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Blackout

Chapter Text

blackout (noun): a moment in the theater when the lights on stage are suddenly turned off. 

*

Theodore Nott had seen a lot in his twenty one years of life. Sure, most of it had been from the sidelines, where he’d remained (mostly) safe thanks to his intellect and the very cunning that got him sorted into his House, but nobody could fault him for that. After all, while snakes are able to shed their skins, Theo quite liked his exactly where it belonged—attached to him— and that required he stay out of the way of hexes and curses and Unforgivables alike. So he’d watched from the sidelines even as his father got himself killed in a stupid war that gained them nothing, his beloved school got turned to rubble, and the people he’d considered acquaintances died by the bushels while the few he considered friends barely escaped with their lives.

Yes, Theo had seen a lot. What he hadn’t expected to see on this lovely spring morning, however, was a very familiar head of bushy hair disappearing around the corner of the old-yet-charming building he’d just inherited in the artist district of Muggle London. The same head of bushy hair no one had seen a single, curly strand of for the better part of three years in Wizarding Britain.

No—it surely couldn’t be.

He hastened his step and followed like a man who owned the place (because, really, he actually did), eyes searching up and down the main road with laser focus as he caught onto the warm, fading scent of vanilla and cinnamon in the air before once again landing upon a riot of chocolate curls glinting in the sun as they disappeared through a shop door.

No, surely not.

He stopped for a moment, considering.

His intentions for his visit to Muggle London had been to inspect the block of buildings he’d inherited via his father’s business — after all, for as much as purebloods hated muggles, they sure loved their money — not to go traipsing after a shadow, but it couldn’t hurt, could it? It was his building, after all. It would be in his own self interests to investigate, surely.

If it was Hermione Granger, Theo will have finally solved one of Wizarding Britain’s biggest mysteries, or as The Daily Prophet had reported under Rita Skeeter’s megalomaniac direction of the gossip column, ‘Where Could the Wizarding World’s Golden Princess Have Disappeared To? Did She Flee to America to Forget The War & Start Over? Or To Escape A Torrid Love Affair? More on Page 7.’

And if it wasn’t Hermione Granger, then it was well within his power to ascertain what sort of… establishments and clientele frequented his new acquisitions.

It wasn’t at all that he was curious after having watched his community try to pick up the pieces in the aftermath of the second Wizarding War, nor the fact that the Golden Trio had been the focus of much of the media for months after, much of it surrounded around Granger’s sudden and largely notorious absence, no matter how much Harry Potter and Ronald Weasley tried to not-so-deftly steer the conversation away from the topic.

There were rumors in the beginning, of course, that the brightest witch of her age had left right after the Battle of Hogwarts because of a love tryst gone tragically wrong, none of which were dissuaded by the continued sightings of one Ronald Weasley happily indulging in the female attentions his newfound fame and fortune had acquired him. Everyone thought perhaps Granger had become a jilted lover, and instead of facing public scrutiny, decided to hide. But those rumors didn’t last very long, not when it turned out that Ron Weasley went and popped a ring on Lavender Brown’s finger and seemed happy to start a happy, long road towards settling down.

Mostly, the majority of witches and wizards speculated that Hermione Granger had simply just decided to lay down roots elsewhere, away from the war, the chaos, and the pain it brought, and no one blamed her for that either. There had been many who left, many who still hadn’t healed or were only just beginning to, slowly returning to homes they had abandoned so as to allow them a chance to pick up the pieces. Granger would have just been one of those emotional casualties of war, and she had earned her right to disappear; if she ever chose to return, she would find herself in a position of immense influence and the public’s good graces as was befitting of the brains of the operation behind the golden trio. Brains that were partly (if not mostly) the reason why the Wizarding World was safe and Theodore Nott was able to walk down a Muggle London street free, rather than having been stuck in a cell in Azkaban for taking a dark mark he hadn’t wanted to begin with. Or worse, dead.

It was, perhaps, this unspoken and begrudging gratitude to the swotty little Gryffindor that sent Theo walking quickly down the sidewalk rather than moving on from the momentary distraction, having decided that, if it was Hermione Granger, and if she had chosen to remove herself but wasn’t all the way across the pond in the states, the least he could do was check on her well being from the shadows if not necessarily openly offer his word of thanks. After all, Theo was just as inquisitive as the witch in question, and observing is what he did best.

He slowed his pace as he approached the door, however, taking in the sign. He’d expected the place to be a semi-seedy bar, but instead found himself faced with a see-through door with a giant decal that depicted a quaint little figure on a window sill, a hot cup of something in one hand and a book in the other, surrounded by the words Turn a Leaf, Tea & Bookshop. And there, just past the glass door and sunny bay window stood Hermione Granger, unhurriedly going about doning a pristine white apron while shoving her mess of curls out from under the apron collar, merrily making idle chit chat with a small, blond girl standing behind the counter who looked to be about seventeen.

Theo blinked. There she was, the Golden Princess looking for all the world as if she… well, as if she lived in another world. She looked happy, relaxed and unhurried in her movements as she went about placing some books on one of the coffee tables just so, no doubt to entice the soon to enter crowd of tea and coffee drinkers to casually browse them, leading to a sale.

He blinked again. As if on cue, both women turned their attention to the outside, having spotted him standing dumbly by the door staring. He felt a minor yet uncharacteristic flush of heat working its way up his collar and decided that well, if he’d been busted, he might as well find out as much as he could, readying himself for Granger’s famous brand of verbal onslaught. She had never been known for liking Slytherins much. The doorbell jingled merrily above him as he pulled the door open, and just when he thought this was all a really bad idea, the subject of his bemusement gave him a bright, welcoming smile devoid of any sort of recognition.

“Welcome to Turn a Leaf,” she greeted, smoothing her hands down her apron, “we just opened, but if there’s anything in specific you’d like us to prepare for you?”

Granger pointed towards a wall where a row of weird metal contraptions and shelves of neatly labeled jars of tea leaves sat, brows rising slightly in anticipation. It took him a second, but he covered it by tipping his head courteously as he shrugged himself out of his coat.

“Darjeeling, please,” he answered. “Milk, no sugar.”

He lifted his head to look at her and if he was surprised that he’d stumbled upon a Granger who didn’t seem to recognize him, the fact that she bounced to go prepare him tea with a kind smile and chirpy attitude in the most uncharacteristically-Granger move he’d ever seen solidified his suspicions in his head.

Granger, who had spent six years in the same school as he, several of which found her on occasion partnered with him during lessons, didn’t seem to remember a single hair on Theodore Nott’s head. And just as that thought crossed his mind, another followed on its heels:

Wait until Malfoy hears of this.

****

Draco Malfoy was nursing a hangover from hell, and not even the supple lips around his cock nor the obviously faked moans coming from underneath the sheets could make the act of waking up any better. Sure, the feeling in the general vicinity of his crotch was… nice, in a sloppy, crude kind of way, but it did nothing to lessen his headache and the exaggerated moaning did everything to worsen it.

He groaned, and the bint underneath the sheets whose face he couldn’t even recall this early in the morning took the sound for encouragement, redoubling her efforts and making the matter of waking up much, much worse. He would have groaned again in exasperation, but Merlin knew how that would have ended, so instead he huffed and shoved the sheets off him and his one night stand roughly, grabbing her by the shoulders and flipping her to the side with a hissed ‘be quiet’ before throwing his arm over his eyes and praying to Salazar she’d do as she was told.

He sighed, listening to the sounds of said lay huffing and puffing her way out of bed and stomping around the hotel room he seemed to spend most of his life in nowadays, collecting her clothes in a right hissy fit. What had been her name again? He thought as the door slammed, making him wince. Shae, Sheila? She-something? Obviously her name had been as forgettable as the sex.

Pity, really. At least her mouth hadn’t been awful. If she’d only just kept her overenthusiastic garbled bleating to a minimum, he might have even let her finish the job and enjoyed it. At least there was silence now.

That silence was quickly broken by the incessant tap-tap-tap at the window. Draco, who was half asleep already, rolled over and covered his head with a pillow in hopes whatever was out there would be as easy to drive away as what’s-her-name if ignored long enough. Unlike last night’s notch on his bed, however, the bird outside was much more patient and even more demanding. It only knocked its beak harder on the glass, the noise drilling into Draco’s skull.

Tap-tap-tap.

He buried his head deeper into his mattress.

Tap-tap-tap.

“Go away, you bloody bird.” Draco groaned, shoving his pillow hard against his ears with his hands and refusing to face the world.

TAP-TAP-TAP.

“ALRIGHT! Al-right, I’m coming you oversized feather duster—” he barked, throwing the pillow at the window, only for the black owl outside to stare right back at him, unflinching and unimpressed. He got up from the bed naked as the day he was born and yanked the windows open, hissing at the light pouring in. It was the Nott owl, and Theo better have a good damn reason to be waking him up at this ungodly hour—

He looked over at the mantel, where a Muggle alarm clock informed him that it not only was not bloody early in the morning, it was also well past noon. Draco pinched his nose, squinting harder as the Nott owl primly stuck its claw out towards him and stared him down, demanding he retrieve his message because apparently this owl had more important things to do than delivering mail to oversleeping drunkards.

The bit of parchment was barely the length of a knuckle, and only wide enough to contain one sentence:

Meet me at home as soon as you get this. - T. Nott

Draco scowled at Nott’s bird, but before he could even tell it to stay there while he went looking for a treat, the owl blinked at him and took to the skies, seemingly satisfied in having done its job, ensuring the message was read, and not wanting to waste a second longer on him. Bloody owl. Draco reread the single sentence and scowled harder. His temples throbbed and while his mouth tasted of arse—God, he really hoped he hadn’t fallen that far with some bint he couldn’t even remember; he hoped really hard it was just the combined stale taste of alcohol and morning breath instead—his throat felt like he was grating sandpaper down it every time he swallowed. The last thing he wanted was an impromptu meeting.

Still, Theodore Nott was not only a good business ally, he also happened to be one of Draco’s best friends, one of his only friends, and leaving him waiting would not only be impolite but a slap in the face to the man who had come running any time Draco needed him. So, with another grunt and his head swimming, Draco found himself and downed a vial of Pepper-Up potion he kept safely tucked in his now-discarded dress robes, took the fastest shower known to man, dug around in a closet full of dress shirts he’d brought over from the Manor—really, he should just buy the hotel suite and call it good. He certainly seemed to spend more time in it than at home—and disapparated.

He didn’t even manage to get his feet fully planted on the deep burgundy carpet under him when Theo, head hidden behind a fresh copy of The Prophet, greeted him without looking up by asking:

“Guess who I found this morning?”

Draco’s lids twitched. He may no longer have a handover but if this was the reason he was called away so quickly, he swore on his magic he would—

Theo continued, not even bothering to turn his head. “Hermione Granger, of all people.”

Silence. It took Draco a full thirty seconds to process that sentence, stunned to utter silence. That finally made Theo look up, a small smirk on his face that quickly disappeared into a press of thin, hard lips.

“Wow, Malfoy. You look like absolute shit.”

“I beg your pardon?”

Theo inspected him, noting the differences as only a friend of long years could. His hair was still damp, disheveled from a quick run of fingers through it out of the shower that usually gave him a devil may care nonchalance to his absurdly good looks and dropped knickers left and right, but that coupled with hints of leftover dark circles, dry lips and a pallid complexion from alcohol abuse not even a Pepper-Up potion could quite erase, made Draco Malfoy look more haggard than handsome. Oh, he did a well enough job of hiding it behind tasteful cologne and absurdly expensive, finely tailored suits and robes, and few women would dare point out the discrepancies in the usually dashing, stupidly attractive wizard when the galleons started flashing, but Theo knew better. And Draco knew that Theo knew better. Which was irritating.

“What was her name?”

“I don’t see how that’s any of your business,” Draco’s head jerked slightly, the preternatural picture of pureblood arrogance. Theo snorted.

“Oh, come off it. Who was she?”

At this Draco’s face shifted. It was hardly worth the row, really. When he huffed and let himself plop rather unceremoniously onto one of Theo’s high backed chairs, Theo grinned and relaxed. They were back to their Slytherin Common Room days like this. Just two chaps talking about every man’s favorite subjects: women and sex.

“I don’t remember, actually.” he admitted, and Theo shook his head, the smirk widening.

“Of course you don’t.” Theo quipped, returning to his newspaper and biding his time. “Was she a good lay at least?”

“Hardly worth the trouble,” Draco said, eyes traveling to the door as a mousy, quiet maid walked in balancing a tea tray. He let his eyes slowly rake down her figure. She was pretty. Gorgeous, really, even in her demure and downright conservative uniform, svelte despite her petite frame, with pretty eyes and beautiful dark brown wisps of hair framing her face. Draco felt something stirring in his stomach, only to be cut short by a warning that was more growl than human speech.

“Don’t even think about it,” Theo hissed at him, snapping his newspaper closed to hide the warning from the maid’s ears before turning to her with the hints of a soft smile as she approached and gently set the tray down. “Thank you, Sophie. That’ll be all. I will be serving Mr. Malfoy.”

The maid, Sophie, gave Theo a confused yet mildly exasperated look that informed everyone in the room she thought Theo should just let her do her job, since that’s what she’d been hired to do, but she nodded her head in subservient acquiesce nonetheless, unable to hide the way her lips lifted slightly at the corners no matter how hard she tried. She left as quietly as she’d arrived. It was as though her being a mute also translated to her every other action. If Draco hadn’t known any better, he would have thought Theo’s help was a ghost.

“You should stop ogling the help,” Theo said as calmly as possible, but where Theo knew Draco, so did he know his best friend. Draco smirked.

“You should grow a pair of bollocks and finally tell her how you feel.”

“And you should stop sleeping around with every slag you find,” Theo fired back, hands perfectly steady as he poured Draco’s tea despite the edge in his voice.

Draco’s smirk widened, but he remained silent. Just as his friend was scooping in a third spoonful of sugar into the cup, turning the drink less into tea and more into a tooth rotting concoction, Theo continued. “She’s a muggle.”

Draco kept his mouth shut. They’d had this argument a billion times. Nott had no problem with muggles, not really. Not in the way Draco had, once upon a time. But he was adamant in keeping his feelings for his maid quietly to himself. Last time Draco had pushed him on the issue, he’d been tersely informed that Theo refused to bring somebody so innocent and so vulnerable into the hellhole that had become his life after the war, ensnaring her in the trappings of a life as the partner of a former Death Eater, and Draco should well know where to shove his opinions if he didn’t like it. That was two years ago, though, and still Theo kept eyeing Sophie with pure, naked longing, and Draco kept rolling his eyes and waiting for his friend to do something about it.

“Anyway,” Theo said, “I hardly called you here so you could try and be quippy and a wisecrack. I called you here because I found myself in the unusual circumstance of running into Hermione Granger today.”

Ah, yes. That’s right. That’s what he’d been called here for. The image of another petite, svelte brunette with a button nose and pretty eyes came to mind, though this one came with a huge mane of uncontrollable curls and a far less friendly attitude towards him than Sophie had ever had. Draco feigned disinterest.

He inspected his fingernails. “So, she’s returned. Big deal. What about that could possibly require that I drag myself to your home on such short notice?”

It was Theo’s turn this time to wear a malevolent smirk.

“She hasn’t.”

“She hasn’t, what?” Draco said, taking a sip of his tea and grabbing The Prophet from the coffee table, making a show of deliberately flicking it open to the sports section instead of scanning the front page where Hermione bloody Granger’s return would surely be plastered in big, bold letters.

“Returned.” Theo sipped from his tea, watching him closely, and Draco’s face itched where Theo inspected him for any signs of a physical response.

“Oh?”

“She was in Muggle London.”

“Huh.” Draco answered dispassionately, scanning the quidditch weekly wins without really seeing. Really, he didn’t care where Hermione bloody Granger was, or why she’d come back at all. He had long ago doused that small torch and couldn’t possibly fathom why this called such a rushed meeting. “Is that all? I didn’t take you for a gossip, Nott, get to the point.”

“She didn’t know who I was.”

That made Draco look up.

“Not the faintest idea,” Theo said, for a moment looking baffled himself while he set his tea aside and crossed his ankles, leaning forward as if to whisper the biggest of secrets. “I walked into the store she works at—which I apparently am the landlord of now by the way, did you know that? My father seems to have amassed quite the bit of real estate in Muggle London—and there she was, all bright eyed and bushy tailed and nary a clue as to who I was as she offered me tea.”

Draco blinked, unable to or, really, rather unsure of how to process this information. Then, Theo sat back as though he hadn’t dropped the biggest revelation of the century into Draco’s lap and resumed sipping his drink with a wave of a hand.

“Anyway, that’s neither here nor there, interesting as it may be,” his friend said, “the reason why my message was so rushed, Malfoy, is actually business. I am looking to sell a large percentage of the real estate I just acquired, as I have no actual interest in expanding my business into rental and dealing with landlord duties, but I am aware Malfoy Holdings operates quite heavily in Muggle London. As a friend, I rushed you here so as to offer you a chance to make a bid before anyone else.”

Right, thought Draco, and pigs could fly on broomsticks. He would eat his Slytherin tie if this didn’t have something to do with Granger. Still, it had been Theo who initiated business talk, so he straightened himself and much like his friend switched from Slytherin Common Room banter to CEO of the family company, rearranging the cufflinks on his shirt.

“And your baseline price?” Draco asked, slipping into negotiation mode. Theo smiled.

“I haven’t established one. Yet.”

Draco frowned. “Where in Muggle London?”

“The artist district. A soon to be affluent area, as it usually happens with any place that thrives under artistic influence.” Theo explained, clearing away the china with a wave of the hand though The Prophet remained curiously folded on the edge of the table, front page facing up. There were no big, bold letters printed about the Golden Girl’s return on it.

“You must surely know I would need to inspect it thoroughly, then, before offering anything.” Draco tipped his head slightly sideways, considering even as the words escaped his lips.

While Nott Industries dealt mostly in Wizarding London, manufacturing and selling potions under the watchful eye of Theodore Nott, who had not only turned out to be an unparalleled business man but also an accomplished master potioneer for his age, Malfoy Holdings had its eggs in all sorts of baskets: finance, retail, quite a lot of money-lending to Gringotts, which is how most of the Malfoy galleons had been made over the last seven centuries on the interest alone, and, in a much smaller capacity, investing into up and coming muggle businesses. With money and a little bit of inconspicuous magical help in the form of easing their way (real estate, never ending funds, a plethora of business connections, ease of access to stock that seemed to never quite run dry from the suppliers, and discrete charms on posters here and there to help attract a buyer’s eye), these businesses would thrive, and so would Malfoy Holdings’ coffers.

And if there was one thing Draco had learned when he’d taken over the family business, it was that real estate, whether in the magical world or in its muggle counterpart, was expensive. Especially in its muggle counterpart. A few more buildings to grow into wouldn’t be such a bad idea. Malfoys were as adept at making money as the Weasleys were at making babies, and Draco’s inherited eye for potential was definitely something he thanked his father for, even if it had taken him a while to grow into it.

Not that it mattered, in Theo’s friendly opinion, because his friend had watched Draco do two things in life the last two years: make money hand over fist and spend it with just as much enthusiasm on alcohol and whores in the face of having nothing better to do. Draco knew this, and that’s why he couldn’t shake the feeling that this had more to do with his childhood nemesis than it ever did with a business transaction. But he kept quiet nonetheless as Theo smiled wider and nodded pleasantly at Draco’s demand that he view the merchandise before even considering dropping a single knut.

“Excellent,” Theo said.

As if summoned telepathically, Sophie returned, all petite frame and cute eyes. A silent reminder if Draco had ever seen any. He scowled. Theo smiled wider. Sneaky snake.

“Let me give you the address,” the snake that is his best friend said, magicking a roll of parchment and writing it down as Sophie collected the china and tray and just as quietly made her way out. Though not before giving Draco a cute little smile that said, without words, that Draco had just walked into a trap and she knew it, and he knew it, and there was nothing he could do about it because if Draco had a single downfall, it was his curiosity. Draco mused that even if Sophie was a muggle, Theo’s Slytherin tendencies must be rubbing off on her and his friend should just grow a fucking pair and declare his undying love already.

Yes. Thinking about that kept him from thinking about Granger. Not that it slowed him down any, for as soon as he read the address on the piece of parchment Theo had passed him, he disapparated from the Nott living room with a loud crack and straight into Muggle London.

Chapter Text

Draco materialized in the secluded alley designated as an apparition point two streets over from his destination, looking around before quickly transfiguring his expensive outer wizard robes into an equally expensive looking peacoat, turning up the collar against the wind before stepping into the light. He made brisk business of walking down the two streets, his long legs carrying him closer with surprising speed, though hardly any faster than the sudden thundering inside his chest as his heartbeat tried to outpace him.

He told himself it was only mild intrigue that had made him jump to apparate here, and again when he turned the corner onto the block of buildings Theo had marked as his potential purchase. He would have liked to lie and say that he spent a very long time scouting the area, inspecting the block, running magical diagnostics on the building foundations, and contacting a third party for a second opinion, but Draco Malfoy did none of that. Instead he allowed his burgeoning curiosity and no small amount of tremulous fear mingling with excitement to lead him by the nose straight to the picturesque little door of Turn A Leaf, Tea & Bookshop, and the current working place of his equally infuriating childhood nemesis and painfully secret teenage crush.

He stood across the street, tucked out of view a little to the side as he surveyed the entrance from the corner, and took a second to check in with himself as to why he was being so unusually daft and reckless. He tried to come up with excuses. Really, he did. But he couldn’t really think of any other than the fact that Theo had very skillfully dropped a mystery in his lap and Draco was weak. So instead of taking the time to scout the area, inspect the block, run magical diagnoses and seek a second opinion, Draco squared his shoulders and crossed the street. If Theo had the right of it, he should be able to walk into that store and not be recognized.

Not that he believed it, really. Perhaps Granger had simply been pulling Theo’s leg. The urge to find out, however, was maddening, so he allowed himself the small moment of daftness and recklessness as he opened the door to the little bookshop and was greeted by the tinkling bell announcing his arrival.

No one looked up. The place, in fact, already had several patrons perusing the shelves and sipping coffee, and by now there were buyers both at what Draco spied to be a coffee counter and the till, and the heart stopping moment of recognition he thought would arrive never came to pass. He took in a deep breath and shrugged out of his transfigured peacoat, draping it over his arm, eyes pinned to the counters as he walked in. He inched closer to one of the stacks, feeling both childish and moderately creepy at skulking about, then stupid at allowing himself—a full grown man, Merlin blast it—to even feel that way, when the breath was very promptly knocked out of his lungs.

It took exactly two movements and three seconds: a blonde girl with pink tipped hair and funny piercings yet the lightest, brightest voice he’d ever heard turned around with an even brighter smile and called out a patron’s name, coffee mug in hand, making said patron reach forward to grab it. That movement left a gap in his line of sight where he saw the second patron paying for their books with a flashy grin before retreating, completely clearing said line of sight for him, and on the third second, there she was.

Hermione Granger, swottiest girl to ever exist, brightest witch of her age and the most infuriating, brilliant muggleborn Draco Malfoy had ever had the displeasure of intellectually competing against in school, savior of the wizarding community and overall beloved of anyone and everyone with a pair of eyes to them and a healthy sense of gratitude, was giving a happy wave to the back of the retreating customer before pushing her hair behind her ear and calling for the next one in line.

Hermione Granger. Hermione Granger looking happy, healthy, and generally blissfully oblivious to the fact that her childhood tormentor stood not twenty steps away, staring in the most undignified manner. His father would have already smacked him on the head for the indiscretion, had his father been outside the cell he’d been rotting in for the last three years.

At the reminder of Lucius Malfoy and the painful swats he used to deliver along with chiding him about all of the ways a Malfoy never behaved, Draco cleared his throat lightly and straightened his shoulders, pulling himself up to his full height of six feet two and rolling his jaw before schooling his expression into one of casual innocence. He grabbed the closest book to his hand without even glancing at the title and fell in line at the cashier, feeling both like his stomach was housing a block of ice and a hoard of nervous butterflies as she promptly and graciously took care of one customer and called up the other, leaving a single person in front of him as his shield before it would be his turn. He resisted the urge to wet his lips nervously and fidget. Malfoys did not fidget, and they most certainly did not go displaying their nerves.

His shield left too soon. Give it to her to be so… proficient at literally everything, including running a bloody till. He felt like he might vomit, because this had been a really stupid idea, and even if she couldn’t recognize Theo, well, Theo hadn’t really interacted with her outside of usually very civil yet rare class exchanges, giving her no reason to maintain ill memories of him if any at all. Draco, however, had very much made himself a fixture of the worst kind in the witch’s life for longer than he cared to remember without cringing. He certainly would be recognized.

“Next!”

Hearing Granger’s voice after three whole years was like being doused with a bucket of cold water. Merlin, this was a bad idea. Draco had prided himself in growing up and becoming less twitchy than he’d been as a teenager. He prided himself in surviving the war, even if a lot of it meant staying out of the public eye’s notice and enduring the sneers when he had been forced to be in it, and he prided himself in having developed a really, really thick skin as a result. But Draco’s experiences had also sharpened his sense of self preservation, and walking into this shop willingly without a plan was not only a stupidly Gryffindor thing to do, something which would make his mother faint and his father probably disown him if he’d still had the power to do so, but also just really, really against every shred of self preservation he possessed.

It was too late to stop now.

He stepped up to the counter and placed his book on it, immediately searching for his wallet where he kept his muggle currency and his muggle cards, shoulders tense while he waited for Granger to utter his name with loathing or indifference or—

“One Thousand and One Flower Meanings,” she said, grabbing the book and scanning the bar code with an indulgent grin. “Flower enthusiast? I could suggest you a few others that would be helpful.” Her voice sounded so… open. He looked up to find her giving him a cheerful, friendly smile, head dipped to the side and brows raised, clever eyes completely devoid of mocking, distaste or recognition. Bloody fuck, Nott had been right.

That, or she was a really good actress. His lids lowered for a fraction of a second and he managed to stop himself from blinking at her like a confused mooncalf before he focused on the book in her dainty hand.

“I—er…” a flower book? Really, Malfoy?! “I, thanks, yes. I would appreciate those. I like flowers.”

I like flowers?

I like flowers.

What kind of blathering nonsense—

He was completely unprepared for all this. Granger, however, simply nodded and turned to her companion, who had just cleared up the coffee counter and was neatly rearranging mugs while stealing glances at the pair of them.

“Toni, would you mind terribly watching the till for a moment? There are a few books I’d like to procure for Mister…”

Shit. SHIT.

“Oh. It’s Mal—...Mallory.” he cleared his throat. “Drake Mallory.”

Drake had been his mother’s pet name for him as a child, and Mallory the name of an old client of Malfoy Holdings. Surely he could remember that. Sweet Circe, the longer he spent in this place the sillier he felt, as if all the charm, manners and suave posturing inculcated into him since birth had flown all out the window.

Then again, this Hermione Granger had yet to give him a single clue as to whether she recognized him or not as she placed a quick gentle pat on his arm for him to follow after coming around the counter. “Follow me, Mister Mallory. Toni, if you’d please?”

Toni the coffee girl gave Granger a thumbs up and switched positions behind the counter, watching them go.

“So,” Granger started, leading them away towards the curiously secluded back stacks labeled Reference Books where Draco was sure he was about to be accosted once Granger finally dropped her act, “which books have you already read on flowers?”

She trailed a finger down the books, gently tapping book spines as she went and head swinging high and low from side to side as she inspected titles, never once turning to him or making to pull a wand out of her sleeve. Draco felt for his in the inner lining of his jacket just in case, but he couldn’t tear his eyes away from the messy lion mane bouncing with Granger’s every step.

He did nervously lick his lips this time, and couldn’t give a fig about who saw him, not that anyone could. Where were his moves and his carefully cultivated air of charisma? He was starting to feel so… so… When he took too long to answer, Granger looked over her shoulder and gave him an encouraging smile. Draco caught the light glinting in her eyes and once more idly remembered why he found them beautiful. Almond shaped and rimmed with thick, dark lashes, enigmatic with a shade of brown that should have been boring but on her simply seemed warm, and holding a glint of perpetual astuteness, Granger’s stupid eyes were beautiful and he had to force himself to look away.

He had buried that torch a long time ago.

Instead he looked at some of the books on the shelves, breathing in slowly and as inconspicuous as he could.

“I haven’t, actually. I’m ah… a novice,” he said, shoving his hands in his pockets. “At the flower thing, I mean.”

Why couldn’t he have picked up a book on sports? Those, at least, he could well wing his way through even if they were muggle sports. Men and women grunting and hitting each other in various forms of competition were much more familiar territory to him than botany and its significance.

“Oh!” Granger turned around, giving her hands a light clap in front of her chest while regarding him with newfound curiosity. “A budding new interest! Well, why didn’t you say that first, Mister Mallory. Here.”

And with that said she went about pulling book after book from the shelves, crouching for some and having to do a ridiculously adorable little hop for others, determined to grab them herself before plunking them in his arms rather than ask him to retrieve them for her, never giving him odd looks or showing any sign that she knew who she was addressing at all as she chattered away with excitement that bordered on zeal. Had he been anybody else, he would have openly gaped.

Instead he dutifully carried all his soon to be new books about flowers to the counter as she led him back through, watched her the whole time she animatedly kept telling him about how curious and fascinating it was to truly learn about these things, such an old, lost passion in society; because really who would have guessed that while carnations in general meant fascination and womanly love, light red carnations meant admiration but dark red meant deep love, and such information might come in handy, and what if somebody were silly enough to gift one when their intention was to express the other sentiment?

Well, at least one thing had become apparent to Draco Malfoy. Whether she was pulling his mickey or had truly lost her memories, Hermione Granger hadn’t lost her swotty disposition.

“—And if you need anything else, or any other reference books, you know where to find me.” she finished, finally bagging up the 15th book and holding out the handles of the paper bags for him to grab onto, a kind grin still plastered on her face. Her words finally gave him the opening he needed.

“I certainly will, ah— I’m sorry, I didn’t catch your name.”

“Hermione,” she said cheerily, “Hermione Granger. I’m the owner.”

Well, that was certainly a new development. His brows rose and he looked from Granger to Toni the Coffee Girl.

“Really?” he asked.

“Yeah,” Granger gave him a sheepish yet proud smile. “It’ll be our first year here. We used to be across the river, but when I finally moved out of my parents’ home and into one of the flats here, it made sense to relocate the shop. Shorter commute,” she laughed.

And that was all the hint Draco truly needed that Granger really didn’t recognize him at all. She had never lived with her parents long enough to move out, per se, like any other normal muggle. Her life had been spent at Hogwarts. He ran his tongue across the inside of his teeth to keep from saying something stupid then nodded, finally managing to dreg up some of his usual debonair airs as he let the right corner of his mouth tilt up in a minute smile and his shoulders relaxed.

“I see.”

He heard a soft happy sigh escape from Toni the Coffee Girl at the motion and felt his confidence buoy, moving forward to grab the handles of Granger’s proffered bags to take possession of the books he had just spent a small fortune on.

“Well, then, Miss Granger,” he continued, finally allowing himself the boldness of looking her in her eyes for a prolonged moment and for once directing an actual, honest smile at her. “I will be sure to call on you should I need any more reference books.”

Granger nodded at him and her smile widened further, because by God, but he’d probably just dropped her usual day’s worth of earnings in one go, and gave him the same wave of parting she’d given her last customer. He tipped his head goodbye in hers and Toni the Coffee Girl’s direction, turned, and started to make his way out as calmly as he could force his limbs to, but not before hearing the younger woman let out a contented, dreamy sigh and whisper,

“Fuck, he’s hot!”

“Toni!” Granger hissed back in alarm, but he still heard a soft embarrassed chuckle bordering on a giggle that he recognized as one she’d often given around Weasel and Potter. This time his continued swagger on his way out was very much real and very much him.

Draco listened to the jingle of the bell ringing again as he left and as soon as he was across the street and out of prying eyes in a small alley, he shrunk down the bags and shoved them into the inside pocket of his jacket, then walked at lightning speed to the apparition point with singular focus. He had hardly stepped into the magical barrier blocking the view from muggles when he disapparated with a pop, landing right back on Theo’s carpet.

“I’ll buy the buildings.” he announced, finally finding the second he needed to transfigure the peacoat back into his proper robes.

Theo, somehow managing to look both startled at his sudden appearance and entirely unsurprised, raised both eyebrows and stared at him from a stack of potion ingredient notes he’d been writing adjustments on.

“I haven’t even named a price.” Theo said, gently placing his quill down and looking up at his friend, containing the smirk that was dying to come out like a champion while Draco ran his fingers through his hair quickly, adjusted his sleeves, fiddled with his cuffs, and generally fidgeted.

“Just owl me one when you do. Don’t bother putting out a sale notice.” Draco finally looked at Theo, the intensity of his light grey eyes making them flash silver with a sudden clarity Theo hadn’t seen in them for years. “I’ll arrange for a transfer to your Gringotts account once you’re ready. It’s been good doing business with you, mate.”

Theo nodded and mutely stuck out his hand, Draco taking it and giving it the hard shake of a business transaction completed, and watched his friend disapparate once more. Finally, finally, when he was sure sound wouldn’t carry through with Draco’s apparition, he tipped his head back and let himself enjoy a hearty chuckle.

It’s been good doing business, indeed. Not only had Draco Malfoy the businessman handed him the equivalent of a blank check to name his price, but his friend had finally found something worth investing himself in. He shook his head and returned to his notes, smiling as he heard the sound of Sophie opening the door to bring him yet another warm cup of tea.

Idly, he wondered how that meeting had gone. Perhaps one day he’d ask.

Chapter Text

Draco had been pacing for the better part of twenty minutes now, only stopping long enough to look at the rather large-to-him collection of flower books he had no idea what to do with all scattered on the rumpled sheets of his hotel bed, eyes twitching, before he resumed his pacing.

Thirty minutes ago he had closed a rather rash business deal with Theodore Nott.

Forty minutes ago he had been watching Hermione Granger enthusiastically educating him about the same flowers he now owned way too many books about, and wondering how on earth she had ended up in Muggle London with no recollection of who she was talking to.

Fifty five minutes or so ago he’d been shoving some chick whose name nor face could he recall off his dick while nursing the biggest hangover of his life before Theo had so rudely interrupted his wallowing, and exactly an hour and two minutes ago, if somebody had told him that he would have potentially just made the stupidest purchase of his life on the chance that he’d be able to peel back the layers of Granger’s sudden disappearance, he would have laughed in their face and sent them running.

Draco made another circuit around the rug before once more stopping in front of the bed, staring at the books. This was lunacy. Yes, it was lunacy, but he couldn’t get her off his mind.

He picked up the closest book to him, looking at it with narrowed eyes and a small sneer on his lips, but all he could come up with instead of derision was a mental image of Granger, hopping valiantly on her tippy toes to try and grab it off the shelf. He narrows his eyes further, glaring at the bright purple illustration of hyacinths on the cover as if they contained answers but receiving none. The tap-tap-tap-ing of an owl’s beak at the window broke him away from his one sided staring match.

The Nott owl waited patiently while he set the book aside and went to open the window, staring at him with the same level of disdain it had earlier in the day as it haughtily shoved its claw out at him, dropping the large envelope into Draco’s waiting hands. By the weight, Draco knew what it was. A contract. He carefully opened up the envelope and fished out the pages within. Theodore Nott was a thorough man; there was a personal note to him that read:

Malfoy,

Thank you for visiting my humble home on such short notice today. As always, it is a pleasure doing business with you. Enclosed you will find copies of the purchasing agreement for the block you’ve agreed to purchase, with the listed addresses that will now belong to you as well as all relevant property deed information you may need and any other further stipulations. As a friend, I am offering you the lowest sum I can take for the lot; I do hope you find it to be reasonable.

Draco, in fact, thought that the price was utterly outrageous, but he personally trusted Theo not to royally screw him over, so he continued on reading.

You will also find copies of the blueprints, magicked to fit inside this piece of mail. Should you have any questions I will be happy to pass on any and all further information that may be sitting within the Nott Industries vaults, though you’ll find that there is not much there. These were purchased by my father, but little was done with them outside of simple housing and a few locales. If anything, it can serve as passive income until you figure out what you’d like to do with them. Once your signature is across all copies, if you’d be so kind to stop doing one of the two things I suppose you’re doing right now (freaking out about Granger or out on the town looking for the next notch on your rather expansive set of bedposts)—

Draco could almost hear Theo snorting at this, but kept reading on, lips pursed. Malfoys did not freak out.

—please ensure a copy is mailed to my home and a third to Gringotts with your transfer for safekeeping.

Now, as a mate, I am also aware that the biggest reason you jumped to this was not entirely because the location is prime business real estate—which even I, a potioneer, can inform you is very much a fantastic deal; the rent alone on those three buildings will skyrocket within a handful of years—but because you have found something that intrigued you as it intrigued me. I do not blame you for this. We are and will always continue to be, after all, the snakes we’ve always been. Looking out for our own self-interests is in our nature. And I do so hope, dear friend, that this new interest proves to be good for you.

Always,

T. Nott

Draco pulled out the remaining items in the envelope, rolling his eyes when a pen fell into his hand with which to sign. He was torn between laughing and scowling as he spread out the documents on the coffee table and sat back on the couch, staring at them. Nott’s owl remained placidly at the window, following his every move.

Well, Theo wasn’t wrong, really. He gave the documents a cursory read then quickly signed with graceful, elongated letters with the pen provided, grabbing his wand and rolling up his copy, making it disappear with a soft pop into his own vaulted safe at the Manor. A second copy was sent to the goblins to await his appearance for his seal and signature on the massive transfer of galleons into the Nott account, and the third was stuffed back into the envelope with the pen for Theo. But not before Draco wrote his own note with a grimace on his face.

It was much shorter than Nott’s:

Thank you for your promptness with the documents. The price is fine. I have arranged things as you requested. It’s always good doing business with Nott Industries.

—Draco Malfoy.

P.S: Piss off. You can talk to me about Granger when you finally get up off your ass and talk to Sophie. Deal? Also, we’re going out for drinks with Blaise next week. Pencil it in.

He handed the whole thing to the owl which, if owls could sniff, would have given him the most uppity of sniffs, but instead only blinked its big yellow eyes at him down its beak as it primly stuck its claw out and waited for him to tie up its new delivery. It took off into the skies before Draco could even say thank you.

He shook his head and returned to the book he’d been holding, thinking about Theo’s words to him. He could go on forever telling himself that he wasn’t interested in whatever was happening here beyond passing curiosity (however morbid it was in how quickly it had developed), or he could be the snake he’d always been. Yes, he wanted to know more about why Granger was somehow hiding away right under their noses without her memories more than anything, but a much quieter part of him wondered what it would be like to get to know a different Granger. What she would be like without their awful history impeding communication. He had seen a hint of it that afternoon, and he would be a bigger fool to deny that he’d gotten drunk off it, because he had, and that’s how he’d ended up in this particular situation.

So with a deep breath and a wave of his wand, he sent fourteen books flying until they stacked themselves neatly on the bedside tables, then opened the one he held to the glossary and began to read. If he wanted to be able to talk to Granger and begin to unravel the mystery, he had a lot of reading about flowers to cram in.

****

Two and a half weeks later and Draco hadn’t had a single drop of alcohol.

Well, not true. He’d gone out to drinks with Theo and Blaise, then spent the evening not only being ribbed by Blaise for his lack of interest in looking at much less chasing any pretty skirt that passed by, but also having to endure Theo’s amused side eye whenever Draco tried to sneak away via a weak excuse, the former being well aware that the real reason Draco wanted to leave was because he had more reading to do.

Which was impressive to Theo, really, because not only could he not possibly understand how Draco Malfoy had been roped into attempting to become a flower expert overnight, but the towheaded prince charming hadn’t even really finished a single firewhiskey that night. He’d instead put a nipple on his and nursed it for what it was worth, diverting Blaise’s attempts to get him to look at that gorgeous little redhead in a skimpy dress making her way towards the bar by offering to pay for the next round he wouldn’t be drinking from himself.

Aside from that single night, though? Not a drop. Draco had been far too busy staying home with his nose buried in books, somehow finding himself curious, then interested, then totally mystified and gripped by this weirdly complex world of flowers and meanings, of planting zones and fertile soils, and a million things he could have hardly given two flying hippogriffs about two weeks ago, but now went so far as to consider contacting Neville Longbottom about for his expertise.

On one such night, he lounged on his bed with his book and wondered with pursed lips if giving his mother the task of replanting all the Manor flower beds wouldn’t just do the trick in bringing her out of her shell a little more, so long as he participated and showered her with his newfound enthusiasm. It hadn’t even really registered to him that he hadn’t slept with a single person in fifteen days, and he didn’t miss it. He was too busy thinking about how he would approach Granger next, and if he should perhaps contact somebody about the princess’s whereabouts. Surely somebody would want to know where she is?

But the thought of reaching out to Potter made him immensely uncomfortable no matter how hard The Boy Who Lived had fought to keep Draco out of Azkaban, and there was no bloody way he would ever deign to write to the Weasel, which meant that at least for now the secret remained his. And Theo’s. Who hadn’t made a single move to inform anybody. So, on the third Wednesday of Draco’s foray into this alternative timeline in which he spent his nights reading flowery books instead of shagging the brains out of some forgettable woman, he finally closed the back cover on the last book remaining on his nightstand, changed into nicely tailored charcoal grey slacks and a comfortable navy blue jumper pushed strategically up his forearms to make him look more muggle, and after raking his fingers through his hair a few times until he looked just so, he disapparated to Muggle London at around lunchtime.

The second he opened the door of Turn A Leaf he was greeted with the delicious scent of caffeine and the sight of Granger, a couple of empty mugs in her hand as she went about collecting them from between lounging patrons thumbing through books. She looked up at the sound of the doorbell’s cheery noise.

“Mister Mallory! Welcome back!”

Merlin, but she was chipper. Draco inclined his head, trying his best to regain his mental footing as he let the door fall closed behind him and stepped forward, putting on his most award winning smile and relaxing his body into a confident, slow gait that had Toni the Coffee Girl eyeing him appreciatively all the way from the counter in the back.

“Hello, Miss Granger,” he said.

“It’s nice to see you again,” Granger tucked a book under her arm before picking up one last mug to juggle back to the counter. He followed. “What brings you back so soon?”

“Is it?”

“Is it what?” she asked, depositing the mugs on the counter and the book on a small cart to the side for books that needed to be organized.

“Soon,” he drawled, inspecting her.

She was looking particularly nice that day, dressed in a flattering white and blue flower sundress that fell to a few inches above her knees with a yellow cardigan for modesty, and sensible black flats. Very muggle, and somehow still very charming. She looked… girly, something he’d only seen Granger willingly let herself be once, back during the Yule ball.

Granger laughed, shaking her head. “Well, I suppose not. How can I help you today?”

Draco tilted his chin towards the coffee machines. “A coffee, if you would, and if it’s not too much trouble, perhaps I could request your help in finding a few more books? I’ve finished the ones I purchased and—”

Granger blinked at him, mouth falling open slightly as she stopped what she was doing and turned to look at him fully. “All fifteen?”

For a moment he frowned, a snarky remark along the lines of ‘Honestly Granger, who do you take me for? I’m not Weasley.’ sitting on the tip of his tongue until he reminded himself Granger had no way of remembering his studying habits or reading prowess from school. After all, he would have been top of his class if not for her. What she did remember, however, was the fact that his fake name was supposed to be Drake Mallory and that he’d bought fifteen books, three weeks after the fact. This turned the frown upside down into an indulgent smile as he nodded.

“I did. I found myself far more intrigued in their contents than I care to openly admit, and spent much of my spare time with them.” He had spent all of his spare time and most of the time he should have been working as well, in fact, but Draco was filthy rich and employed more than enough people qualified to handle his responsibilities in his stead for a few weeks.

And it wasn’t like he totally dallied, either. He did make time for business. It’s just he had entirely reprioritized his play time. Theo would be proud.

“Well!” she said, clearly impressed as she turned to him, skirt flaring out before settling gently again on her hips and down her legs, looking fairly pleased that she was about to drag him right back to the Reference Books stacks and impart some knowledge to a newbie. “Follow me, Mister Mallory.”

From behind them, Toni the Coffee Girl chirped, “I’ll have your coffee ready when you’re back! How would you like it?”

“Milk, three sugars, please,” he said, nodding to the girl before focusing on Granger. She’d already started moving, leaving him to stretch his long legs if he had any hope of catching up.

“I must admit, Mister Mallory,” Granger began, taking a finger to the shelves and running it down them as she walked much like she’d done the first time, Draco noticing how she’d tap individual spines as if compiling a mental list, head swinging all over the place. “It is rare that we get clients who are such voracious readers.”

She sounded so ridiculously pleased by that. Draco’s chest puffed up a little, shoving his hands into his trouser pockets as he followed at a languid pace, studying her.

“Really?”

Anything to keep her talking.

The longer she talked the more time he gained. He narrowed his eyes at the back of her neck, noticing a small set of scars peeking from under her hair every time her messy ponytail swung. He didn’t remember ever seeing those, not that he’d ever inspected Granger that up close and personal, but it was a curious place for a knot of scars nonetheless. She turned to him and smiled, and Draco marveled at how easy her smiles seemed to come by her now, so different from the Granger he knew.

“Most people come in to view the magazines or read the book jacket blurbs, maybe a few pages if they’re interested, but it’s rare for me—us, Toni and I—to see somebody so soon after a book purchase. Sometimes it takes months.” she explained, continuing her book search.

Draco arched an eyebrow, suddenly gaining a bit of insight into Hermione Granger’s head. “ You must have a brilliant mind and memory to remember faces that long after the fact,” he commented curiously, looking around at the books with mild interest while she crouched and hummed.

“Not sure about brilliant,” said Granger, “but it comes in handy.”

Wow. A humble Granger. Would the surprises ever cease? Draco nearly laughed and managed to catch himself just in time, clearing his throat instead and tugging at the knees of his slacks before dropping into a crouch by her, looking at the books. It felt so strange to be this close. He could smell the faint scents of vanilla in her hair and cinnamon on her skin from tea and coffee making. Draco breathed in deeply before turning his attention back to the matter at hand.

“I’m sure it does. How did you happen to know so much about flowers?” he asked, and Granger chuckled.

“I read the books, of course. I’ve read most of the ones in this shop,” she waved her hand as if she hadn’t just admitted to being a walking encyclopedia, then tapped her lip again. “Now, let’s see. What else do we have. Is there anything in specific you may be interested in exploring, Mr. Mallory?”

Draco looked at her from the corner of his eye. From this close he could pick out individual freckles on her face, stretching over beautifully clear golden skin, and a small beauty mark sitting close to her lashes on her right eye. He wondered if he’d ever noticed that before. But what he was most interested in exploring, really, was her circumstance.

“I’m afraid I wouldn’t know where to begin, Miss Granger. I’ll defer to your expertise, if that’s not too terribly imposing of me,” he replied, and she looked at him as if seeing him for the first time at his impeccable manners in asking for help.

He let his lips quirk up slightly and watched her as closely as she studied him. A moment later she seemed to have made up her mind, nodding to herself and immediately starting to pull books off the shelves.

“Well, if you’re still interested in flowers, perhaps I could get you interested in the more exotic varieties? There are books on plants that are very much only native to certain places that I think you would appreciate, especially for their medicinal uses. Not that you’d have access to them or ever need them for such a thing, really, but knowledge for knowledge’s sake has always held its own little thrill, don’t you agree, Mr. Mallory?”

She really should have been sorted into Ravenclaw. Who knows, maybe if she had, they might have even had a chance at becoming friends. Draco had never been so bigoted so as to not understand, especially now, that the majority of the animosity he had held for Granger had been for her association to Harry Potter, who had snubbed him without ever caring to find out whether Draco was worth getting to know, and her involvement with Ronald Weasley, spawn of a long line of Weasleys that had hated his very long line of Malfoys, and that feeling had been mutual. The other percentage of his animosity came from the fact that she kept beating his arse in every single class, year after year without fail, and no matter how much he studied he hadn’t been able to surpass her. That could make a young, hormonal, stressed out teenager become very angry and very bitter, very fast.

Now, however, a grown man staring at a young woman who was thirsty for knowledge simply because it thrilled her, Draco had to admit that, well… yes. He could have easily been her friend, had circumstances been different or had they been different people. He might have even allowed himself to admit that he could like her. His nose might have also survived a very painful, very embarrassing swing from her tiny fist. It was perfectly straight now, but that didn’t mean it hadn’t hurt like a bitch to be on the receiving end of that mean right hook.

Yes, she should have been sorted into Ravenclaw.

Then again, if she had, the war would still have come by and the outcome might have ended up being wildly different. He didn’t dare ponder too long on what that outcome would have been for somebody like her, or someone like him. No, he liked the outcome of the war exactly as it had taken place, even if for the better part of the last three years he had become first a social pariah and then the subject of much gossiping, especially when he came into his full inheritance still a bachelor once he turned twenty one.

“Yes, I believe so,” he replied, and she dimpled at him then grabbed a few more books, propping them on her thighs before passing some to him once she couldn’t stack more there.

He shook his head, returning to his previous train of thought after being distracted by her shoving tomes at him. Her circumstances.

How had the darling of his world ended up here, dressed like a muggle, talking like a muggle, selling muggle books, unaware of her own brilliance and of everything she’d helped accomplish? He had seen her during the Battle of Hogwarts. He was sure of it. She had been neck deep in battle, swinging hexes with the sort of expertise no eighteen year old should possess, and that had been the last he’d seen of her before he laced his fingers with his mother and walked away from it all.

He turned to look at her again as she rose from her spot, giving him a flash of the nicest legs he remembered seeing in recent history as she hefted her load of books and looked at him patiently. Draco rose to his feet, the feeling of suddenly towering over her bordering on vertigo.

“Ready?” she asked him, and he held out a hand for her to lead the way as they made their way back to the open, airy lounge space, where Toni greeted them with a charming smile and a cup of piping hot coffee exactly as he’d ordered it, slipping a travel carboard sleeve around the it before Draco stopped her. Granger turned to him. “Would you like me to go ahead and ring them up now or would you prefer more time to browse?”

“I have a few more hours open before I must return to the office,” he lied smoothly, turning to Toni. “I’ll take my coffee here, thank you, Miss…”

“Davies!” Toni replied in a near squeak, her cheeks coloring. She hadn’t been expecting to be addressed at all. It was cute, really, how the teenager perked up at his attention. “Toni Davies.”

“—Miss Davies,” he continued. He then set his sights on Granger, “Any good spots you’d personally recommend where I can read?”

Granger's cheeks turned pink and she hid her sputtering behind a cough before taking his books from him, letting him select one and pointing him towards a cozy, well worn couch in the corner by the bay windows, up the stairs to the half level hidden slightly from prying eyes by a potted plant, but that would allow him a perfect view of the whole floor downstairs. He smiled politely, passed her his card to charge everything onto then grabbed his coffee and started making his way up, trying his darned best not to feel smug at the way Toni animatedly hissed at Granger,

“Holy fuck he was flirting, ‘mione.”

“Hush!”

“Also, you sent him to your favorite spot. Don’t think I don’t see what you did there.”

“Toni!”

And so Draco found himself upstairs, a book on his lap across his bent knee and a cup of coffee in hand, watching for hours as Granger went about her day and deciding that he quite liked it up where he was. Maybe he should have been sorted into Gryffindor. He couldn’t quite come up with a single sound reason as to why he’d jumped head first into this without a plan, but he decided then and there he’d be spending quite a lot of ‘lunch hours’ in this place, observing until he figured out exactly what it was he wanted to do about it.

 

Chapter Text

As it turns out, the decision to figure out what it was he wanted to do regarding the whole Granger situation was squarely taken out of his hands when, on the fourth visit to Turn A Leaf, Tea & Bookshop, he found himself face to face with none other than the wonderful duo Harry Potter and Ronald Weasley while making his way out the door.

It had been such a wonderful afternoon, really. He had come in at his usual ten past one in the afternoon, gave Toni a charming smile that sent her scurrying to make him his cup of coffee just like he liked it, and went searching. The shop had been quiet, only a few patrons around on a quiet Tuesday and he’d taken his time looking around, grabbing a few muggle literature books while spying Granger walking about, animatedly discussing something with an elderly woman that sounded suspiciously like the plot to some torrid little romance novel.

He made his way up the stairs to Granger’s usual spot, unable to contain the small twitch of his lips at the reminder that this was her favorite, and sat himself down to read, glancing down towards the main lounge every once in a while. It wouldn’t do to seem too interested, even if he’d visited far more in a month than Granger’s usual crowd. By the time he’d made it ten pages into his book,the small rasp of a throat made him look up.

“Wouldn’t have pegged you for a Wuthering Heights kind of guy,” Granger said by way of greeting as she moved closer to take his empty coffee mug and, much to his pleasure and surprise, replace it with a brand new one. Draco looked at the book cover then at her, smirking.

“Wouldn’t say I would, either. This Heathcliff guy is quite the character, however,” he said, setting the book gently in his lap and lacing his fingers atop it, comfortably leaning back into his chair to take her fully in.

“Yes, he is, isn’t he?” she replied with a small smile before she shifted her weight and looked around. It was obvious that the coffee had been an excuse. She never went about refilling anyone else’s, he’d noted before, and they were the only two on the second level at the moment. Gathering her courage, she continued. “Sometimes a Byronic Hero, and sometimes something else entirely.”

Against his better judgement, Draco opened his mouth. “What’s a Byronic Hero?”

It surprisingly had the desired effect. Granger stopped looking like a nervous mouse and instead brightened up, moving quickly to take a seat on the ledge of the bay window next to him as she drew a breath — Draco just knew he was in for a literary lesson — before laughing.

“Seriously, where did you go to school that you hadn’t heard of Byronic Heroes?” she teased, “Then again, our educational system leaves much to be desired. No offense, of course!” she tacked on at the look of shock on his face, Granger turning three shades of pink.

“None taken. I studied abroad,” he teased with a wink that flustered her, before pointing to the book. “As you were saying about this chap?”

Listening to Granger’s voice as she launched into her description of the typical Byronic Hero and their places in both classical and modern storytelling was surprisingly soothing, and she certainly had a lot to say. Draco found that he quite enjoyed it, especially when it wasn’t dripping with scorn for him.

“—They’re usually broody, dark, handsome, with some sort of tragic past or story behind them. Take Mister Darcy in Pride and Prejudice for example—”

“Pride and Prejudice?” he asked, tilting his head and hiding a smirk.

His mother may have been a pureblooded witch through and through, but he had spied that particular title in the Malfoy Manor library as a ten year old. He highly doubted his own father knew his mother owned it, but Draco now knew it as his mother’s favorite book. He just hadn’t known it was muggle literature. If she’d started her explanation with that, he would have known what she had referred to, to begin with. Playing dumb about it, however, was entirely worth seeing the look of offended shock on Granger’s face.

“Oh my god, really?” she said, staring at him like he’d grown a second head before hopping to her feet. “That won’t do. Wait right here, sir.”

Off she went to find him yet another book, one that Draco knew he was going to end up buying—he really should take all his purchases back to the Malfoy library. He was running out of space in his hotel room—and he chuckled then settled in to wait, sipping his cup of coffee. He caught Toni’s eye, who had been not so subtly spying on them all the way from the counter downstairs, and tipped his drink her way in thanks right as Granger rushed back upstairs. She was a little out of breath and curls were starting to fall out of the bun she’d tried to wrestle them into, but she looked alive and completely engaged as she shoved the book in his face and put on her swottiest voice.

“You must read this, Mister Mallory,” she started. He let her talk, all the while watching her in amusement as she used her hands for emphasis. Just like she’d done when she’d known she was a witch, and when she’d emphasized her point by driving her knuckles right into his face. Perhaps his Granger was still hiding in there after all.

When she finally stopped to get some air in her lungs, Draco put on his most innocent face and turned to look up at her.

“Interesting. Does that story you were talking with that madam earlier, the one with the, I quote, hot pirates with the little bandanas, have any Byronic Heroes in it, too?” he asked.

He was rewarded with Granger’s face paling before a flush of deep red rushed up from her neckline all the way to her temple. He idly wondered how low that flush went, looking at her with a devious twinkle in his eye as she fought the impulse to stomp her foot and hissed out an embarrassed, squeaky “No!”

“Pity,” he hummed, drinking from his coffee and leaving her to suffer there for a moment before smiling, “I would have bought it too, if it had.”

That made her stop short, and though the appealing blush on her cheeks didn’t subside, there was a hint of cunning understanding in her eyes as she studied him, hands clasped in front of her where she held onto the copy of Pride and Prejudice. He waited patiently. He was having far more fun ribbing Granger about books than he’d had in years doing anything else, sad as that was to admit, and her friendly banter had quickly become something he woke up looking forward to. It had been an effort not to show up to the bookshop daily.

Not that he’d ever, ever agree with his subconscious on this. His expeditions to Muggle London were purely due to academic interest in this puzzle he’d stumbled upon, he reassured himself.

“You know, you don’t have to buy every book I mention just because I happen to show an interest in them,” she commented, golden skin blushing deeper and Granger making a valiant attempt to keep it contained by clearing her throat.

“That is a funny way to try to encourage business, Miss Granger,” he once again teased, and was rewarded yet again with a physical response. She was so emotive, all the time. It was refreshing. Granger frowned.

“I mean, not that I’m not thankful!” she said, trying to clear the air with an airy chuckle, “I’m very thankful to you, Mister Mallory. You should know your purchases alone will be covering the rent this month, and Toni seems to have decided you are Customer of the Month all on your own,” she laughed, “so believe me when I say, I am incredibly thankful for your continued business. What I meant to say, however, is that you needn’t feel—”

“I feel perfectly happy to buy the books, Miss Granger,” he replied, eyeing her close. “I find that it is always worth investing in one’s interests.”

She eyed him. That last sentence had a very specific double meaning, and he knew it, and she knew that he knew, but she couldn’t call him out on it without making it all the more embarrassing for herself so he simply dimpled a brilliant, toothy smile her way before gently reaching up and grabbing the book from her hands, his pinky finger grazing her thumb in the process. “I will buy this one, too.”

So, really, it had been a wonderful day until his day went to shit the moment he started opening the door and almost knocked foreheads with one Ronald Weasley, Harry Potter not a step behind.

It took a second for all parties involved to realize what they were collectively seeing, and then the Weasel had to go open his mouth. “Mal—” he started, and Draco did the only thing he could. He thought quickly on his feet and shoved his hand against Weasley’s mouth, yanking him by the collar of his jacket to the side while Potter blinked and immediately grabbed Ron’s arm, who was two seconds away from pulling out a wand in the middle of Muggle London in plain sight.

“Shhhhh!” Draco said, looking quickly over his shoulder and into the shop. Thankfully she had moved away, her back to the glass door. “Are you daft?”

“Ron,” Harry warned, “Put that away.”

It took a moment of Ronald Weasley huffing angrily into Draco’s hand before Draco pulled his hand away and Potter shoved them both away from view or farther away from being within earshot, glancing behind them to make sure nobody was around to see them and, in a very un-Potter move, disapparating right on the spot.

“What the fuck, Potter?” Draco called out when they all landed rather unceremoniously in front of the Three Broomsticks. “You of all people—”

“Oh, do shut up, Malfoy,” Harry said, narrowing his eyes, “before I let Ron here have a go at you.”

“You just apparated us in the middle of Muggle London, Potter.”

“Oh, come off it!” Ron finally shouted, “since when have you of all people cared about what muggles think?”

“I mean, he does have a point,” Harry muttered, cringing as it settled on him that he probably just broke a whole bunch of laws, which never reflects well on an Auror. He let out an exhausted sigh. “But you guys were about to start throwing fists, or worse, flinging hexes,” at this, Potter turned to Weasley, “Think of Hermione, Ron.”

“Yes. Granger. I have a lot of questions about her. What about Granger should you be thinking of, Weasley?” he asked, eyes narrowed as Ron made another threatening move forward, stopped only by Harry’s hand to his chest.

“Perhaps we should have this conversation inside,” The Boy Who Lived said tersely, looking for all the world like the conversation was going to be more of an interrogation than anything else. Draco was proven right at the sight of Potter’s drawn wand, kept placidly at his side. “Malfoy. Lead the way.”

Draco rolled his eyes and stalked forward, opening the door so as to let them through. Harry nodded to madam Rosmerta, who eyed them carefully as the golden boy pointed towards the back, indicating that Ron should take the lead. This interrogation would not be happening in the open, where Draco could call for help.

Well, he had plenty of questions to ask of his own, starting with how come these two idiots knew where Granger was and hadn’t done a bloody thing about it?

By the time they entered the small meeting room, Weasley had turned tomato red with anger and Harry, who quickly threw up a Muffliato charm on the room to keep eavesdroppers away before Weasley exploded, was stone faced.

“You have a lot of explaining to do, Malfoy,” Weasley spit out at him. Harry pinched his nose.

“Really?” he drawled, doing the one thing he knew would piss off the wonder boys the most as he sat down on the one old couch and then stretched out his arms over the back of it, deliberately taking his time as he lifted one perfect leather shoe and propped it on the low table, then the other, crossing his ankles and looking for all the world like he was having a grand old time. “I have a lot of explaining to do? That’s rich, coming from you two. I have come to find out that not only is the Golden Girl of your trio, darling of Wizarding Britain, both living in Muggle London and entirely without memories of any of us; but that you and Potter aren’t even surprised by this, which implies that you most definitely have known where she’s been hiding—or kept hidden, perhaps?—for three whole years, and I have a lot of explaining to do?”

“And what of it? It’s not any of your bloody business, ferret!” Said Weasel, his shade of tomato red taking a turn towards purple instead. Harry pinched his nose even harder. “What we’d like to know, and believe we will force it out of you one way or another, Malfoy, is what you were doing at ‘Mione’s shop. And I think it’d be in your best interest to start talking now.”

Ohhhhh, he’d clearly hit a nerve there, Draco mused. Yet Weasley’s lack of denial at his accusation told him more than he thought he would ever get out of these two to begin with.

“No, I don’t think I will,” Draco said, lounging and giving his most sardonic smile, “though I must say, Weasley, if you wanted to get rid of the girl that badly all you had to do was grow a pair of bollocks and tell her. What was it, hit her over the head hard enough to erase her memories when she proved too much of a cockblock for your tastes, once willing cunts started flying your way after the war?”

It took two seconds for Weasley’s wand to jab into his throat. Draco smiled, letting his eyes fall until Weasley had to follow, and relished in the way the weasel turned a satisfying shade of puce at the sight of his wand pointed squarely at his crotch.

“One wrong move, Weasley, and I will have you castrated and eating your own balls for supper before you can say quaffle. I doubt the future Missus Weasley would be too happy to find her husband lacks the plumbing on her wedding night, don’t you agree?” He sneered.

Off to the side, Harry groaned.

“Enough of the pissing contest,” said Potter, removing his glasses and rubbing at his eyes in exhaustion as he took a step forward. “Put the wand away, Ron. Malfoy, I won’t warn you a second time.”

Ron’s mouth opened and closed like a gaping fish a couple of times, turning disbelieving eyes on Harry, who simply took in a deep breath as if mentally counting back from ten before he opened his eyes. “He already knows, Ron. It was bound to happen eventually and it’s not like we can lie to him about it now.”

We could obliviate him,” Weasel supplied helpfully. Draco sneered, Potter shook his head.

We are not obliviating anybody,” he continued, “Put away the wands, please. Both of you.”

It was Ron Weasley who withdrew first, eyeing Draco’s wand hand like a hawk as Draco lifted it away and held both hands up in mock surrender with a smile, his wand disappearing down his sleeve like a perfectly executed magic trick. “No harm, no foul, Weasel.”

“Now,” Harry said, running his hands through his ever messy hair and pacing a little, “Malfoy. Would you be so kind as to please tell us how it is that you, of all people, were coming out of Hermione’s bookshop today? How did you find out where she was? I don’t recall you being the type to grow overly fond of afternoon strolls in muggle neighborhoods.”

“I found out a month back,” he explained with a nonchalant shrug. “I was in the neighborhood on business.”

“And you just happened to stumble across that one shop, did you?” Weasley hissed, looking like he was trying immensely hard to behave and failing.

“You sound so surprised,” Draco drawled, enjoying the look on the Weasel’s face immensely.

“I am, actually,” Ron continued, “You’re not the kind to just stumble upon anything you’re not already looking for. All you care about are your own interests.”

Draco smiled the most condescending smile in his repertoire, one he had learned from years of watching his father deliver it to supremely satisfying results. “Very good, Weasley. Ten points to Gryffindor. You are correct. Business is very much an interest of mine. Thus why I was in Muggle London to begin with. Now do keep up, I do hate to repeat myself.”

“If you’re so interested in business, Malfoy—” Ron spat, fists visibly shaking at his sides, “then you also should know to keep your nose out of it when it’s none of yours. You will stop visiting ‘Mione’s shop or Merlin help me, we will make you.”

“Now, now,” Draco drawled on, ignoring the threat entirely, something that seemed to enrage Weasley further and make Potter look like he was ready to rip his hair out since he kept getting talked over every time he tried to intervene. Draco thoughtly wondered about the fact that he had learned he could be so charming and placid around Granger and yet, he couldn’t stop himself from exchanging fighting words with these two. What had the world turned into? “You’ll find that will be pretty impossible for me to agree to. It’s very much my business.”

“Listen, you bastard!” Ron’s spittle flew, only for him to jump when Harry Potter shouted, “ENOUGH!”

Potter’s shout was ear splittingly loud, but it got everyone’s attention. Draco was very proud of himself, he only gave a miniscule wince. Potter breathed in deeply, and for being a pacifist he certainly had amazingly quick reflexes when it came to drawing a wand, for it was being gripped tight in his hand and pointed straight between them like a sword. “One more word, one more word, and I will not answer for my actions.”

Draco arched an eyebrow; Weasley looked confused that his best friend dared pull a wand on him. Well, not on him, exactly, but having Potter’s wand pointing only inches off from him was still threatening enough. Draco had to give it to Potter, his role as an Auror had finally given him a spine. His respect for the Golden Boy ticked up half a notch.

“Now,” Harry continued, lowering his wand arm and glaring at them both. “Malfoy, what do you mean it’s your business?”

“No, you misunderstand, Potter. I think I have already answered more than enough questions for a day. Like I said, this is very much my business, so perhaps it’s time the two of you started talking and answered me. Why is Granger walking around without her memories?”

Potter glanced at Weasley, who looked about two degrees away from barking mad.

“Ron—” he said, to which Weasley shook his head, going splotchy in the cheeks. Potter sighed. “He already knows, and I’d much rather keep it contained. We don’t know how long it’ll take us.”

Potter shot Weasley a meaningful glance, and it didn’t take long for Draco to pick up on the hint that their biggest fear was this secret leaving the four walls that currently contained them. Harry Potter was willing to bring him up to speed in exchange for keeping him quiet. He arched an eyebrow again but remained silent, about to lean back into his previous seated position before Potter scrubbed at his jaw and kicked his shoe off the table.

“Hey!”

“Shove over, Malfoy. This will take a while.” he said, ignoring Draco’s protest about his shoes getting scuffed, and for once Draco complied. He was too curious not to.

“So, what happened?” he asked as Weasley went to stand by the fire, staring angrily at the flames while Harry shook his head.

“Not before firewhiskey, I think.” answered the Boy Who Lived, sending out his patronus to inform Madam Rosmerta that they would be taking drinks. Draco narrowed his eyes at him. Show-off.

By the time they all had tumblers in hand, tensions had simmered down (well, mostly. Weasley still looked ready to commit murder. Just the premeditated kind instead of in a fit of passion), and Potter looked resigned to his fate.

“It’s a long story, Malfoy, but I need you to promise that whatever you hear here will remain here. Otherwise I will obliviate you if I must.”

Wow, it must be serious, then. Draco nodded.

“On my magic.”

“Very well,” Potter breathed a sigh of relief. “The reason Hermione doesn’t have a single memory of you — or me, or Ron, or anyone for that matter — is because… well, this is complicated. Suffice it to say, your aunt had a hand in it.” Harry explained, looking at him sternly from the rim off his glass. Draco’s blood ran cold.

“I am sorry, I didn’t—” he began, the furious need to apologize for something that wasn’t even his fault just because it had happened to Granger bubbling up before he could even get his tongue under control, but was silenced when Potter held up his hand, looking for all the world like he wanted to weep.

“But it was my fault, too,” Harry Potter continued, looking a little broken, a little rough around the edges. Weasley looked very much the same. “And a third person’s fault, but we don’t even know who they were.”

Draco frowned. Weasley downed half his glass in one go, looking more and more bitter by the second. Potter looked into his own.

“During the Battle of Hogwarts, right towards the end there… it was such chaos, you understand. Hexes and curses were flying endlessly, we—Ron, Hermione and I—had been broken up and separated. Death Eaters were rounding people up like circling cats in the courtyard. Ron was… I don’t know where Ron was—”

“Stuck on a stairwell with Dolohov and Rookwood trying to slice my head off,” Ron supplied bitterly. Harry nodded sadly and continued,

“And I had my eyes on Voldemort across the yard,” he said, making Draco wince. For a moment he very much feared feeling a phantom pain in his wrist where his fading mark still remained, but when nothing happened he looked back at Potter, who carried on as if nothing happened. “I had a clear shot, and I took it. But then everything happened too fast.

“Hermione came running back into the yard, trying to escape Lestrange. Somebody else, Merlin knows who, was aiming at Dean across the yard as well. Hermione turned to defend herself from a curse from Bellatrix but she was right in the path of my shot, and in the path of the third shot, and there was a pebble—a bloody pebble—” Harry’s voice was raw as he spoke, “—she lost her balance and wasn’t able to block or throw up a shield, and lost her wand when my spell hit her. I threw an expelliarmus, which got mixed up with the curse from the Unknown, the combined set hitting her on the back of the neck, along with whatever it was your aunt cast. All that magic at once, it went wonky, and on top of it all she was falling…”

Draco narrowed his eyes, he could see where this was going. It was like watching a trainwreck and being unable to blink, but also imagining those who were standing there, unable to stop it. He knew what was coming, and felt a horrible dread settling over his lungs.

“She fell, slammed her head on a giant boulder from the castle debris,” Harry croaked, finally chugging down his drink. Ron’s eyes were red rimmed and glistening, burning with a fury that would have scared Draco himself.

“I’m sorry, I didn’t know.” What else could he say to that revelation? Nothing. Potter shook his head.

“You had already left. You couldn’t have possibly known,” Harry said, then, with a strangle whisper, continued. “She lost her wand because of me.”

And suddenly, Draco understood. With his aunt Bellatrix dead and a third assailant remaining a mystery, and Potter’s part of the disaster having been a well aimed Expelliarmus, Harry Potter’s self imposed penance was to shoulder the full blame alone.

“Ron finally came on the scene. Saw her hit the ground. He took her away while the battle raged on. We rushed her to St. Mungo’s the second it was over,” Harry continued, licking his lips and staring off into the fire. “Kept the healers quiet.”

Of course they did, Draco thought. He has no doubt Harry Potter and Ron Weasley bribed and threatened and did everything they could to make sure nobody could possibly know. The three of them were a Phoenix, and had just potentially lost a wing. Draco nodded, drink untouched in his hand.

“They kept her for months,” Weasley said, “ran every diagnostic, did every test, tried every counterspell they could, but with a head injury on top of a weird mix of hexes and curses and spells they couldn’t identify, the Healers had no clue as to where to go. Harry threw galleons at St. Mungo’s like they were going out of style. We—Harry and I, we tried… we tried our best to keep the press away. Diverted them. Until the Healers could fix it, I mean.”

Draco vaguely remembered those stories, each more outrageous than the last, a lot of them revolving around Weasley’s sexual escapades. Well, it had certainly done the trick. The pieces started slotting into place, and he looked at Potter.

“But they never did, did they?” he finished for them. Ron glared back at the fire. Potter swallowed hard.

“No. They did not.”

Chapter Text

They sat in silence for a few minutes, each one of them lost in their own thoughts. For his part, Draco couldn’t believe what he’d just heard, and yet he’d experienced the reality of it all last month, having watched a very different Granger than the one he’d known all his life as she went about her business.

Weasley had finally moved away from the fire, propping himself on the edge of the coffee table and staring morosely into his empty glass while Harry stared into the fire like he was watching it all play out again. Draco twirled his own firewhiskey, waiting him out.

“Anyway,” Potter continued with a resigned sigh, “We weren’t even sure if she was going to wake up there, for a while, so when she finally did, despite the… memory loss, we counted our blessings for all they were worth. But she didn’t respond well to being in St. Mungos. She’d been through so much already, you know. The Healers had to do their work while she slept, unless she found out she was being treated by magic when she had no recollection of ever using it. It happened once and was such a shock to her system, she screamed and sobbed and had to be put down and carefully obliviated of the experience.

“When it became obvious magic wasn’t helping with the amnesia—she was fine otherwise. Healthy, even, they said—the Healers suggested we just… allow her to heal naturally. Maybe the memories would come back on their own, they said. So we moved her to Muggle London while we began searching for a cure. She didn’t have her parents—”

Weasley finally spoke for the first time, hissing Harry’s name in warning. Harry shook his head.

“The whole story, if you please,” Draco interjected, and Weasley’s shoulders tensed. Potter’s slumped.

“She’d Obliviated her parents to keep them safe, yeah?” Harry said, laughing. “Did such a good job I doubt anybody else but her could reverse it, the brilliant woman that she is. But she sent them off to Merlin knows where, so we couldn’t just put her back in with her parents. We had no idea where to find them. We had to resort to giving her some fake memories. Somehow whatever happened that day on the yard, she’d only lost her magical memories. All of her muggle memories, the ones from before, they were there. Intact. A happy, sheltered childhood full of books and love and parents who adored her. So we had to give her some fake memories.”

“That she lived with her parents until she moved out across the river,” Draco said. Weasley tensed further, Potter looked up.

“How do you know that?” Weasley asked.

“She told me,” he shrugged, nodding for him to continue. “And then?”

“Well, and then… that’s just it. There’s no ‘And then,’ Malfoy. We’ve been stuck in ‘And then,’ for three years. Her memories aren’t coming back on their own naturally, not with whatever cursed her still firmly in place, keeping her brain from doing its thing and healing the rest of the way on its own, and we haven’t figured out a cure because we have no bloody clue what the other two spells were.”

Harry Potter sounded angry. Harry Potter sounded defeated. He also sounded unwilling to give up, and for that, Draco’s respect for him rose higher than before.

“We couldn’t—We can’t—” Harry grappled with his words before sighing. “She’s happy now. It doesn’t mean we can’t keep looking, and we will keep looking, but…”

“But there might not be a fix,” Draco finished. Weasley’s head hung low and Potter nodded sadly, finally knocking back his drink, eyes sharpening away from the trip down memory lane as he turned to Draco and eyed him critically.

“Yes. And she’s happy, Malfoy. Clueless about all she’s done for me, and Ron, and everyone; but she’s happy, and healthy and thriving, doing what she always loved to do best, and if Ron and I can’t find a way to fix her then we’d much rather she remain that way, you understand.”

“I do, Potter.”

“Which is why we would like you to stop visiting her.” Harry said, his threat sounding much more honest than Weasley’s, and scarier because of it. Too bad Draco Malfoy was no longer the sniveling coward he’d once been.

He sat back, finally drinking all of his firewhiskey before ever so gently placing the tumblr down, pinky first to keep it from clicking like his upbringing demanded. Harry’s brows rose at the move, and Draco smirked.

“I’m afraid I can’t do that.” he replied smoothly.

“I don’t want you going near ‘Mione again, Ferret.” Ron Weasley hissed, fingers twitching for a wand that he wasn’t allowed to draw.

“I find that you’ll have a very hard time keeping me from doing anything I want, including but not limited to visiting Turn A Leaf as much as I bloody well please, Weasley.” The words were said lightly, yet they were anything but. He had spent a lifetime being told what to do and when to do it, and had endured pain and suffering and humiliation beyond belief as a result. The last thing Draco Malfoy planned to do was to start taking orders from anyone, least of them Ronald Weasley.

“And why is that?” asked Harry warily, his brain thankfully working much faster than the redhead’s ever did. He’d sat up straight, on guard in case this once again devolved into needless violence, and gave Ron a warning glance.

“Quite simple, really. I own the building. The whole block, in fact.” he replied, giving Weasley a smug smile. “That is why I was there on business, if you’d recall, Weasley. I later found out that she both owns a shop there and lives above it. I’m her new landlord.” Alright, so that was not particularly in the right order. He’d bought the thing because she both owned a shop and lived above it, not the other way around, but it would be a cold day in hell before he let these two know that small tidbit. He wasn’t beyond fighting dirty, and while he could take either of them in a fight, Draco very much doubted he could take both simultaneously after thoroughly pissing them off. No, that bit of information he’d keep to himself.

What?” came the sputtered question from Weasley.

“What did I say about not repeating myself, Weasel?”

“W-well. We’ll—we’ll move her, then!”

Draco snorted.

“Yes, Weasley. Because moving Granger away from the one thing she’s proud of for no reason at all other than you hate me is a perfect way to keep your amnesiac friend happy and stable until you find a cure. Cutting off your own nose to spite your face. Brilliant plan, really.”

To his credit, Weasley had the decency to blush. Harry rolled his eyes.

“So what? You’re just going to keep wandering in against our wishes after all we’ve told you?” Potter asked, eyeing him carefully.

“That’s exactly what I plan to do,” Draco said, getting up to his feet and dusting invisible specks of dust off the knees of his slacks. Then, in a very random, very un-Slytherin moment, he also extended his hand like a Gryffindor bleeding heart. “And I will also help you.”

He didn’t know why he did it, honestly. It was obvious that the other two men didn’t either, staring at him as though facing down an escaped basilisk they had accidentally ran into in a deserted hall. Weasley nearly fell off the coffee table in his bid to twist his body around to get a good look at him, and Potter’s eyes turned to saucers. The silence became stifling.

“Well?” he asked, now starting to feel both idiotic and uncomfortable with his hand stretched out in Potter’s direction.

“You’ll what?” it was Weasley who asked, but Potter was getting up to his feet, eyes narrowing as the shock wore off.

It could be said that out of the two of them, Potter was the more pleasant one to interact with by virtue of at least being the smarter one of the two, though that hardly counted for much; but Harry Potter hadn’t been Draco’s nemesis for no good reason, and the man had a very healthy distrust of him that Draco had happily reciprocated. In fact, it had been Potter’s distrust back in their school years that very nearly bust Draco’s stint with the Vanishing Cabinet that allowed the Death Eaters in. Not for the first time in his many years since, Draco wished that Harry Potter had succeeded in busting him. He cringed at the memory, and it reaffirmed and strengthened his conviction, hand held steady out to Potter as he looked him in the eye.

“There are many things I have done wrong in my life, Potter,” he said, “And believe me when I say you two are not my favorite blokes in the world; but I owe you, and Weasley,” he said, giving Weasley a begrudging glance, “and Granger, for the fact that I am both alive and that my mother and I walk free, and that despite it all, it was you who has allowed me to make a life for myself that helped me take care of her. For that alone, I’m willing to help.”

Weasley looked like he was about to swallow his tongue, and Potter’s eyes flashed with surprise for a moment. But then the Boy Who Lived’s expression softened. This was about as much a thanks and an apology as he would ever get out of Draco Malfoy, and Draco could see Potter seriously considering it, though still wavering on the edge.

“I own the building, Potter,” Draco continued, trying to make him see. “I own the building—the whole block, really—and have the means to keep her safe there. You won’t need to move her, I know of her circumstances, and yours, and most importantly, I’m a Malfoy.”

Harry’s brows furrowed, Ron was still gaping, mouth opening and closing like he couldn’t formulate a single coherent thought. It was Potter who cleared his throat and murmured. “What does you being a Malfoy have to do with anything?”

Draco smiled. “I have a whole library full of arcane books on dark magic, which is undoubtedly what Granger got hit with, that you would have no access to anywhere else. And I, a Malfoy, am the son of Bellatrix Lestrange’s sister. If anyone can find a way to figure out the curse, or to find the wand that cast it, it will be my mother.” He thrust his hand out at Potter again. “And I have found, over the last month, that keeping Granger happy isn’t the worst thing in the world. Take it, Potter.”

This time, Harry Potter did not hesitate. He took a hold of Draco’s hand in a surprisingly strong grip and shook once. “Thank you, Malfoy.”

Draco nodded, feeling a stupid feeling in his stomach that felt too dangerously like relief and excitement, but he kept his face clear of any of it and then turned to Ron.

“Weasley.”

Ron Weasley did not budge, he simply stood there almost the same height as Draco and stared him in the eye, bright blue piercing into pale grey for what was only seconds but felt like hours of being stripped and inspected under a magnifying glass. At last, Weasley’s shoulders relaxed slightly and shook his hand. “Malfoy.”

****

The first order of business in maintaining his promise to Potter and Weasley was to go back to Muggle London in the middle of the night and perform some very old blood magic on the foundations of Granger’s building.

He performed it all quietly, cleanly, and as quickly as he could, imparting thousand year old knowledge passed down from one Malfoy Heir to another into the very stones to bathe the bookshop and Granger's home with the same kind of wards that made Malfoy Manor impenetrable. The versions he put on the building were much more friendly, far less prejudiced, yet no weaker, and by the time he was done, panting and sweating from the effort, Granger would be very much warded against anyone and everyone who would attempt to enter with intent to harm.

He also set up wards that would inform him immediately should any witch or wizard outside of Granger, Potter, Weasley or himself entered the premises. He’d had to swear on his mother’s life that the two drops of blood he extracted from Potter and Weasley would not be used for nefarious purposes, and Granger was protected by virtue of already living there. Eventually he would need to gain a drop of Granger’s blood, just to be safe, but for now it would be enough. Anyone else, however, and the wards would alert him no matter where he was.

The second thing on his list had been to walk into the Ministry the morning after and begin the legal paperwork for creating a new private, unlisted point of Apparition for him as the owner of the real estate in question. Sure, he could apparate straight into the building, but he hardly thought it would be a good idea to suddenly drop inside Granger’s living room should he be warned by the wards, and Apparating outside in plain sight was very much not in his or anyone else’s list of approved actions by the Ministry unlike Potter’s Auror-sanctioned wiggle room to bend the rules due to Dire Circumstances.

So he put in the paperwork and encouraged it to move higher up the chain of command and waiting lists to, say, within a few hours via a lot of called in favors and galleons dropped, and by the afternoon Draco had been able to Apparate to a small alley between the buildings, behind her home, with access to her fire escape. If there ever came the need to escape quickly, they had an out. A bit paranoid, maybe, but he did promise to keep her safe. Paranoia had always served him well.

His third order of business, of course, was to visit Granger.

He let himself in at around four that afternoon, shaking the rain off his transfigured peacoat as he stepped through the doors and took it off. The sound of the bell was starting to become comfortingly familiar.

Granger looked up from the coffee counter at the sound. There were a few people around, quietly sipping their tea and noses buried in their books, but it was quiet. Which seemed like a good thing, since Granger’s helper was nowhere to be seen for the day. The curly-haired amnesiac witch, however, looked very pleased to see him that day, something that sent a butterfly skittering past the lining of his stomach.

“Mister Mallory!” she waved, grinning before dipping her head to put a lid on a coffee-to-go that she handed to a young man, switching over to the till in order to take his payment. Draco waited patiently for the customer to vacate, then walked up.

“Welcome!” greeted Granger, all smiles. Draco returned it. “I didn’t expect to see you back so soon.”

“Really now,” he said, leaning forward slightly on the counter as he studied her. So prim and proper, and yet bubbly and lively. He could see why Potter and Weasley would want to make sure she remained this way. She seemed… unperturbed, buoyed rather than weighed down by the grim aftermath of war, blissfully innocent in her bubble of muggle life. “Even with our discussion yesterday?”

She flushed and he couldn’t help it. He smirked.

“Yes, well.” Granger sniffed, even though her mouth was fighting hard not to smile in return. “That was yesterday.”

Draco chuckled but kept his eyes on her, feigning skepticism. “So you didn’t expect me so soon.”

“Correct.”

“Ah, but that means you expected me sometime,” he said, lids lowering to half-mast as he studied her. He had to admit, flirting with Granger—exchanging banter, Malfoy. Only banter—was entirely too entertaining. “That’s promising.”

She scoffed back a laugh and tried her best to take on her utmost put-upon face as she looked haughtily down her nose at him, but the twinge of pink to her cheeks and newfound brilliance in her beautiful eyes gave her away, not least of all because she was fighting off a tiny smile like a champion. “How can I help you today, Mister Mallory?”

Draco laughed. His laugh was genuine, the first in years. “Alright, then. Something to beat back the cold, it’s awful dreary outside and I’m chilled to the bone after all that rain.” As if to illustrate, Draco shook his head a little. A few drops of rain fell on the counter.

“Honestly. You should always have an umbrella with you,” she commented as she turned her back to him to look at her impressive collection of tea leaves, one hand on her hip and the other tapping a finger against her chin in contemplation. “You live in London, after all.” Merlin, but she’d be a hovering mom one day. He just knew it. “Do you have any preferences with your tea, Mister Mallory?”

“Not at all, Miss Granger. Surprise me.” he said, letting his voice drop and enjoying the unintentional, reflexive shiver that ran down her spine as if she’d already been conditioned to respond to his voice. He wondered if he’d ever managed to bring this out in her back in Hogwarts before and he just didn’t know it, then quashed that thought immediately.

“Alright,” she breathed out, then her voice strengthened with a minute shake of her head. She didn’t turn around to look at him, but Draco hoped he’d made her blush nonetheless. “Why don’t you go make yourself comfortable, and I’ll bring you your cuppa once it’s done?”

He made his way up to the second level, happy to find that his spot was vacated, and draped his coat to dry behind him before sitting down. Sure, he could charm it and himself dry, but then that might make Granger question him—her eyes missed nothing. So instead he sat down, ran his hands through his damp hair and leaned back, sighing. He was tired. Wards of the magnitude he had put in place last night were not meant to be created single handed, though they could be maintained that way. Not that it couldn’t be done, just that they weren’t meant to. They took a lot of power, and if Draco were to try to even light a candle with his wand at the moment he’d probably have to try a few times before it took.

A few minutes later he heard the soft pat-pat-pat of Granger’s shoes on the carpet. He cracked an eye open to watch her carefully balancing a tea cup and saucer in a way that would have made Narcissa Malfoy wince, back when she still cared about those things, or was even mentally around to care.

Granger placed his tea down on the sill of the bay window to his side then stepped back, “No book today?”

Draco tilted his head back onto the sofa once more and shook it. “I’m far too tired today to be able to concentrate on literature, I’m afraid. I was hoping to visit for the conversation.” Then he cracked his eyes open again and looked at her standing not but two feet in front of his spread knees, legs looking far too delectable in those muggle jeans that hugged curves in a way no piece of fabric ever should, taking on a look of concern for his well being. Typical Granger. “No Toni today?”

Granger grinned, tucking a strand of hair behind her ear while hugging her front with her other arm. “No, not today. She had term papers to finish and exams to study for, so I let her go early.”

“Ah,” he said, “that’s very kind of you.”

“Not at all.” She laughed. “Studies come first and foremost.”

You can take the swotty bookworm out of school… he mused, then smiled.

“Well, I won't interrupt, then. I would hate to lose my place as Customer of the Month for keeping you while you’re busy.”

This made her laugh, a high, delighted little sound that made his stomach churn in inexplicable ways as she relaxed into her posture and went to sit on the windowsill. She was so short her legs dangled once seated, and Draco found this incredibly amusing and endearing for some reason.

“Not at all,” she said, half turning to look at the rain running down the window panes outside. “With this weather, I very much doubt I’ll be in any way busy. Plus I already set the bell on the counter. If anyone needs me, they can ring.”

“I’m flattered,” he teased, extending his hand to take the tea sitting so very close to her hand. “Bringing out the bell and all. I’m feeling quite special.”

Granger laughed again, and Circe help him, he was getting drunk on that sound. “Don’t flatter yourself too much, Mister Mallory.”

“Drake,” he said, and she turned to look at him.

“Pardon?”

“Drake,” he repeated, taking a sip of his tea. It was Chai. Warm and spicy with a hint of caramel, and exactly what he had needed. It warmed his bones from the inside out. He moved to set the tea down, leaning over the arm of his comfortable sofa chair, which brought him far too close to her. He was forced to look up from under his lashes as he continued speaking with her above him. It was… intimate in a way he hadn’t expected. “My name is Drake. I would be honored if you would call me by it, Miss Granger.”

Granger flushed, and he added another to his tally while feeling superiorly smug, giving her a small smile but unwilling to withdraw from his spot just yet.

“Hermione, then. If I must call you Drake, you must call me Hermione.” she insisted, and Draco grinned.

“I quite like calling you Miss Granger, Miss Granger.” he replied, experimentally lowering his tone to a murmur on that emphasis just to see her shiver again, and he thought she might just like the sound of it, too. Then he straightened, finally bringing himself to her eye level. “Though I must admit that Drake sounds very lovely coming from you. And I much prefer it. Mister Mallory makes me sound like I’m my father. Won’t you call me Drake, if only as a reward for being the Customer of the Month?” he should buy Toni a present for giving him the ammo he needed to open up conversation with Granger, he thought, and waited for her response. She laughed.

“Oh, alright. What’s a girl to do when such a handsome fellow is being so persuasive?”

A moment later she realized what she’d said, and tried to backtrack, but it was too late. Draco grinned like a wolf who spotted his meal. “Oh no, you can’t take that back. Imagine how you’d wound my ego if you did.”

She laughed even harder then stood when the bell rang, running her palms down the front of her thighs nervously and inflating his ego all the more for that. “Well then, Drake, I guess we can’t have that.” she shook her head, then smiled. “Enjoy your tea. I have somebody to tend to.”

He watched her go. It was strange, deploying all of his charm with no intention of getting into a woman’s knickers, yet enjoying it all the more for that very same reason. It was easy to pretend with her; pretend that he was someone else, that the crushing strife and humiliation and devastation that had scoured and scorched his life and her own had never happened. It was easy to pretend that he was just a normal bloke with an easy, simple life rather than a broken one hiding his issues behind a thin yet glossy veneer, behind work and drink, to avoid his issues, when she so willingly gave him small reasons to smile and joke and be simultaneously himself and someone else. She glowed under the attention, and he wondered if, subconsciously, the old Granger—the one who had never been paid such flattery even by her closest friends—would appreciate it coming from him. But the way she smiled… he thought of Potter and Weasley, their adamance that she remain happy. Well, Draco was making her happy, if only because he bought all the books she liked and teased her relentlessly, yet appreciatively, in a way she’d never been. If that was to be his contribution to the Happiness Fund, he would be glad to pay it. It’s not like he didn’t derive his own sense of contentment from it.

Plus, he hadn’t earned the right to use her given name. Not when he’d been so foul in the past. If he were to use it as her friends did, he wanted to be able to do so because he’d earned the right to. Draco wondered if she’d be so willing to let him use it once she got her memory back—not if, but once, because he was determined now to make it happen. He quickly decided he didn’t nor should he care one way or another, and he wouldn’t let his own feelings get in the way should she despise him again once those memories returned. He was doing this because it was the right thing to do, for once. She deserved to heal, to know that despite the pain she was a source of wonder and power, and to have the brightest witch of her age wither away and die forever thinking she was a muggle, away from the beauty and awe inspiring wonder that is magic… well, that he wouldn’t wish on his worst enemy.

Chapter Text

“Long time no see,” Theo said as Draco dropped into his lab, standing behind a large stone slab with a bubbling cauldron, with his sleeves rolled up and his hair disheveled, and Draco thought Theo hadn’t seen the right side of a pillow for a few days. His friend had ink stained fingers, a quill sitting behind his ear, and looking very much like a mad genius as he measured and wrote down ingredients and stirred his cauldron.

“Experimenting?” Draco asked, rolling up his sleeves and stepping closer. Potions had always been his forte, and he very much enjoyed the rare opportunities when Theo would call him in for help.

“Refining,” Theo said without looking up, stirring. “Pass me that vial of powered lacewing flies, would you? How’s Granger?”

“You don’t mince words, do you?” Draco sighed, shaking his head and doing as instructed, locating the vial. He watched Theo empty three very measured scoops into his concoction.

“I’m a man of few words,” Theo snorted, though did nothing to hide his amused smirk. “I’d rather not waste them. So? How is she?”

“As brilliantly oblivious to her history as she was a month ago, and yet,” he said, looking up at the ceiling, recalling Granger’s smile. “Happier, healthier and far more charming than she’s ever been.”

“Really now,” Theo said, arching a knowing eyebrow at Draco before going back to his methodical stirring. “What book has she got you reading now?”

Draco rolled his eyes. Of course Theo would have picked up on that. “We’ve moved on from botany to muggle literature.”

“I still cannot believe you told her you were interested in the language of flowers. What are you, a two hundred year old witch?” Theo chuckled, eyes firmly on his brew.

“To be fair, I ended up learning quite a lot, and it’s not nearly half as boring as people think,” he said, looking into the cauldron to see the potion turn into the palest of blues. “Though I think I may need to install a new shelf at the Manor library at the rate we’re going, especially if she starts recommending more books with Byronic Heroes. I’m running out of space at the hotel room.”

“Byronic what?” Theo asked, though he was smart enough to stay off the subject of Draco sleeping in a hotel room almost nightly when he had a perfectly perfect Manor to return home to. There were some open sores one did not touch, no matter how long it’d been since the war.

“Nevermind,” Draco said, shaking his head. “It’s a long story. Needless to say, Granger has kept me occupied.”

“Would any of that happen to be figuring out why she’s the way she is?” Theo ventured lightly, and though he hid it well, Draco knew Theo was chomping at the bit to find out. Very little happened in potioneering from day to day. Draco looked at him, licking his teeth before answering.

“I did, actually. More than I thought I ever would, as a matter of fact.” He leaned against the stone slab turned workbench and shoved his hands into his trouser pockets, focusing on the wall in front of him as he replayed Potter’s words. “It’s not my story to tell. Not by a longshot. Suffice it to say, Potter and Weasley know. That information remains strictly confidential, Theo.”

Theo looked up, surprise painted all over his face, and very nearly ruined his potion before turning back to it with a muttered ‘shit’ to get it under control. When it was clear the brew wouldn’t explode in their faces, Theo reached for another vial and started measuring out shaved dragon scales, jotting down changes on his battered notebook, then nodded his assent. “And they haven’t done anything about it, then?”

Draco shrugged. “They’re trying.” he said, then sighed. “I agreed to help. Call it a momentary lapse in judgement, if you wish.”

Theo chuckled again at the begrudging way in which Draco muttered that last sentence, then set aside his notebook and vials and turned to look at him in the eye for once. “You don’t have to keep up pretenses with me, you know? I know she meant something to you once.”

“Yeah. Once, Theo.” said Draco, running his fingers through his hair. A nervous tick if Theo had ever seen one. “Once is not now. And I could hardly call it caring for the chit, much less meaning something. It was mostly unresolved sexual tension and teenage hormones.” Not that it had mattered. Draco had made it a point to treat her like hell as a diversion from his massive crush so his father’s eyes and ears wouldn’t pick up on the small fact. Draco hated himself for that now. And for the fact that… well… “I feel like I owe her, though.”

“Don’t we all,” Theo sighed out in a grumble, refraining from itching at his Dark Mark.

It had been three years and his had started to turn under the influence of his magic, much like Draco’s. He never bothered to look at his friend’s to see exactly what it was shaping into, but his own had slowly begun to grow additions: winged scarabs, leaves, herbs, things that he interacted with and that had a meaning to him as a potioneer. When no longer under the immediate influence of Dark magic, the light magic in their veins, inherent to all magical beings, tried to heal them of the curse via transformation. Someday, Theo hoped, his Dark Mark would be buried under a sleeve of moss and lacewing flies and items inked into him that remind him of Sophie, but that day was a long ways off.

He turned back to his work with a resigned murmur, watching his potion slowly turn a beautiful golden color, then wrote down a few more tidbits in his journal. “Well, if you’re willing to help then I guess I can offer my services. Will you tell me the full story then, should said services ever be required?”

Draco, who for his part had been staring off into space, picturing a certain little lioness who had started driving him insane, considered. Having somebody with Theo’s smarts never hurt, and seeing as his friend was the number one producer and procurer, as well as provider of potions to St. Mungo’s and expanding worldwide, having him on his side regarding Granger would be invaluable. It cut out the middleman, should they need healing potions later on, and Draco could count on Theo to keep his secrets.

“Of course,” he said.

“Good. Well, then,” his friend nodded, shutting his book and looking at Draco, who kicked off from his lounging position against the workbench. “That’ll be that for today.”

“I thought you asked me here to help?” Draco arched an eyebrow. Theo only smirked.

“No, mate. I asked you here to make sure you were still alive and in one piece. I hadn’t heard from you in a while,” he said, his smirk turning positively devious and he bounced his eyebrows. “Had to make sure Granger hadn’t swallowed you whole already.”

“You’re disgusting, Theodore Nott,” Draco said, pinching his nose in distaste, though a filthy part of his mind immediately procured several potential scenarios to play out that image. Theo laughed.

“Pot, meet Kettle,” was his response as he began putting his stuff away. “This brew has to sit for a few days now. I just wanted to talk.”

“Prat,” Draco said then pulled his sleeves back down, smoothing out the wrinkles. “Well, in that case, I guess I should be going. I’m already late as it is.”

Theo looked at him from over his shoulder, arms raised high with a handful of herbs he was rehanging against the wall and an arched brow. “Late for what? It’s the middle of the day.”

“Buying books, of course,” said Draco as the door closed behind him, leaving a bemused and highly entertained Theodore Nott behind.

****

When Draco arrived at Granger’s bookshop, it was to find out that Toni had made it her personal mission to shove him and Granger together no matter what it took.

She was minding the coffee counter while Granger was ringing a customer at the till, but the second Toni saw him walking slowly towards the side where the coffee contraptions were, she ran to the till, took off her apron at lightning speed and shoved it in Granger’s hands before bodily depositing her in front of the coffee machines, grinning at the very confused customer who stood with money in hand to pay for their book and smoothly taking up where Granger left off. When Draco arched a crisp questioning brow at her, the seventeen year old little pixie-sized ball of trouble simply gave him her best award winning smile and then promptly ignored him, leaving Granger to stare at them both with her jaw dangerously close to hitting the floor.

The corners of his lips lifted and Draco tilted his head in acknowledgement towards Toni with a minute wink, and had just enough time to see Granger click her mouth shut before he shook off his coat and grabbed his wallet.

“Hello, Miss Granger.” Granger made a show of standing tall in all of her five foot four inches, giving Toni the evil eye while pulling the apron over her head.  Toni simply responded to her boss’s warning glare with a grin.

“Hello, Mister Mallory,” she said finally,  “How can I help you today?”

“Drake.” he said.

“What?” Granger asked, before remembering their conversation the previous day. “Oh! Oh, right. Drake. How can I help you?”

“Coffee?”

From the other end of the counter, Toni piped in, “Whole milk, three sugars, extra expresso, and a dash of caramel—he likes it, I promise. Seems to drink faster when I sneak it in.”

Draco and Granger both turned to look at Toni. She shrugged, tilting her nose up in a very Narcissa Malfoy manner, daring them to contradict her. “What? It’s true.”

Draco took Toni in once more, all sharp, dainty features, pink-tipped blonde hair almost as light as his own, though he doubted it came by biologically, and a streak of rebelliousness that reminded him very much of himself, and shook his head. Just as he could no longer imagine this shop without Granger's presence, Draco had a hard time imagining it without her counterpart, Toni's firecracker attitude bringing out the best in them all, and thought that if he’d ever had a sister, he might have wanted her to be like Toni.

“You heard the young lady,” Draco told Granger, bouncing his eyebrows playfully. “Perfect poison. I’ll have what she suggested.”

Granger, who had remained silent up until now, snorted rather unprofessionally as she turned around, pushing strange buttons on the coffee machine and bending to grab a carton of milk from under the counter that gave him an accidental but excellent view of the perfect curve of her arse. Nevertheless, Draco didn’t miss the angry muttering—

“Of course you would,” Granger grumbled.

Draco made himself look busy immediately, fiddling with his wallet to hide his surprise at the tone. She must be in a mood. He leaned against the counter after a minute, curious as he watched her fingers flying from one knob to another, pushing buttons and wiping down nozzles with a look of intense concentration on her face, then a much kinder look of satisfaction once she got his drink exactly as Toni had instructed, putting a travel lid on it and passing it to him with a smile.

“Here you go, Mister Mal—Drake,” she corrected.

“Very good, Miss Granger,” he smiled, distractedly pulling out a fifty pound note from his wallet and popping it into the tip jar while looking for his card. Then he heard her let out this sound that sounded curiously like a mix of a gasp and a scoff. 

“Did you just—did you just tip me for using your name?”

“Hmmm, no,” said Draco, eyes still down as he fished his card out. “I tipped your tip jar for no other reason than it was there and I’m feeling rather generous. If you must think of it as a tip to you, however, then perhaps think of it as a tip for that delicious cup of Toni’s Magical Coffee you just prepared me.”

He could tell she didn’t buy it, not really, but he grinned at her anyway as he handed the card over and took his coffee from her hand, watching her pupils dilate at the feeling of his fingers brushing hers. She narrowed her eyes at him while he took the first sip without breaking eye contact, and he mentally willed the corners of her mouth to keep inching upward.

“You spend money for the silliest of reasons, Mister M—Drake.”

Draco smirked. “I hardly find it silly.” What else was he supposed to spend his money on anyway?

It wasn’t like he was going out into town nightly any longer. In lieu of drink and loose women, dropping money into Granger’s jar seemed like a good alternative. He had far too many notes in his wallet and nowhere else to spend them, anyway. Draco didn’t make it a habit to visit Muggle London unless it involved getting drunk.

She shook her head. “You do know you can’t buy your way into a friendship, no matter how loaded you are, right?”

Well, she hadn’t lost her brutal honesty, at least. He could tell her how very wrong she was about that, having grown up with his parents buying ‘friendships’ in government and society alike all his life, but instead he shrugged and gave her an innocent smile as he leaned forward, whispering conspiratorially, “Then it’s a good thing I’m not trying to buy your friendship. I’d much rather earn it by being a charming conversationalist.”

She again snorted so hard her head jerked, a loose curl falling around her face. The impulse to reach up and tug it, or tuck it behind her ear, was overwhelming. He stretched his fingers at his side to hide the itch, eyes dancing on her face as she laughed.

“You’re incorrigible.”

“You’re finally learning, Miss Granger.”

She shook her head and the curl bounced. The itch grew stronger. To the side, while the two of them were unaware, Toni watched with wicked delight, the smile growing bigger when she leaned forward to match his stance.

“I’m a quick study,” she promised. “Now, will you at least drop the ‘miss’? It makes me feel like I should be curtsying and putting on lace gloves every time,” she laughed, but he could tell she was being honest. He wouldn’t call her Hermione, but she wanted the closeness that came with familiarity. “Just Granger will do.”

Draco’s lips twitched. Damn it, he couldn't help it. He reached forward and gave her loose curl the lightest of tugs. “Alright then, Granger. Are you pleased with yourself now?”

“Very.”

“Good.”

He grabbed his coffee and turned, deciding that spending a few hours upstairs watching her seemed like a pleasant enough way to spend the afternoon, and very nearly stumbled on the first step when Toni, not even bothering to lower her voice, turned to Granger and sniffed.

“You two were eating each other with your eyes.” Toni said, then giggled. “Just jump him already.”

“Toni—” Granger's voice was edged with warning and much, much lower than Toni’s, who seemed to have reached a limit where she was no longer willing to be discrete.

“Oh my god, ‘Mione. Seriously. I swear, if you don’t bang him soon, the second I turn eighteen in three months, I will.”

“You are way too young to be talking about banging anybody—” Granger huffed, dragging Toni by the sleeve of her t-shirt towards the back room. “Now will you lower your voice!”

Draco made his way upstairs and claimed his usual spot, sipping from his drink and watching as she and Toni came back out a minute later, Toni looking like the cat who got the cream and Granger blushing furiously.

He tapped his fingers on his knee, studying them. Draco had already made himself a fixture at the bookshop, and if they had any questions about what he did for a living or any aspects of his life that allowed him to sit about for hours on end sipping drinks and perusing books, none of them said anything, but he was highly amused by the way they both had taken him in, especially Toni. He was growing fonder and fonder of the little muggle girl by the day, which would have made a younger Draco Malfoy itch, but what really kept bringing him back was Granger. He thought about Toni’s (rather crass) words about Granger’s supposed interests in him.

He had promised Potter that he would help which, at least in his book, so far felt mostly like keeping an eye out for her and amusing her for his own selfish reasons, but the more he visited the more he found himself wanting to know more. Sure, a lot of her memories of the last three years had been planted there by the Golden Duo, but what about the ones she’d made herself? He could hardly find out about those by simply visiting the shop, ribbing her for a few minutes and then watching her for the remainder of his visit.

That thought was starting to keep him up at night.

He wanted to get to know this Granger, if only because once her memories returned, this would be the only version of her life in which she would ever willingly open up to him, and he had an inexplicable desire to just… know. In the next second, he made up his mind. He put his coffee aside and got up, walking to the railing and bending over it casually, ankles crossed as he pushed back onto his heels and crossed his arms on the rail.

“Miss Granger?” he called out. Granger’s head whipped around to look at him. She was walking around collecting books left behind by customers, putting them on the small cart she took around at the end of the day to return books to shelves. “May I request your presence for a moment? I have a question.”

He had been around enough that the regulars of the place, a handful of them, all smirked into their mugs of coffee and tea, chuckled into their books as they flipped pages, and gave each other conspiratorial looks without looking up at the sound of Draco’s voice and Granger’s startled jump.

“Yes, of course, give me a moment,” she called, looking around in embarrassment. The place wasn’t huge by any means, but it certainly wasn’t small either. Sound carried, and now everyone in the place was aware that Granger was about to go to the quiet corner upstairs where the dashing young man who kept insistently visiting her at least twice a week stood, looking for all the world like his question had nothing to do with books. Which it didn’t. Toni beamed.

He nodded and resumed his seat, picking up his cup once more and watching the top step of the stairs patiently. By the time she surfaced, attempting very much to look like she hadn’t run up the steps, Draco was comfortably settled in his decision.

“So, Miss Granger,” he greeted, waiting until she came to stand in front of him. He tried to tell himself the tingle working itself down his spine at seeing her acting so very servile while standing so close between his casually spread knees was not his cock beginning to stir with interest.

“Yes?”

“I have a question to ask you,” he said, then tilted his head sideways. “Over coffee.”

She narrowed her eyes at him, and for a moment he saw hints of the old Granger there. Suspicion. He smiled when she gave him a very old-Granger response. “You’re already drinking some, so what’s the question?”

So tetchy. He wondered why she’d been in such a temper all day. He had managed to make her smile, but she seemed to be right back to her earlier quiet displeasure. He shook his head.

“I meant that you and I should go to coffee, Miss Granger,” he said, setting his cup aside and standing up until he was a foot or so away from her. Merlin, but she was small. The top of her head barely came to his collarbone, her frame petite and wide eyes looking up at him. “I would have proposed dinner, but I was afraid I might spook you, so… coffee. Let me take you out for coffee one of these evenings after work. What do you say?”

She had to tilt her head back to look up at him, chest rising and falling rather fast, though she managed to get it under control quickly, and as she tilted her head to inspect him he once again itched to tuck that lock of hair back.

“How about over lunch instead?” she asked.

Draco gave her the faintest smirk. “Are you negotiating with me about coffee?”

He had tried to word it so carefully, but he wanted to spend time with her. Around dinner time, specifically, and if that coffee date happened to go too long... Yet she was onto his game. Lunch made it less of a date. Smart little woman, this one. He very much doubted she was playing hard to get, but it made him want to give chase nonetheless.

She smirked. He found he quite liked that smirk on her. “Are you open to negotiation?”

His own smile grew and he leaned down, breathed in deeply, entirely satisfied at the way her breath hitched when he tilted his head to whisper in her ear. “Are you? You will find that I am very adept at it, and tend to get what I want when negotiating. So… coffee after work?”

They were so close. Far too close. His breath on her neck disturbed the soft little curls there, and the tantalizing glance he got of the little goosebumps rising suddenly up her skin sharpened his focus. He could smell the vanilla of her shampoo and the spice of cinnamon on her very clearly this close, and it made the part of him who enjoyed touching want to, so he shoved his hands in his pockets and leaned out to look at her face again. To her credit, Granger didn’t budge.

“During lunch,” she said, digging her heels in. Draco laughed, but just as he held his hands up in surrender, she got up on her tippy toes and turned the cards on him. She had to place a hand on his chest to balance herself, waif of a tiny thing as she was, and his fingers automatically landed on her waist for support. She whispered in his ear, warm breath tickling the shell of it, and the hairs on the back of his neck stood up sharply. “And if that goes well, then maybe dinner.”

Fuck. Had she always been that way? If she was, he was suddenly glad he hadn’t put the moves on Granger in school. He would have been walking around with a massive boner all of his collegiate career if he had, and wouldn’t that have been embarrassing. Or he would have been fucking her in every nook and cranny of the castle, which—

Merlin, Malfoy, what the fuck. Stop it.

Downstairs, Toni caught the whole thing and snickered. Upstairs, however, Draco could only concentrate on the freckles on her caramel skin, on the way her hand slid down his chest before pulling away from him, and on breathing. She’d upped the ante, and he found he very much wanted to play.

He was being a fool for even entertaining the possibility of truly flirting with her like this. She didn’t remember who she was, how much she hated him, or that her friends would have his balls strung up on the Christmas tree if they ever found out he’d propositioned their precious Gryffindor princess (even if it was to something as innocent as coffee), but his body had entirely different ideas.

Keep it innocent, Malfoy, for fuck’s sake, he reminded himself again as he let his hand fall away from her. They burned with the warmth of her now. Draco inclined his head at her and watched as she straightened her shirt and gave him a perfunctory smile before departing as though she hadn’t just tried to give him a raging hard on.

He sat back down and noted with mild amusement that, after their brief encounter, there was no trace left of Granger’s temper on her face for the rest of the afternoon. And Draco Malfoy was far too pleased with himself, so pleased in fact that he completely forgot to ask her about it.

***

There were many things one could accuse Draco Malfoy of being: A flirt when it came to women, iron-fisted when it came to work, or a total asshole when it came to people he didn’t like or deemed beneath him (of which there were plenty); but what Draco Malfoy could never be accused of were dressing like a slob or being late.

He showed up at the front door of Granger’s shop five minutes early, ensuring that by the time he gathered Granger they would be leaving exactly at the time they’d agreed their not-quite-date would begin, dressed to impress in a light gray herringbone three-piece suit that brought the color of his eyes and a navy tie that played nicely off his platinum blonde hair, his jacket opened to reveal a vest that hugged him in all the right places and trousers that did wonderful things for his arse. He knew all this. It’s exactly why he wore it. If Granger wanted to play games, he’d bring on the artillery.

His reward for the power move was Toni letting out a low, long wolf-whistle as she eyed him without shame from head to toe, and Granger letting out a whispered, “I thought you said it was just coffee.”

Draco smirked, unable to hide his smugness as he shot back, “Yes, well, I thought you said it was lunch.”

Granger looked him up and down and shook her head, her hands smoothing down her skirt over and over nervously though she hardly seemed to be aware she was doing it. Draco stepped forward, turning to offer his arm. “Relax, Granger. You look wonderful,” he said very seriously.

And she did look wonderful. It was supposed to be ‘only’ coffee, which he’d upgraded to lunch by playing on her own words, but Granger had made an effort, he could tell. Her hair had been tastefully pinned back with a small crown twist braid, framing her features and keeping it away from her pretty face; revealing a small pair of pearls peeking out from behind her curls to match the solitary pearl dangling at the dip of her collarbone from a short, feminine silver chain. His eyes kept straying back to those spots, making a long line from the shell of her ear down the gentle slope of her neck to the enticing hollow where that pearl rested. He had never imagined jewelry could be so seductive, but he was being proved wrong with every passing second.

She’d changed into another one of her dresses, this one with a scooped collar that gave him just a hint of a swell without really letting him see anything, her hem falling a hand’s width above her knees, reminding draco of the lengths of beautiful legs hiding under those skirts he’d gotten a peek of earlier. The modest dove grey number was finished off with a pair of sensible black flats and a delicate three-quarter sleeve white cardigan of which Granger seemed to be very fond of the hem, seeing as she kept fidgeting with it.

“Shall we?” he asked, tipping his elbow closer to her, and Granger finally let out a short breath, diverted away from her self-consciousness for a moment. The proferred arm must have been amusing to her because she chuckled as she wrapped her hand over the crook of his elbow. Merlin, her hands were tiny.

“Lead the way, Mister Mallory.”

“Drake,” he corrected absentmindedly, and she smiled.

“Of course.”

Draco steered her away from the shop and across the street, matching his gait to hers as her legs were much shorter, and fought a smile once he noticed she was eyeing him curiously. “Where are we going?” she asked.

“I thought perhaps we could grab something to eat and take it with us,” he said, leaning down to whisper in her ear, “it’s a wonderful day and I’d like to show off my beautiful date to any who might see. Plus, there’s this wonderful little coffee house I discovered—”

“Date?” Hermione said, “I thought you were taking me out to coffee because you had a question. Also, are you cheating on Toni with another coffee machine? The travesty!”

Draco looked at her, then he threw his head back and laughed. Laughter had been so lacking in his life for so long, and yet this muggle version of Granger kept extracting the sound and sensation from him so very often he was starting to feel as though it had become an addiction. She was becoming an addiction.

“I do have a question,” he said, “but that will wait until we have coffee and lunch in hand. As for me cheating—never! I’m a one-coffee-machine kind of man, thank you very much. Plus no other place has managed to recreate Toni’s recipe for me. It must be something about your bookshop and all the love that goes into each and every beverage.”

Hermione rolled her eyes, the humor clear in them as she smiled, “Oh, yes. We pour buckets of love into them. It’s our standard replacement for coffee grounds. But don’t think you have fooled me, Drake,” she said his name without stuttering or forgetting this time, and hearing his childhood pet name coming from her was...exhilarating. What would his actual name sound like spoken that way? It also brought a fondness from somewhere he couldn’t quite recall for days when the Malfoys used to be much happier people. “Were you trying to trick me into going on a date with you?”

Draco smirked. “Did it work?”

“You really are incorrigible.” she said, yet patted his forearm softly. Draco’s smirk grew.

“I believe we had established that earlier, Granger,” he said, gently squeezing her hand where it lay between forearm and his much larger hand. Granger eyed him from head to toe in an overly exaggerated manner before pursing her lips in a mock-stern downturn as she primly informed him that he was full of shit.

“You think I don’t see right through you, Drake Mallory, but I do. You’re all dashing charm and charisma with a bad boy edge, so innocent looking anyone would buy you right off the display window and take you home with them, but I personally think you’re just trouble waiting to happen. There are horns under that impossibly blonde halo. Is that even real?”

Draco scoffed, “Very much so, Granger. These looks can’t be bought from a bottle.”

“And cocky, too. Yes. I think I had you pegged right from the get go,” she announced, and Draco’s lips ticked upward.

“Did you, now?” he asked, steering her towards the door of a small bistro he had often used during business meetings, high class enough to be a viable venue for informally entertaining muggle clients, yet still small enough that there wouldn’t be a throng of people coming and going. He’d called ahead, and thanked his lucky stars the weather actually held up. By the time he led Hermione to a booth to the side and left her to get comfortable on the white leather, the locale’s owner and bartender, who had become well acquainted with Draco Malfoy’s deep pockets, waved him over and pulled out a basket from behind the counter.

“Mister Mal—” he began, but Draco shook his head. Thankfully the man was smart enough to keep his mouth shut as Draco interjected,

“Ah! Perfect,” he said to cover for the abruptness of it all. “Thank you so very much, Hugo. If you wouldn’t mind, could we have two, ah—” he perused the boards to the side with all the caffeinated drink choices, “two of those caramel whatsits to go?” He’d meant machiatto, of course, but he’d only had one once and could hardly remember. Hugo, however, seemed to catch on and nodded him off with a promise to bring his drinks.

Draco returned to Granger and slid into the booth, propping the basket on the highly polished wood table and stretching his legs, effectively trapping Hermione’s between his. She blushed; Draco decided he enjoyed her blush under the soft, dim mood lighting. “It’ll be just a moment, then we can be on our way. The weather, thankfully, promises to remain as sunny as your disposition, but I did promise coffee first. Until then, Granger, how about you tell me about yourself?”

The Gryffindor Princess arched a delicate eyebrow. She must have learned the power of tweezers in the last few years, though they were still lusciously full, and Draco wondered what it’d be like to smooth his finger over one. He was brought out of his wondering shortly after. “Is that your question?” she asked.

“Will you answer it if I say yes?” he asked, toying with the salt shaker and returning her arched brow. Granger rolled her eyes but made herself comfortable and smiled nonetheless. Her eyes wandered up and to the left, thinking back.

“Not much to say, I guess,” she started. “Born and raised in Sussex, though my parents—wonderful people, mum and papa—relocated back to London to restart their dentistry practice. I’m sure they were thrilled to find out their daughter ended up with buck teeth,” she laughed. “Thankfully I had dentists for parents! That got fixed soon enough.”

That was a lie, he knew. Her teeth had been buck-ish for quite a while. He’d only made them worse during their fourth year when he’d accidentally hit her with a Densaugeo hex and she’d sprouted teeth as long as a beaver’s. She’d fixed them herself with magic sometime later, though, and now sported an enviable set of pearly whites. He hid his smile and listened to her hum, trying to think of more to tell him.

“Only child, top of my class most years. Perfect marks, squeaky clean record. No wild parties or torrid teenage romances. It was fairly boring, in hindsight,” she sighed, looking at him. “My parents wanted me to go to dentistry school and take over the family business, but when I told them I had more interest in books and libraries than operating chairs, they finally gave it up and help me get my bookshop started. They dissolved their practice and retired to somewhere nice and warm off the coast of Hawaii,” she said with a fond smile, but then it quickly turned sad. “They died in a car accident a few years ago… I moved out right after liquidating the house.”

He frowned. He could see where Weasley and Potter had inserted memories, because he knew for a fact that her parents hadn’t been around at the beginning of the second war. He knew a handful of Death Eaters had been sent searching and found the home vacant. It was shortly after set on fire by a crazy Fenrir Greyback. Potter and Weasley must have found a different home. However, he eagerly moved away from the topic, knowing that, whether real or imagined, the thought of one’s parents dying hurt. He wondered about the same thing regarding his own every day—when would he get the message that his father had perished behind bars? Lucius Malfoy was stuck in Azkaban for life, after all. Or when would his mother finally pass away from her grief? He didn’t want to think about it. He doubted Granger wanted to dwell on her parents, either.

“So how did you meet Toni?” he asked, sitting up and leaning forward. Granger perked up.

“Oh, Toni!” she laughed. “I literally ran into her. She was visiting the shop, a little fourteen year old thing with an attitude problem and way too many piercings, and I was carrying books back to the romance novels shelf—the shop was basically four tall shelves and a till back then. I spent all my money building up stock, and started with mostly used books, but it took a while— and she was nose deep in something or other. We sort of collapsed, all arms and legs and books everywhere. I think she felt bad. She helped me put all the books away, even the ones I didn’t need any help with that day. She kept coming back again and again, and eventually when she was looking for a job and I was finally making enough to both have consistent meals and pay somebody else, I offered her one. We’ve been together ever since.”

Draco chuckled, leaning his chin on his palm and tilting his head. “So you took in the stray with a love for books as big as yours and a bit of an attitude?”

“Two peas in a pod,” she grinned. “She’s not so bad, actually. She’s a hard worker, a quick study, and apart from her raging crush on you, she’s a very good kid.”

“She’s got a crush on me?” Draco asked innocently, sitting up straight again and looking like a puppy wagging his tail just to see her laugh again. She did. It was so worth it making a fool of himself.

“As if you hadn’t noticed. She’s not particularly subtle or quiet,” She shook her head, tucking that perpetually errant piece of hair behind her ear. It gave him a delicious display of neck that had his pulse doing funny things. He licked his lips.

“And the other pea in the pod?” he whispered. Granger looked up at him from under her lashes.

She was saved from having to answer when Hugo came around with their coffees, however, giving Granger a panty dropping smile and letting her know he hoped they enjoyed their day, then shooting Draco a sly wink before departing. They grabbed their travel cups and left quietly. Draco didn’t push for an answer, slotting it all under his neatly compartmentalized harmless flirting label in his head. After all, Granger was pleasant to look at, and a delight to banter with, but it could hardly ever be more than that between them. Right? Then again, he seemed to be unable to refrain himself around this one woman, no matter how much his brain shrieked at him that he should maintain his distance. It was the allure of the unattainable, the shared past that lived in his head, the breath of fresh air that a brand new start posed. He couldn’t stop himself if he wanted to.

He carried their basket in the crook of his arm holding his coffee, then offered her his other elbow again. She took it far more readily this time.

Still, she couldn’t help but remark on it. “You must give my compliments to whoever raised you,” she said, looking straight ahead. “It is hard to find a man with old world charms and a set of manners to match in this day and age.”

Draco huffed, “You give me too much credit. I only do this for the pretty ones whom I trick into having lunch and coffee with me while I visit them at the bookshops they own, you see. Otherwise I’m a total, mannerless cad. But I’m sure my mother would love to hear such compliments, I’ll be sure to pass them on, even if only for her benefit.”

Hermione laughed. He grinned. Sure, he had spent several years being a cad, or something akin to it, though it was always consensual and his attentions welcome, but if there was one thing Malfoys were reared with in spades it was manners. He couldn’t imagine not offering his elbow to a young lady when escorting her anywhere. It simply wouldn’t do. It would be beat out of him otherwise. He imagined Lucius Malfoy’s painful cane.

They made their way slowly to a park nearby, and when it came time he laid down the picnic blanket Hugo had packed, motioning her to sit before gently placing his jacket on her shoulders to ward off the chill. It was a beautiful day, but there was a breeze. She thanked him demurely and they quietly dug into their lunch, a series of fruits and cheeses, delicious little artisan sandwiches Draco had become mildly obsessed with, and their coffee to keep them warm. It was… nice. There was no need to fill the silence with idle chit chat, no awkward feelings in the air, and when they did talk it was about interesting things, from literature and music to philosophy and even a touch of muggle politics, and Hermione Granger had plenty to say about all of them.

By the time they finished, it was well past her lunch hour, though neither of them had noticed, and as they made their way back to her bookshop, Draco felt… content. He knew he should get on finding Bellatrix’s wand, or any other information that may help lift the curse on Granger, but a part of him couldn’t help feeling a little bit sad and reluctant to do so quite just yet. He would miss this.

When they arrived at her door, Granger turned around, eyes dancing on his. “So, did you get the answers you wanted?” she asked, intrigued. Draco tilted his head sideways, a few wisps of baby blonde hair falling across his eyes.

“I think so,” he murmured. “All but one.”

“Oh? And what is that?” she asked, leaning against the same wall Draco had propped his shoulder on.

“Would you go out to dinner with me?”

Hermione bit her lip, studying him, and Draco waited patiently for the verdict. Their not-quite-date had been brilliant, and if she wanted nothing more he would respect that, but he still wanted time to see inside her head, find out what made this new Granger tick, archive all that information for a time when she may not be so willing to offer her friendship. “As friends, if you’d like. And I promise to be on my best behavior.”

“Oh, I guess if you put it that way,” she said with an indulgent smile, then sighed and looked behind her to see Toni, who was keeping a hawk-like eye on them. When she turned around, her cheeks were tinted that alluring pink. “I’d be honored to accompany you to dinner. I had fun today, Drake.”

“Same as I,” he murmured, boldly reaching up and tucking her hair behind her ear as he’d been wanting to do all day, his knuckles grazing her cheekbone as he retreated. “More than you can imagine, in fact. I feel selfish, asking for so much of your time, but you’re always busy and I’d hate to interrupt your work more than necessary.”

She bit her lip. He suddenly found he wanted to ease it out from under her teeth with his thumb. He almost reached for it before thinking better of it, letting his hand fall from her. Granger seemed unperturbed by it.

“So does that mean you’ll stop visiting so often?” she asked instead. Draco grinned.

“Not a chance. But it’s been nice to see you in a different setting, get to know more…”

She grinned and he felt his heart leap. Her smiles were intoxicating.

“Well then… this Friday?”

Draco nodded, picking up her hand. “I’ll pick you up at seven,” he said, bowing over it and letting his lips graze her knuckles. “Until then, Granger.”

He watched her enter the store and left before she could reach Toni, not trusting himself not to go in there and just kiss her already, something his brain screamed was a really stupid thought! But his mouth ached to do so anyway.

He would deny it until the day he went to his grave, he knew, but the reality of it was that Draco Malfoy had it bad. And he was setting himself up for heartbreak.

Chapter Text

Draco fell asleep with Hermione Granger on his mind, not because he has spent most of the day thinking about her as it was (which he had), but because he received an owl from none other than Harry Potter that night asking if he had made any progress on finding Bellatrix's wand.

Which he hadn’t.

And the reason for that was that he had been far too busy entertaining Granger, too busy playing at being a dashing normal young man with an interest in a beautiful, smart young woman, drinking coffee and flirting as if he hadn't spent the majority of his school career terrorizing the poor girl at any chance he had. Merlin, he could hang himself, he was so stupid.

Stupid, yes. And he was fairly sure that the biggest reason for this peculiarity in a change of feelings (and priorities, if he were to be honest) was his guilt speaking. Or at least that's what he told himself when he woke up the next day with a massive headache from all the firewhiskey he’d drank at Theo's with a sense of dejected gloominess about him.

He had forgotten. He had completely forgotten. He had given into his basest of desires where Hermione Granger was concerned, choosing to spend the day not out looking for a way to get her memories back, but selfishly indulging in his own sense of... well, he didn't even have a name for it. Granted, the issue of her memories being gone wasn't ever that far away from the forefront of his, but the urgency in finding the wand was.

Draco looked out the window at the bright sunlight, eyes squinting to keep from tearing up, already wishing he hadn’t done half the things he’d indulged in the previous day, including but not limited to downing half a bottle of firewhiskey as he stared at a fire and Theo tried his best not to push him too much on it.

Not that it would stop him from visiting her today. Oh, no. Of course not. He was too inherently selfish to stop visiting, not to mention he had already warned Potter and Weasley that there was nothing they could do to keep him from seeing Granger if he felt like it. So with his selfishness in mind, Draco got up from his bed in Theo's guest room, wrote a note for his host and, after bidding Sophie goodbye and letting her know that he had left a message in Theo’s study, Draco Apparated to Granger's bookshop.

She greeted him with the same exact level of excitement she has shown for him when he first showed up at the shop, a cheery smile on her beautiful face, curly mane of hair in a massive disarray first thing in the morning, and the smell of cinnamon and vanilla on her skin and hair as she carefully leaned over the counter and asked, “Good morning! We never see you so early in the morning. What brings you in?”

Draco smiled. He had no place smiling the way he was smiling, but he couldn't help himself.

Here was the reason he was quickly becoming a morning person, staring at him with such a sense of welcoming that Draco for once felt refreshed by the early morning wake up call rather than annoyed, even if he was still sporting a hangover of the century. He could have fixed it with a Pepper Up potion of course, but he had reasoned (rather logically, of course, else what excuse would he have to visit Granger?) that the best cure for hangover was a really hot cup of coffee.

It had nothing to do with wanting to see Granger’s smile and it certainly had nothing to do with the fact that he was avoiding going to the Malfoy Manor, the very reason he had gotten sloshed in Theo’s study rather than go home alone to begin with, the thought of seeing his mother curdling his stomach at the bright, sharp hour of eight o’ clock. It always did, though. Maybe the coffee would settle it.

“I'm not a morning person,” he said, returning to the now. “But I can learn to be I think, so long as I’m provided with a steady stream of life preserving fuel also known as caffeine.”

From the other side of the counter, Toni saluted. “Aye, aye, captain. One extremely sugary, very hot cup of coffee with two extra shots of espresso and caramel coming right up!”

Draco chuckled. “That's my girl,” he said. Granger shook her head indulgently at Toni's batted lashes and placed her hand over his when he tried to give her his credit card.

“This one is on the house,” she said. “It looks like you had a rough one last night.”

The end of that sentence sounded more like question than a statement. Draco smirked his usual dashing slash shit eating grin, pocketing his wallet and leaning against the counter to cup his chin in the palms of his hand, the other arm dangling lazily over the edge.

“Why Granger, are you worried about me?” he asked, and at the first look of indignation on her face threw his head back and laughed. “If this is your way of asking if I am fine, I am happy to tell you that I am alive and mostly well. I promise on my—” he almost set the word magic, but stopped himself in time, “—Mother's life, though I think this hangover is painful enough to raise the dead, so even if I weren't fine and alive, I can promise you that situation would change rather quickly.”

At this, Toni shoved a cup of coffee in his hand while rather artlessly inching closer and closer to her with some excuse or another until Granger was forced to step out from behind the counter and face him properly. The girl had stopped being subtle a while ago, much to Draco's amusement and Granger's dismay.

“So,” Draco said seeing as there was no way that Toni was going to be letting Granger behind that counter again until some sort of exchange happened between them, “How was your night, Miss Granger?”

Granger answered without taking her eyes away from Tony. “It was lovely, thank you.”

“What about you?” she asked, “You seemed to have been just fine in the afternoon when you left after lunch. What drove you to drink?”

Draco snorted. It's not like he could actually tell her why he had been drinking, but he figured that a little bit of the truth could not hurt. It was after all her that had driven him to the fire whiskey, if only indirectly. “It was a girl, if you must know,” he teased, taking a sip of his coffee and holding her alarmed gaze when she turned to look at him. She, bleeding Gryffindor heart that she was, manage to look both crestfallen and worried for him all in one motion.

“Oh,” she breathed, fidgeting and fighting the urge to shift, “I am very sorry to hear that. Is everything alright? With her, I mean? I— I mean, I don't mean to pry at all— you don't have to tell me— you just look a little run-down is all—”

Draco reached out with his free hand and gently tugged on one of her curls to pause her rambling, giving her one of his charming smiles as he threaded it in a loop around his index finger and explored its soft texture with his thumb before releasing it. It was certainly softer than it looked. He wondered idly what it would be like to wrap it all around his fist once.

“Relax, Granger. I’m just kidding. The actual reason I ended up in this state was that I was visiting a friend. We started talking business and family and got a little carried away with the whiskey. It only very minorly had something to do with the pretty girl who I took out to lunch but then wasn't there when I went home after a long day. She was rather enjoyable to be around, I think, and it was a pity I have to go home to an empty living room to have dinner by myself.” He bit his lip without thinking, and when her eyes focused on that motion, all he could do was swallow hard and hide it behind a sip of his quickly cooling drink.

Her cheeks turned slightly pink under the golden hue of her skin, highlighting her freckles. All Draco could do was stare. He could start a list by now, he mused, of all the things he was growing highly addicted to… that tinge of pink to her cheeks that he wished to gently thumb over, the way she smiled shyly at him whenever he so very boldly went out of his way to flirt, the way your eyes crinkled with true mirth when he said something she found funny. The way she had stared at his lips.

His list was growing longer by the day.

She deserved better.

That brought his thoughts reeling back to the wand. It must be somewhere in the Manor if not within his mother's Gringotts account. He hoped it was in the Manor. At least there he could snoop around should his mother prove to be less than thrilled to offer him any information. Getting it out of her vault would prove to be far trickier. While Narcissa Malfoy was the most soft hearted one out of all of the Malfoys she certainly hadn't become Lady of the Manor by being soft. She was still a Slytherin after all, and had been a Malfoy long enough to learn that sometimes the only way to get what you wanted was to barter for it. Draco pursed his lips at the thought.

Any other time he would have found it amusing and would have jumped at the opportunity to see anything other than apathy on his mother's face, but he knew his mother. He had heard the stories during their trials in front of the Wizengamot. Ultimately, one of the biggest reasons Harry Potter had won the war was because Narcissa Malfoy had deceived The Dark Lord, and she had done it with a straight face and a straighter back, having shown that she had more spine than any of the men in her family. Getting Bellatrix's wand out of Gringotts, if that is indeed where Narcissa kept it, meant that Draco would definitely have to pay for it somehow. He'd be in his mother's debt, and no doubt the woman would use it as a way to make sure that Draco was married and shackled to some prim, boring pure-blooded bint before he could say snitch. The thought nauseated him.

Which brought him back to Granger, for whom he was definitely not developing feelings. It was all in his head and she deserved better and this constant proximity was fucking with him and he would swear by that until the end of his days as he went about doing his duty simply because she has saved their asses during the war, but he was not developing feelings. Not that he could ever do more than what he’s been doing, else Potter would have his ass on a platter if he ever did anything, but damn it, he wanted to be that person who kept her smiling for his own damned reasons, so he very well would until he couldn’t any longer.

Draco waited just long enough until Granger assured him that they were still on for dinner on Friday, then picked up her hand and kissed it (yet more entirely unnecessary behavior on his part but he was a gentleman, Merlin take it all), then bid her and Toni a good rest of their day before departing. He Apparated to Malfoy Manor and found his mother exactly where he thought he would: out in a shady corner of the gazebo, eyes on the far bank of the lake while their house elf, Rusty, busied herself with pouring a piping hot cup of tea for her.

At the sound of footsteps, Rusty let out a high pitched squeak and promptly and announced him to Narcissa. “Mistress Malfoy, your son is here to see you.” Then the elf turned to Draco and bowed. “Master Malfoy, welcome home. Would you like a cup of tea as well?”

“No, thank you, Rusty. I won’t be long. You're dismissed.” Rusty disappeared with a loud pop, leaving Draco standing while his mother still faced away from him. He drew in a deep breath, taking a seat carefully and slowly as he inspected her profile. “Mother.”

Nothing.

“Mother, how are you today?” he said, “It has been a while.”

Nothing.

Draco sighed, rubbing his face and wishing he was still at Granger's instead of sitting here being completely ignored first thing in the morning. he may be Lucius Malfoy's son after all. being ignored was not something he tolerated lightly. he tried again.

“Mother.” Draco repeated, “It's Draco.”

For the first time in as long as Draco could remember his mother actually did something. Narcissa let out a very slight snort, her eyes shifting to him for just a second before focusing once again on the lake.

“I know who you are,” Narcissa said, “I am tired, Draco, not daft or insane. What brings you home so early in the day? Aren't you usually asleep with a hangover and some harlot thrown over your chest at this hour?”

Draco winced. He had had that coming for a very long time.

He knew his mother was disappointed in his behavior over the last few years, but they all had their own ways of coping. Narcissa Malfoy retreated into herself, spending her days gazing at nothing in particular, choosing to remember. Draco Malfoy threw himself at whores and drank his weight in firewhiskey, and when he wasn't doing that he worked long hours, choosing to forget.

It's not like he had any friends left in the Wizarding World anymore except for Theo; the few that had been left alive had all picked up their bags and escaped as soon as humanly possible, Pansy having taken off to Italy with Blaise, Gregory Goyle having gone into perpetual broken-hearted hermitage after Crabbe died, and the Greengrass family having given up their efforts to marry him off to their youngest daughter, though he knew that now that Draco had come into his full inheritance and control of the family business in the face of Lucius Malfoy's lifetime sentence to Azkaban, the Greengrasses would be more than happy to reopen negotiations for a full pure-blooded marriage to the Malfoy family. Draco would rather die by Dragonfire first.

Draco clear his throat. “Yes, well, things are a little bit different now.”

Narcissa looked him up and down and smirked, obviously not believing a single word he had just ordered. “Oh? And what inspired this miraculous change of heart that drove you to come in to check on your lonely mother for once in your life? I would love to know all about this, it sounds like a world shattering revelation.”

Draco sighed again, rubbing at the day old stubble on his jaw. “Alright I had that coming, but…” he let out a soft breath, “Mum…”

He needed her help. His visit was enough to merit him calling her by that endearment: Mum. He had stopped calling her that once he had grown up old enough to realize that it made him look weak in front of his father, as if calling for his mommy or asking for help were the most awful sin a six-year-old could possibly commit. Narcissa’s eyes softened.

“Oh, all right,” she said, looking more alive in the single moment she took to reach out for his hand and squeeze it than she had over the last two months. “I'll stop for now. but do tell me what brings you home so early? are there troubles at the office?”

“No,” he said, gratefully squeezing his mother's hand back. “No troubles at work; the Malfoy machine continues to make money hand over fist, Which I am sure you know since I just saw the quarterly report sitting on the vanity in your study,” Narcissa smiled indulgently at that but he ignored it, continuing his explanation, “The help I need is of a different kind, Mother.”

This piqued her interest. Interest that had long languished, as Narcissa wallowed with nothing to drive her into motion, into being the woman she’d once been. But this time… this time she listened.

“Do tell.”

There was no other way than to break this softly, no way to sugarcoat the fact that he was here with ulterior motives, so Draco took in a deep breath, brought forth the memory of a smiling Granger this very morning to the forefront of his mind, and then braced himself.

“I need aunt Bella’s wand.” He said. His mother stiffened.

There was a moment of awkward tension that filled silence while she studied him, trying to gauge why, of all the things that could possibly bring him home, it would be Bella’s wand—the equivalent of a dark object by all intents and purposes, tainted with a horrible history of bloodshed and cruelty. Draco waited for the inevitable. He didn’t have to wait long.

“Whatever for?”

This was the part he’d been dreading the most. How on earth was he to explain the hurricane of events his life had become over the past month and some change? Merlin, if anyone else had tried to tell him this would be his life now, he would have doubled over in disbelieving laughter. He very much doubted his mother would react the same way.

Draco licked his lips, eyeing his mother carefully. Narcissa kept a perfect poker face. She was a master at this, at breaking him in the gentlest of ways until he cracked and told her all his secrets. So Draco did, spilling out everything that had happened to him since the moment Theo called him into his office with a hangover well over a month and a half ago.

Narcissa listened intently, with nothing more than an arched eyebrow here and there, the only prompt Draco needed in order to expand on or explain the finer points. He kept a lot of Potter’s secrets, but managed to succinctly explain Granger’s cursed amnesia. He never mentioned that he spent much of his time at the bookshop flirting with said girl though, because Merlin and Morgana, how could he possibly regale his mother with such a thing after all of their history with muggleborns?

No. Messing with Granger was only passing amusement, and nothing more, and he wouldn’t mention it to his mother in a thousand years. What he did mention was his sudden, uncomfortable, begrudging desire to repay Granger’s kindness for having saved their skins during the war. After all, part of why she was in such a condition happened to be because of him and his ilk. If he could only begin to set things right, maybe the guilt would ease…

For her part, Narcissa watched her son as he spilled his guts. She kept her hands folded on her lap and her mouth shut, and watched Draco’s eyes light up with a sort of gleam she hadn’t seen in years. Granted, she had not been much of a mother to him, not for the last three years–she knew that he coped the only way he knew how, much like she did, and she could hardly begrudge him that—but whenever he brought up the Granger girl, Draco sat straighter, his shoulders squared, and his chin set with a stubborn defiance she hadn’t seen since the days he’d informed them in no uncertain terms as a ten year old that he was old enough and didn’t need anybody’s approval.

She wanted to smile, but instead she paid attention. She had become very good at spotting things in non-verbal body language. It had helped them survive Voldemort’s lunatic reign.

Draco never noticed his mother’s change in demeanor, though. Never noticed that her eyes narrowed slightly and her lips almost twitched, too busy explaining all the reasons why he absolutely needed access to Bellatrix’s wand, ranging from his chagrined sense of owing a debt, all the way to how helping her might help their standing rise in the Wizarding World. It couldn’t hurt, he’d told his mother, and for once received a bodily response when she nodded her head lightly, so of course, this is the reason why he thought she agreed at all.

“Alright—” Narcissa said, and before Draco could let out a relieved sigh, she held up a hand to stall him— “On one condition.”

Draco groaned inwardly. Of course there’d be a bloody condition. “What would that be, Mother?”

This time Narcissa smiled, and it made Draco’s blood freeze. He never liked it when his mother smiled that way, like she knew a secret he didn’t and wasn’t willing to share.

“That I see the damage first hand,” she said placidly.

“I beg your pardon?”

“Bring her here.”

“To the Manor?” Draco almost choked, “Are you ins—” he stopped short of calling his mother a nutjob, shaking his head hard. “Mother. That’d break a hundred rules, not least of all the Statutes of Secrecy—”

“Hardly,” his mother said, arching a perfectly groomed brow again. “She’s not a muggle, just an amnesiac witch. Those rules you suddenly seem to care about were written in no small part by the Malfoy family. Trust me, I know what would and would not break the law. And there are ways to arrive at the Manor the muggle way. The elves will hide. She won’t know.”

This time he did groan. Leave it to his mother…

Narcissa watched him, poker face in place.

“I don’t think it’s a good idea.” he said, trying to make her see reason. She remained unmoved. “She doesn’t remember a thing—”

“Exactly why I would like to see her,” Narcissa cut him off before he could say anything, looking off into the distance. She still remembered the girl’s screams, those sounds making it impossible to sleep for months after that last fateful battle. And it had happened under her roof. Narcissa was not a stranger to the gnawing sense of guilt eating away at her son. “She would never come under normal circumstances, and I’d like to… assess the situation for myself. Perhaps I could be of assistance. It was partly due to my sister’s curse, after all. I knew her and her magic better than most.”

Draco looked at his hands. The small voice inside of him readily agreed. The much larger, logical part of his brain railed against the idea of bringing her here, of mixing what they had with his magical world again. It felt dangerously exposing, as if her mere presence in his home would suddenly make the last month and a half evaporate. He was starting to relish those memories he’d made away from his life, from his wealth and his responsibilities, from his magic and all the pain it had brought him. All the pain it had brought her. But he remembered Potter’s owl and nodded.

He had known coming into this that his mother might want something. He just hadn’t imagined it would be that.

Draco chewed on the inside of his cheek. Everything in him told him this was a horrible idea, and yet… a silly, naive part of him whispered that he should agree with his mother’s request, if only for selfish reasons. What he didn’t—couldn’t—know was that his mother was acting for selfish reasons, too.

“So you want Granger to visit. No magic on display, just a normal…” he looked towards the Manor, there was nothing normal about it. “A normal home visit, out of simple parental curiosity, I’m assuming you’ll tell her, so you can assess the damage done to her poor brain yourself like a good Samaritan? That’s it? No other catch? And just like that, you’ll give me Aunt Bella’s wand?” he asked.

“Correct,” Narcissa said, then smiled at him. “And because I know you’ll try, before you go searching for it, know that it sits inside my personal vault. So… she comes here first, Draco.”

“What are you playing at, Mother?” he asked, still weary. Narcissa sighed.

“Not a thing.” she replied, folding her hands primly in her lap. “Invite her on the pretense of afternoon tea, if you must.”

He took a deep breath, then kissed his mother's cheek goodbye. “I’ll see what I can do.”

Suddenly his headache had returned, and so he apparated to his hotel room and crashed on his bed, willing the days to go faster until Friday for his date with Granger, where he’d have to convince her to bloody go home with him. Fantastic. Just bloody fantastic. 

He dreamt of Hermione Granger. Again.

Chapter Text

Friday came in a flurry of activity and anxious nerves for Draco, which was ridiculous. He was taking a woman to dinner, that’s all. It was something he’d done a billion times. He had the art of wining-and-dining young birds like Granger down to a science, and he had no intentions of even sleeping with this one, so why was he so nervous? It’s not like he had some invisible bar of expectation to meet (but he did, he really did, and that honestly was the scariest part of it all).

He straightened his jacket again, staring at his reflection in the mirror. He could practically hear his father’s voice in his head, in that bored, condescending tone it took on whenever he felt as though somebody were being idiotic: Malfoys do not let themselves feel nerves, especially over something as silly as taking a woman to dinner. Draco could only imagine what his father’s reaction would be to taking Hermione Granger to dinner, though. No doubt there would be an apoplectic attack or two involved, the word mudblood being bandied about, and possible threats to disown him. Too bad for Lucius, then, that Draco was now free to do as he damn well pleased. That made him smile and regain some of the confidence he had been missing.

He had thrown himself into work the rest of the week after his visit to the Manor, avoiding the bookshop (mostly) and ignoring the clock as he worked from dawn to dusk, only to go ‘home’ to his hotel room, read a few pages from one of the books he’d bought from Granger weeks prior, then fall asleep with the book still spread on his chest. It kept him from overthinking.

But now it was Friday, and he was twenty minutes out from collecting Granger and taking her out to dinner the good ol’ fashioned way. There was no way to Apparate them to France so he could impress her, or to use his magic to set the mood in a cozy and romantic place with a table set for two. No, he was entertaining her the muggle way, and that made him nervous. He wasn’t a muggle. He hardly understood conventional dating amongst wizards outside of his own pureblood traditions, much less what muggles did—for all he knew (and had experienced) it was all debauchery and/or floating around going on coffee dates and picnics until one happened to find someone to fall in love with, like a weird game of roulette—but dinner was safe. Right? Oh god.

He inspected himself a third time, sharp eyes studying everything from head to toe. His hair, perfectly styled into a careless timelessness aided by good genetics and a fairy godmother’s blessing. Next came his clean shaven face, no clumsy cuts or missed stubble, eyes moving onto his clothes. A perfectly formal black suit, crisp light grey shirt, black tie, silver cufflinks with small tasteful emeralds glinting with every turn of his wrist. Perfectly tailored, expensive black vest, jacket and trousers, and shoes polished to a high shine worth eating off of. He nodded to himself, but the jitters did not ease.

Get a bloody hold of yourself, he chastised his overactive brain, It’s only Granger.

But wasn’t that the crux of the problem? It was Granger, memories missing or not. He was about to face the lioness on her turf, and that made his stomach flutter and his adam’s apple bob rapidly and uncomfortably.

He looked at the clock on his bedside table.

Right. Fifteen minutes.

He transfigured his outer robes into a comfortable, heavy coat that came to his knees then disappeared with a soft pop. A few seconds later he stood at the Apparition point behind Granger’s home, feeling the magic wards he had embedded into the stones sing in recognition at his proximity. Draco smiled and stepped out, walking towards the shop, choosing to check there first.

He was greeted by Toni’s knowing smile.

“Drake!” Toni whistled. The girl had zero compunctions about familiarity, unlike Granger. He chuckled. “Well aren’t you one tall drink of water?”

“Thank you, Toni,” he replied, walking to the counter. “Is Miss Granger around? I believe we have a…” not a date. Not a date. Not a date.

“—A date?” Toni finished with a giggle. “She’s at home, getting ready for her date that she continues saying is not a date, if you must know.” Toni said, leaning in to whisper.. “Seemed in quite a bit of a rush to go prettify herself for it not being a date.”

“Oh?” his brows rose. For some reason the thought of Granger being all flustered and trying to impress him by ‘prettifying’ herself was highly satisfying. It made the task of trying to convince the Golden Girl to practically come meet his mother feel far less daunting, not to mention made him feel a lot less silly for his previous behavior.

“Hmmmm,” said Toni. “She’s the second apartment to the right from the stairwell, second floor. I propped the door open for you so you can surprise her,” Toni winked, shooing him away when another customer made their way up to the counter. Malfoy allowed himself a small smile. It’s not like the doors would have remained closed for him, what with his blood warding the very foundations, but it was sweet of Toni either way. He’d have to find a way to reward her for her forethought.

He let himself in and took the stairs slowly, systematically checking himself again with every step—his cufflinks, the crease of his trousers, the high mirror like polish of his shoes. Then he knocked on the door and waited with baited breath. Why he did so, he couldn’t possibly begin to imagine. His breath would have been stolen regardless.

She was a vision.

Granger looked up at him, surprise coloring her eyes to see him standing there, but not more surprised than Draco himself at the picture she painted as she immediately began running nervous, red lacquered fingers down the front of her equally crimson dress, form fitting to every curve he had never noticed she possessed growing up. The Queen-Anne neckline drew his eye to the parts of her anatomy he had started becoming obsessed with lately—when had a woman’s neck and collarbone become such a huge turn on? He could hardly remember—and her hemline falling to a very graceful and proper stop at her knee only made him want to see if her stockings were the thigh-high kind he was now imagining.

“Uhm, Hi,” she said. Draco almost didn’t hear it. He was busy admiring the fact that she’d proudly allowed her mess of curls remain as always—messy and yet somehow thoroughly enchanting, though she’d pulled one side away from her face, pinned back by the tiniest of glittering diamond hairpins to showcase the equally bright solitaire adorning her earlobe.

Draco decided it looked lonely, and made an absent-minded mental note to gift her a diamond necklace to go with it just as her greeting caught his ear. He caught himself before he could mutter an equally awkward greeting and cleared his throat.

“Good evening, Miss Granger,” he said. “Ready to go?”

Some of the nervousness slipped out of her with a smile like a whisper on the wind, and he wondered what had gone through her head.

“One moment,” then she ran off to go grab her purse. Draco’s eyes followed the backseam of her stockings peeking out from her fuck me pumps all the way to the hem of her dress. He groaned internally, tearing his eyes away and towards anything that might control the imminent boner he would develop if he kept thinking along those lines.

He stared straight ahead instead. Her home was neat, tidy, and absolutely full of books. Every wall he could see had a bookshelf, there were mini shelves under the coffee table by an old couch, some neat stacks on top which she must have already been working through, and not a single picture frame anywhere he could see. In fact, aside from the ugly orange furball curled up on the back of her couch, the place—from what he could see from the open door, at least—might as well have been a library.

She appeared before he could so much as blink, however, hand wrapped around a small silver clutch and her coat on the other arm, cheeks flushed. “Alright. Now I’m ready.”

Draco took the coat off her and held it up for her to slip into, noting the flash of surprise that crossed her face and smiling in satisfaction to himself. Being a gentleman had always been expected of him, not just by those who imparted such manners on him but by the recipients themselves, high born girls for whom all doors were opened and coats held and knuckles kissed; to see such basic displays of propriety have such an impressionable effect on somebody somehow made him feel… good. Pleased. Proud of himself, perhaps. Worthy of something, if he were to stretch the truth, as though for once he could be better for somebody based on just himself alone and not just his wealth or possessions.

Then he scoffed at himself silently while Granger had her back turned. Next he’d be wishing for a pat on the head as he wagged his tail. He shook his head, pasting on a charming smile before placing the palm of his hand on the small of her back and gesturing towards the door. “Whenever you’re ready.”

Perhaps it was past time he got used to the idea that he was falling for her. Hard, and not just in that I owe her a debt of gratitude way he had managed to make himself believe was the only reason he was standing here in front of her, wishing with all his might he could run his fingers through her hair and undo all of the work she had obviously put so much effort into to look as good as she did for him that night. It wasn’t even in the way he’d held a bright but secret torch for her in school, afraid of what his father might say, either. No. He was falling hard. Again. And this time…

There might be no going back from this. The sense of dread curling in the pit of his stomach at the idea would last long into the night even as he spent the next so many hours of it staring at her whenever she wasn’t looking, delighting in her smiles at a particularly good bite of food or the decadent slice of chocolate cheesecake she refused to share with him, luxuriating in the simple act of existing within a space close to her and secretly wishing this was his new normal. That this had been his always normal.

He was a goner, and he knew it. Between falling straight into Theo’s trap and sitting here by Granger’s side, Draco Malfoy had become inevitably, unequivocally, irreversibly infatuated with her.

Again.

“Are you alright?”

Draco blinked, turning to look at Granger, who was, in turn, studying him with concern painted on her features.

“I—sorry, what?”

“I said, are you alright?” she repeated, gently pressing the back of her hand against his temple the same way his mother did when he had a fever as a child. “You seemed… off.” She pursed her lips, leaning closer to look him in the eye, “glassy-eyed, hot, and you started turning red very quickly. Are you getting sick?”

Draco barely stopped himself from letting out a totally ungentlemanly sound. Instead, he reached with gentle fingers and wrapped them around her wrist, carefully pulling it away to put some distance between them. He turned her hand in his and, without thinking, placed a gentle kiss on her wrist before letting go.

“I’m alright, Granger.”

She was looking at her wrist.

He needed to get out of there. The room was starting to feel too small, too warm, enhancing her perfume and drowning him in the headiness of it all. He cleared his throat, giving her what he hoped was a convincing smile. They had finished their food, after all, the last crumbs of her cheesecake now forgotten and the bottle of stupidly expensive wine they’d been sipping at while talking almost completely drained.

“Ready to get out of here?” he asked. Granger gave him one last curious look, rubbing her knuckles absentmindedly, then nodded. He called for the bill, and the few moments he spent with the waiter at their table didn’t feel like enough time to clear his head, but it was something. Better than the alternative, which would have been to say ‘blast it all’ and lunge for Granger’s mouth, and saint Potter and the Weasel be damned.

There was still some of the night left, though, and he was determined to make sure she enjoyed it—wasn’t that what he’d signed up for? The Keep Granger Happy Troupe?—so he dutifully pulled out her chair for her, held her coat while she put it on, and walked her out of the restaurant he had paid off so they would be the only two people dining that night, and extended his elbow for her to take. The weight of her small palm against his arm felt like an anchor he hadn’t realized had been missing. He tried to convince himself it was all the wine he’d drank.

She looked at him and smiled. “Thank you for the lovely dinner.” Her eyes shone and the wind blew and a curly lock of hair danced on her collarbone and Circe he wanted to grab at it, tug it, bury his nose in her hair and—

“It was my pleasure.”

Granger patted his arm indulgently, a smile ghosting her lips as they began their slow and leisurely stroll through the little, well-lit park down the street towards the sleek black car he’d rented, the muggle chauffeur already waiting patiently with his hands folded in front of him.

“It really has been a lovely evening. Though, enough about what I think. I feel like I’ve spent all night talking about myself,” she mused, “and yet I still know so little about you.”

Draco looked at her out of the corner of his eye. She was busy taking in the streets despite addressing him, and he figured she didn’t quite make it to this side of town. Believable lies, he reminded himself, believable lies.

“What would you like to know?”

“Well, I know you studied abroad,” said Granger, turning her attention on him. “But not where.”

“Durmstrang,” he rattled off the top of his head, not really thinking too deeply about it. It’s not like she could go find the school on a directory. Granger tilted her head, eyes glossing over. There was a moment of faint, curious recognition and then—

“Du—what?”

—The moment had passed.

“Durmstrang,” he repeated. His mind went elsewhere, though. The Yule Ball, and Granger on the arm of Viktor Krum. Draco very much wished to kick himself for more than one reason. He still vividly remembered the moment he saw her, forgetting every insult he’d prepared to say that night as his fingers twitched at the way her dress moved. “All boys’ private school in Sweden.”

Granger raised an eyebrow, looking him up and down again and taking new stock of him. Draco found himself standing just a little straighter. “Really? Never would have guessed it. So how come you’re so good with the ladies if you were always surrounded by boys? Or was that what they taught you all in school?”

“The charm is inherited, I’m afraid.”

Granger snorted, then laughed, tugging a small smile from him. It was good to hear her laugh. He really needed to get her home before he did something stupid and Potter got him by the balls for it.

“Were your parents ultra charming then?” she asked, unaware of what kind of territory she was stepping into, and Draco had to fight to keep his facial expression open, placid.

“They could be, when they wanted to.” He waved the chauffeur away as they reached the car and opening up her door himself with a mock bow. “My lady.”

Granger shook her head again and muttered something under her breath then slipped inside, and as he closed the door he allowed himself a solitary moment to finally catch his breath. Granger had given him the perfect window of opportunity to bring up a visit to the manor, and he should hardly waste it, despite the fact that he very much wished to.

“In fact,” he said, putting on airs of nonchalance once he got inside, “one of my ultra charming parents is expecting a visit from me soon,” alright now, play it cool, he told himself, play. it. cool. “Mother’s been hounding after me to come visit since work keeps me away so often.”

“Well that’s unfortunate.”

Draco hummed, as though he wasn’t just about to ask her the equivalent of would you like to meet my parents? The universal signal known to both Muggle and Wizard as a really big fucking deal, and trying to pass it off as just another trip to the countryside.

“So says my mother as well,” Draco replied, looking out the window. “And when the lady of the house demands, I obey.” he looked at her out of the corner of his eye once more. “I’m afraid I’ll be gone all week next week.”

Her face fell, though, and that made all the difference. “Oh.”

Merlin be blessed, he could kiss her right then and there.

She was looking at her hands and doing her best to hide her disappointment and Draco feigned having just had the most brilliant of ideas. “Why don’t you join me? Surely you could use a break, too.”

Granger looked up and immediately launched into a rambling, placating speech, “oh no, I couldn’t possibly. I would hate to intrude. Your parents, I mean—”

God, he felt like the worst conman in the world, trying to trick an unknowing person into coming home with him, which sounded dirty even to his own ears despite the fact that it wasn’t that kind of coming home with him. Draco grabbed her hands to keep her from swinging them about. Finding Bellatrix’s wand depended, no—hinged on Granger agreeing to the visit. It would be for her own good, in the end.

Parent,” he corrected, tipping her chin up with a gentle finger, “and you would not be intruding. My mother hardly has any visitors. I’m sure she’d be thrilled. And I must admit I’d much rather spend a week in good company than otherwise, there’s only so much I can handle of looking at rolling hills. Plus, I think you’d like the place.”

She really would hate the place if she truly knew where he intended to take her, but what she couldn’t know wouldn’t hurt her… right?

Granger bit her lip. For the first time in his life, Draco Malfoy lowered himself to begging.

“Please?”

The lip biting continued. He steeled his resolve against that hint of teeth digging into a plush bottom lip.

“I’ll talk to Toni.”

Thank you, thank you, Thank you, Granger.

Never in a million years would he have imagined that thought skittering past his brain. He grinned, the sort of genuine grin that made the corners of his eyes crinkle in what he imagined to be the most unflattering way, but it seemed to put Granger at ease and he couldn’t help the elation underneath the nervousness. He was taking the Gryffindor Princess into the snake pit and yet he couldn’t find it within himself to not be just a little bit excited about the idea of having her a whole week to himself after weeks of stolen moments at her bookshop.

“Excellent,” said Draco, kissing her knuckles and, for once, truly believing it.

Wait until Theo heard this one.

When they finally made it to her building, Draco escorted her all the way to her home and prepared himself to be dismissed. Granger slowed her step all the way down the hall, wringing her hands nervously over her clutch as she turned at the door and gave him a shy smile.

“I really did have a wonderful night tonight.”

His eyes softened. She looked so vulnerable. Draco inclined his head and reached up to tuck her hair behind her ear, finger gently running down the edge to gingerly touch that solitaire diamond adorning her lobe before withdrawing rather reluctantly.

“As did I,” he admitted. “Far more than many I’ve had in a long time.”

She blushed. He stopped himself from leaning in and nuzzling that blush with his nose for the full purpose of intensifying it. Then Granger cleared her throat and did the one thing he had not expected. She leaned up on her tiptoes, her free hand braced against his arm, and kissed his cheek.

“Thank you. Would… Would you, ah—would you like to come in for coffee?”

****

There was something warm pressed against his side, warmer than the sun streaming through the windows, and Draco opened his eyes slowly, luxuriating in the feeling of a restful sleep in his own bed for once, the silken sheets brushing against his painfully naked body as well as something equally naked deliciously sharing its warmth with him. He turned towards that source of warmth to find the one sight he had never imagined he would see and had nonetheless wanked to the idea of for years.

Granger, naked as the day she was born, sprawled on his sheets, tits and her beautiful cunt on display for him with her side pressed to his, forcing her to rest her arm on her abdomen and her leg to be flung over his knee. Figures she’d be a messy sleeper, all limbs and odd angles, but Merlin if the sight didn’t get his already healthy morning wood much, much harder. His tongue dashed across the plush pillows of his lower lip at the thought of what he could do to her, and rather than question the whys and hows that would inevitably drive him to stop and overthink, Draco let out a contented sigh and turned slowly, shifting his body until he could nestle himself comfortably between her already spread legs. Time to wake up the lioness.

He nuzzled her cheek first, gently kissing her earlobe before dragging it between his teeth, his cock happily pressed against the scorching heat of her proffered cunt as he rocked his body once, twice, and fought to contain the groan burning in the back of his throat.

“Wake up, princess,” he murmured, moving his lips lower, allowing his hands to roam. She was wet already. They must have fucked all night. He would be happy to fill her up again. His fingers trailed gentle strokes over her collarbone, down the side of her delectable breasts to her ribcage, the weight of them pressing against his knuckles. Draco barely contained the urge to squeeze. To pinch and tug and bite. He wanted her to wake up gently. So he settled instead for humming his pleasure against her neck as he dipped his hips into hers and felt the sheer wet heat of her press against his hard cock. Fuck, but he wanted to fuck into her so bad.

Patience.

He needed patience.

He caught the delicate skin of her throat and rolled it between his teeth, soothed the nibble with a gentle press of his lips and blew on it, then persevered. “C’mon, princess, you feel so wonderful, but I won’t fuck you unless you’re awake.”

He was rewarded with a soft, sleepy groan as she shifted under him, tipping her hips upwards to meet the back and forth slide of his cock, seeking friction, the angle giving him better access to his goal of pleasuring her awake. He reached down and furthered that goal by spreading her until her clit stood naked, hot and beginning to throb against his now slick shaft. A groan of his own joined hers when, on a downward stroke, he just about dipped into her. Why couldn’t he remember the previous night? He would give anything to know what she felt like already. Would her sweet little pussy be tight, forcing resistance? Hermione’s body was so small, he wondered if he fit all the way in. He could hardly imagine it. Or would she fit him like a perfect glove? He groaned again, the sound but a soft puff of air against her skin. He allowed himself to squeeze her breast, rolling the tight bud of her nipple as she began to writhe. “Merlin, you’re fucking beautiful, you know that?”

Hermione let out the tiniest moans of encouragement, pulling a smile from him. “There she is,” he murmured as her arms went around his shoulders of their own volition, fingers dipping into his hair as she wordlessly pulled him closer to her neck, directed him to the spot she wanted him. “Good morning, sweetheart. Wrap your gorgeous legs around my waist, yeah?”

Granger’s mumbled morning was endearing, but barely audible. She was too busy with the low, soft panting leaving her parted lips as Draco ground down into her hard, his cock unhappy with the patience Draco demanded from it. But she did as she was told, the thrill of an order well obeyed cursing through his body as he finally, finally slipped inside. “That’s it, beautiful. Just like that. Just relax, I’ll fuck you nice and awake, yeah?” a moment later he was balls deep inside. Fuck, Merlin and Morgana, but Granger was a tight little glove around him. And already so slick. He couldn’t help the experimentally shallow push he gave inside. She barely fit him whole.

So. fucking. Perfect.

He rocked in again, feeling Granger’s pert little breast in his hand as it moved with the jerking motion, and he bowed into himself in order to reach it so he could finally, finally suck on it, teeth grazing her into wakefulness with his tongue, the other between his fingers as he rolled it. Hermione responded beautifully, gasping his name into his ear, and Draco’s ego sang. “Aren’t you the most responsive little thing?” Fuck—Fuck, but she felt good. And that’s when he started fucking in earnest. In. Out. In. Out. He pounded into her, losing himself. “That’s it. Just like that, beautiful. Grip my cock with your sweet little pink cunt just like that—fuck, but you take me so well. So well. Why hadn’t we done this before? If I had known—” he grunted, stuttering to a hard jerk inside her in which she whined his name and a soft plea for more, the words traveling straight to his cock and making him harder than he imagined possible. He gave her what she wanted until the bed rocked then slowed down a bit. Nice and slow, shallow then deep, tricking his body into not giving in too quickly. “—If I had known you felt so deliciously good I would have made sure to fuck you at school. I would have made you cum, watched you fall—” another groan, another stutter, he wouldn’t last like this. “Watched you fall apart sitting on my cock and made you come all over again. Fuck, Granger—”

“Draco, please…”

“Yes. Yes, princess. Anything you want. Fuck, fuck, your fucking cunt feels so fucking good I swear I could just fuckin—”

Her walls tightened around him. The little princess liked when he whispered filth into her ear, it seemed, and damn it if he didn’t fucking enjoy finding that out, because he could certainly get vocal and Merlin, she was so pliant. So willing to let him have his way with her tight little hole, with her beautiful body and those tits straight out of every teenage boy’s most steamy wet dream.

“Tell me you like it,” he demanded, determined to coax that verbally out of her. He slammed in and Hermione keened. “Fucking tell me.”

He lifted his head away from her chest to look at her, taking in her spread of freckles lit up in golden morning light, her hair in sleepy disarray and heavy lids, and the sheen of sweat she was beginning to work up at her temple. “Tell me, Granger. Do you love being fucked like this? Do you love my cock? Of course you do, look at your cunt taking it all in like it belongs there—”

“Dra—,” she whined, and he snapped his hips hard in retaliation.

“Tell. me.”

She didn’t have to tell him in so many words. She tightened so hard around him he nearly choked, and between one moment and the next, Hermione was screaming his name to the four walls of his room loud enough to wake the house elves, writhing on his silk bed sheets, and Draco—

—Draco exploded.

He came so hard he jerked himself awake, heart pounding out of his chest and eyes wild, his body covered in an even sheen of sweat while his cock twitched out the last of his freshly procured cum thanks to the most mind blowing…

...dream.

Fuck, it had been a dream.

He looked down at his ruined trousers. He’d fallen asleep without even taking them off, having just chucked his shirt and jacket and falling into bed without even bothering to remove his belt.

Draco groaned, falling back on the bed with his hands thrown over his face. He was back in his hotel room, the shades drawn and his sheets shoved onto the floor. He’d dreamed of fucking Granger in his bed at the manor and soiled his fucking pants like a prepubescent boy.

As the muggles he’d met liked to say: Jesus, how fucking embarrassing.

This was the last thing he wanted today. He dragged himself up out of bed via some extreme willpower and went through the motions of showering and changing without really noticing, too occupied replaying that beautiful, filthy dream then berating his brain for daring to come up with such a thing. It’s not like they’d done anything in her apartment after she’d invited him in, just sit on her couch and talk over coffee, blessedly clearing his brain of the fog the wine had induced. Or so he thought. Why said brain had had to supplement the experience with that vivid dream was beyond him.

Draco grabbed last night’s tie, threw it on, and apparated to Theo’s lab.

He found his friend hard at work and neck deep in paperwork in the corner of the room. Theo, who had given access to the lab to nobody but Draco himself, didn’t so much as flinch. Instead he kept jotting down fastidious notes in one of the tidiest scripts Draco had ever seen in his life.

“Just let yourself right in, why don’t you?” Theo said in the way of a greeting. Draco snorted and went to join him in the corner, where he plopped himself down on one of the chairs and groaned.

“I’m an idiot.”

“I mean,” Theo said, looking up from the rim of his reading glasses, “I already knew this, but what has prompted this momentous occasion that has you finally admitting it?”

His friend barely ducked the throw pillow Draco threw at his face with all his might before returning to his notes, and Draco to his wallowing.

“Wanker. Just accept it and don’t ask questions.”

“That bad, huh?”

Ugh, if only he knew. Draco rubbed at his face and pinched the bridge of his nose, wishing the memory of imaginary Granger’s tits bouncing would disappear from where it’d been etched on the back of his eyelids. The creeping heat working its way up his collar had him uncomfortable, and his cheeks were undoubtedly tinged a peculiar shade of pink at the memory. Draco sighed. Theo studied him.

“Malfoy.”

Draco grunted. Fuck it. What did it hurt to admit it to Theo anyway? He’d admitted to much worse in the past. Still… “It’s so embarrassing I don’t think even my fourteen year old self would ever admit to it.”

Theo’s eyes turned shrewd. “Does it involve Granger?”

“Who else?”

He cringed at Theo’s burst of laughter. “Mate. I’m sorry to be the one to tell you, but you’re well and truly fucked.”

Yeah… understatement of the century.

“I’m also supposed to be bringing her to the Manor. This weekend.”

That got all of Theo’s attention in a hot second. He put his notes aside and leaned forward, crossing his ankles and his hands in front of him while supported by the armrest. “Granger at the Manor? Please tell me I’m hearing wrong and you don’t mean the Malfoy Manor.”

“The very same.”

“Whatever possessed you into thinking that would be a good idea?”

“My mother, as it were,” said Draco even as he bit back a sigh. This was a nightmare. A nightmare made worse by the fact that their dinner the previous night had been beyond anything he’d expected and he’d now developed some sort of vicious fucking subconscious turn-on and was dreaming about having Granger pinned under him as he rammed into her with abandon as a result.

“Tough.”

“You think?” he dusted his knees and straightened up, “I have no idea what it is my mother really wants out of this, and it bothers me that I don’t know.”

“Your mother was able to outsmart Voldemort. Don’t be so hard on your little intellect,” Theo commented lightly, and Draco had no more throw pillows to chuck at his friend’s ugly face as he took delight in the fact that something bothered Draco for once, even if, deep down, Draco knew his friend cared deeply. Then Theo sobered up. “You know where I am if you need help.”

“Always. In the meantime I’m going to go drown my sorrows in work.”

Theo chuckled.

“You do that, mate.”

Chapter Text

Hi all my beloved friends and readers and nonnies lurking in the shadows.

The day has come where I update this fic, and while it's not the kind of fic update you'd like to see, I think it would be good to make it regardless. After much going back and forth with this story and my beta, I have come to the realization that I kind of sort of wrote myself into a corner.

When I started this fic, I really went in with the sole purpose of amusing my best friend EJblackit like we were two ten year olds playing shadow puppets on the walls in the middle of the night—the only purpose was to amuse and entertain. Now, a year later and about ten thousand more life experiences under my belt, I really want this story to be more. What that means is that I'm making the hard decision to do something I have, up to now, never done in my life. I'm going to be pulling/deleting this fic in its current incarnation. I plan on scrapping the majority of what I have, going back to the sandbox, and re-writing from scratch. 

My other option would be to leave this up to collect dust, and I really don't like the sound of it, so I'm going to be doing this instead. 

The fic as it stands will be up for another month or so, after which I plan on pulling it and re-writing. If you'd like to download it as is, feel free! I, too, will keep a copy for anyone who asks. But come the end of March, Blackout will be off AO3 for the foreseeable future. I hope you'll keep up with my progress over at tumblr (lucidlucy.tumblr.com) or my writing blog (ironcloak.dreamwidth.org) where I go a bit more in-depth into what I'm up to, writing-wise.

Thank you for reading, friends. It means more than you could possibly understand. 

~Lucy