A/N: Hi everyone! Long time reader, first time writer. Please be gentle :-)
Also, I do not own Harry Potter. It all belongs to JK Rowling, who is awesome!
New A/N: So I have just started editing this. There are a lot of grammatical errors, especially in the beginning since I, for some reason, didn't devote as much time to editing when I started this. If you see anything I miss please let me know!
The sun had barely begun to rise and already the streets of Diagon Alley were bustling with activity. Children were stocking up on Bertie Bott's Every Flavour Beans, Cauldron Cakes, and Extendable Ears to last them for the entire summer, while their parents bought the more essential items – in their eyes, anyway - like extra Floo powder, magical cookbooks and summer robes.
Four young twenty-something's had just come in through the Floo network, none more aware of how late they were running than the first, a girl with bushy brown hair tide back in a messy ponytail and chocolate-brown eyes. Next came a pretty redheaded girl with freckles and, behind her, a slightly older boy with the same. The last to come through was another boy with messy black hair, green eyes, and glasses. Many people stared as he came through, all eager to see the Boy Who Lived – twice! - in the flesh. The boy blushed, all too aware that he had one of the best known faces in the entire wizarding world.
The girls looked at each other and rolled their eyes.
"Honestly Harry. You know you're going to be gaped at every time you come through here so you should really work on a more graceful landing," said the girl with the bushy hair.
"Sorry, Hermione." Harry's blush grew brighter.
"I think his clumsiness makes him endearing. Like he's actually human, just like the rest of us," said the redheaded girl, grabbing onto his hand and making sure everyone saw the glittery diamond attached to her left ring finger. "After all, we don't want everyone thinking the great Harry Potter has a big head, do we?"
"It still looks pretty big to me, Ginny," joked the other ginger.
Ginny gave him a sharp look. He immediately cowered where he stood.
"Honestly, Ron, this is no time to be fooling with Harry. We are going to be late," snapped Hermione.
"But you just did the same –"
It was too late. Hermione didn't hear him. She was already hustling down the street towards her destination. Ron, Harry, and Ginny ran after her, Ron taking her small suitcase from her and grabbing her hand as they walked.
They all stared into all of the shops as they passed them; reminiscing about the days they used to come here before every school year at Hogwarts. Well, except for Hermione, Ron, and Harry's seventh year, since none of them had attended. As it turned out, defeating You-Know-Who earned them an instant graduation. While they sometimes regretted losing that last year of school, nothing could compare to the gratification they felt after witnessing the aftermath of all they had done.
It had been three years since the war and finally everything in the wizarding world was as it should be. The Ministry was being run by decent wizards and witches – none more effective than Kingsley – those wrongfully accused had been released from Azkaban, and those rightfully accused had been sent there, Dementors had all but vanished, and places like Hogwarts and Diagon Alley had been returned to their former glory. The wizarding world was at peace.
Memories flooded their eyes as they walked through the streets, recalling the days when they bought books at Flourish and Blotts or sundaes at Florean Fortescue's Ice Cream Parlour. Hermione had to clutch Ron's hand tighter and pull him back as he began to stray off towards Quality Quidditch Supplies to stare at the newest broom in the window. She looked back and saw that Ginny was doing the exact same thing with Harry. They rolled their eyes at each other. Boys.
Finally, they had reached their destination. The four of them stopped and stared up at the sign that read, Ollivanders: Makers of Fine Wands since 382 BC, in peeling gold letters over the door.
"This is it," said Hermione, turning to look at all of her friends, her eyes already filling up with tears. "For the next three months I am at Mr. Ollivander's beck and call."
"I just wish you knew what being at his beck and call actually meant," said Ron. They all ignored him.
"We're going to miss you, Hermione," said Ginny, going in for the first hug goodbye. "Make sure to owl us every day."
"Yeah," said Harry, going in right after her. "It won't be the same without you. Who will let me and Ron know when we're being thick?"
"I'm sure Ginny is quite up for the task," said Hermione, wiping away a tear. She looked to Ginny, who nodded very seriously. She knew keeping Harry and Ron in check wouldn't be an easy mission.
They all stood silently for a moment while Ron kicked a pebble on the ground, avoiding Hermione's eyes at all costs.
After waiting awkwardly for a minute, Ginny grabbed Harry's hand and pulled him away. She was not blind to Hermione's uneasiness as she stared repeatedly at her watch, unlike the boys.
"We're going to go look at something over there for a minute. Take your time, you two."
Once they were gone Hermione moved closer to Ron. When she was right next to him she carefully put her hand into his and rested her head on his shoulder. Once that electricity shot through them, Ron leaned over and gave her a kiss on the forehead.
He sighed. "I wish you didn't have to go."
"I know," she said, "but, in the end, I think this will be good for us. We've never had this time apart."
"You're the one who wants it, not me."
Removing her head from his shoulder, Hermione looked at him sternly. "Don't be like that, Ron. You know I'm right."
"You always are." He rolled his eyes.
Hermione's jaw dropped. He hadn't spoken to her so rudely in years. "No need to be hurtful," she said, wiping more tears away.
Ron sighed. "I'm sorry, Hermione. I just don't get why you wanna go on a break all of a sudden. Things have been going good, haven't they?" he asked.
"Yes, of course," she said, smiling. "But other than my brief romance with Viktor during our fourth year and your … disgusting snogging sessions with Lavender Brown during the better half of our sixth year we haven't really been with anyone else, have we?"
Ron shook his head. "No. I guess not."
"And that's exactly why we should take this summer apart. To … explore our other options."
"But I don't want to explore any other options. I only want you."
Hermione put a gentle hand on his cheek. "That's sweet. But I just want you to be sure. Before we rush into anything."
"Rush?" he said, furrowing his eyebrows. "We've been together for three years. George and Angelina were only together a year when they got married, and Ginny and Harry got engaged just after the war. At this point I'd say a turtle would rush right past us."
"I told you. I just need time," she said. "This is a big decision. And if we both feel the same way after the summer is over, then we'll have our answer."
"All right," he groaned, kicking that same stone all the way across the road.
Hermione laughed. "Honestly, Ron, I don't know what you're so worried about. I will probably be too busy this summer to even think about romance. Mr. Ollivander has promised me a packed schedule."
"He better have," said Ron, pulling Hermione in for a kiss.
Her knees went weak as the heat of passion ran all through her body. Every kiss she shared with Ron was as exhilarating as the first. They'd been on the brink of death and Ron had just shown concern for the house-elves for the very first time. It was a magical moment she would never forget. Even with Harry standing right there, reminding them how they were in the middle of a war, did not take away from its specialness. Only enhanced it.
A cool air washed over them, sending chills down Hermione's spine. She tried to stay focused on the kiss, but it was hard with that icy fork poking at her.
"Gross," said a crude voice. "Get a room, Weasel." A pause. "On second thought, please devoid me of that picture."
Hermione turned to see Draco Malfoy standing directly behind them. His eyebrows rose when he saw her.
"Is that you, Granger? You fooled me by pulling your bushy hair back. You should really let it loose. It's sexy," he said with a snarky grin.
"What are you doing here, Malfoy?" asked Harry, immediately coming to their aid.
"Well, well. Look what we have here. Potty and the Weasel together again. And you even brought the Weaselette," he added, looking at Ginny. His eyes immediately drew to the diamond on her finger. "Oh, my apologies. Pottyette." He laughed.
"Not until September. Then you can call me Mrs. Potty," smiled Ginny, giving bunny kisses to her future husband, who gave them right back to her.
"Disgusting," said Draco in a hushed voice. He looked like he was going to vomit.
Turning away from his fiancée, Harry looked to Draco and repeated, "What are you doing here, Malfoy?"
"Why do you care? Do you fancy me or something? Have to follow my every move?" They all blinked. Draco rolled his eyes. "Can't a guy stop by the wand shop without getting the third degree?"
"I doubt Mr. Ollivander wants you in there after what happened to him at Malfoy Manor," snarled Ron, obviously the one in their group most threatened by Draco's presence.
"Oh, he's fine with it. He's the one who asked me here. Come along, Ruskle," said Draco, with a clap of his hands. A small house-elf carrying an extremely large suitcase pulled up behind him.
Every muscle in Hermione's body twitched as she saw the poor, defenseless creature wobble after his master, but she bit her lip. This was her last moment with Ron, Harry, and Ginny for three months. She would not let someone like Draco Malfoy ruin it.
"We've wasted enough time on these ruffians." Draco disappeared into the wand makers shop with the house-elf in tow.
Ron started to shout after him, "If we're ruffians I don't even wanna know what you -" but Hermione put her finger to his lips.
"Ron, don't," she said sternly. "Just kiss me one more time before I have to go."
"But, Hermione, he had a suitcase. You don't think –"
"Ron!" she snapped.
He immediately shut up and kissed her. It was only a quick one, since she was already running extremely late.
"Goodbye Ron," she said, lingering in his arms for one final moment, breathing in the sweet smell of his tousled red hair. "I love you," she whispered into his ear before finally pulling away. Grabbing her suitcase from his hand, Hermione walked backwards towards the shops door.
"Goodbye Hermione," said Ron. "Owl me every day. Twice a day!"
"I will," she laughed.
As she walked through the door to Ollivander's shop, Hermione told herself it didn't bother her that Ron didn't say he loved her back. But really, it did.
Inside the shop Mr. Ollivander was standing behind his counter while two young wizards and a witch sat in uncomfortable looking chairs on the other side. One was Draco Malfoy. No surprise there.
"Ah, Hermione Granger. Glad you could join us," said Mr. Ollivander, blatantly staring at the clock on the wall. "Please, take a seat."
"Sorry I'm late, Mr. Ollivander. It won't happen again," she swore, tucking into her seat like she was still in school.
Draco rolled his eyes. She was just as big of a brownnoser as he remembered.
"Yes, I suspect you won't," he said coyly.
Mr. Ollivander paused to stroke his chin. Hermione took this moment to inspect the other two people. One was a pretty raven-haired witch she immediately recognized as a former student of Beauxbatons Academy. She had been one of hopefuls during the Triwizard Tournament but, of course, she had lost to Hermione's future sister-in-law, Fleur. She had never seen the wizard before. He looked a bit older, maybe in his late twenties, and was as hard as a rock, from his well-sculpted muscles to his iron-thick head. He wasn't bad looking - quite the contrary actually - just a bit intimidating.
Which then brought her to Draco. His hair was longer than the last time she had seen him and falling loose, making his face look slightly less pointed. His eyes were as fierce and gray as ever, but slightly sunken, only magnifying the coldness behind him. Like the wizard rock sitting beside him, Draco Malfoy had become hard over the years. Only not on the outside. Though, the outside wasn't looking so bad either.
"So, first, let me start by saying welcome," said Mr. Ollivander, holding his hands out in a friendly gesture. "Second, I will need you all to sign this confidentiality agreement before we discuss anything." He rolled an extremely large parchment out in front of them. "Make sure to read it carefully, now. If there is anything you cannot agree to I am sorry to say that this will be the end of our time together."
The four of them perused Mr. Ollivander's giant parchment. Almost immediately the witch from Beauxbatons protested. "Only one owl 'ome a week? Zat ees absurd!" she proclaimed with wide, green eyes.
Hermione was amazed at how much she sounded like Fleur. Maybe it was a French thing.
"That is the rule. And I will be screening all of your owls to make sure you don't give any information away on your location. This is a top-secret, covert job."
"Like James Bond," said Hermione, smiling. The others stared at her blankly. Her cheeks flushed a bright fuchsia as she looked back to the parchment.
"No one must know where you're going or what you're doing," continued Ollivander, as if there had been no interruptions.
"Mr. Ollivander," said the unnamed wizard raising an assertive hand. "What exactly are we doing?" he asked before ever being called upon. Hermione was appalled. She would never show such disrespect in front of a teacher – and then she remembered they weren't in school anymore. His raising of the hand was a habit, not a formality.
"Ah, my dear boy. I will tell you that … just as soon as you sign the parchment. And don't worry, Ms. Granger. There are no jinx's placed on it," said Mr. Ollivander, looking coyly at Hermione. She giggled as she remembered the vision of Marietta Edgecombe with the word 'sneak' sprawled in spots across her forehead after she betrayed the DA. But how did Mr. Ollivander know about that?
Draco was the first one to take a quill from Ollivander and sign the parchment. Hermione watched him curiously, knowing that he couldn't possibly have finished reading the entire parchment in that short amount of time. She wondered how he had even gotten this job. The ad had said Mr. Ollivander was looking for the best and the brightest. Draco was neither of those things.
Feeling her eyes on him, Draco tilted his head and gave her a wide grin before finishing his signature with a loopy 'y'.
The other wizard immediately took the quill from him. His penmanship was next to chicken scratch, but Hermione could just make out the name Phillip. His last name was completely illegible, though her guess was that it started with a 'c'.
The Beauxbatons witch was still focused on the line about the owls. It was a long minute before she huffed, took the quill from Phillip, and signed her name. Sophie Labelle wrote her name in beautiful, slanted letters. Her hand moved with such graceful ease it was hard not to stare.
When she was done, Sophie shoved the quill into Hermione's hand before she could even reach for it. Taking one last moment to read about their weekly allowances, Hermione gave in to the pressuring looks and signed her name.
Once the last name was on the parchment, Ollivander rolled it back up and put it behind the counter.
"Now then. Down to business. While most of you have probably noticed, I am no longer the ripe young wizard I once was."
Draco chuckled. That was putting it mildly.
Ignoring Draco's rude outburst, Ollivander continued. "For the last few years I have been hiring young witches and wizards, like all of you, to go out and acquire the materials I need to make my wands."
They all gasped, none louder than Hermione. Whatever it was she was expecting when she took this job it wasn't this. She immediately raised her hand. Draco scoffed. She ignored him and waited for Ollivander to call on her.
"Yes, Ms. Granger?"
"What materials do you mean, exactly? The woods you use or …" she gulped … "or the other materials you use in the core of your wands?"
"Both," he said brightly. "I will start you all out small, of course. The four of you will work together for the first month collecting mainly woods. Depending on your progress, I might give you something more challenging before you divide."
Hermione's hand immediately shot back in the air, but before she could speak Sophie beat her to it. "Why us four?" she asked, glancing sideways at Hermione, who put her hand down.
"I chose you four for the unique characteristics you each bring to the table. Ms. Granger's brains. Mr. Prior's brawn." It seemed Hermione had been wrong about the 'c'. "Ms. Labelle's –"
"Beauty," finished Draco with a swift wink at Sophie. While she tried to play it coy, Hermione was not blind to the witch's subtle smirk.
"Actually, I was going to say stealth," said Ollivander, without missing a beat.
"I was ze fastest Chaser on my school's Queeditch team," she boasted, her nose held high in the air. Hermione was not impressed, but Draco seemed to be.
"And Mr. Malfoy's –"
"Charm," said Hermione, only being half-facetious.
Draco gave her a toothy grin. "How you flatter me, Granger."
"No, cunning," finished Ollivander. "You each exhibit a strong characteristic necessary to complete this task. It would be nice to find someone who is all four, but I'm afraid Harry Potter did not apply for the position."
Draco cringed. Even Hermione flinched a little. Harry was her best friend, so she would never speak ill of him, but calling him brainy, brawny, stealth, and cunning was a bit of a stretch.
Once Ollivander was done answering Sophie's question, Hermione raised her hand again. "Yes, Ms. Granger?"
"You mentioned earlier how we would be dividing after a month together. Does that mean we will all be working individually after that?" She hoped so. One month with Draco was more than enough.
"Oh, Merlin, no," he laughed. "None of you will ever be working individually. At that point I will be dividing you into pairs as I best see suited. But, judging from what I know of you all, it will probably be Ms. Labelle and Mr. Prior, and you and Mr. Malfoy."
"WHAT?" shouted both Hermione and Draco, jumping out of their seats.
"Mr. Ollivander, you can't be serious!" she said.
"Oh, yes, I am quite serious, Ms. Granger. Ms. Labelle and Mr. Prior have worked together previously with successful results, and you and Mr. Malfoy were in the same year at the same school. Surely you had to work together at some point during your academic careers."
"Only in detention during our first year," said Draco, "and even then we were separated."
"Brains and cunning are mental while brawn and stealth are physical. You can't put both mental and both physical together," she said rationally. "They need to be divided and utilized."
"Or bunched together to play on your personal talents. Do you expect Ms. Labelle to grab you and run when your brains fail to capture a dragon?"
Dragons? Hermione felt faint.
"That is just not smart thinking. You'll want someone with you who can formulate a plan," he said. "But these pairings aren't set in stone. If you really can't work together then prove it to me. But not by effecting the sanctity of the mission. Any of that and you will both be out."
"But, Mr. Ollivander, why is Malfoy here, anyway? He cannot be trusted. You know this just as well as I do, if not better," said Hermione, crossing her arms.
Ollivander's eyes hazed over as he returned to the dark time he had once spent in Malfoy Manor. Hermione immediately regretted what she'd said. The last thing she wanted was to send him back to that horrible place, even if it was only in his mind. Merlin knew she hated going there.
"What do you know of it, Mudblood?"
Hermione looked at Draco. He had the fiercest scowl she had ever seen spread across his face.
"Mr. Malfoy, there will be none of that language here!" shouted Ollivander, finally returning to the here-and-now. Draco's face immediately eased, his eyes dropping to the floor. "Now, Ms. Granger, even someone as smart as you would be wise to know that a lot can change in three years. Mr. Malfoy was just as much a victim of the war as you and I were. You do not know the horrors he witnessed and vice versa. But, if the two of you absolutely cannot work together, since Mr. Malfoy is here voluntarily, it is you I will have to let go." Hermione's heart sank. "The choice is yours. I suggest you make it now, and stop wasting all of our time. You are not a student anymore. You are an adult and will be treated as such."
Hermione did not answer right away. She took a good look at Draco. The boy who had once stood so proudly with his nose held high, confident of his own blood and superiority, was the same boy who stood here now, slouched with shame-filled eyes cast to the floor, his pointed face hidden behind a shaggy mop of hair. It was true. A lot could change in three years.
"I want to stay," said Hermione under her breath. Draco looked up at her. She immediately blushed. He winked.
"What was that, Ms. Granger?"
"I want to stay," she said much louder this time. "I apologize for my rude behave –"
"Brownnosing will get you nowhere with me, Ms. Granger," said Ollivander. "Both of you, please take your seats. We have a lot to cover and a lot less time to do it in."
Hermione sat down, taking a parchment and quill out of her bag so she could take proper notes, all the while glancing sideways at the blonde wizard who was also glancing sideways at her.