All My Life
Draco Malfoy was finally a free man and nothing captured freedom more than a ride on his Firebolt X in the countryside near his childhood home. His happiness over his newfound independence made him whoop with joy. Finally - after months of trying, pleading and negotiating - he had succeeded in dumping crazy and unstable Astoria Greengrass by giving her his posh flat in Diagon Alley and moving back to the Manor. Gifting her his home of the last four years and living with his overbearing mother again was a small sacrifice to rid himself of the harpy-like woman.
He shook his head realizing he should have listened to Blaise when he had first asked Astoria out a year and a half ago. His womanizing friend claimed Astoria's craziness exceeded her hotness by a tenfold. According to the dark wizard even a one-off with a woman like this was dangerous. But Draco had blown him off. Blaise Zabini had a million different rules when it came to women, most of them ridiculous and bordering on insane. Draco was nothing like his friend. A serial monogamist, he liked being in a relationship and yearned for a woman to spend his life with, start a family and grow old together.
Of course, that didn't mean he had been a choir boy all his life. He has had a few women over the past years but none of them were one-night stands. Brunette, beautiful and smart, Astoria had been just his type. He just hadn't counted on Blaise being right for once. Not only was she incapable of genuine selfless love, but was also possessive, controlling and devious. Over the course of their one-year relationship Astoria had secretly moved all her stuff into his flat. Draco hadn't realized she was actually living with him until it was too late. Apparently her parents had been quite happy to finally be rid of her and had changed the wards on their home as soon as all her stuff was gone. And Daphne's flat had mysteriously vanished overnight. Draco always suspected that she had put her home under the Fidelus Charm to hide from her younger sister.
Astoria had also tried scare off his friends. Telling Blaise to stop parading witch after witch in front of her fiancé had only been the beginning. Especially since Draco hadn't - nor was he ever planning to - popped the question. Just recently, she had actually threatened Pansy with dismemberment after she sent him a postcard from her honeymoon. According to Astoria, his former girlfriend was still in love with him and had only married Theo to make Draco jealous. When Pansy had pointed out that she was now actually two months pregnant with Theo's child, Astoria had only laughed and claimed that a pub owner like Theo was no match for a billionaire, pureblood stud like Draco. Pansy had promptly thrown up all over Astoria's shoes feigning morning sickness. It had also been the last straw for Draco. Pansy's unborn child - his future god-daughter or god-son - didn't need someone as unstable as Astoria threatening his mother.
Draco could feel the relief of being single again wash over him. As he made a quick dive toward the ground, he felt bad for the next poor fool to fall for Astoria. But the adrenaline surging through his body soon washed away all thoughts of the past few months. With the ground rapidly moving closer, he quickly jerked the handle of his broom upwards. He let out a small whooping sound before picking up speed again. He was now racing only inches above the ground picking up more speed every second.
While it wasn't technically part of the Manor grounds, the dirt road still belonged to his family's vast estate. He had spent many of his childhood racing along the dirt road. As a matter of fact, besides him nobody had used this road in decades. Well, at least until today. He was surprised when he saw a woman up ahead rooted to the spot and staring back at him. He was going too fast and wouldn't be able to stop in time. He quickly stirred his broom to the right to avoid hitting her.
"Let's hope this works," was his last thought as he muttered a quick cushioning charm and crashed head first into the only tree within a ten feet radius.
Hermione Granger loved everything about running. She loved how the fresh air cleared her mind,it energized her body and soul and relaxed her when she was stressed. Usually, she ran on a treadmill -never really having the time to run outside. Not that she had ever really wanted to run on the busy sidewalks of London. After all, with her terrible sense of direction she often got lost in her own neighborhood.
However, this was different. Having just moved to the country and realizing she had a rare moment to herself, Hermione had ventured outside and found a small dirt road that was seemingly abandoned. She wasn't the greatest or fastest runner and would certainly get lost soon. At least here she could apparate back home without too much danger of detection by muggles. Oh, how she just cherished the feel of the wind in her hair and the fresh air filling her lungs.
She had a lot on her mind after stumbling across an old photo album while unpacking one of the many moving boxes. She hadn't looked at it in the past five years but something compelled her to take a peek at the pictures documenting her friendship with Ron and Harry. She had to swallow her tears at that thought. Ron's betrayal still stung at times. But it was the fact that Harry had taken his side over hers that still broke her heart after all this time. Of course, she had always known that Harry would take Ron's side in case they ever broke up.
In addition, the Weasley's had been the first family where Harry felt like he belonged and it didn't help that his relationship with Ginny had been in a fragile state as well. The younger girl had been plagued by insecurities after a Rita Skeeter Tell-All book claimed Hermione and Harry had had a secret affair after Ron abandoned them during their Hocruxhunt. Choosing Hermione's side during her break-up with Ron would have been the final nail in the coffin for their relationship as well.
Of course, she had seen the many articles about her ex-boyfriend's flings following their parting, the announcement of Harry and Ginny's engagement, their marriage and finally the birth of their first child - a boy named James - the previous year. And just last month, The Daily Prophet had hailed the Minister's decision to promote Harry to be the youngest Head Auror in the history of the Ministry for Magic.
Even Ron seemed to settle down as well. According to The Daily Prophet, he has been in a serious relationship with a French witch for a few months now. Supposedly they had met when Ron visited Bill and Fleur in France. But it didn't help quelling on these things anymore. She had moved forward with her live and was generally too busy to worry about the past.
Hermione quickened her pace. So many things had changed since the end of the war six years ago. The wizarding world itself wasn't perfect but many things had changed for the better. While wizards were still clueless when it came to modern technology, muggle fashion, music and literature had slowly crept into their society. These days Diagon Alley was an eclectic mix of old and new with the younger generation sporting jeans and t-shirts instead of robes. Just recently the always loveable loopy Luna Lovegood created a t-shirt line with Slogans like "Muggleborns do it best", "Half-bloods are sexy" and "I love muggles". It was the latest rage among young wizards and witches.
Her own life was vastly different now as well. She was now a single mother. Four-year-and-half year old Sophie Ann was the love of her live and the reason she got up every morning. Hermione had worked hard at building her small accounting and business consulting firm to provide for herself and Sophie. And her hard work had finally paid off. She had recently been able to expand her business and rented a small shop for herself and her team of four - three associates and an office manager. In addition, she had saved enough for a down-payment on a cottage near her new office space and found a wonderful wizarding daycare for Sophie. Life was good even though her circle of friends had changed since the war.
After another ten minutes of running, Hermione checked her watch. She still had a lot of things on her to-do list for the day and it was already a quarter to eleven. Her parents were scheduled to drop off Sophie and Crookshanks at five, stay for dinner - take-away since Hermione's skills in the kitchen were passable at best - and then her Mom and Dad would return to their home in the London suburbs. She decided to run for another fifteen minutes. Then she would apparate home, take a shower, finish unpacking and arrange the few furniture she owned. She also needed to paint Sophie's room and shop for groceries for the week. Thinking of her busy schedule she felt a surge of relief that these things were so much easier accomplished with the help of magic.
Deep in thought, Hermione wasn't paying much attention to her surroundings and was suddenly startled by a whooshing sound approaching her from behind. She stopped and quickly turned seeing someone on a broom zooming toward her. Her eyes widened in shock as the person only just noticed her, made a quick evasive maneuver and crashed headfirst into a nearby tree.
"Please don't be dead," she muttered as she ran toward the unmoving man on the ground. "I have too much to do to spend the day being questioned about killing you."
Panicking, Hermione ran her hands over the man's body. Thanks to her experience with an active little girl, she knew some minor healing spells. However, this was beyond her knowledge and she couldn't really tell whether he was hurt or not. Turning toward his head she suddenly gasp at the familiar face and blond hair.
"Oh crap," she cursed under her breath. "Nobody will believe I killed Draco Malfoy by accident. I am definitely not getting anything done today."
"I am in heaven," Draco thought as he felt soft hands roam his body. "I've certainly died and gone to heaven."
Draco knew exactly who those dainty digits belonged to. Her voice was still familiar and her face still the one imprinted on his soul. She had influenced the kind of women Draco was attracted to. Though none of them ever measured up to this feisty brunette. Draco hadn't seen her since she testified at his trial six years ago. She had been with the Weasel then. Not that she would ever have looked at him with anything but disgust.
Draco Malfoy had loved and hated Hermione Granger equally for as long as he had known her. All throughout his time at Hogwarts, her very existence had tormented him. Torn between family and love, he had unsuccessfully tortured her verbally and tried to best her in every subject. His nights had been filled with dreams of running away with her. He would fantasize about her being a long lost pureblood heiress who had been kidnapped by evil muggles. Other times he had simply dreamt of turning on his family, joining the Order and working closely with Hermione to defeat Voldemort while slowly seducing and eventually marrying her.
However, all that had changed after his father's arrest at the end of his fifth year. Voldemort had been angry about his father's failures. He had decided to punish Lucius by threatening Narcissa's safety and making Draco a Death Eater tasking him to kill Dumbledore. The choice had been a no-brainer, even if it meant turning his back on the girl he had secretly been in love with for years.
Draco had believed his feelings for her to be long gone. But with the same impact he had hit that tree, all those feelings came rushing back. This woman was the very epitome of what he was looking for in a woman.
"Oh crap," he was surprised to hear her curse. "Nobody will believe I killed Draco Malfoy by accident. I am definitely not getting anything done today."
He wanted to open his eyes to look at her, to let her know he was alright but also didn't want her to stop touching him when he had longed to feel her skin on his own for years.
"I am alright, Granger," he finally decided to open his eyes.
He had to hold back a gasp as he looked at her. She was still as beautiful as he remembered. Her brown eyes were full of compassion, a few freckles sprinkled on her flawless skin and her wild hair tamed in a single braid. Draco noticed that quite a few curls had managed to escape and were now framing her face. He noticed her flush and for a second thought it was out of concern for him. But then he noticed her outfit. She was wearing sweatpants and an old t-shirt. With great disappointment he realized that her flushed face had been from some sort of workout rather than concern for him.
"Good," Hermione shot him a tight smile. "I just moved here. I don't think killing you would have endeared me to my new neighbors... Wait, aren't you worried about muggles seeing you fly here?"
"Muggle-repellant charms ", he perked up at hearing that Granger just moved to the area. "This is part of my family's estate. The Manor is just past those trees."
Hermione blanched as she looked toward where Draco was pointing. She couldn't be much further than two miles from her own cottage just outside of town and was already on Malfoy property. Did that make them neighbors? And how was it possible that nobody had warned her that Malfoy Manor was just a few miles from her new home - a place she had envisioned to be perfect for her daughter to grow up at.
Well, to be fair, the realtor had said that due to the magic of the nearby Stonehenge many pureblood families had settled in the area surrounding the town. She also knew that the town itself had a hidden magical part similar to Diagon Alley. After all, that's where her new office was located.
Hermione chuckled and shook off her feelings of unease. She was just being silly. After the war, Lucius Malfoy had been sentenced to life in Azkaban while Narcissa Malfoy had been pardoned after turning on Voldemort and saving Harry's life. Draco - just like many of his peers - had been sentenced to a year of community service and been declared rehabilitated at the end of that time.
"I am glad you find all this amusing," Draco tried to sound menacing. "What are you trying to do? Assassinate me and make it look like an accident? Did Potty and Weasel send you? They certainly never miss a chance to hassle me and my friends."
"Don't be silly," she responded tersely and he noticed her body stiffening slightly at the mentioning of her friends. "I am over old childhood grudges."
"Childhood grudges - very cute," his eyebrows had shot up at her words. "I don't think it's how I would describe our past... encounters. Now, all out warfare would be much more appropriate. But anyway, I am fine, thanks for asking. And don't worry, I won't report you for trespassing either. I guess it's the neighborly thing to do."
"Well," Hermione responded curtly. "Since you're fine, I have to go. I guess I'll see you around, neighbor!"
Before he could respond, Hermione had disapparated.
"Neighbor", he thought out loud staring at the spot she had stood only seconds before. "Maybe, I'll have a chance to get what I've always wanted after all."
Getting up he started making plans on how to win over Hermione Granger. With her living close by, he would certainly run into her in the village. He could easily strike up a conversation while seeing her at the bookstore. Share a drink with her while they both were at the Theo's pub and maybe even invite her to watch him play in the local Quidditch league. Oh, yes, he would finally have his chance with the girl he had always wanted.