By his own choice, Draco Malfoy was on his own in a strange new world. At eighteen, he had never been on his own, nor had he seen the muggle world. But he had survived a war. Muggle London would be no easy task, but he was sure he could survive that as well. With a little help from Transfiguration, he managed to convert his savings to muggle money, and found a decent one bedroom flat in the heart of London.
The only problem was his neighbor.
Not long after he had moved in, Hermione Granger took up residence in the same building. She kept to herself, leaving only when it was necessary, and was never a nuisance. But seven years of tension between the pair made it hard for them to accept one another as neighbors.
Then, one day, a thunderstorm changed everything.
The rain had begun early in the morning and lasted well into the night. Keys were still a foreign concept, and so Draco often forgot to take them with him when he left. He was soaked to the bone when someone finally let him in. Now that she had lowered her umbrella, Draco saw who his savior from the rain was.
"Thanks," he mumbled. They took the stairs to the third floor and turned left. Hermione reached her door first and inserted her key into the lock, all the while watching Draco fumble with his own doorknob.
"Locked out?" she asked. He nodded, scowling at the door that would not budge. "Wait here." She disappeared into her flat and returned minutes later with her wand discreetly hidden. Checking that they were the only ones in the hall, she whispered an unlocking spell and told him to give the knob another try.
"Still locked," he reported.
"Special charms?" she asked.
His cheeks turned a light shade of pink. "Better safe than sorry, right?"
Smiling, she agreed and invited him into her flat. "Do you still have a wand?" she asked, setting the tea kettle on the stove.
"I do, but I try not to use it too often," he replied, shivering in his wet clothes. With a wave of her wand, she dried his clothing and continued with the tea. "Do you think the muggles notice when we use magic?"
Hermione shrugged. "Only if we use it in front of them," she replied, pouring hot water into two mugs. "They can't explain magic, so they pretend it doesn't exist outside of silly parlor tricks. My parents knew it was real, but they still tried to deny it."
Draco accepted the tea she offered and took a tentative sip. "They didn't believe you were witch?" he asked.
Taking a seat on the sofa, she shrugged again. "They knew, but I don't think they ever understood," she explained. "Um, do you want to call the building supervisor? He should be able to let you into your flat."
"Does it make you nervous, my being here?" he asked, sitting down beside her.
His smile was lascivious, sending a shiver down Hermione's spine that had nothing to do with the dropping temperatures outside. "Not at all," she replied, holding her head high and hoping she looked haughty enough that it was believable. "I just assumed you didn't want to be here, sharing tea with a mudblood."
"Last I checked, I'm surrounded by muggles," he pointed out, placing his mug on the coffee table. "At least you know what I really am. And what I've been through."
"So, what? You want to be friends now?" she asked incredulously.
Draco shrugged. "Maybe friends isn't the right term," he said thoughtfully. "What about allies?"
"Why did you move here, Malfoy?" she asked, setting aside her own mug.
Sighing, he rose from the sofa and made his way to the front door. "That's a story for another time," he decided. "See you around, Granger."
Hermione stared at the door as it closed. The sound of his footsteps disappeared down the hall, and only when she was sure she could not be overheard did she turn to the fireplace. Harry had insisted she hook it up to the floo network so as not to lose connection with her friends in the wizarding world. She hadn't used it since moving in, but now she was grateful for it.
"Harry, what do you know about Malfoy's move to the muggle world?" she asked before he managed to say hello.
After retrieving the spare key to his flat from the building super, Draco let himself in and flopped down on the sofa. A smile crested on his lips as he thought of how rattled she became by his mere presence. Though he was sure the wizarding world knew he defected, he knew only a handful knew why. Even less understood why.
He hadn't expected to enjoy his brief time with Hermione Granger. Perhaps months of being alone had been the reason. She had been close but yet far away at the same time. Perhaps, until now, it had been his own foolish pride and ridiculous prejudices that had kept him from seeking her out. He had confined himself to his building as much as he could, fearful of the strange new world around him. Surely she could navigate it better than he.
Perhaps, now that they were together in a world so foreign to him, they could be friends. Here there would be no bloodlines to separate them. Here he was a muggle, a human, just like everyone else. And so was she. Without the tyranny of his father's prejudiced teachings hanging over his head, Draco believed that he and Hermione Granger could put the past behind him.
But, Draco knew, he would need a plan. It would take more than a few words and a couple of smiles to change the headstrong witch's mind. Something drastic would need to happen, something that would prove to her that he wasn't the same boy she had known from Hogwarts.
If only he knew how to do that.