as she'd previously thought. His fingers were warm and were in direct contrast against the iced beverage he'd handed her – her senses having zoned in on that brief second of contact.
Hermione decided then to not give the matter anymore thought. What did it matter that his fingers were warm? He was a human being (all evidence to the contrary) and would of course be warm-blooded. It wasn't like she'd ever touch him again so the temperature of his skin was of no importance.
Or so she thought.
With a nod of his head, Malfoy led them towards a small circular table near the window, the chairs and table already heated by the shining sun. Hermione gave a slight smile, recognizing that this is where she would have sat, given the choice. When out with her friends, they always chose to sit away from the light, from the sun, and she went along, not bothered enough to fuss but had always preferred seats by windows.
They both sat quietly, sipping their drinks and contemplating their company. How bizarre, she thought for perhaps the forty-eighth time since looking up and staring into silvery grey eyes. If only Ron and Harry could see her now, sitting down in a café, drinking coffee with Draco Malfoy.
"So," she began awkwardly, unsure of how to begin a conversation with this man. "How long have you been on holiday?"
"I arrived a couple of days ago and plan to stay for a few weeks, probably leave at the end of the month. What about you, Granger? How long are you planning on staying?"
"I got here last week and leave on the twenty-eighth."
"And you're alone?"
She nodded slowly, trying in vain to see where he was going with this.
Malfoy quirked an eyebrow. "Weaselbee let you run off to America by yourself?" he asked, glancing out of the window, casually sipping on his cappuccino. "How very revolutionary of him."
"Ron," she emphasized, "will be hard pressed in trying to tell me what to do." She paused, watching the corners of his mouth lift around sips of his beverage. "Besides, we aren't together anymore, so it really isn't any of his concern."
If she hadn't been studying him so carefully, she probably would have missed the look that crossed his face before his expression relaxed and carefully concealed itself once more. The mild shock she saw was no surprise, really, since the break-up had been kept very quiet from the eyes and ears of the wizarding world thanks to her ever-constant deal with Rita Skeeter. But what Hermione hadn't been expecting to see on the Slytherin's face was what could only be described as pleased. And not in a Weasel-finally-got-what-he-deserved kind of way, but more of a good-for-you-I'm-proud. Odd.
This, of course, was all before he threw up his walls again and responded coolly as if unaffected. "Really? I hadn't heard." He turned away from the window, aware of her gaze on him and stared straight back. "Whatever for, Granger? Last I heard, you two were sickeningly tied together at the hip. Finally get tired of his witless existence?"
She glared at him, sick to death of his constant barbs and insults. Could he not converse civilly like a normal person? "I have absolutely no obligation to tell you, ferret boy, and would very much appreciate it if you could stop with the constant barbs. We are no longer children trading bitter insults in the hallway at school. If you cannot converse like a civil human being then I will not force myself to sit here any longer and suffer any more of your petty antics." She huffed, thoroughly annoyed and red in the face.
She sat there for another three seconds staring into his steely grey eyes before she realized something. She was on holiday in one of the most amazing cities in the world and was wasting it on Malfoy, of all people. Determined not to spend the rest of her time in a foul mood bickering, she immediately stood up. "Forget it. I can't do this. Thank you for the coffee, Malfoy, and have a nice life," she said coolly before turning with full intention to storm out of the building when Malfoy's hand quickly shot out and caught hers, halting her departure.
So surprised was she by the fact that he had just willingly touched her, she was stunned into silence as she turned to look at him then lowered her eyes to see his hand desperately clasping hers. When Hermione realized that the blond was not letting go, she looked back at him with a quizzical expression.
At this, she turned the rest of her body away from the exit and completely towards him, her eyes growing wide. Had Draco Malfoy, king of Slytherins and pure-blooded prat extraordinaire, just apologized to her, a Muggle-born?
When it became apparent to him that she no longer had any intention of bolting out of the building without first requiring an explanation, he finally dropped her hand, seemingly confident that she wouldn't storm off.
She stood there dumbly, her hand swinging back to her side, not quite sure of what to say. She hadn't realized Malfoy even knew how to apologize.
"You're right. I was being insensitive and had no intention of offending you. Please, don't leave." He used his toe to push the chair out towards her. "Sit."
Hermione slowly sat back down in the proffered chair, her wariness evident by the look on her face. When she didn't speak, instead choosing to stare at him instead, he sighed and looked down towards his quarter-full cappuccino. "I least intended to insult you and send you off angry at me. I just-" he paused, his eyebrows briefly coming together as he tried to find a way to explain.
"You can't help it," Hermione offered calmly. She quirked a smile when his head snapped up. "I know. Me too. I've had the unbelievable urge to call you an arse every three seconds in the past thirty minutes." She shrugged. "Old habits die hard, I suppose."
He grinned as he looked back down at his cup and her breath caught. It was no secret that Draco Malfoy was attractive, having grown into his pointy features. However, seeing his honest smile, as quick as it may be, pushed her to admit that he was genuinely a gorgeous man, especially with the sun shining in and catching the light off of his impossibly shiny platinum hair. "Indeed," he said softly.
"Answer me something, Malfoy."
He looked up, an eyebrow cocked.
"I need to know what's changed. Given our tumultuous history, sitting together civilly in a café amongst Muggles is the last possible situation I can think of, yet here we are. I don't…" she paused, shaking her head slightly, "…get it."
"I was wondering how long it'd take you to come out and ask that," he responded with a light chuckle. She watched as he sat there, his brow furrowed in contemplation of how to answer her before he breathed a deep sigh. "To answer your question, it's been a long time coming, really. Somewhere down the road, the ideals I'd been taught as a child became rubbish. Things like blood prejudice became trivial and didn't matter in the grander scheme of things. And by the time I'd realized it – it was too late to go back. Everything was changing so rapidly and I couldn't stop it." He paused, looking out the window with a slight frown on his face. He then suddenly turned to her and spoke in a low voice and she knew he needed her to know and understand what it was he said next. "I was arrogant and foolish but I never meant to hurt anyone, Granger. Not really. I only regret that I hadn't realized that sooner."
Hermione, stunned by his explanation, looked down, unable to take the intensity of his eyes. His answer was both vague and incredibly revealing – she didn't know how to respond. She knew very little about the man in front of her, but she did know that what he had just told her was a lot and he would likely clam up if she pushed him any further. She also was quickly coming to realize that she wanted to know a lot more about this intriguing man, as frightening as a concept that may be.
"What do you have planned for today?"
He quirked an eyebrow, obviously having expected her to attack him with a series of questions rather than inquire about his schedule.
"A very busy schedule, I'm afraid. I have a meeting with my solicitor to discuss my plan of taking over Manhattan. Then promptly at five I will be freeing all of the chimpanzees from the local zoo, followed of course by an evening of body-surfing. I simply cannot fit anything else in." A smirk wound its way around his lips.
A playful Malfoy. Very intriguing man, indeed.
"Ooh, how about this one?" Hermione asked, holding up a black I heart NY mug.
"Granger, that's a coffee mug. I realize that hanging around with Potter and the Weasel wouldn't necessarily allow you much prim high-class socialite exposure, but surely you can't imagine my mother drinking out of something so peasant as a two dollar coffee mug," Malfoy responded, unaware of the vendor's affronted look. "Besides, it's far too obvious."
Hermione let out a small laugh and with an apologetic look towards the woman behind the table, led Malfoy away from the souvenir booth they'd been poking through and on to the next table of goods and crafts.
After leaving the bookshop, she and Malfoy had decided to take advantage of the rest of the sunny day and were now perusing through the fifteen-block-long street fair that Hermione had read about and wanted to see. He had mentioned that this might be a good time to find the gift he'd promised his mother he'd bring back for her, something like a souvenir from the city since she'd never been nor seen it. Hermione had immediately picked up on the idea and had spent the past twenty minutes gleefully picking out any and everything to show him, enjoying his distasteful reactions. She of course knew that he would never think to buy his mother a navy New York Yankees baseball cap – and she would honestly spend every ounce of her breath trying to talk him out of it if he did – but she took great pleasure in plucking it off the table and showing it to him, only to laugh at his incredulous look and chase after him when he stalked off, muttering something about insufferable Gryffindors and their nonsense.
She followed him over to an impressively long fruit stand that easily took up twenty-five feet and filled with everything ranging from kiwis to papayas. Her mouth watered at the sight and she saw Malfoy eagerly going through an array of green apples, deciding which one he wanted. After picking up, squeezing to test the firmness, and setting back down at least seven of them, he finally made his pick. He looked over at her to see if she wanted one and her eager nod sent him on another quest to find another perfect green apple. He paid for both and they quickly bit into them, savoring the delightful crunch and delicious flavor of the ripe fruit.
They walked for another forty-five minutes, talking and slowly opening up towards each other. He revealed that apples were his favourite fruit. She told him that dark blue was her favourite colour. She discovered he played both instruments, but preferred piano over guitar. He found out about her obsession over eighties pop classics after they came across a booth selling old records and she practically went nuts over the wide selection. He told her about all the research he put into coming on this trip and the tons of tourist books he bought, worried about his first time not only straying so far from home alone but also entering the Muggle world. She told him that she had done the same and they compared which books they'd purchased and the pros and cons of each. He told her he was always jealous over how easily she, Harry and Ron got away with everything at school. She retaliated by telling him of her fear of heights and how jealous she was that he could so easily fly a broom, the latter something she'd never even told Harry or Ron.
"Favourite place at Hogwarts?"
"Prefects' bathroom. Favourite professor?"
"Snape, of course."
Hermione rolled her eyes. "Only because he passed you in everything," she retorted, smiling slightly at the memory of her surly ex-professor.
"No," he chided gently. "Because he was the only one fair towards Slytherins when every other professor treated us with distrust and disdain. Besides," he added with a smirk, "you're only sore because that was the one class I bested you in."
Hermione laughed. "Moving on. Your turn."
"Right. Least favourite class?" he asked with a mischievous glint in his eye.
She scowled. She hated the idea of having to choose a worst class and he knew it.
"Oh, come on, Granger. Surely you can set aside your teacher pet tendencies for one moment and choose at least one class," he goaded.
"Fine. History of Magic. But only because of Professor Binns. His droning even bored me from time to time. Inevitable, really."
Malfoy grinned, agreeing completely.
"Least favourite ghost?"
Malfoy's grin quickly turned to a scowl. "Moaning Myrtle. She was the only one I talked to during sixth year and I can't bear the thought of seeing her again."
That sobered Hermione up. She knew, from what Harry had told her, that Malfoy had been in Myrtle's bathroom crying about his task before their fight and her heart ached at the loneliness and desperation Malfoy must've been feeling that year, having nobody to reach out to other than the young ghost.
She to this day couldn't understand why she'd let slip the next thing that came out of her mouth – especially to the person she was talking to – but for some god-forsaken reason, the next words out of her mouth were, "Mine too, but only because she'd torment me every second she could about my disastrous accident second year."
"What accident?" Malfoy asked as he glanced sideways at her.
Hermione paused and her eyes widened. She looked up to see that Malfoy had noticed her faux pas and was now standing in front of her, his eyebrow raised in growing interest. She let out a laugh and closed her eyes, shaking her head back and forth, not believing her stupidity at the little slip.
Oh, hell. Why not?
She spoke quickly. "I cooked up Polyjuice Potion second year so that Harry, Ron and I could question you to see if you were the Heir of Slytherin." She smiled at him guiltily, honestly a little wary of his response and hoping her easy going nature about the whole ordeal would soften his anger. What she certainly hadn't expected was for him to throw his head back and laugh out loud.
Hermione had never heard Malfoy laugh honestly without malice before and found she quite liked the sound. She also quite liked the look of his throat bared to her gaze. He slowly tapered off, still letting out a gleeful chuckle every now and then before finally speaking. "And what exactly did you find?"
"Oh, they found nothing," Hermione said with a careless wave of her hand. "Of course you weren't, we just didn't know that at the time."
"Hang on. You brewed Polyjuice Potion in our second year?" he asked in disbelief, his eyes growing wide at her nod. "Holy shite, Granger."
She laughed, by now quite used to that reaction. They began walking again before he paused. "Wait. What was your mistake?"
"Oh." She'd been hoping he'd forgotten that part. "I…uh…I sort of messed up my bit. I accidentally nabbed cat hair off of Millicent Bulstrode's robes instead of human hair. You can guess the rest."
Judging by the surprised look on his face, she knew he was very well guessing what had happened to her. "The tail was the worst part."
That last comment sent him into another frenzy of laughter, one that she joined in on, and his lightened mood lasted through the next five minutes of their innocent questioning.
"It's a piano piece. Pavane Pour Une Infante Défunte by Ravel."
"Can you play it?" Hermione asked with interest. She'd have to look it up later.
"Yes," he answered with a smile. She noted that the smile held no smugness, but only fondness for the song. "Yours?"
"Schumann's Traumerei. Absolutely gorgeous. My father would play it constantly on our record player growing up. It's his favorite, too."
Malfoy's eyebrows quirked together. "I don't know that one."
Something about his tone made Hermione take pause, but she shrugged it off, figuring it was more out of surprise than anything else. After all, Malfoy did say he preferred the classics over other types of music. She'd probably assumed he'd known the song already.
"Oh!" Hermione gasped, leaving Malfoy's side to walk towards the booth that was selling different bouquets of flowers, going straight to the blossom that caught her eye – the pink tiger lily, her favorite flower.
"Supposedly they mean wealth and pride. Did you know?" Malfoy asked, coming up behind her.
"I know," she said softly, lifting her hand to touch the petal, stopping only just, knowing how rude it would be to touch a flower that she had no intention of purchasing. "It's just so beautiful."
"Yes," he said, barely above a whisper and coming from over her right shoulder. She sensed it, his intensity again and looked back at him to see him staring straight at her, his grey eyes deep and penetrating – she found herself unable to look away. Suddenly he broke eye contact. "How much?" he asked the older Asian woman behind the table.
Malfoy nodded his head and reached into his pocket to pull out a dark brown leather wallet, taking out a ten dollar bill and handing it over to the woman, taking the pink tiger lily in exchange. He then handed it to Hermione and she widened her eyes at the gesture, blushing and accepting the beautiful flower with a small thank you. She lifted it to her nose and breathed in the sweet lily smell, fully unaware that the scent from then on would forevermore bring her back to the memory of this exact moment.
They walked side by side for the next fifteen minutes, occasionally pointing out odd knick-knacks they spotted but other than that, barely speaking. She didn't mind as she happily twirled her new flower in her hand, bringing it up to her nose to sniff it every few minutes.
Nobody had ever bought her a flower before.
She was just lifting up her hand for the thirtieth sniff when she spotted it. "Malfoy," she said, nudging him before pointing. "What about that?"
He didn't say anything, but she could tell by the look on his face that he was as mesmerized as she. Together they walked over to the small table full of handmade jewelry and trinkets, the elderly woman behind the table smiling at the both of them before returning Malfoy's nod. They both looked at the hair brooch on display and Hermione didn't think she'd ever seen something so beautiful. It wasn't very big, but certainly not small either – the main portion about the size of Malfoy's palm, she noticed, when he picked it up. It was made up of dozens of crystals and in the shape of a rose, all in laid in gold. A few leaves poked out on the top towards where the crown of the head would be if it were worn, and a tail end acting as the rose's stem reached down, a couple of leaves attached adding more beauty. As Malfoy turned it in his palm, Hermione saw the crystals catch the light and reflect off of every available point.
"Forty dollars," the old saleswoman stated, causing Hermione's eyebrows to rise in shock. Surely the woman knew that it could easily be sold for a lot more. She caught Malfoy's eye and knew he was thinking the same thing. She shrugged and he nodded, handing the brooch to the woman and reaching for his wallet. As he fished out the appropriate amount, the woman wrapped up the brooch securely before bagging it and giving it to Malfoy. He paid her and together he and Hermione continued walking, leaving the old woman behind.
They were just walking past a falafel stand in which Hermione breathed in the heavenly smell when Malfoy spoke. "Are you hungry? I know a place a couple of streets from here. Discovered it a few days ago."
"Sure," she agreed easily.
"This place is adorable," Hermione stated when they sat down, placing her lily on the table near the wall. Malfoy had shrunk their purchases and they were now sitting in her beaded bag, her records and his mother's gift safe from harm or being misplaced. The restaurant, Good Stuff Diner, wasn't very busy and so they had their choice of tables. They chose a booth near the back and were greeted with an array of wall decorations and low-hung lanterns. "How did you find it?"
"The desk clerk at my hotel recommended it – told me I wouldn't be disappointed." A shrug. "I wasn't."
"What hotel are you staying at?" she asked, completely missing the amused gleam that formed in his eyes from such a seemingly innocent question.
"Why? Plan on paying me a late-night visit?"
Hermione rolled her eyes. Men. "Never mind, you prat."
Malfoy chuckled. "St. Regis."
Hermione paused. "The desk clerk at the St. Regis hotel recommended this cute little diner?" she asked incredulously, her eyes wide.
"I told him I'd wanted something low-key. He lives in the area, apparently."
"Oh. Well did he also recommend something from the menu?" she asked, looking at all the choices and wondering how to decide. Everything looked really good.
"Yes, actually, though I haven't tried it. The Athenian Omelette."
She looked under the breakfast section and found it – made with spinach, tomatoes, mushrooms and feta cheese. "Sounds good, I think I'll try that."
Malfoy nodded, still deciding on what he wanted. Moments later he set the menu down. At her raised eyebrows he answered her silent question. "Pancakes."
Hermione nodded her head, a small smile gracing her lips. Draco Malfoy ordering pancakes. She'd honestly half expected him to demand braised lamb or filet mignon. But no. He was ordering pancakes. She didn't know why but the concept made her happy. "How very American of you," she said, grinning.
"When in Rome," he answered with a shrug.
The waiter came around and quickly took their orders, leaving the two to converse. They talked about what they'd been up to after the war and discovered that though he was on house-arrest and she busy helping rebuild Hogwarts, they both opted to finish their Hogwarts education and receive their diploma. He received his fairly quickly despite having to finish it within the confines of his house since he'd completed most of their seventh year anyway. She took considerably longer, only having received her diploma this past February.
They also learned that both had careers to look forward to once returning home – he at St. Mungo's to train as a healer and she at the Ministry in the Regulation and Control of Magical Creatures department.
It was fascinating, Hermione thought, learning about Malfoy's whereabouts and the reasoning behind his chosen career path – volunteering at the hospital as a way to help repay the wizarding world had introduced him to the world of healing and he'd latched on. It made sense.
They talked right through the meal about everything after that – ranging from their parents to books to favourite places to travel - and Hermione was surprised when she looked at her watch and saw that almost two hours had passed without her knowledge.
Then, as if a light switched, Malfoy strangely became very subdued and withdrawn, the look in his eyes telling her he was thinking seriously about something. She wished she knew what. For a brief moment, she honestly worried he'd woken up from the pleasantness that had been their afternoon and was now regretting the time he'd spent chatting, walking and laughing with a Muggle-born. What if he was suddenly disgusted with himself and would now stalk away in a huff after spewing insult after insult at her?
The thought set her on edge and she began mentally preparing herself for the worst, trying to count in her peripheral vision how many Muggles she'd have to Obliviate after hexing him into a stupor.
Shockingly, she found she had to do no such thing after he started talking, still subdued but with a hint of nervousness peeking through. "Granger," he started before closing his eyes, and then with quiet conviction he spoke her first name, "Hermione."
She sat stock still, utterly surprised at the sound of her given name from his lips. It was odd, to say the least, but not unpleasant. "Yes?"
"I wanted to…" he paused, staring intently at his hands and Hermione watched how forcefully his right thumb massaged his left palm in nervousness, "… apologize. Or at least attempt to."
She stayed silent, waiting patiently for him to continue. She had a feeling this was going to be more serious than the one he'd handed her in the café earlier today.
"Hermione, I can't begin to tell you how sorry I am for the stupid decisions of my past. For everything I've ever said or done towards you. Especially towards you." He paused. "I was a dumb kid, spewing hatred I'd been force fed since birth – not knowing that what I'd been taught was absolute rubbish. And you confused me." He looked up at her. "Especially after that damn Yule Ball. I couldn't take my eyes off you all night – a fact that left Pansy less than pleased. But you altered my world that night."
He frowned as if unsure how to go on before taking a deep breath and pressing forward. "You were everything I'd been taught to hate, but nothing added up. Muggle-borns were supposed to be ugly; you were not. They were supposed to be insipid and stupid; you were the most intelligent student in our year. They were supposed to be filthy; you were just like everyone else. And because you were not all these things I'd been taught to know, quite the opposite in fact, I'd hated you even more."
He looked up at her and found tears wavering in her eyes. "It took me a long time, too long, to realize that the reason nothing added up was because I was wrong and I'm sorry, Hermione, if what I'd said or done throughout that time ever hurt you."
She looked down at her own hands, blinking slowly, processing the information before looking back up at him and grabbing his writhing hands.
They decided to take a walk to burn off the food and had continued their earlier conversation easily and without pause, his apology having broken any tension that had been wavering throughout dinner. She was just telling him about her favourite film, Casablanca, when he surprised her yet again.
"I've seen it."
Hermione paused in step and her head snapped towards him. "What?" she asked with wide eyes.
He smiled. "Yes. I was walking around the neighborhood by my hotel two nights ago and came across this building called a movie theatre or a … cinema?" He continued at her nod. "I went in and that's what they were showing."
"This is amazing! Was that your first film?" she asked, resuming her step, Malfoy following alongside her.
"Yes. And it was, I must say, wonderful. I can see why it's your favourite."
Hermione grinned. "You really liked it? Not just the film, but the whole experience?"
Malfoy nodded. "I did. It was like a picture. But longer and with sound."
"Excellent! I'm going to have to compile a list of all the movies you simply must watch!"
The blond chuckled at her enthusiasm. "Any reason to teach, eh?"
Hermione rolled her eyes. "Not entirely, prat. There are just so many lovely films out there you're missing," she defended good-naturedly.
"A compromise," Malfoy responded. "I'll only watch them if you promise to join me."
Hermione looked at him in mild surprise, almost declining the offer before she thought back to the past few hours and looked down at her beautiful lily. She discovered the answer was easy and looked up with a smile. "Okay."
"Good," he said, nodding his head before taking her hand and leading her across the street. The tingles in her belly at the action sprung forth unexpectedly and she found the sensation quite pleasant, never having felt it before. "Where are we going?" she asked with a laugh. "We aren't going to watch them right now, are we?"
"Of course not," he scoffed, leading her into a shop which she discovered to be filled with musical instruments. "Stay here," he said as he leant towards her, touching her elbow with his other hand before dropping her right one and going up to talk to the shopkeeper.
She watched as Malfoy shook hands with the man after a few exchanged words and walked back towards her, grabbed her hand and led her further into the shop towards a door at the back. "Come on."
"Malfoy, what are we doi—oh!" she said in surprise when he opened the door and switched on the light, revealing a black baby grand piano in the middle of a rectangular room. Malfoy let go of her hand and walked around the instrument to sit behind it, the bench creaking under his weight.
"You know, I'd actually learned that song a couple of years ago but never knew of its significance. My instructor just said it was one of her favourites. I suppose she'd never wanted my parents to find out it was from a Muggle film," he explained before his fingers began moving across the keys, the beginning chords of As Time Goes By filling the small room.
Hermione stood stock still, a rush of emotion filling her, keeping her rooted to the spot. No one in her family was very musical, neither were her friends at school – more the athletic type, really – and so she'd never been able to hear this song in person and her eyes went soft looking at the handsome blond behind the piano who was playing it for her now. Slowly she walked towards him, standing just to the side of the instrument, watching mesmerized as his hands moved easily across the keys. It was perfect. It had that right amount of bounce and melancholy that left her in awe. It could have been Sam seated on that bench.
He looked up at her near the end of the song and smiled, pleased that he'd surprised her and nodded his head towards the empty spot on the bench beside him. She quickly sat down, giving him enough room to play but sitting near enough to where she could smell his cologne (a scent she'd caught whiffs of all day and now loved – a mix of wood and spice) and feel the heat from his body. His fingers tapered off, trilling up the keys as the song ended.
"That was wonderful," she said, smiling up at him widely. He returned the smile. "Play your song. The one you told me about earlier today. By Ravel?"
He nodded and picked his hands up to place them back on the keys, his fingers gliding slowly as a soft melody filled the room. It was haunting in its beauty, subtle but memorable. Occasionally the pace and sound would pick up, leading to a crescendo before once again dying down and resuming its slow and soft pace. Just as she couldn't believe Malfoy had never before heard Traumerei, she now could not believe she'd never heard of this song.
The emotion was welling up inside her. This day had been so strange, so out of the blue and so so wonderful. She looked over at the man beside her and wondered where he'd been all these years, how many layers of bigotry and hatred he'd been buried under that he'd had to escape in order to show himself so freely in front of her.
But here he was, playing her his favourite song, showing her a little piece of his soul. She could tell by the raw emotion she felt from the keys being played just how special the song was to him, how reverent.
Her mind wandered to when he'd first heard it. Had he fallen in love with it then or had it been a slow burning over time? How many hours did he dedicate himself to learning the piece? She'd never heard the song before, but she knew by the way he was playing it – with such precision – that it was perfect. How long had it taken him to perfect it so? Did he learn it while at Hogwarts or before? Did they even have pianos at Hogwarts that could be played freely? Was he forced to go months at a time without playing his favorite instrument? She'd remembered Harry once confessing how stifling it felt to go months without flying his Firebolt while staying at the Dursleys during the summer – was it the same for Malfoy and the piano?
The song quickly lulled her into a sense of serenity. She laid her head on his shoulder, feeling the movements of his muscles under her ear.
For that moment, they were not Hermione Granger and Draco Malfoy. They were not Harry Potter's best friend and ex-Death Eater. They weren't even a Slytherin and a Gryffindor. They were just a man and a woman sitting together, enjoying a moment filled with beautiful haunting music.
Soon, almost too soon, the song ended and they sat there in the quiet, listening to each other's breaths, immersed in the feeling of each other's presence.
"Draco, that was beautiful," she whispered, unable to use his surname after listening to such an open display of his soul. She lifted her head to look at him and found him staring straight at her, the intensity in his eyes burning through to hers. Then, as time stopped for one brief moment, he lowered his head and kissed her.
It was short, just enough time for her to feel the softness of his lips and feel their gentle pull against her own before he pulled away again.
Slowly, the sides of his lips tilted up and he soon broke out into a dazzling smile that influenced one of her own. She looked down at her lap, trying to process the mind-blowing event that just happened when out of the corner of her eye she saw him lift his fingers once more to the keys of the piano and begin a melody that she knew better than the Hogwarts theme song.
She gasped, astounded. He'd said he had never heard it before, that fink! She thought back to the moment he'd told her and … yep. She knew there had been something odd about his voice – something that had made her take pause. She shook her head. Slytherins.
The liar in question turned his head to look at her and she caught the sly little smile on his face and threw him a glare. He chuckled under his breath before looking back down at the keys – his fingers filling the room with notes she'd fallen in love with over ten years ago.
As they glided through the song, an emotion that she was unfamiliar with – something foreign that had been brewing the past few hours – suddenly burst forth in the very essence of her being and the overwhelming aspect of it caused tears to cloud her vision.
How was Hermione Granger to know that this was the beginnings of love?
She sighed and closed her eyes, letting the tears fall on her cheeks. No matter what happened in their future, she promised herself she'd never forget the moment Draco Malfoy played her her favourite song.
As they exited the music shop leaving the cheery owner behind (Hermione had seen Draco slip the man a fifty dollar bill), she led Draco quickly towards an abandoned alley thirty feet away – Hermione laughing at the stunned look on Draco's face.
"Get your mind out of the gutter, Malfoy. Not that." She stuck out her left hand for Draco, her right holding her lily. "This. Grab my hand and hold tight."
He did so and a resounding pop filled the area as they disapparated a moment later, quickly appearing in another abandoned alleyway some three and a half miles away and across the East River and were immediately overwhelmed by the smell of Chinese food.
Draco looked around curiously before asking her, "Where are we, exactly?"
"Brooklyn Heights," Hermione responded with a wide smile. "Have you been?"
Draco shook his head, still looking around with interest.
"Good. I want to show you something." She kept ahold of his hand and dragged him towards the street and the multitudes of sounds coming from their right. The smell of Chinese food was coming from a small restaurant that was teeming with people. The sound of loud chatter and clanging plates grew, then descended as they walked past the door and down the street towards the smell of the sea. "I came here last week."
They walked leisurely, Hermione not in an immediate rush to reach her destination, and came across an Italian gelato shop. She ordered Belgian chocolate and he Sour Cherry and spent the next ten minutes arguing over whose was better. After sampling his, she silently agreed that his was indeed better, but didn't let him know that of course. Turning a corner, Draco immediately paused at the view before him and Hermione grinned widely, happy with his reaction. "The promenade?" he asked before continuing at her nod. "I'd seen it in one of those books and wished to see it. Thank you."
"You're welcome," she said, touched by his gratitude. They walked over to the railing facing the water and marveled at the lights of the city as they enjoyed the rest of their dessert. They stood in silence, taking in the view, watching how the lights flickered in the river, the only sounds being of plastic spoons scraping against their gelato cups and people chattering away behind them, their steps pattering against the pavement. A low and soothing hum sounded to Hermione's right, signaling the beginning of a street musician's performance, and she glanced back to see a young man in all black playing the violin, a case open at his feet. He was slowly gaining a small crowd of on-lookers and donations that made Hermione smile. This was definitely one thing she absolutely loved about this city – the sudden and random bursts of music from street performers all over.
"Hmm?" he answered around a spoonful of his treat.
She stayed silent for another moment to gather her thoughts, using her spoon to scoop up the last bits of chocolaty goodness in the cup. "Why did you tell me you hadn't known the song?"
"The element of surprise is usually much more effective if the intended person is actually surprised," the blond answered with that infamous smirk.
Her shoulders drooped and she looked over at him expectantly with a raised eyebrow.
He chuckled at the look on her face. "All right, I hadn't known that you'd be with me long enough to follow through but I'd hoped. And it did work out better than I'd planned," he said, looking at her with a small smile gracing his face.
She felt herself smile back. He was right. She'd been awe-struck and stunned into silence when he'd begun playing her song. He turned back to his treat and she kept her eyes on him, following the planes of his face, gazing longer at the glint in his eyes and the fullness of his lips. She'd always known he was attractive in school, but there was something different about this man that made him, truthfully, unbelievably gorgeous. She had a feeling that it didn't only have to do with the fact that he had grown from boy into man, but that the wonderfulness she'd found in his character was shining through, changing her perspective of him.
"Besides," he added, "even if I hadn't been able to find a way to play it tonight, I'd have waited until I could."
"Pretty sure of ourselves, are we?"
"By the way you're staring at me? Yes."
She quickly averted her eyes, suddenly very interested in the empty cup and spoon in her hands, a blush heating her cheeks. She bit her lip in an attempt to stop the smile breaking across her features and failed miserably, a small laugh escaping her. Smug bastard.
He leaned over to grab her empty cup and spoon, pausing just slightly in her area of personal space to whisper in her ear. "You're cute when you blush, did you know?"
She pursed her lips in an attempt to halt the grin threatening to overtake her face as he moved away to throw away their rubbish in the bin and she grabbed the lily from under her arm. She twirled the flower in her fingers, watching the blossom spin before she saw his hand come towards her and grab hers, twining their fingers together and bringing her in to step alongside him.
She had just started to wonder where he was taking her this time when he turned around and swept her up in his arms, bringing their bodies close together, swaying back and forth to the low sounds of the violin filling the air.
They'd been dancing for a good five minutes, letting Hermione get used to the feel of his tall, strong body moving against hers and his scent permeating her senses before he whispered a confession.
"I'd always fancied you."
Her head, which had been resting upon Draco's shoulder, immediately leapt back and spun towards his to see him looking past her shoulder, gazing at nothing in particular but had on a serious expression as if he was gazing into the far corners of his mind where this information was coming from.
"What?" she sputtered incredulously.
He looked at her then and Hermione saw no deceit or trickery on his face, only that serious intensity he usually had when looking at her. He then shrugged his shoulder as if defeated with the idea of fighting the concept. "You were fascinating and I became intrigued right from the get go. But of course," he paused as he turned away from her gaze once more, "I had no right to be, at least in my own mind, and couldn't handle it so I only taunted you more. Why do you look so surprised?"
"Because," she stammered, unsure of how to take this new information, "I'm not…I mean I don't…really it's not like I'm…" Honestly, despite whatever she'd felt growing for the man in front of her in the past few hours, she was still unable to voice her fear: she was plain Jane while he was a wonderful and gorgeous man. What could possibly become of them?
"Hermione," he said softly, reaching up to stroke her cheek. "You are exquisite. Do you not see that?"
She glanced at him through her eyelashes, very aware of the heat radiating off his body.
"You are beautiful, incredibly intelligent and so utterly good that I honestly didn't stand a chance." He quirked a devious little smile. "I'm only glad that Weasley was dumb enough to let you go."
She rolled her eyes and laughed, turning away from him to hide her burning cheeks and once again rest her head upon his shoulder, breathing in his scent. "Be quiet, Malfoy. You're making me blush."
He chuckled but otherwise stayed silent, allowing her to enjoy the feel of him against her. His large, masculine hand clasping hers, pulled tight against their bodies. The feel of his back muscles contracting as they swayed, moving against her other hand – the one that was also clasping her lily. The cool night air surrounding their embrace. His heart beat thudding rhythmically beneath her ear. The violinist began to play a slow, soft melody, noticing couples beginning to slow dance to his instrument.
The song sounded oddly familiar but Hermione was unable to immediately place it. She racked her brain, trying to recall the name of the notes being played, when it hit her. The winter of her first year at Hogwarts, her parents had taken her to the orchestra and following the interlude a violinist came out and played two songs, the current being one of them – Beethoven's Violin Romance no. 2. Swaying to the gentle music, Hermione smiled realizing how somewhat appropriate the song was. A strange thought, really, but it was.
She'd expected to spend a nice holiday away from everything that had been plaguing her mind for the past few years – away from the war and the damage and the constant stress from Voldemort's rising – but instead had it crash upon her while she was least expecting it.
She wasn't going to lie. In those first few moments she saw Malfoy across the aisles at bookshop, she'd been disappointed – he'd so easily ruined her carefully planned trip of escapism. However, now, disappointment was the furthest emotion from her heart. It was instead a blooming something that was making her heart pound and her mouth quirk up in a smile. She lifted her head from his chest and looked at him. His eyes were closed, creating the most breathtakingly beautiful peaceful expression on his face that caused her pounding heart to lurch even further towards this man. Sensing her movement he opened his grey eyes and he looked at her and Hermione suddenly understood all those ridiculous clichés that harped on about that moment when time stopped – because it did.
"I'm glad I ran into you today."
His eyes, his beautiful grey eyes, softened and a small smile tugged at the corners of his soft, pillowy lips and Hermione wondered if her heart would soar every time he did that.
He whispered an, "I am too," before capturing her lips in a kiss that could have knocked her toenail polish off.
They'd been kissing for what felt like hours. Her back was pressed against the railing as Draco snogged her senseless and his hand was just reaching up to tangle in her hair when she heard a series of distant chimes go off and pulled herself out of the haze just enough to realize it was midnight. She pulled away slightly, her swollen lips rubbing softly against his before she grinned.
"What?" he asked, one corner of his lips tugging upwards at the look on her face.
"It's midnight," she whispered. "It's my birthday."
A brief look of shock stole his features before he smirked and rubbed his nose against her cheek. "Happy birthday, Granger. What are you going to wish for?"
"I don't know," she countered easily, enjoying his closeness. "What do you have to give?"
He paused in the butterfly kisses he had been spreading across her throat and looked at her, cupping her cheek in his hands. "Everything, beautiful," he whispered before pressing his lips to hers once more. "Everything."
A/N3: Epilogue up next! Oh, and btw: Good Stuff Diner does actually exist, and their Athenian Omellette is quite good.