A/N: Hello all! As some of you know, over the past couple of years I've been working with beta Rusty Weasley to beta not only my new work but all of my old stories as well. This one is finally finished as of July 20, 2014. YAY! I'd like to thank Rusty Weasley for being the absolute best, most kick-ass, wonderful, patient, and helpful beta on the planet. He makes me a better writer and keeps me sane at times. So, if you are new to this story, enjoy. If you've read it before but want to read it again polished, enjoy! :)
Azkaban Prison: May 18, 2003
Lucius Malfoy felt blood dribble down his chin as he coughed into the dirty handkerchief in his hand. As undignified as it was, he'd grown accustomed to prison life in Azkaban. He knew he would be spending the rest of his life there since there was no Dark Lord to spring him out this time around. The only positive thought was that he didn't think he had much longer to stay.
His quill moved quickly and jaggedly across the parchment in front of him. He had to get this to his son. If he only had minutes left, he needed to warn him. As much as he resented his ungrateful heir for turning his back on the family destiny and siding with Potter in the end, he was still his son. The five years in prison had given him a little perspective on that fact. After Narcissa died, Draco was left alone and now had no one to help him with the changes that were about to happen. Lucius could do this one last thing for Draco, and then be gone.
He coughed again, some of his own blood peppering the parchment. He didn't have time to start over. Damn. He felt it coming; the cold dark hand of death was clasping around his neck. He had to hurry. He should have done this much sooner. He should have warned Draco before now. It was a discussion to be had at the deathbed of the head of the Malfoy clan, not in some letter from prison, but these were the circumstances. It was all he could do.
Suddenly his chest heaved and he couldn't stop coughing. His breath rushed out, but he couldn't breathe in strong enough. Gasping for air, he toppled the inkwell over on the puritan desk he'd been given to make his final arrangements. "Help!" he gasped, but his voice was barely above a whisper. Long, hard minutes passed, until finally, painfully, he fell from his chair and dropped dead on the ground, his letter to his son lying unfinished on the desk.
Enchanted Parchment, Diagon Alley: May 18, 2003
Hermione Granger thought she had finally hit her rhythm in life. After almost five years of settling for glimpses of affection Ronald Weasley decided to throw her way, she dropped the selfish bastard and struck out on her own. She was now a free woman, and it was intoxicating.
It hadn't been easy. So much of her life had been wrapped up in Ron, Harry, and the Weasleys that she had no idea what she was going to do without them. Luckily, Harry hadn't made her choose. He understood why Hermione was fed up, and informed her that he was shocked she'd put up with Ron as long as she had. Ron's pursuit of fame and lack of focus was not something Hermione would have been happy with in the long run, and luckily, most of the Weasleys understood. Mrs. Weasley was currently not speaking to her, but Hermione hoped that one day she would come around. The rest of the Weasleys assured her she would.
Pathetically, she'd wrapped herself up in her boyfriend's problems as well as his dreams. He'd been trying to make it onto a professional Quidditch team, and she'd given up everything for him, solely living off of their reward money for taking down Voldemort. The minute he'd been awarded a backup position on Puddlemere United, he'd been gone more than he was home, and she was left to figure out what to do with her time. He never cared, nor did he ask how her days were, and it finally hit a boiling point six months ago.
Thankfully, all of that was behind her now, and after Ron's childish comments when they broke up, she didn't care if he fell 60 stories off his stupid broom at the next practice. Now she was standing in the center of her pride and joy. She'd taken the bulk of her inheritance and the rest of her reward money and opened up her very own bookshop.
She craved the quiet life after all the insanity following the death of Voldemort. She knew she'd never be able to work at the Ministry. The government was too corrupt. No matter who took charge, the power got to his head, and they were back to passing unfair laws to try and control the population (don't even get her started on the role of women within the Ministry). She'd seen enough power-hungry men for a lifetime. The private sector fit her better, and after five months, her bookshop was her oasis, not to mention a successful livelihood. She specialized in the sort of books that Flourish and Blotts never bothered to carry, from the rare to the absurd. Eat your heart out, Ron-freaking-Weasley.
She was locking up for lunch. Her two employees were both out with a case of stomach flu. Although Wizarding medicine could clear up such an illness in a matter of minutes, Hermione wished for them to rest, and offered to hold down the fort for the entire day, which is why she was closing for lunch. She decided to make it a quick lunch as to not miss out on too much business. Flipping the sign to 'Closed', she made her way down the street toward her favorite little deli a few blocks away.
"Shit," Hermione muttered to herself as she felt the heel of her sandal come loose. It was still attached, but these cobblestone streets did nothing for her footwear. She had to remember to wear different shoes when she came to work. The Muggle London streets were a hell of a lot nicer on her footwear. With a sigh, she finished messing with her shoe and stood, smoothing down her skirt and coming around the alley to the entrance of the restaurant.
"Oh!" she gasped as she ran directly into someone. "I'm so sorry," she gushed, looking up at whoever she'd bumped into. Her eyes grew wide when she saw him. She hadn't seen him in person for over five years. "Malfoy?"
Diagon Alley: May 18, 2003
"Call me later, baby," the blonde bimbo cooed into his ear as he disengaged from her clingy embrace. He knew it was a bad idea to go home with her. She had 'gold digger' written all over her, but he found he couldn't help himself. Fucking someone was better than just going back to the Manor alone. Besides, she wasn't a half-bad lay…when she kept her trap shut.
"Sure thing," he said, wanting to cringe when she called him 'baby' like they were a couple or something. He'd just met her, for Merlin's sake. If he were to risk losing half his money to a woman, it certainly wouldn't have been her. "I'll see you," he said, turning away from her without a second glance. No matter how badly he treated the women he fucked, they still would do anything he wanted. When they looked at him, all they saw was a sexy body, pretty face, and an enormous Gringotts account. He wasn't a person to them, just a sexy package holding the Galleons they were after.
Feeling a bit peckish, he sighed and turned the corner to look for something to eat before heading back to the Manor for another day of blinding boredom. Being the son of an ex-Death Eater had its problems, not the least of which being that he couldn't get a job anywhere if his life depended on it. The family business had gone down with Voldemort, and there was no reviving it. Luckily, he didn't need the money, but it was no fun just sitting around, either.
His thoughts were quickly interrupted when the small, tight body of a woman ran directly into him. To be fair, he hadn't been paying attention either, but when he looked up and saw Granger - a very grown up Granger - staring back at him, he couldn't help but sneer. "Well, what do we have here?" he said, his tone mocking.
"I'm sorry, Malfoy," she said, exasperation in her tone. "Look, if you just move, I could get past you, and we can go about our day pretending we never even saw each other."
He smirked at her as she stood there, hand on her hips, looking bossy as ever. It might have been hot if it were someone else. He was about to open his mouth to retort when he felt a painful tingling sensation running through his body. His eyes snapped up to her, wondering if she'd hexed him, but she just looked back at him, confused.
"Malfoy?" she said, her voice concerned. Did he really look that bad?
He wanted to groan, but he wouldn't give her the satisfaction as he felt the tingling intensify. He shut his eyes for a moment, and then it stopped. What the fuck was that? he thought to himself. Opening his eyes, the panic began to sink in. Why was he so close to the ground...and where were his arms and legs? What the fuck!
Hermione's eyes nearly popped out of her head as she watched Malfoy transform before her eyes. One minute he was fine, the next minute he looked in pain, and then, suddenly, she was staring into the eyes of an albino python slithering out of Malfoy's clothes.