disclaimer: disclaimed.
dedication: to Sonya for Christmas. I know this isn't what you asked for, but it's all I've got.
notes: I was in the hospital when I wrote this oops.

title: something in the popcorn
summary: Grey days on the run. — Draco/Hermione.

.

.

.

.

.

"Do you think they'll ever find us, Malfoy?"

He was totally silent, but Hermione hadn't expected anything else. They'd been on the run too long, now, for things not to settle like this. The world—her world—their world—had collapsed in on itself and eaten everything up.

There was nothing left of the Wizarding community, not now that the Muggles had accidentally tripped into the magical world and ran for the hills screaming.

"If we're lucky, they won't. Right? Of course. I mean, they could only find us if we use our wands—"

"Do you ever shut up?"

Hermione sat up abruptly, dirty sheets twisting around her torso, around her legs as she moved. She was a wraith in the faux dawn with her hair in wild medusa tendrils, and she glared down at him with everything she had.

"Like you're any help!" she spat. "I know you haven't slept, either, Malfoy, so don't tell me you know anything at all. We just—"

"Oh Merlin, Granger, not now."

She watched him pinch the bridge of his nose; the knobs of his knuckles had gotten rough, scarred over. Hermione couldn't remember a time when Malfoy's hands had been anything but immaculate, and seeing them torn up like that drove home a very profound truth:

I don't think we're in Kansas anymore, Toto.

The sirens rang at night. Loud things that shook her out of the few hours of sleep she managed and sent her scuttling to the corner where she sat with her hands clamped around her wand, rocking back and forth.

They never seemed to get to Malfoy, but Hermione wasn't surprised by that at all.

Twitchy little ferret couldn't be bothered to care that all those with magic were being hunted down and summarily exterminated. It probably only enforced his sense of how Morgana-cursed wonderful he thought he was. Hermione fumed silently at the ceiling.

"Granger, I can hear you thinking," he said. "Go to sleep, for fuck's sake."

It took all of Hermione's will not to wrap her fingers around his thin pale throat and shake him. She could imagine it, down to the way his hair would muss and he'd go a lovely shade of puce—it was the product of many an afternoon of daydreaming in the grey little kitchen over a cup of tea, the paper scattered on the floor around her.

But she didn't move.

Instead she turned head towards the window, and watched the sun come up.

Draco Malfoy was a mess.

Hermione Granger wasn't much better, to be honest, but it gave her some comfort to know that he was worse off than she was. His bones were showing through his skin; he looked gutted from the outside in, like they'd spilled him all over the floor and left him there to hold himself together.

It made her inexplicably pleased.

But this was no love story, and they fought like rats in a trap on a good day:

The door slammed.

"Granger—you—fuck, not so loud!"

Hermione shoved her sopping hair over her shoulder. It was pouring outside. London was drowning, and they were all drowning with it, and Hermione's hair was certainly no exception.

"What was that, Malfoy?"

"You heard me, you—"

"—slam the door again? Of course! Just—"

"Granger, I swear—!"

Hermione opened the door and slammed it again. Vicious satisfaction curled in her stomach at the furious half-moan-yell that came from the depths of the little flat. She grinned with all her teeth on display, shiny sharp to cut his throat.

He would have done no less, so she did it first.

And that was the problem with Draco Malfoy: he brought out the absolute worst in her.

Hermione was shedding her raincoat just as he was swinging around the corner, a blur of pale skin and rage barrelling towards her at high velocity. She felt absolutely nothing except acrid distaste at the back of her throat when his hands closed in her hair, not even fear.

Draco Malfoy was too much of a coward to kill her.

Her wand was pressed into the soft skin under his chin, as well, and that might vey well have had something to do with it.

"When are you going to learn, Malfoy? You—"

"I'll kill you, Granger, one of these—"

"—pull one on me, I'm not like of your whores, you can't push me around—"

"—you twat, you don't even know what you're talking about—"

"—oh Merlin, and you do?! Malfoy, you can't even take care of yourself—!"

His fingers were knotted tight into her hair. It gave him the leverage he needed to slam her head back so that the vertebrae in her neck popped loud and sick. The pain sang in bursts of white-jagged feeling along her nerves. She didn't make a sound.

It was days like these that Hermione didn't know why she stayed. He was overheated and too tall, snarling wild-eyed at her even as she dug her wand into his jugular.

"I dare you to do it again," Hermione said, eyes flashing and her mouth set in a grim line. If this was a made-for-the-telly movie, there would be a fight and the snick of a knife and maybe he would kiss her to prove a point—but it wasn't a movie and Hermione Granger was not that girl.

It wasn't going to be like this.

She kept her wand at his throat, and silently she egged him on.

I dare you, Malfoy. I dare you.

Malfoy's eyes were paler than his face, and one of his hands slid out of her hair down to her throat. His thumb pressed into the hollow between her collarbones, the skin crackling uncomfortably beneath the pressure (or maybe that was just her heartbeat). Hermione's gaze slit to a glare.

She would wait him out.

She always did.

"I could," he said quietly. "You know I could, Granger."

"But you won't. Coward. You'd have to kill me the Muggle way, Draco. You're too scared to do that, aren't you?"

"You don't know anything."

"Ha! And you do?"

He didn't reply to that.

They stood like that for a long time, just watching each other warily; hunter and prey, though who was who was circumspect. Hermione knew things would never be simple, as long as she stayed in this cheap little flat in the middle of a city she didn't know. She could leave, but it would only end up making her look awful when she came back.

(She always came back. Really, where else would she go? Apparition was out of the question because the Muggles could track the magic, and she'd be dead within the hour. Ron had disappeared to America and Harry was with Ginny and—and—she really had nowhere else. Jut Malfoy and the dingy flat in Dublin, where they hid away from the Muggle world because it was easier here than in England where everyone knew her name.)

Malfoy let her go.

"They'll find us if you keep whipping your wand out for everything," he sneered.

She didn't tell him to stop trying to intimidate me, it's not going to work, because she'd said it a lot of times already and Hermione Granger did not like to repeat herself.

"I'll stop with the wand when you stop threatening to kill me," she smiled, saccharine sweet.

He eyed her up and down, and just shook his head. "Fix that thing growing on your head, Granger, it'll scare the natives."

"Weak on the delivery, Malfoy. Your conviction needs work."

He shook his head, and headed back to the room he'd claimed when they'd first came to this place.

That was the end of the argument for the day—she had won that battle because she'd had the last word, and he still hadn't managed to scare her. The first few times he'd managed it, but Hermione had adapted.

Granger: 1. Malfoy: zip.

One battle was all well and good. The war, though?

That wasn't even close to being done.

He came barrelling through the door on a grey Tuesday morning, and started grabbing everything he could find that had any meaning at all.

"What are you doing?"

"We need to go, Granger," he growled out of the corner of his mouth. His hands were paler than usual and shaking, even, like he was trying to keep himself together and failing miserably. It made her want to laugh and be sick all at once.

"Why?"

"Because," he said through his teeth, as though that completely explained everything he could possibly mean. Then again, Hermione thought, with Malfoy's track record? Because probably could explain everything he could be referring to.

"Put your wand away!" Hermione went wide-eyed and scared. "What are you—Malfoy, stop!"

"No time, Granger," he said, and flicked his wand. Everything in the flat shrunk and shucked itself into the worn brown rucksack he always carried with him. Hermione's eyes were round.

"They're going to find us," she whispered.

"They already have," he snarled.

And that was that.

They were on the run again.

They dashed out the door and Hermione raised her wand long enough to cast a time-release spell, and locked the door behind her. When Malfoy raised an eyebrow, she shrugged a little, worrying at her lower lip.

"It'll give us more time, they'll think we're still inside," she explained quietly. "Do you train tickets?"

He gave her a look like you stupid bint, of course I do, who do you think I am. Hermione didn't dignify this with a response. She was too busy being thankful that they lived in a building with fifty other people. It would take the Revealers that much longer to search for them.

They skidded down the stairs, took the lobby at a run, and hit the pavement outside without a backwards glance.

Dublin was an industrial city, greyed over with the smoke of the factories. On an already-grey day like this, it was dreary and cold and awful. Normally, Hermione would have hated it.

But the fear clutched at her throat, curled low and unpleasant in her stomach, bubbled up acid-hot to burn her from head to toe. It kept her high on alert—Morgana, she hadn't been like this since she was seventeen and on the run to keep Harry Potter alive long enough to make the world a better place.

Malfoy's hand closed around her arm hard enough to leave a bruise as he pulled her into an alley.

"Don't make a sound," he hissed in her ear. His hand was burning over her mouth, knuckles whiter than snow, dug into her cheek. She was afraid he'd leave marks, and then people would ask questions—because that's what people did, they asked questions, and—

The Revealers were coming.

"They're going to think you abuse me, Malfoy," she murmured against his hand.

"Quiet, Granger, what about quiet don't you understand?!" he said. It was so soft it felt like he was breathing on her, but Hermione had been in this position too many times not to know exactly what was coming out of his mouth.

They ducked down low, but she could still the hooded Muggles heading for the apartment building they'd lived in for the past month and a half. They were going to break it down, kill everyone inside—better fifty Normals and one Freak dead than fifty Normals alive and one Freak escaping.

Hermione and Malfoy ran for it.

The train station was a bustle of activity. People moved too quickly with hollow eyes from one train to the next, as though it would get them where they wanted to go any faster. The trains ran all the time, but never when anyone wanted them to.

Same as Hermione and Malfoy.

"A night train? You chose a night train, Malfoy?!"

"Don't say a thing, Granger," he grumbled.

"But that—there might be other people in there, and that's—"

"I got us a family room, you—"

"—because that's really going to help, a family room, ooooh, good for you, Malfoy—"

"—there'll just be us—"

"—sound like you want to spend the night with me, I'm so flattered—!"

Malfoy hoisted his rucksack over his shoulder, and either didn't care enough to answer her or had decided this conversation was entirely pointless. Which it was, honestly, but Hermione took some sick vindication out of their arguing.

It was the last steady thing in the entire world, and she wasn't about to give it up just yet.

They stuffed his rucksack into the corner of the station, flopped down next to each other. Hermione shivered, coughed, shivered again, and dragged her coat tighter around herself. She had no idea where they were going, and it was already driving her mad.

"So what's my name, this time?" she asked softly.

"Matilda," he smirked.

"You're horrible," she said, but there was no malice in it. She was too tired for malice.

"Better than Blake," Draco mumbled. He sounded a bit off, like he'd caught a cold, and when Hermione turned to look at him, he wouldn't meet her gaze. She thought it might have been just a fluke.

"Last name?"

"Gregory."

This time he very for sure was avoiding her gaze.

She couldn't blame him, though.

"It wasn't your fault, Malfoy. What happened, I mean. There was nothing—"

"Shut up," he said.

"No, listen—!

"Granger, shut up, they just called our train."

Hermione snapped her mouth shut. She kept her head down when Malfoy handed the tickets to the teller, and smiled nervously out of the corner of her mouth when the teller complimented her hair. Malfoy snorted.

"Your wife is lovely, Mr. Gregory," said the teller with a smile.

"Of course she is," Malfoy said, as though clearly this was the most obvious thing in the world. His arm settled around her waist. His fingers dug into her hips.

Hermione didn't even jump.

"Don't manhandle me, darling," she said.

The emphasis was there just to remind him who she was.

His mouth laughed. His eyes didn't.

But the teller saw nothing but a handsome young couple—the woman in a bright red wool coat and the man in black, striking dark and light. They looked to be very much in love, very involved with each other the world, and very much an aristocrat and his wife out for a holiday trip, maybe to see family.

There was no way they belonged to anything uncouth.

The teller sighed over the pair of them for a moment, before she went back to her work, and she didn't think of them again.

Hermione and Malfoy walked aboard their train, and went to their compartment. It was grey and cold. She shut the door behind them; she locked it as securely as she could. There was nothing to say it would prevent anyone from getting in if they tried, but it made her feel better.

"I'm going to get some sleep," she said.

Malfoy stared out the window. He didn't acknowledge that she'd spoken.

Hermione wasn't really all that surprised.

And so she settled back in the worn train seat, closed her eyes, and tried to get some rest.

Neither of them kept track of the time.

One day blurred into the next. Hermione was startled to stop in a little shop in Belfast to find a Christmas tree set up, lit up with red baubles and golden lights. For a moment, she was a child again, listening to her aunt and her mother sing the old carols while she and her cousins clapped along, laughing.

The vision left as soon as it appeared.

Hermione felt only very cold. She bought her coffee and Malfoy's—dark as shoe polish for her, cream and far too much sugar for him (she had no idea how he drank it like that, it didn't even taste like coffee)—and she left with only a little smile and a very large tip on the counter.

The baubles cheered her enough to face her prisoner-keeper-jailer once again.

"Here. Three sugars, two creams, just how you like it, Your Majesty."

They sat in a park. There was an ice rink there where families came to teach their children to skate. Hermione and Malfoy sat and watched in music-box silence, blowing softly on their coffee to help it cool.

"I didn't know you cared, Granger," he said. His lips pulled up a bit. The animosity between them had near fizzed out now, but Hermione wasn't quite sure what to do without it. She didn't know how to relate to Draco Malfoy in a civil manner; it simply wasn't in her nature.

Hermione didn't believe that everyone was good.

"I don't," she said, but nudged him with her elbow. "It's close to Christmas, did you know?"

He made a sort of undignified grunting sound.

Hermione snorted into her coffee. "You don't like Christmas, then?"

"Why would I, Granger?"

"Because even without—you know—it's a special time. There's almost you-know-what in the air. It feels like… like home," she said. They'd taken the word magic out of their vocabulary because it was easier that way. "But I guess we don't have homes anymore, do we?"

She didn't say that the only home each of them had was each other. That would have been detrimental to the fragile peace that they'd settled into somewhere between Dublin and Belfast and London, even.

She didn't say it, but that didn't make it any less true. Hermione watched him out of the corner of her eye; watched the way his shoulders rose and feel when he breathed, watched how the cloud-soaked sky bleached his hair to a near-white, watched how he watched everything but her like she was the only part of the world that wasn't about to attack him. There was something there, in the details, that she wasn't ready quite yet to face.

But it was coming.

It was coming.

"…Would you like to go to Australia?"

"What?"

"My parents," she breathed in. "My parents are in Australia. I sent them there before the—the war. To keep them safe, you know? But, um, they—they liked it there. So they stayed."

"And?" he asked, speculative.

"And we could go," the words rushed out of her like water. "I talked to my mum! She said that, well, that the anti-magic sentiment hasn't set in so deep there. It might be okay to go, and yes, we'd have to take ordinary transit, a plane, but I suppose that's alright—"

"Why invite me, Granger?"

Hermione set her jaw. "Because I owe you, Malfoy. I don't forget what I owe."

That wasn't the reason at all, and they both knew it. But for now, it would have to do; Hermione wasn't quite ready to be separated from her last link to the world that she'd lived in for the majority of her life.

In all likely-hood, they wouldn't make it over the ocean.

But it couldn't hurt to try.

Hermione took a deep breath of cold air into her lungs. She stood up from the bench, and offered him a hand up. "Do you want to come, Malfoy?"

"You ask me that like I have a fucking choice, Granger."

"Well," she grinned, "it seemed like the thing to do at the time. Come on, we need to buy out plane tickets if we want to get there before Christmas!"

Malfoy rolled his eyes at her, not even bothering to hide it. Hermione shook her head at him; she elbowed him a little hard and a lot relieved when he stood next to her to hail a cab. They didn't talk about their friends or their pasts or anything that could have hurt them. Hermione Granger and Draco Malfoy were nameless and faceless in a world where they were hunted simply for existing.

For now, it would have to do.

.

.

.

.

.

fin.