"That's it, Potter. I'm finished."
Hermione Granger blows into Harry Potter's office with a red-headed ball of fury hot on her tail. Harry looks up, a bit taken aback to hear one of his oldest and dearest use his surname, but when he catches sight of both Hermione and Ron stomping towards him, he puts two and two together fast.
Rubbing the bridge of his nose between his eyes, he sighs as they both come to a stop just in front of his desk, arms folded and glaring down at him.
"You've had another row I suppose."
Hermione mock laughs just as Ron snorts, "Because she's mental."
She glares at her one-time lover and answers, "I'm not mental, Ronald. You are incompetent, inefficient, ineffectual, inept-"
"Woah woah!" Harry holds up his hands and interrupts the tirade. "Can I remind you, Auror Granger, that I am your superior officer and your judgment of your partner's ability to perform reflects on me?" He knows she was just getting carried away. Ron isn't a bad agent per se, but Harry has to step in on occasion and mediate. On a lot of occasions actually, over the course of their partnership
There's a reason Hermione was passed over for a leadership role after all: She doesn't play well with others.
"I hadn't even reached his ability to perform," she says sarcastically, "but if you're curious-"
"Hey!" Ron's face, if possible, goes even deeper red. "There's no reason to say things we might regret."
"Oh I won't regret it, believe me."
"You might," Harry offers, knowing she's dangerously close to crossing a personal boundary. Attacking his career is one thing, but Ron Weasley is pretty thin-skinned in regards to his, ahem, manhood.
She huffs and stomps once, slightly childish. "Fine. Regardless, I'm finished. You can find me a new partner or I can ask Agnes to start typing my resignation letter. One way or another, I won't spend one more mission with him."
Harry looks back and forth between them, wishing to Merlin or Jesus or fucking Colonel Sanders they'd never dated. Their tiffs when they were friends were bad enough. Now since their relationship and subsequent breakup, they are downright impossible.
He has a choice to make here and one way or another he's going to have an irate Hermione Granger on his hands. The one thing he doesn't want to do, however, is lose her expertise. She might not partner well... with anyone... but she's a damn fine agent. Brilliant and tough and one of the most powerful witches to grace the Ministry halls, her resignation would end up a black mark on his own record as much as anything: The star agent he let get away.
He had hoped partnering her with Ron would be a solution, not a problem. It was great as long as they were dating. She was downright demure when she wanted to keep him happy. It seems that holding her tongue was just bottling bitterness. Now, their romantic relationship at an end and their friendship hanging by a thread, this is a daily fucking occurrence.
"Ron, can you give us a moment please?" He looks at his friend with pleading eyes. This is difficult enough without Ron's typical hot-headed petulance. He's silently praying the man will grant him some privacy.
Ron looks like he starts to say something but then, blessedly, he nods sharply once and heads to the door. Before he leaves, he looks back and suggests, "For my next partner, perhaps a blast-ended skrewt? You know, a step up."
The door slams with finality after that and Hermione looks back, mouth gaping in shock. "The audacity of that insecure, insubordinant-"
Harry hold up his hand. "I appreciate the alliteration but I think I get it."
"So what will it be then? My resignation? I already have a rough draft ready."
"I have another partner. I'll take Ron and put him with Jones-"
"Pfft, good luck the two of them not lighting the building on fire…"
"-and assign you a new partner. I need to partner him anyway."
Hermione is suddenly looking wary and suspicious and Harry can already see her ire build. "Who is it? Not Smith-"
"No, not Smith. No one you've paired with before. He's straight out of training."
She rolls her eyes but takes a seat and looks a modicum more civil. "Fresh meat then. I can work with that. They tend to be more pliable when they recognize who should be in charge."
Harry eyes her cautiously, understanding just how very wrong she is.
"Just promise me you'll give it a chance, alright? One more year. If you can't work with him after that and you insist on resigning, I'll write you a recommendation myself to any department."
She snorts. "I already have offers from other departments."
"I'll tell Ginny I want to go on all the baby shopping trips with her from now on so she won't ask you."
"Tempting," she considers, "but a year? The baby will be here long before that."
He sighs and pinches the bridge of his nose. "I'll tell Molly you met a nice muggle boy but he's shy so we need to let you hook him in before we start pushing for a wedding."
It's hardly a beat before she jumps at the offer. "Done." No Molly Weasley begging for grandchildren from her surrogate daughter? Godric, that's worth two years of DMLE torture.
Hermione rolls her eyes and says, "I promise, Harry. Do you need a pinkie swear? Perhaps my signature in blood would put your mind at ease."
Harry grins, knowing she won't go back on her word no matter how casually it is given. "That'll do." I'll set up a meeting tomorrow. Can you head to his office around eleven?"
"Yes I suppose. Of course you'll have to stop being so bloody secretive so I can find his name on the door. Who is it?"
"Malfoy. I'm putting you with Draco."
She stares at him a moment and then huffs, knowing she's been had. "Bullocks."
"He's really not that bad, Hermione."
Rolling her eyes in response, she settles, resigned into her chair. "How did he even make it through training? The git cried murder when a giant bird scratched him."
Harry chuckles, remembering the incident with Buckbeak in third year. "Yes well, he was a complete tosser then. I'm telling you though, he was top of his class, some of the best marks to come out in over a decade. He worked hard to get here."
"So why are you bribing me to take him if he's that amazing?"
"As you can imagine, I've had a bit of trouble partnering him up. I could probably put him with Ron but honestly they would likely have the same issues you two did. Draco is very efficient if his training says anything. Ron is more of-"
"An idiot?" She offers sweetly.
Harry glares but picks up where he was interrupted, redirecting to his original point. "Ron works more organically. It's not always the most efficient but he has good instincts."
She huffs but seems to concede the point. "So Malfoy is what then? Analytical?"
"Yes actually. His method is more in keeping with yours. I think you'll be brilliant together… if you can keep from killing him of course."
"Well, I've not killed a partner yet," she notes as she starts to rise. He hears her mumble, "but of course there's a first time for everything," and chooses to pretend he hadn't.
Quick second chapter since 1 was so short. Chapter 3 should go up in the next couple of days!
Hermione takes a deep breath before she walks in, steeling herself. She can't believe Harry did this.
Alright maybe she can believe it. It's not as if there is a plethora of unpaired agents amongst which to choose. Working with Ron had been a long shot and they all knew it. Even before their break-up, she questioned his ability to keep up with her on research or think fast enough in the field.
Unfortunately she hadn't faired any better with her other partners, especially the veteran set. Those whom have been Aurors for years have their way of doing things and seem to resent a young, barely tested witch in her twenties trying to take point on each case. Hermione, however, having cut her teeth on leading Harry and Ron through danger, resented their distrust right back.
But still, of all the possibilities, this is his solution? Hermione intends to go in hard and take the offensive position on what she expects to be a power play from the offset.
"Ferret." She says it primly, like it's nearly polite, and takes a seat in the chair across Malfoy's desk, crossing her leg over the other. She tries to conceal the fact that crossing her legs in a pencil skirt is actually a bit of a bother.
He leans back in his chair and scowls. "So that's how we're going to do this then? I've heard you were impossible to work with."
"I am not," she argues hotly. "I'm perfectly capable of working with Harry. I'm just selective with my good will."
"Yes we all heard about your tirade from Weasley 'round the coffee cart today. Called him a lot of words that start with 'I', he said."
She snorts at that. "Couldn't even remember what they were I imagine."
"Oh, he got one. 'Inefficient' he remembered."
"Probably because it was the only one he could identify," she offers coolly and Draco almost laughs.
Instead he waves his hand dismissively and leans forward once again, leveling her with a stare. "Regardless, I am not inefficient. Or inept or, fuck I don't know... impotent... whatever else you accused him of."
Hermione gazes back hard and starts after a beat with a measured tone. "No, I don't imagine so. You're smart, everyone knows that." She sees him start to say something but she plows forward. "You're also a bigot, a Death Eater, and a caudled little boy at heart."
A beat and then, "Fuck you. Get out of my office." All pretense of civility is gone, from both sides it seems, as he points behind her to the door.
She snickers cruelly and lifts a brow. "Your office? Only as long as you're an agent. And we both know I'm your only shot of that. No one will partner with you, prick that you are." That's only partially true. The reality is actually a bit more complicated… and more serious. Harry had briefed her on a bit more detail before she arrived to his office today. No Auror who was operating during the Second Wizarding War will touch him for the rather professional reason that they were all involved in prosecuting his father and many Malfoy family friends. That leaves only the younger yet, of which there are not many and mostly they are partnered with a veteran to best utilize the benefits of experiences versus youth.
"Well then it seems we are in the same cauldron on that one," he starts haughtily. "What do you imagine will happen if you can't make this work? Potter can't protect you-"
She laughs at that and he frowns. "Harry isn't protecting me, Malfoy. I tried to resign already. He begged me to stay. If I leave here, I have something lined up in Magical Creatures and Potion Solutions. But you... well you have to exhibit good behavior or it's back to house arrest right?"
He's really scowling now, fists clenched and jaw set. Hermione stands and runs her hands down the front of her skirt, smoothing the material as if she has no more important concerns in the world. After years of his bullying, it feels like justice to hold his future in her hands. "One year. That will see you to the end of your probationary sentence and I will be in a position for a promotion into research and away from field work. If we can make it that long, you won't have to see me ever again."
She lets that sink in, regretting she phrased it the way she did, handing some power back in the exchange. She should have said that she wouldn't have to see him again, but that old self-doubt crept in. That little girl looking at her bully and feeling a little sad that he feels the need to be mean. An adolescent witch looking at the popular boy and wondering why he doesn't like her.
She straightens, remembering herself and who she is now, a strong war-hardened woman, and nods in dismissal. "I'll leave you to it then, until Harry delivers us an assignment."
They don't have to wait long for their department head to call them in for a mission. A scant three days pass during which they are technically partnered but rarely deign to speak. Draco is finishing some basic paper pushing that comes after training and Hermione is wrapping up the details from her last debacle of a case with Ron. She sees her new partner a few times in passing, usually chatting up some vapid intern or playing 'boys club' with a few of the mail room kids or chatting with the younger agents (Ron included, oddly enough).
Now, they are once again are squared off against each other while trying to be civil to Harry Potter.
It's a dangerous case, Harry tells them. Seeming to answer a question that no one asks, he explains that, what they lack in experience, Hermione and Draco make up for in sheer brilliance. Hermione's credentials are bar none and Draco, while some might call his motivations suspect, had some of the highest marks coming out of training of any recruit this century.
"Yes I suppose you wouldn't want Ron mucking this up," she mutters, accepting the file from him.
"Hermione," he says with warning and she gives him a half grin of acquiescence that she will refrain from any more Ron-bashing… for now.
"Name's Baker but, get this: He calls himself, the 'Time Lord'." Harry snickers at that and Hermione looks up bemused.
"What, like the Doctor?" She joins Harry with a chuckle.
"Who?" Draco asks, annoyed; feeling left out of something.
Hermione just glances at him before she answers, "Exactly."
"So what makes him so dangerous?" She is continuing to flip through pages that tell a sad story of a sad little man. All great villains seem to start that way. Tom Riddle with his daddy issues, Draco Malfoy with his… She supposes that thought is a little unwarranted. After all, Draco wasn't much of a villain. More an attempted villain, she thinks with a smirk to herself.
"He has a time turner." Both Hermione and Draco abandon their files and give Harry their attention.
"A time turner? Salazar's Sack, how do you even know he's not… what if he…?" Draco looks perplexed and Hermione takes the opportunity to jump in, agreeing for once with the blonde.
"He might have already changed things. Why has the Ministry been sitting on this?"
"The turner he has is broken, thankfully. No one even realized it was missing at first. Just a bundle of spare parts as much as anyone was concerned. Now we've heard rumblings, great Charms Masters coming forward that they've been approached. He's trying to find someone to help him, or at least provide him parts and instruction. We've been lucky they came to us instead but it's a matter of time before he finds one desperate enough, stupid enough, to think whatever he's offering is worth it."
"I just… he could do anything." Hermione is as dumbfounded as Draco, staring at Harry with her mouth agape, when she feels her new partner stand in her peripheral.
"Well, no use sitting here with you lot. I'm going to make some Floo calls."
Hermione glances at Harry once more and makes a polite but hasty goodbye before she is hurrying out of the door, chasing down the long-limbed Slytherin.
She has trouble keeping up with his gait even when he's not nearly running down the hall.
He grunts back a "what" but doesn't slow, doesn't even turn around.
"I'm your partner, that's what! Tell me what you're doing so I can offer my own strategy."
He seems to snort at that and finally pauses to look at her. "And do you have a strategy?"
"Well… no not yet. But we've only just learned-"
"Didn't think so. Just go about your business. Book research or whatever you're supposed to be good at." With that dismissal he is back on the move and heading in to his office, the door slamming closed in her face." Hermione glances over to see Draco's assistant using her wand to file her nails into square ends.
"Would you like me to buzz him?" The woman looks terribly proud of herself for using muggle slang in reference to the magical intercom. Hermione briefly thinks she might be a muggleborn but argues internally that Draco Malfoy would probably only accept a pureblood in his vicinity.
"No need," she answers as she pulls her wand and uses it throw open the door. "If we are going to work together-"
She stops in her tracks, finding Draco with his shirt unbuttoned, slipping his shoes off his feet. "What, you don't know how to knock, Granger?"
"I… that is…" Hermione is not terribly proud of her own faltering but Merlin is he cut. She shakes off the surprise and finds her indignation beneath her mild arousal. "Malfoy," she starts, striving for calm, "we should at least let each other know where we want to begin so we can make sure we're not doing the same work."
"I promise you, you won't be doing what I'm about to."
"The making Floo calls or the stripping in the middle of a work day?"
Draco sets his jaw and advances on her, pointing a long finger at her collar bone. She imagines he's trying to be threatening but it's hard to be scared of something so very appealing…
"You don't get to run this show the way you tried your other partners. If my move pans out, I'll let you know, but these are my sources-"
"Sources?" She perks up. Could it be he's not totally worthless? Ron would have been mixing his fourth spoonful of sugar in his tea at this point in an investigation.
Meh, second spoonful. He doesn't walk that fast.
"Yes, sources. And ones who like to remain anonymous so if you don't mind…" He gestures toward the door and gives her a look.
Hermione hates to be wrong in any way, shape, or form, but it is standard procedure for an agent to have their own sources, kept from even their partner if necessary. She pauses and then grits out, "Fine." Considering further she adds, "I'll start with the Masters Harry mentioned and see if their interviews missed anything. I'll be back at two this afternoon sharp with my findings and I'll expect your calls to be wrapped up."
Turning on her heel, she marches back out the door, pretending to ignore his muttered, "bitch," under his breath, silently calling him a cunt in return.
Oh yes this is a partnership made in heaven.
Hermione has to bite her tongue nearly in half when Draco visits her office that afternoon at 1:45. The smug git is just pleased as bloody punch to inform her that one of his contacts was indeed in touch with their target. The whole thing sounded very shady and Hermione had no question in her mind that the Malfoy family's connection to the Dark Arts is exactly how he made this acquaintance.
"He told Baker he'd consider it but really didn't intend to help him. Says he likes life the way it is just fine and didn't need some amateur mucking about with the timeline."
"How pragmatic," she bites out, thoroughly incensed that Draco was successful while she had unearthed nothing. It turns out the DMLE investigators before her were not as completely incompetent during the interviews after all. A shock as far as she's concerned.
Draco shrugs off her comment and leans forward. "I think I can narrow on him, geographically I mean, with a little more time. Unfortunately, time is a rare commodity in a case like this."
She nods, once again finding herself in agreement. She can admit that so far on the job, Draco is pretty on point. "Would you like to keep on your contacts while I look in to locations around the previous?" She holds up her hands to his coming argument, stopping him before he can utter a complaint. "You don't have to give up names. Just general locations. You have the contacts, you continue on that. But I'm an excellent researcher. Give me something to get started."
He hesitates a moment longer before nodding and pulling a parchment from her desk closer to him. With a flourish of ink and penmanship he probably practiced with a governess, he hands her a list of information. "These are the general addresses. Be careful if you go poking not to drop my name or anything about a contact, just in case it gets back to a source."
She nods. She can do that. He doesn't seem to question any further and she's surprised his trust came that easy.
"Well then, if that's everything for now?" He has stood and is heading to the door. Hermione mentally curses herself for letting her eye wander a little, checking him out from behind. He doesn't even deserve her interest, racist prick.
She gives a curt nod and picks up a quill, making it clear she's absolutely done wasting time on him. "Malfoy."
"Granger." He tips his head and is gone before she can realize it's the most civil he's ever been. Which of course just makes her suspicious. She huffs and goes about her work.
It only takes Draco and Hermione two days to catch up to the trail left by Mr. Baker. It's an impressive feat, but when time is on the line, it does nothing to ease the urgency.
They've traced him to a seedy Wizarding district in New York City, not unlike their own familiar Knockturn Alley. Surely he won't be more successful here than he was in Europe? Even those with previous Death Eater ties had denied him. Draco had spoken to at least two wizards who once wore the mask of Tom Riddle. Though they were unhappy to have lost the war, five years has left them both secure financially and with a witch on their arm. There are, after all, enough pureblood witches clinging to the old ideals that the more mild-mannered Death Eaters, those who had avoided Azkaban (like Draco) have their pick of willing partners.
Needless to say, the idea of playing around with the time stream is a gamble even they are not willing to take.
But would someone across the water see it differently? All it takes is someone with nothing to lose and suddenly it's a whole new game.
They've checked in to a dingy hotel under assumed identities, posing as lovers. The touch of anonymity that comes with being overseas is a welcome change for Hermione.
Bunking with Draco Malfoy is, as one might imagine, less welcome.
"I just don't understand why we couldn't travel as brother and sister or something." She tosses her expanded bag on the bed (read: bed. Singular. Only one) and follows right after, bouncing a little on the cheap mattress. "This place is atrocious."
Draco rolls his eyes as he hangs his robes on one of three hangers in their meager closet. "Who's spoiled now?"
"Oh please. Just because I'm not filthy Solomon wealthy like you doesn't mean I grew up a pauper. Besides, I think that's a cockroach. There is no bar you can set, no matter how low, that this is acceptable."
He follows her gaze and does indeed find the insect in question. With a wand flick, it is transfigured into a ladybug. "Better?"
She can't help the grin, fight it though she does, and finally pouts out, "a little. I bet the sheets are scratchy though."
He chuckles at her as he slips off his shoes.
Their night is awkward, to put it mildly. Hermione takes a spare blanket and creates a wall of separation between them. She would have expanded the bed, but the room itself is little bigger than the mattress so there's really nowhere to go.
At some point, as she arches her back and settles in to the most comfortable position she can find, she would swear she sees him staring out of the corner of her eye. It does her pride good to feel his eyes on her and she smirks herself to sleep, letting the sheet pool around her midsection under the low cut of her camisole. Exhaustion claims her after that and she knows nothing else until the obnoxious buzzing sound of the muggle alarm clock in the room startles her out of sleep.
Draco is already awake and sipping coffee from a take away cup with a familiar green logo. "I didn't know what you like," he says by way of greeting, so it's just regular coffee."
Slightly bleary eyed she mutters her thanks on her way to the tiny loo they share and gets ready for the day. By the time she comes out the coffee in question is cold but a charm fixes that. She nods her head ant Draco and his cup and asks, "What's your drink of choice?"
He grimaces a little and says, "Whatever the poster recommended. Some cappuccino concoction."
So it seems he's not in the mood to talk and she lets that set the tone for the day, picking up her beaded bag and walking to the door with a barked, "Are you ready then?" over her shoulder.
Their intel leads them to an elderly woman named Rizpah later that day. Hermione doesn't let the woman fool her. She might seem a grandmotherly and innocent but there is a sharp sting in her gaze and, when pressed, she admits to her involvement. At one hundred and sixty eight years old, ostracized from her family and living alone, Hermione and Draco have found their Charms Master with nothing to lose.
"Is it finished? Can he use the Turner?" Draco asks of her finally. They have no jurisdiction here to arrest her and she knows it. At this point they are simply appealing to the fact that she has nothing to lose in helping them anymore than she did in helping Baker with the Time Turner.
The woman shrugs one bent shoulder, sipping at her tea. She'd offered them a cup which they had both declined. The woman seems dangerous in a way they can't pin down. "Nearly," she croaks in reply. "He was still tinkering with it. Hell, maybe he's already changed something and we can't tell. Funny thing, time travel; very funny thing."
After learning of his general whereabouts, Hermione gives the woman instructions how to reach them in case Mister Baker might again make contact. (Though the woman assures them she's done all she can for any of them and now time will decide their fates.)
It's late when they leave and search for a way to reach their destination. Ultimately, apparition not being an option for them, having never been here, Hermione just flags down a taxi to cross the busy city.
"I'm not getting in that," Draco announces as she is one leg into the car.
"Well then I suppose I'll meet you there. If you'd prefer a train that runs under the ground, there's a subway entrance right there."
She points and Draco follows the line of her finger, watching people stream up and down the stairs. "A train underground?" He looks confused and a little horrified, standing across the sidewalk and looking quite torn as to which muggle deathtrap he'll be choosing.
"Hey Lady! You gettin' in that cab or not?"
Hermione turns and glares at a well-dressed gentleman, likely in the city on business, who is quickly approaching into her personal space. Appearing a little older than her, he is not exactly unattractive, but he has that air of annoyance and arrogance that seems to permeate this city. "I am, yes."
He gives her a once-over, not doing much to hide the gesture, and then offers in his American drawl, "Well maybe we could share then. Where are you headed, Sweetheart? I don't mind taking a little detour…" The leer on his face is annoyingly evident and he has the audacity to place a hand on the back of her jacket as if to assist her into the vehicle. She's about to let loose a tirade about respecting women and using personal endearments with someone you've never met when, unlikely as it is, Draco comes to her rescue.
"Slide over, love. Let's not keep the driver waiting."
For a split second she opens her mouth to reply to Draco then swings her head back to reply to the man who has a disgruntled look on his face. He looks quite pained.
Ultimately she just huffs, answering neither of them, and climbs in the car, shifting awkwardly across the seat. They had chosen muggle attire today, knowing they might need to navigate across the city from Wizarding district to district. Sliding over the back bench of a cab in a skirt is not something that can be done with much elegance nor modesty. She hopes the leering man didn't get a look of her bum as she climbed inside.
"Mulberry, please. At the corner of Hester."
The driver simply starts driving, not even acknowledging that she spoke though she assumes they are on their way to Little Italy as requested.
Under his breath, Draco mutters, "rude sort, isn't he?"
Hermione can't tell you all the way that statement is ironic coming from Draco 'my father will hear about this' Malfoy.
The taxi drops them in front of a pretty little restaurant called Il Cortile and Hermione pays the fare. She orientates herself a moment and then points for Draco to follow. "This way, toward Canal."
"You seem to know your way around this city," he observes, sounding annoyed to be following orders, or so she would guess.
"My parents brought me here often. Dental conventions and the like."
He doesn't answer and she didn't really expect him to. They make their way down the crowded sidewalk, side-stepping muggles. Just before the next cross-street, Hermione tugs on Draco's sleeve to lead him into a small alley between buildings. She smiles at him and makes to press herself against his chest.
"Granger, what are you-"
"Shush. Play along a moment." He looks incredibly jarred at their position and she tries to pretend it doesn't hurt a little. It's not as if she likes him all that much, but is it so off-putting to be in her vicinity?
Watching for a gap in the flow of foot traffic, she casts a standard Notice Me Not and then steps away. "I just needed to get us off the street. Sorry for touching you without warning. I'm sure it was traumatic." She covers her bruised ego with snark and continues deeper in to the dark alley, coming to a brick wall not unlike the entrance to Diagon.
No fancy stone code is needed here. Only a magical signature, provided by the tip of her wand, and the bricks slide away from each other.
"Not very secure," Draco sneers, looking disgusted; as if the very concept of American wizards smells off.
"Or they are just less infuriated by the mere thought of muggles. Remember this is a young country. A lot of that Pureblood prejudice from you Sacred types didn't take root here."
He doesn't reply and she's happy for the quiet, hoping the dig at his family and his past is enough to keep him silent until they can reach their destination.
The street is sparsely populated on the other side. It's evening, and most of the store fronts seem to be closed for the day. Hermione notices many with business hours posted as having closed at five or six. Past eight now, in a dedicated shopping district, there is very little reason for anyone to be out and about. It's a bit disconcerting after the hustle of New York streets, which never seem to fully empty.
They find their target; an old building (well older building…the whole street is old) about eight doors down.
"There's a side entrance there. You take the front and I'll go around."
Draco gives her a look she very much doesn't appreciate. "Are you mad? You want to split up, on our first mission? You never split the party, Granger."
She rolls her eyes and starts to the door. "We don't even know that he's here. But we don't have time to muck about. If he fixes that Turner he's gone, forever. We might be gone forever."
He hesitates another moment and then, "You tell me if you find anything. Use your galleon," he demands, referring to the charmed coin that is now, thanks to her adventures with Harry, standard issue for any magical law agents.
"Of course. Now, quiet. I'll meet you inside."
As soon as she enters the building, she suspects her door was the one to choose. Soft, muffled sounds reach her ears and she makes her way slowly through what appears to have been an office building, long abandoned, until she reaches a room in the back, just past a small kitchen.
Inside is a man matching the description she was given and, more importantly, the Time Turner in his hand.
He starts and looks at her, seeming surprised, but then slips a charming smile on his face and corrects, "The Time Lord, if you don't mind."
"Like the Doctor?"
Hermione shakes her head. "Nevermind. Mister Baker, on behalf of the DMLE of Britain, you are under arrest for possession of an unregistered Time Turner and the intent to alter time."
He chuckles, petting the Turner absentmindedly. "You know with even a half turn, I could be gone before you could get a spell off. All I need is an hour and you would never find me here."
She smirks. "That would indicate you've repaired it. If that were the case, why would you be here at all?"
He glances around the shabby, abandoned room. There is a small bed and other necessities in the corner. He's been here maybe longer than they knew. "Just planning, my dear. Plots. Schedules and schemes. Doesn't do to just pop back in time without a solid course of action. That would be terribly irresponsible."
With a snort, she questions, "as opposed to all the responsible sorts of time travel? What's your plan anyway? Make your dad stop beating your mum? Stop the first girl you loved from breaking your heart? Win big on a Quidditch bet?"
"Cute," he says with a levelled glare, "but no. I thought perhaps I would destroy Tom Riddle before he makes such a nuisance of himself, tearing apart the Wizarding World."
She blinks. "Oh. Oh, well that's…" faltering a little, she finishes, "…quite admirable I suppose." Her shock must be evident on her face but she tries to shake it off, her mind already running to forbidden places where Harry didn't have to grow up a lamb for slaughter and George Weasley can live in a home with mirrors on the walls, and Teddy Lupin knows his parents-
Except there might not be a Teddy Lupin. That's always the way with time.
"But I still can't allow that to happen. You must know that, yes?"
He waves his free hand and rolls his eyes, "yes, yes, wing of a butterfly and all that rot. Unfortunately, Miss Granger, it's not entirely up to you."
"You can't just change what's supposed to be-"
"You silly girl," he starts a little condescendingly. "Supposed to be? There is no standard; no normal. We've had the ability to alter time for centuries. My dear, do you imagine the life you live is the one you were always meant to? You've lived a thousand lives and yet none until you do. Another you would think 'you' stole her fate."
With no more fanfare, only leaving her mulling over that bit of mind fuck, she sees him go for the Time Turner and twist it twice before she can fire off a spell. He looks up, still turning, and smiles. The spell has bounced off a shield she never realized he cast.
I guess we do this the old-fashioned way…
She charges him, attempting to break his motion and knock the time turner away from him. She manages to knock him off balance but the object is still in his hand and she struggles to take it. What she would do, if it did suddenly wisk her away, she's not sure, but at this point she's all adrenaline and instinct and just trying to take him down. She has a split second to think that maybe the Auror department could do with a slightly more rigorous physical training program.
"Why isn't it working," he howls from beneath her, Hermione clamoring over his body and grasping at his arms. "I fixed it! It's fixed!" His cool demeanor is gone and now he's frantic; a man watching his plans fail. She can sympathize a little with that.
She manages, "here", through the scuffle, finally ripping the Turner from his hand and giving the man a sharp elbow to the face. Only then does Draco enter and cast a body bind on their target. Their physical altercation must have broken his shield.
"Why didn't you wait for me," Draco growls at her.
"You don't just wait when there's a Time Turner involved. He could have been anywhere in a blink."
"Partners, Granger. We're fucking partners. Use that charmed galleon next time. It's there for a reason." He's jerking Baker into a sitting position and weaving additional spells to be certain the man can't release himself. The time turner is laying on the ground, glittering in the low light.
Hermione bends to touch it and Draco barks, "Don't! Do not touch that. Merlin, Granger, how did you survive the war? Reckless fucking Gryffindors…"
"I've already touched it, Malfoy. It's broken. He was turning it like mad and yet here we both are."
He screws up his mouth and Hermione thinks of a little boy, trying hard to find a reason for his own petulance. "It's protocol."
She rolls her eyes but uses her wand to levitate the thing into her bag, settling it within the fabric of an old striped scarf she carries, just in case, and sealing it inside.
Baker is still muttering about the Turner, unable to believe it didn't work. He continues talking to himself as Draco and Hermione pull out their emergency portkey and prepare for the trip home. They've only been gone a couple of days. This was one of the most successful missions in DMLE history.
Hermione is sure to remind Harry of that, never quite satisfied until she's had some accolades. Even now, she's hunting for the 'O' on life's tests, striving for a grade. She supposes that never truly goes away.
Baker's words resonate with her as she makes her way home. Imagining the tangible concept of time and the implications of altering it is a little complex even for her brilliant mind. She pours herself a glass of wine and slips off her shoes. Tomorrow is Monday and she's looking forward to filing the paperwork of a case, the conclusion of a job well done.
It's six in the morning when Hermione alarm clock ticks on, filling the room with a moderate volume of Frente's melancholic cover of Bizarre Love Triangle. Head mildly pounding with an exhaustion headache, Hermione groans, not ready to rise but knowing she only has to make it until lunch. Harry, when he heard how dedicated they'd been in so quickly wrapping up a delicate mission, nearly demanded she and Draco work half-days for the week. She had argued at first, her innate instinct kicking in. You know, the one Malfoy calls swotty but she simply calls good bloody work ethic.
"You look like hell."
Hermione glares at Draco and throws herself down into the chair across his desk. "I didn't sleep well, as I'm sure you might imagine, and didn't feel like primping for a short day in the office."
He shrugs, disinterested, and begins to write again on the parchment in front of him. "Can't take your work home like that, Granger. You'll never survive being an Auror."
"Yes well some of us have bigger plans than that, you know. This is merely a stepping stone. By the time I'm thirty, I expect to look back on my time with the DMLE as a quaint interlude in an otherwise stellar career."
He looks up long enough to mutter, "You can be such a bitch."
She doesn't argue. Even Hermione can see she's not being particularly kind at the moment. She's tired and irritable and annoyed that she's even here at all, running an errand.
"What are you working on today," she asks, gesturing to the parchment before him.
"Last month's' reports for accounting," he returns, not looking at her.
"You don't have those done yet?"
She looks at him with abject disapproval. He looks up and sneers at her expression. "It's the fourth of the month Granger. Accounting doesn't even ask until a week in."
"Right… 'good enough', I suppose." He makes a face at her sarcasm which she ignores, deciding instead to throw him a bone. He did have her back yesterday after all. He might be a great prat, but so far he's the best partner she's probably had. "That was well done, by the way. I wanted to say… you know, with Baker. For a first mission, I thought it went well."
"Oh well thank you ever so, Granger. I'm beside myself that I have your approval." His sneer isn't unexpected, but she quickly back-steps any foray into civility.
"Yes well, it was acceptable, I meant. I would expect improvement from any partnership."
Draco's eyes narrow, and she expects him to bite back, but instead he just asks, "Why are you here?"
"What?... Oh, right. Harry can't do lunch today and thought we might want to go together. So, of course I told him that I, like any other self-respecting witch, would sooner eat Hippogriff scat."
He glares for a beat, looking just slightly murderous, like he's at the end of his rope, then taps the machine on his desk to speak to someone outside the room.
A simpering purr returns his call, "Yes, sir, Mister Malfoy?"
"Don't you think it's about time you started calling me Draco, darling? Would you care to join me for lunch today?"
"Oh! Oh yes, very much, sir- Draco. Shall I bring some parchment for notes?"
He offers Hermione a sickening grin and holds her glare as he answers, "No, no… it's not that type of lunch."
Hermione can hear the squeal from the other side of the door without any assistance of the magical speaker.
Draco splays his hands in front of him, an obvious "ta-da" left unsaid, and shoos her away with, "If that will be all? Seems I have a date."
She harurumphs and leaves the office, pulling the door open harder than necessary and slamming it behind her, only to find Draco's assistant applying a whorish red lipstick to her over-puffed lips. She looks like an absolute tart. So, Hermione thinks unkindly, totally his type.
Hermione chooses to simply go home when she's finished her report of the incident. She nearly collides with Draco and Bernice on the way out: hHe all swaggering pomposity and she all clinging and simpering in starry-eyed wonder.
It's sickening to watch, and Hermione is grateful to be away from him for even a half of a work day. At home her cat awaits her, a glass of red wine, and no ferrets as far as the eye can see.
Hermione has a bit of a headache again when her muggle alarm clock blares once more. She knows she probably earned this one, having consumed over half the bottle of wine last night, trying to drown out the image of Draco's sneering, ferret face.
For some reason her muggle alternative radio station seems to be having a love affair with Frente. It's a nice cover and all but really, change up the playlist.
She throws on comfortable robes and decides yet again to forego any make-up. After all, she's just going to work on some reports again, maybe see Harry at lunch.
She's brushing her teeth when an owl swoops onto the sill of her open window. She recognizes the white barn as Harry's once again. The note is much like yesterday.
Sorry, no lunch today. Too behind. Tell Malfoy, please. Have lunch together if you want. Department will cover the check.
She snorts… H… What, is he too behind to write the remaining four letters in his name? Seems to be a habit this week. Much like the day before, she pens back that she will run his little errand for him, but she would under no circumstances be interested in lunch with Draco Malfoy.
Hermione makes her way to Draco's office, nodding at all the usual people as she goes. Life is getting a little predictable. A year of this is sounding very boring.
Unless of course she has more cases like the one they handled over the weekend. That was certainly enough to keep things exciting. If a little exhausting.
She walks past Bernice with a stiff nod. The woman smiles and tilts her head like a confused puppy. She doesn't look particularly… shagged… rather more hopeful than anything. Probably hoping for a repeat of whatever transpired yesterday. Draco isn't known to be seen with a witch on his arm in public. Hermione imagines that's because he's too much of a prick to use the same woman twice.
She offers an obligatory knock on the door as she breezes in, not waiting for an invitation.
He looks up and gives her a once over. "You look like hell."
Hermione glares and flops into his chair, not waiting for an invitation for that either. "Such a gentleman," she accuses sarcastically.
He offers an equally sarcastic smile and answers, "So the witches tell me."
"Yes I'm sure. Is that why you keep that one," she hooks her finger back toward the door. "To tell you how charming you are. I doubt it's her…ahem… filing skills."
He leers, "Jealous, Granger?"
Hermione simply raises her eyebrow and scoffs before looking down at his desk. "Are those the end of month accounting reports?"
With a frown, Draco glances down and then back up, confirming, "They are."
"You're still not finished with those?"
"Merlin, Granger, you're such… never mind. What are you doing here?"
"Oh, right. I came to tell you that, once again, Harry has cancelled lunch plans and, once again, we are welcome to do so by ourselves. And that, yet again, I told him to get stuffed if he thinks I'd be interested in lunch alone with you."
"You're just incredibly charming, do you know that, Granger? Whatever will I do for company without yours?"
"You could try that tart with the bad lipstick on the other side of your door, I suppose. Unless she's already seen through you and wouldn't make that mistake again."
He glares at her, an expression she's growing accustomed to, and taps his call box.
That same simpering purr returns, "Yes, sir, Mister Malfoy?"
"Don't you think it's about time you called me Draco? Would you care to join me for lunch?"
"Oh! Oh yes, sir- Draco. You mean today? Should I bring anything?"
He once again offers Hermione a grotesque grin, holding her gaze, and his voice drips back, "No, no… just yourself, love."
He taps the machine once again, and Hermione lifts her brows in challenge.
"Careful, Malfoy. If I didn't know better, I'd start to think your little performance was for my benefit."
"I promise you that you and my performance need not cross paths," he says with obvious innuendo.
"Whatever. I'm off. Enjoy your sycophant."
Leaving Malfoy to prance about with his little lunch date, Hermione decides to go see Harry. She had started her day with the research department, going through the events over the weekend, and now she is feeling like she's in a good position to call it a day.
"Knock knock." She peers around the corner to find him scribbling with quill on parchment and says for what must be the thousandth time, "You know a muggle computer would make this so much easier for you."
"Except I don't know how to type," he laughs lightly. "They didn't offer that in the Hogwarts curriculum."
"Now that you mention it, what a perfect lesson for Muggle Studies." She takes a seat in his visitor chair, glancing at the work on his desk. "Expense reports?"
Harry nods, laying the paper to the side to give her his full attention. "I don't know why you put those off, you and Malfoy both."
He shrugs and comments, "I figure I have about four more days before accounting really gets after me."
She makes a noncommittal hum, agreeing in part that their Department Head can probably get away with a little tardiness; more than the rest of them can. "I was thinking I might take off, if you don't need anything in particular."
Harry frowns a little, which surprises her. "That's not like you. Can you at least do your mission report first?."
Cocking her head, she fixes him with a chastising stare., "Harry, that was the first thing I did. Now if your assistant hasn't delivered it to you, that's hardly my fault."
"Oh... well then sure, that's fine. I understand you might be a bit worn down. You had an eventful weekend."
She shrugs in response. Indeed she is feeling a little draggy today, but probably more from last night's wine than anything. "Oh, and I told Malfoy you cancelled," she says with a light grin and continues, "You know it was your idea to do this department lunch thing. If it doesn't work out, I won't complain."
He frowns a little, "I hardly ever cancel."
She rolls her eyes. 'Hardly ever' and 'two days in a row' are not necessarily mutually exclusive. "I'm not judging. And I think Malfoy has something going with his assistant, so he seemed fine with it."
"Bernice? Malfoy is seeing Bernice?"
Hermione waves her hand around, not caring that much about the office gossip, though she supposes she is the one who brought it up. "Or shagging. Or something."
"Huh... surprising." At her expectant look, Harry continues, "She's been chasing him but he always says 'no'. Just didn't think he would go for her."
Hermione snorts. "Large breasts, long legs, look of stupid adoration on her face. Seems right up his alley."
Still looking thoughtful, he muses, "He hasn't even been with anyone since Astoria. Said he wasn't ready."
She snickers. "Oh, are you on intimate terms with Malfoy now? Stay up late chatting about girls and trading hair tips?"
Harry offers her a quelling look. "You know I've been friendly with him the last couple of years."
Rising from the chair, she answers, "Yes, I know. I forget sometimes. You and Ron... I just didn't think it would be the two of you on good terms with him, after everything."
Shrugging, he rises to see her out. "He was a ponce," he agrees with an easy grin, "but he seems at least partially apologetic."
"Not to me," she observes. "Anyway, I'm heading home. Maybe a lie down and good book will pull me out of this funk. I'd think I would be feeling better by now..." She isn't sure if she means the mild hangover or her exhaustion from her weekend, but either way it seems like it's been two days since her adventures and a few hours since the wine. Getting older, perhaps.
"I'll see you tomorrow. Maybe we can do lunch if I'm caught up?"
She laughs. He's her boss, he doesn't have to be so hesitant. "Your call, chief."
Which is why it's such a surprise when the next morning, Frente running through her mildly pounding head for the third day in a row, that she receives yet another cancelling owl. Does no one respect schedules anymore?
She heads straight to Harry's office this time, intending to hit Draco up later. Or just make Harry send him an owl. She's not sure why she has to play House Elf when he has a perfectly good owl to send correspondence.
"So what was so important this time?"
Harry looks up, startled. "What do you mean?"
"Cancelling lunch, again, which was your idea to begin with."
He frowns, pushing his parchment a little aside. "Come on, Hermione, I don't cancel that often.
"No," she agrees, playing with the edges of a document on the corner of his desk, "you don't usually. Hence why I asked what's so important today."
"Well, for starters, I thought I'd get the budget report finished for accounting."
She gapes a little at that. "Still?!" Hermione recognizes the shrill quality of her own voice and looks a little sheepish. "I mean, I just figured you'd have that done by now."
He seems to let her tone slide and just grins back, "when have you known me to finish things early?"
Her concession comes in the form of a snicker and she starts back to the door. "I suppose another day without lunch with the great Harry Potter won't kill me. Though, Malfoy might start to think you don't like him."
He begins to comment but she interrupts with, "Oh, and by the way, I really don't feel like dealing with him today. Can you just memo him about lunch please?"
He grunts but picks up a memo page, "Ffine. I ask for one thing…"
She smiles and waves, leaving him to his day. A quick look at some reports for upcoming cases and then she heads out, still trying to shake her headache.
The next day, she's had about as much Frente as she can stand, and she unplugs the muggle alarm from the wall. The headache is still there, and Harry's owl comes once again with his cancellation. She's starting to suspect he used a duplication charm on the parchment because it is yet again the same wording. Annoyed and tired of the headache and humming fucking Frente again, she sends back that she's taking the day off. It's a rare occurrence, and she defies anyone to accuse her of poor attendance.
She decides to take a quick trip to Diagon and maybe pick up some new quills, maybe a book, and see if the papers have picked up anything about the Time Lord. She hates being in the press, but she accepts it by now as an unavoidable nuisance. She cancelled her subscriptions to everything but occasionally picks up a Prophet or a Quibbler.
When she finds her way to the book store, a display of periodicals in the front, she notices their Prophet is days out of date. She remembers another reason she stopped buying it: They are notorious for missing their own deadlines.
Friday… and not a moment too soon. Hermione heard exactly three words of Bizarre Love Triangle before once again unplugging the alarm. Tomorrow being Saturday, she decides to leave it that way and have a lie in tomorrow morning.
Just four hours and she can recharge over the weekend. Yesterday really should have been enough, but the headache persists, and she just feels rundown. Perhaps she should zip over to Mungo's after she leaves the office; see if they can prescribe some mild Pepper Up.
When Harry's owl comes yet again, she balls up the paper and doesn't even send him a reply. Instead, she writes a terse note to Malfoy:
It seems Potter has cancelled on us yet again. No lunch today. See you Monday.
When Draco's pretentious owl, Cronos, comes back with his answer, sealed in wax with an M surrounded by a writhing snake. She doesn't even read it, just pets the bird and offers him a treat. Snobbish beast that he is, he still seems to take to her once she's bribed him with kindness. She wonders if that would have worked on his master but knows herself enough to realize she couldn't pull it off if she tried. Something about him just pushes her buttons.
Arriving at the ministry, Hermione holes herself up in her office and barely acknowledges the goings-on around her. At some point her assistant pokes her head in and says she's taking an early lunch. Hermione is distracted and mutters a quiet, "Ssee you Monday," missing the confused look on the other woman's face.
All in all, it's been a decent week. She sent off her report of the Time Lord incident, did some research on developing cases and dropped them off with the appropriate agents, and even took a little time for herself. Having only worked four half days, she thinks it's been quite successful. At noon, she grabs her robes and bag, heading to the lifts. Draco is stepping in to one, and she groans, knowing she'll have no choice but to share, unless she wants to prove him right and be an utter bitch.
She climbs in and gives him a nod, standing in front of him and turning to face the closing lift doors. They are down to a mere sliver of light when a squeaky, simpering voice cuts through the general murmur of the Ministry and a manicured hand slips between the doors.
"Mister Malfoy! You've forgotten your jacket, sir! I was afraid you might… be cold." She bites her lip and looks down shyly, and Hermione is disgusted by the whole thing. Didn't he take her on a date? Multiple in fact…and now she's calling him 'sir' and panting after him? Did he discard her so quickly, and now she's pathetically clinging?
Hermione glances back to find Draco with his jaw set. He takes a breath that looks like exasperation, but quickly hides it with a devastating grin. "Thank you, Bernice. What would I do without you?"
His assistant squeals a little, no doubt imaging all the things he could do with her. Or has already…
It's all Hermione can do not to make a gagging motion.
Bernice steps back and the lifts close. Behind her, Draco lets out a breath.
Hermione raises a brow and looks back at him, "Yyour latest fling a little clingy?"
"She's not a fling, Granger."
"Oh right… of course not. One night stand then? How do you characterize the woman you use?"
"I don't use women-"
"What, because being with you is such a gift?"
"What the fuck is your problem with me," he snaps, seeming to have reached the end of some tether of patience. Hermione hides the smirk.
"No problem at all."
She is stepping off the just-stopped lift and hollers over her shoulder, "See you Monday."
It sounds he starts to say something, ask a question, but the lift closes and Hermione can't get home fast enough.
Hermione curses herself when she hears that blasted song start to play yet again. She must have forgotten to turn off her alarm for the weekend…she was sure she unplugged it… and, dammit all, can they not play something different? The station's rotation can't be that flooded with Frente, can it?
Hitting the alarm probably more angrily than necessary, Hermione snuggles back into her comforter and finds sleep again quickly.
As soon as she hears the tapping on the glass, she sits up quickly and knows she is up for good. Hermione sees that it is Harry's owl and rolls her eyes. Probably Ginny wants to do lunch or something. The recent Mrs. Potter tends to do things on the fly, not always sitting well with Hermione's scheduled personality.
Instead she finds, once again, Harry saying he can't have lunch. She knows she's tired and groggy, but Hermione thinks her confusion is justified. Is he cancelling preemptively for Monday? Is he working so hard this week, he forgot it was the weekend? She feels a little guilty taking so much time for herself, but in her time with the DMLE she has taken virtually no vacation days and felt she had earned a little time.
Maybe he didn't mean to send it? Maybe he had made copies for the week (as she had theorized) and sent the wrong parchment today?
Shaking off her perplexed feeling, she just writes back a quick "Don't work too hard" reply and sends the owl on its way. She doesn't think long on alerting Draco. No reason to interrupt his Saturday as well.
Hermione is sitting at her breakfast nook table, reading an old issue of Potions Today when the owl returns. Expecting a jibe about having to work hard or comparing himself to her laxed day, she grabs the parchment, readying a retort.
Are you coming in today?
Huh. She hadn't planned on it. So she tells him that. Did he expect her to come in on the weekend? Because she took Thursday perhaps? With a polite sign off and a message that she will see him Monday, she sends the owl on its way once again.
The third time the white owl taps on her glass, she is growing tired of the interruptions. Her headache, if anything, is getting worse today. Probably from the lack of sleep, she surmises.
I thought you were doing half days If you need the day that's fine just let me know
Run-on sentence, Harry, she thinks. Some punctuation would be lovely...
Has he forgotten what day it is? Hermione has been there in the past; caught up in reports and letting the week completely pass her by.
She tries to formulate a professional response. He is, strange as it still seems, her boss.
I didn't realize you needed me today, but I can certainly come in if you need something in particular.
There. That should do it. She sends the owl away once again, an extra treat for its trouble, and goes back to her magazine. A potion for her head precedes a cup of mint tea, and she is feeling a modicum better by lunch when the floo roars to life. She can barely glimpse her fire place from her position and makes her way to the sitting room for a better view.
Draco's head is illuminated in green flame, and he's scowling at her. "You know, Granger, you could have told me Potter cancelled lunch. Or at least refused to do him the favor so he could tell me. I waited for thirty minutes at that shite diner he likes before I gave up and tracked him down."
Hermione scrunches her face in confusion. "I didn't imagine you would be meeting him today, either. Forgive me for being polite and not wanting to bother you on your day off," she snaps back.
"Day off? I didn't take the day, Granger. Some of us have reports to finish. I suppose you think internal affairs will just have to wait for their Golden Girl to find time for them?" His sarcasm is most definitely not welcome.
"I always turn in my reports on time, Malfoy," she bites back.
"Your version of 'on time' and mine must not coincide. Whatever, Granger. Enjoy your day off." Even in the flames she can see him making quote marks with his fingers, and then the fire dims, and he's gone.
Hermione shakes her head and goes about her routine. It's been approximately a year since she took the time to have a soak in a warm bath. She has decided her headache she had all week must have been stress. She does work hard, after all, and rarely takes time to relax.
She spends so much time in the water, she has to cast a warming charm twice and continues to duplicate the froth of bubbles resting on the surface. She imagines she could just sleep like this.
Apparently, she does. The roar of the floo wakes her, followed by Harry's unmistakable voice. "Hermione? Are you here?"
The great prat actually came through the floo without invitation? That's certainly not like him.
"Just a moment, Harry. Be right out."
Toweling off quickly and wrapping herself in her favorite floral print silk robe, she comes out, delicately pressing a towel to her curls. "Is everything alright?"
He looks quite disgruntled, and so of course her first thought is that Malfoy has done something. She's therefore shocked when he answers, "I'm not entirely sure. It seems my star agent decided to have a holiday. I know the weekend was taxing, and I certainly wouldn't begrudge you the time off, but letting me know would have been appreciated."
She crosses her arms over her chest and glares. "Since when do I need clearance to take a weekend?"
Harry blinks at her. "Weekend? This isn't the weekend, Hermione."
With an indulgent smile, Hermione drops her arms and softens. "Harry, you're working too hard. You've been holed up in your office for days. Go home. Spend some time with Ginny."
"Hermione," he begins, speaking clearly, "I have been spending a lot of time at work, but this is not the bloody weekend."
For just a moment, Hermione almost doubts herself. The week was a blur, but no, she clearly remembers each day and what she accomplished. "Let's talk Monday, alright? Maybe I can help you catch up on your paperwork."
"Monday? You're not coming in tomorrow?"
She sighs but concedes. "If you really need me, then, yes, I'll be in tomorrow."
"Good. That would be… good. Well then… I guess I'll see you tomorrow. Enjoy your evening, Hermione." He pauses, considering, and finally suggests, "Get some rest, alright?"
"Thanks, Harry. See you."
She thinks sleep will be restless that night, but oddly, it's not. She sets her alarm and doesn't know anything until, of course, fucking Frente.
Hermione has a very good work ethic and a lot of pride. If Harry wants her to come in on Sunday, then, by Merlin, she's going to be there before he even makes it in. She showers quickly, throws on some muggle jeans and an old concert tee, and makes her way to the Ministry. Normally she doesn't wear muggle clothes to work, but the building should be mostly empty today.
Her headache at this point is almost a running joke. It's mild, but lingering. She took some muggle Tylenol, since potions don't seem to be working, grabbed her bag and headed through the floo.
It's only 6:45 when she walks through to her office, passing Harry's closed door. Hermione loves when the Ministry is like this. She can get so much work done when no one is bothering her. She grabs a granola bar from the top drawer of her desk and munches, while she reads a report on Ron's current assignment. Harry had given it to her a couple of weeks ago to see if she could assist, and so far she hasn't found anything. Helping break that case would definitely take some stress off of Harry.
At 7:30, Harry pokes his head in. "You're here early."
She looks up and musters a smile. "Yes, you seemed stressed. Thought I'd get a jump on the day and see what I can get done before people start to bother me."
He chuckles and starts to retreat, saying he will leave her to it, when he pops back in. "Oh, and I was going to tell you I don't think I can do lunch today. Just too-"
"Behind," she finishes for him. "Yes, I know. Just remember to eat, Harry. Here." She pulls open her drawer and tosses a granola bar his way.
Harry catches it deftly, looking at the item in his hand and grins. "Thanks, Hermione."
She waves him out with a perfunctory, "You're welcome," and goes back to her reading, losing track of the hours.
She looks first at the little clock on her desk that tells her it's nearly noon, then to the doorway where Malfoy is leaning against the frame. She hadn't even heard him open the door.
"Surprised you're here at all."
He frowns and asks, "What's that supposed to mean?"
She sighs and goes back to her parchment, "Nothing. Did you need something?"
"Potter thought we might like to go to lunch."
Hermione drops her quill once more and looks up. She's about to decline, but thinks better of it. She's spent a lot of time alone this week and, though he wouldn't be her first choice for company, he seems to be in a civil mood.
"I guess, if I can spend a weekend in a hotel with you, lunch won't kill me."
He snorts in agreement or amusement.
Draco and Hermione are both generally quiet as they make their way to the restaurant. The streets are well-travelled for a weekend.
They are seated at a booth in what has become the go-to Wizarding diner for Ministry employees, both contemplating the menu. Their server, (Mandy, if Hermione recalls) familiar with both of them by this point, has already placed a drink in front of them. Water with lemon for Hermione, a muggle hot chocolate for Malfoy.
"You know that stuff is bad for your teeth, right?"
He looks up only to glare at her before returning his gaze to the food choices, but he does mutter a, "whatever", while looking down.
Hermione smirks, but continues to peruse.
"What will it be today? The special?"
They both look up at the young witch who brought their drinks. She is, as usual, ogling Malfoy.
"Sounds lovely. And a piece of that chocolate soufflé I noticed in the case if you would, please."
Hermione rolls her eyes, suspecting very much he's just trying to be annoying now. "The fish, I suppose. I do wish you had those wraps I like today."
"Oh but we do! The chicken, like usual?"
Eyeing the other witch, Hermione nods. "I'd love that, but I thought you didn't have those all the time."
"Oh, we don't! Only Monday through Thursday, love. I'll get this in for you."
Hermione watches the girl leave and then looks up at Draco, pieces falling like rain into place around her. Hermione is a confident person who rarely questions what she knows to be true, but at some point it would be foolish to ignore…
"Malfoy…I know this might sound like an odd question, but… what day is this?"
Whatever he sees in her face seems to sober him. "Monday, why? You alright, Granger?"
"I… it's Monday? Today is Monday?" Her head is spinning. Or maybe that's the room. Could she have lost a day? "I think maybe I'm confused, and I…did I miss a day of work? I've had this headache and last week was such a blur. Harry told me yesterday I had my days mixed up, but I just was sure…"
She trails off and looks at him, silently requesting he put her at ease.
"When was that?" He asks casually, not seeming to understand that something is very wrong.
"He came over to my flat, a little after you floo'd me."
"Granger," he says carefully, "I didn't floo you yesterday. We were home so late, I don't know when I would have even had time."
"What do you mean, home late? I thought you worked a half day, like me?"
"I thought yesterday was a pretty full day, actually, processing Baker and all that. Are you alright?"
She's probably growing pale. Hermione certainly feels a bit lightheaded, but the look on his face is so full of concern she imagines she looks very much like a corpse at the moment. "Were we in New York yesterday?"
"We didn't see each other at the office all week? I… am I going mad?"
He lifts his eyebrows and agrees with wide eyes, "Quite possibly. Merlin, Granger, what's going on with you? You were fine last night. Snippy and disagreeable, but, you know, the usual."
"I worked all last week in the office. I filed the Baker report, I studied up on Ron's next case, I cancelled lunch with you for Harry more than once… I'm telling you I have been at work for days since New York."
"And you saw me there? Everyday?"
She nods earnestly. "Every day without fail. Well, except Thursday I took the day to shake this stupid headache. You were working on your budget report all week."
"I finished that this morning. It only takes about an hour, Granger. I promise I didn't work on it for a week."
She blinks. "You did it this morning. Draco… what date is it?"
"It's the fourth."
"I…I think that I… "
She pauses and licks her lips, feeling as if she is either going insane or in quite a lot of trouble. "I think I've been doing this day over and over again. You told me a week ago it was the fourth when you started that budget report. Every day I wake up with the same headache to the same stupid song and go through the same routine. Merlin…"
She's up before he can say anything and headed to the door, lunch forgotten and the pieces finally all clicked into place like tumblers in a lock.
"Granger, wait! Where are you going?"
She looks back, exasperated by his needless delay. "I need to inform Harry, of course."
Draco drops a small pile of galleons on their table and chases after her. Just outside on the street, he catches her upper arm firmly and pulls her out onto the street, casting a Muffliato under his breath. "Are you positive about that?"
"What do you mean? And get your hands off me." She shakes her arm once to dislodge his grip, but he holds on tight. Not painfully, just... with urgency, and leads her further away from the restaurant where they are known.
"You're mixed up in time somehow," he accuses. "Maybe the less people who know, the better. What if this has ramifications? What if you are messing up the timeline even now by telling me?"
"I... I mean it's not as if I'm travelling back or into the future. I'm just... I don't know, in a loop or something."
"And how is that different than travelling back really? Only by a day but still, you reach the end of a day and then go back to its beginning."
"I can't imagine it's worse than the time McGonagall gave me a Turner so I could take double classes in third year."
He starts, halting his forward motion and stopping her with him, still holding her arm. "She did what?"
Hermione rolls her eyes and finally manages to shake off his hand. "She gave me a Turner to take double classes. It wasn't a big deal; I just learned a little more."
"Really," he asks with disbelief. "And you can't see how anything could have been changed? How is that even legal?! I know you were a child then, but surely looking back now you can see that was the stupidest fucking thing for an instructor to do, especially with a child."
Hermione sets her jaw, hating very much that he has a good point. She supposes telling him she used the device to turn back time and save Sirius Black might not help her case.
"Regardless, I just think this is different."
Draco pinches the bridge of his nose and then looks at her again. "Just do me a favour and don't tell anyone else yet, alright? Not to say I told you so or anything," he sneers, "but I do recall telling you not to touch the blasted thing back in New York."
Hermione hesitates, but then agrees. "Fine. It's not like it will matter anyway. Tomorrow, you won't know about it either, unless I tell you."
"And will you? Tell me tomorrow?"
She considers that before deciding, "I might actually. You already know once, so I can't hardly muck things up more by telling you again. And of the entire Auror department, you might be the only one that can help me figure out what to do about this mess."
Draco smirks in that infuriating way of his. "Why Granger, was that a compliment? I'm touched."
She shrugs as a response, and they continue walking together, speaking quietly about where to begin. The Ministry library is an impressive resource, though admittedly not quite as impressive as the one at Malfoy Manor.
"We've already been given leave to take a short day. Let's head to the library and see what we find."
Hermione starts to argue, but ultimately just swallows and agrees, trying hard not to think about all the reasons she doesn't want to see Malfoy's home. Her friends were held in a dungeon there, she was tortured there, and Lucius Malfoy, Draco's Death Eater father, is under arrest there. No problem at all…
A two-fer, I thought I'd post twice while I had a moment! Thanks so much for everyone reading thus far! I really appreciate the kudos and reviews as well!
What's this? Three chapters in one day?! Don't get used to it, but I'm trying lol
Hermione follows Draco to a Ministry floo and they emerge in his manor. The room that receives them, thank Merlin, isn't familiar to her, and she follows him down a corridor with vaulted ceilings to a set of massive double doors. The wood is carved with images of what appears to be men and women in ancient regalia, spanning multiple cultures. She runs the nail of one forefinger over the curve of a woman's rounded hip, studying the work.
"Knowledge Gods," he offers. "Knowledge and wisdom. From various traditions and sources." He points to random carvings and names, "Isis, Ganesha, Athena, muses…"
"It's beautiful," she comments sincerely. She has only imagined this manor as a place of evil of hate, not a source for artistic and intellectual décor.
"My ancestor, Acacius Malfoy, had this custom made. Of course the room at that time was not nearly as grand. It was the fifteenth century and a library was more of a storage space for parchments and scrolls. Very little bookbinding was done at that time."
She nods, enjoying the history, and precedes him through the door at his gesture to enter.
Inside, the library is pretty well what Hermione expected. If, that is, she let herself indulge in the fantasy that walking in to his library would be much like the Disney version of Belle walking in to the Beast's same room.
She does and it is.
She does a quick turn five paces in and ogles the shelves. It's massive and she is equal parts impressed and overwhelmed. She's not forgotten why she is here and suddenly only having a matter of hours to search feels entirely to short. Of course, another way to look at it is that she has an eternity of "a matter of hours" if she doesn't find the solution. Day after endless day of research in an unparalleled library would have once felt like heaven. Unfortunately it is now her literal hell. The fantasy shatters into mundane reality and she's ready to take action.
"Alright, let's get to this."
Behind her, Draco is striding casually to massive desk with a plush chair sitting on either side. He sits in the one that puts his back to the wall and taps his wand on the lacquered wood of the desk. "Time and time magic. Cross reference with repeat, repetition, repeating, and loops. Sort by date published."
Hermione watches as, slowly, book after book floats itself out of its position on the shelf, leaving gaps interspersed through the room in their place. Lining themselves like floating soldiers, books slide in between their fellows. At the left hand side, the most battered books, faded, yellowed, and crisp, seem to trudge into place, as if exhausted by their many years. On the right, beautifully bound tomes zip into position impatiently and nearly vibrate as they hover.
The line comes together until they are touching and move as one onto the empty book case next to the desk. The newest books slide in first, on the top row, taking their place as haughtily as an inanimate object can. The weary ancient texts finally slip into place on the bottom shelf, only filling it about half way, and then the room goes still.
"Would you like top or bottom?"
Hermione starts, entranced as she was by the books, and looks over to find Draco smirking at her. Not a sneer, either. An honest to Merlin flirty smirk. She permits him a small smile accompanied by an eyeroll and decides for some reason to play along. "Top obviously. There's more action up there."
"There's more finesse on the bottom. You have to be careful but you could help control our pace."
She snickers and moves to take the first book on the top shelf, a thick number bound in blue leather with gilded pages. "Are we still talking about books?"
He grins back and agrees, "of course, Granger. What else?"
She doesn't answer the rhetorical comment and they set in to the task. An hour passes in which they don't speak so much as a word. She and Draco both utilize a handy charm that opens the book to certain words. Still, searching out "time" results in a lot of skimming pages with nothing more than "cast time" or "time the potion stirs" or "this one time at transfiguration camp".
At some point, she suggests they use the search congruent with other words, but they couldn't quite settle on which word would definitely appear. "Loop"? That seems too new age for the older texts. The phrase "time loop" feels like science fiction more than historical. "Repeat"? What if the text has "repetition" or "repeating"? It's a pretty delicate charm and only searches exactly what you request, much more fine-toothed than the charm that helps the library choose books. What Hermione wouldn't give for a hard drive back up of the room and she adds that to her list of things to pursue. If she can't bring computers to the magical world, perhaps she can devise a magic solution to sort information the same way.
After an undetermined amount of time, a couple of hours more if she were to guess, a small elf pops in the room with a tea tray and delicate finger sandwiches. "Master Draco, sir?"
"You can just leave it on the side table." He doesn't even look up and Hermione glares at him across the pile of books between them.
Seeming to feel his eyes on her, he glances up. With a subtle tip of her head and moving of her gaze, she gestures to where the elf is carefully putting their spread on display. He still doesn't get it so she clears her throat and widens her eyes with purpose.
"Salazar, Granger, use your words. I can't read your mind."
Huffing, she addresses the elf with as much kindness as she has at her arsenal. "Thank you very much for the tea service. It looks just lovely."
The elf doesn't look at her and continues it's task, levitating biscuits from a tin and arranging them in a beautiful array, sorted by flavor.
Draco's snicker draws her gaze back to his face. He rolls his eyes to the ceiling as if entertaining her folly. "Pipsy, Miss Granger was thanking you, not me. You are welcome to speak with her."
The elf falters, nearly dropping a small stack of levitating shortbread. "Miss... Granger, sir? The Miss Granger?"
"The one and only," he answers, seeming to bite back a chuckle.
Warily, the elf looks to Hermione and is visibly shaking, where before it had seemed calm. "Th-thank you for your kind words, Miss. If you will excuse Pipsy." The elf makes an exaggerated show of backing three paces away before popping out of the room. Draco howls with laughter.
"Just what is so funny? Are they so terrified of you? Are they not allowed to speak with guests?!"
His laughter dies pretty fast then. "Pipsy adores me, Granger. He's terrified of you."
"Me?! Why in the world would he be afraid of me? He doesn't even know me."
"Oh he does. They all do. Every house elf in all of Britain I'd wager. The infamous Hermione Granger, destroyer of households and scourge of honest work."
Her eyes narrow and she crosses her arms over her chest. "Well that's just ridiculous. It's... it's propaganda is what it is. Telling these poor elves they shouldn't want freedom or respect. I demand to know who started that campaign. Was it Nott? Oh he'd like that wouldn't he? To turn the elves against me. He's just mad I tried to deliver a hat to his garden elf to keep her poor ears warm."
Draco is chuckling again but there is something more than mirth. He seems to be bottling in some actual anger. "For someone who champions the rights of the downtrodden, you really don't know much about them do you?"
"I know what I need to know," she offers snottily. "Your father taught me all about it."
That seems to get him and even the illusion of mirth fades. He scowls at her. "You know, just because I'm a pureblood doesn't mean I'm not learned. I am familiar enough with the muggle scientific method to know that research with only one set of results is not enough to for a theory. I know you've been told time and again they like to work but have you ever actually thought about that? And it wasn't Nott who spread the word about you Granger, it was the House Elves."
"I... but your father-" she starts primly, pointedly, but he cuts her off again.
"My father is a prick, Granger. I'm fully aware of that. But he only ever treated one elf that way and it was Dobby. I don't agree with what he did, I'm not making excuses for how cruel he was, but the only reason he did was because Dobby was disobedient."
"Disobedient?!" A tirade is building but he interrupts her yet again.
"Yes, disobedient. It's a natural order that has been going on for centuries. Elves like to work. Purebloods like clean houses. It's symbiotic. Most any house elf is devastated if you don't give them work to do. I'm not being hyperbolic. Take any other elf and ask them not to work, or worse yet tell them you don't need them to, and you may as well Avada them. They would rather die than not be useful. Dobby was different and it went against nature. If there's one thing my father can't handle, if you can believe it, it's disorder."
"Disorder and mudbloods," she mumbles petulantly.
"Disorder and mudbloods," he agrees with a nod, and hearing the word from his mouth, for the first time in years, is a knife to the heart. She feels herself, bleeding emotion from the wound, but he goes on. "It's not really muggles, you know, or even muggleborns. I didn't understand it as a child. I just parroted rhetoric because that's all children can do. My father... he didn't want the world The Dark Lord promised. He just wanted order. He also wanted to come out on top and Tom Riddle seemed to be the winning ticket.
The truth is, Granger, my father doesn't hate muggles. He thinks the world needs an order: Wizarding and muggle worlds separate to keep the peace. Muggleborns are an anomaly that ruins that order. If you keep sheep and goats, you generally don't have them graze the same pasture. You might value them equally, but they have different needs."
She ponders that moment, somewhat soothed but not entirely. "Except he doesn't value them equally. He wanted to see the sheep dead, to go with your analogy."
Draco shakes his head and he looks regretful. "He didn't. Not really. My father... he had to be tough. He was involved with the first war as a young man, caught up in the movement and fighting to keep his name on top. He raised me with a hard line because he was sure if he didn't, I wouldn't make it in the new world order. He didn't want to murder people, Granger. His greatest sin is holding the safety of his family above anyone else. You can judge him for that, but don't make him a monster. He doesn't really give a fuck about the sheep or the goats. He's just trying to feed the farmhouse."
"And you?" She asks hesitantly. "What do you care about?"
She watches Draco almost literal shake off the heavy mood and he grins at her, gesturing with a tilt of his head to the tray Pipsy left behind. "Chocolate shortbread. And wine. Maybe not at the same time but just generally speaking..."
She's tricked into a laugh and allows him to change the topic, pouring her a cup of Lady Grey and offering her one of his coveted shortbread, shaped like a snake. "Pipsy only makes them for me this way," he explains of the design.
The rest of tea is spent on trivial conversation and, when they return to their books, Hermione steals glances over her pages, watching his eyes dart across the words of his book and his brow scrunch in concentration. They spend the rest of the afternoon and evening reading before she bids him goodnight to go home for a late dinner and put herself to bed.
Maybe, she thinks to herself as she brushes her teeth that night, Harry was right. He's not quite as bad as she remembers.
Draco Malfoy is exactly as bad as she remembers.
They finished up in the library around ten at night, both too knackered to keep going. She lamented that her body needed sleep to function, knowing she would wake to a new beginning and an ignorant Malfoy. At the end of the evening, he had stopped her, a hand on her shoulder as she started to toss the powder into the floo.
"We'll figure it out, Granger. Get some sleep and come see me when you wake up."
It was the kindest he's ever been. He seemed genuinely concerned; like he was trying to assuage the anxiety that had obviously been plaguing her as the evening wore on. The fear that she would never see a tomorrow.
So now she's standing inside his office at precisely seven fifteen, exactly when he told her that he would arrive (he said he likes to get an early jump on Mondays), and he has the nerve to give her attitude about it.
"Really, Granger, I'm sure you didn't get enough of me in the States, but stalking my office at the crack of dawn?" He sneers at her as he enters, turning his nose up at the Styrofoam cup of coffee she was kind enough to bring him, and drops himself into his chair.
Taking a calming breath, Hermione places the cup in front of him and sits primly across the desk.
"I don't recall inviting you to sit."
Merlin's pants, is he always this much of a shite in the morning?
She straightens impossibly more and lifts her chin. "I need to speak with you; it's urgent."
"And what dire situation begs my attention today? Some filing I missed? I swear to Circe if this is about the budget report… I mean, it is the fourth of the month. I'm sure the accounting office is ready to huff and puff my door down by this point."
"Oh, would you stop! Godric, you're a prat. How I managed an entire day with you yesterday is beyond me."
"Back at you, Granger. Now, if you've realized that whatever you need was petty and stupid, please run along, so I can get some actual work done."
She thinks about it and hesitates. They searched his library for hours yesterday and found virtually nothing. Her perpetual headache combined with the early hour is making it hard to deal with his surly disposition. Maybe she should try the Ministry archives today instead and give herself a break from the great ferret.
Not that the Draco of yesterday really required a break. If she's honest, he was a superb research partner. After their heavy discussion of politics and genocide, he had been pleasant. Quiet, of course, since they were both otherwise engaged, but not rude or difficult.
He spent his entire day researching to try to help her. As far as they know, the loop only affects her, and his life would go on fine without it. Yet, he committed to her cause with no complaint.
Now, there's this arse, thumbing his nose at her gift of coffee, and she's just not in the mood, thank you very much.
An owl flies through the doorway just as she's about to leave and offers her the scroll. "Ugh… Harry and his stupid office lunches." Taking it from the bird, but without even reading it, she crumples it in her fist and turns back to Malfoy to bark at him, "Harry's cancelled lunch. He says we could eat together, and I'm telling you to get stuffed." With that she blows back through the door, leaving a stunned Draco in her wake.
It's hours before Harry finds her in the archives. Glancing at her watch, almost noon to be precise. "Draco said you were really put out that I had to cancel lunch. I just wanted to apologize. I know you had a long weekend, and I didn't mean to disappoint-"
"Oh Harry, leave it." She looks up, annoyance unable to be schooled on her face. "I don't care about bloody lunch, alright."
Hermione has spent the last two hours of her search reading about the theory behind time magic, and it is, to say the least, not helpful. Typically, when using the method that is the basis of Time Turner magic, the user goes back in time, but the original version of themselves is still present. Of course, she knew that much from her own use of a Turner back in her third year, but what she can't figure out is why it's not working that way now. It seems that at the very least, in her professional and clinical opinion, that Mr. Baker completely cocked up the process.
"Hermione, are you alright?" Harry looks stunned at her outburst, and she takes a deep breath.
"I'm fine, Harry. No… you know what?" She takes a breath and impetuously decides to plow forward. "I'm not fine. I tried Draco yesterday, let's see how you fare. You always have a unique perspective."
His quizzical look only intensifies, and Hermione sets aside the tome in her hands, gesturing for Harry to take a seat in the very uncomfortable Ministry issue chair to her left. "Something happened in New York, Harry, and I'm trying to find out what it is."
He scrunches his brow in thought and considers her. "Was it that scuffle with Baker? Were you hurt?"
Shaking her head in the negative, she leans forward and lowers her voice. "It was the time turner, I think. I've been living this day over and over again. For days. To me, it's been over a week since New York. I think this is the eighth time around for me on this particular Monday."
Harry sucks in a breath between his teeth. "Hermione that's… well, that's really bad."
She can't help it. She laughs. It's sort of a relief to just find a moment of humour in this mess. "Gods, Harry, I love you, but that's not exactly the brilliant perspective I was looking for."
He allows a small grin in concession for how completely useless that statement had been and then asks, "So have you found anything?" He gestures to the stack of parchments, books, and scrolls scattered around her feet and on the small table in front of her.
"Nothing. Only a fat lot of reasons why this shouldn't happen."
"Does Malfoy know?"
Hermione shakes her head yet again. "Not anymore. I mean… not this time. I told him yesterday. Basically because he was there when I finally worked it out. I'd come in for a solid week thinking the days were progressing, not noticing I was just reliving the day. I think that might say something bad about my level of routine." She chuckles a little at the self-deprecation.
"Are you going to tell him today? Can he help?"
Crossing her arms and her leg over one knee, bouncing her foot in agitation, she gripes out, "No. I went to see him this morning, per his instructions, and he was his usual vile self. I decided to go it my own today. Not like he found anything for me yesterday anyway."
Harry seems to consider and slowly works through, "I think it might be best not to tell too many people." She nods in agreement, but he goes on, "Though, Malfoy has significant resources. I mean, have you seen his library?"
She snorts at that. "Well, I hadn't until yesterday. I mean, the today I lived yesterday. Let that play with your mind," she mutters. "Today, but not this one, he took me to the manor and we spent probably nine hours raking through his time magic references."
"He does have… you know… other sources, Hermione. I mean, people that he knows."
"Oh like this Death Eater contacts?" She asks sarcastically, but her friend gives her a chastising look.
"Those contacts helped bring in our wizard. They might have more information on what Baker was doing as well."
It's not a bad point, she has to allow, but she sidesteps the admission with an entirely new tactic. "Baker. Can I see Baker? Maybe if he tells me what he did during the repair process…"
Harry shakes his head. "I can't get you in to see him today. He's in processing at Azkaban. You know they quarantine and curse-break for a full twenty-four hours. No visitors, not even investigatory, until tomorrow."
"I don't have until tomorrow, Harry. I don't have a tomorrow."
He looks solemn and conflicted, and Hermione hates the stress she's putting on him but, come on, this is not exactly a favour she can live the rest her life without. Literally.
"I'll see what I can do. Maybe I can try for the end of the day, since you technically delivered him last night."
"Anything. Any time they will allow it, I'll be here. Only, I'm not sure how long, how late, I have."
"What do you mean?"
"Each night," she explains, "I've fallen asleep like normal. Around eleven, I suppose, and each day my alarm wakes me at six. I'm not sure when the loop restarts. Though, now that I think on it, that's probably why I wake every day exhausted with a bitch of a headache. I can't be getting natural sleep."
"Maybe you should lie in," Harry suggests.
She shrugs, defeated, wishing she could. "Can't. Alarm goes off every day at the same time. I could try to stay up at night, but operating on so little rest... it's hard to make it even until eleven. I suppose, I could try some Pepper Up… " She gets a thoughtful, far awake look and muses, "I wonder what would happen… when it loops, I mean. Would I just blink and suddenly be in my bed? I'm half intrigued to find out. Half nervous of course, as well…"
"Regardless," he says, interrupting her pondering, "I'll do what I can do about getting you a pass to Baker. If I have to, I'll take it to Kingsley. I just hate to involve more people until we know more."
Hermione nods, conceding. "Just do what you can today. If you can't make it happen, I can ask you earlier tomorrow so you have more time. I'm going to continue combing through the archives and see how far I get."
Harry stands, telling her he'll return later in the afternoon to check on her progress.
"I'll tell you if I find anything. Thanks, Harry."
He gives her one last look of open concern before heading for the door.
Hermione is engrossed in her reading for hours more, only breaking twice for a combination ladies' room/tea refill run, until Harry returns at what must be the end of the work day.
"Any luck?" She can tell by his face that there was, indeed, no luck, but it seems a polite opener.
"No, nothing. Even my clearance isn't high enough. Maybe Kingsley, so I thought if this happens tomorrow, owl me as soon as you wake up. I'll start on it first thing."
She smirks and pokes at him, "Ginny will love that. Waking to a tapping owl at six in the morning?"
Harry shrugs, "She's quite used to that by now. Life of an Auror and all. Still, she seems to put up with me."
They sit in contemplative silence for a moment when he asks, "Are you going to stay? It's half eight already."
Hermione's eyes go wide, completely unaware of the time. "Is it? Yes… I suppose I'll stay a bit longer. Time is both short and in great abundance for me right now. I want to ration it properly."
He chuckles but then looks at her seriously as he stands to leave. "I'm so sorry this is happening to you, Hermione. Just, let me help, alright? Come to me first thing."
She nods in agreement, remembering Draco had said nearly the same thing, and watches him leave. She's been here for hours, just like the manor, and has found very little on any time magic beyond the theory and practical application of a standard Turner. What she needs is something more creative. Revolutionary thinking.
It's late when all the lights are dimmed in the building, only her reading lamp a bright beacon in the settled dark. Midnight perhaps? Her thoughts are getting fuzzier as exhaustion sets in. She's not sure when, but eventually she decides for a little old fashioned eye-rest, head laying on her folded arms on top of the desk.
Everytime I think of you…
She raises her head groggily from her familiar pillow in her home and groans at the universe.
Time to start another day.
There are these countless moments in life, Hermione knows and would argue that we all have them, when you relive a moment over and over again, regretting your choices and reactions; wishing you'd said just the right thing. Now, she muses, she has the opportunity to try out all of those options.
The next day, which is of course just the same day yet again, Hermione is standing outside Draco's office at 7:15, politely waiting to see him. She supposes, in hindsight, she had been a tad bossy, a little presumptuous last time she tried this. He doesn't remember having a civil day with her so of course he would be a little sore to find her barged into his private space before he had even arrived.
She has decided on one more day of research before she tries Harry again, not feeling particularly inclined to see Baker anyway. She has been reading on the subject for two days and is in more of a research than interview mode this morning.
Draco approaches cautiously, warily eying her and lifting a brow. "Granger?" He greets with just an ounce of lilt making it a question.
"Good morning, Malfoy. Could I come in to speak with you?" She gestures to his office door and he nods in agreement.
"I suppose. A bit early, isn't it? You always seemed more the appropriately punctual type."
It's true. Hermione prides herself on timeliness. To her, being excessively early to an agreed upon time is almost as much of an offense as being late. Either way makes assumptions on other people's schedules as well as throws off her perfectly planned day.
She shrugs as she follows him, two cups of muggle coffee in her hand. "I need an early start today. You told me once you arrive about now and I thought I'd meet you."
He frowns as he shrugs off his robes and flops into his chair. "I did?"
With as sincere a smile as she can muster, she hands the coffee over the desk, prodding him to take it. "You brought me coffee too?" After a pause he asks with suspicion, "What did you do?"
Hermione laughs and sits opposite him, cradling her cup in her hands. "Nothing terrible, I assure you. Though, I'll admit I came for your help."
Draco frowns and she watches as he takes a sip, a look of surprise crossing his face. "This is good," he comments. "Did it come from that new café around the corner? Is that… is that caramel?"
"Magic excels in most things, but I'll argue to hell and back that muggles make the superior coffee. This comes from a little place near my flat." He grunts but doesn't argue and, she takes that as a good sign. Today is starting much better than her last attempt.
"So what is it you need?" He is curt but not exceptionally rude. Until she can break this loop, it's going to be frustrating to try to talk to him each morning.
With a breath, she starts a very abridged version of her story, hitting only the high points and wrapping up within three minutes. He is looking at her like he doesn't believe her.
"I don't believe you."
Hermione snorts, amused. "I can tell. Look, how else do you think I knew you were going to arrive at 7:15 today? I also know your manor library is a massive cavern of knowledge and that your mother has an entire section devoted to muggle erotica."
He blanches and she leans forward, going for the kill. "You have a carved door of various gods and you'd sell your soul for chocolate shortbread. Can we please just skip to the part where you believe me? I really could use some help."
She is trying for an earnest countenance and innocent eyes and somewhere in the combination of words and expression he must accept this impossible truth. She watches him exhale as he comments, "Merlin, do you just attract danger like a magnet or are you more a moth running into the flame?"
Rolling her eyes, she sits back and takes a pull from her coffee, feeling it leave a trail of heat down her throat. "I think it might be a combination of both," she mutters, uncharacteristically accepting of her faults. It does seem like trouble follows her like a lost dog. "So, will you help me?... Please?"
There is this long moment, probably no more than five seconds, but it's enough to sink her heart that he will deny her. It's stupid, on her part, to be emotionally affected, but the day they spent together had been pleasant enough to think she might someday see him on civil terms.
Finally, he leans forward, setting his cup on the desk, and answers deliberately. "We're partners, Granger. What kind of a question is that?"
A feeling of warmth, more comforting than any coffee, relaxes her. Just to know that, despite everything, Draco Malfoy is in her corner, makes her world a more complex and welcoming place.
She breathes out and musters an incredibly sincere, "Thank you. Do you think we could go to the manor today? We started research before, you and I, but only made it through about six tomes. You have a lot of books," she notes.
"Well obviously," he drawls. As he does, he's standing, grabbing his robes and gesturing for her to rise. He doesn't offer his hand, but it's still more polite than she would expect.
He scribbles a memo and sends it fluttering out the door. At her look, he explains, "Just telling Potter we're both a bit taxed and that we will file our reports tomorrow."
Hermione nods and follows him out. She's pleased to see he brought his cup of coffee with him and smiles at his back.
Their time in the manor is, unfortunately, about as productive as their first attempt. They only make it to mid-century published books by mid-afternoon, speaking little. The silence of the room is only disrupted by the faint ruffling of pages and the occasional thump of a book being discarded into a pile when finished.
"Are you hungry?"
Draco looks up and cocks a brow. "I suppose now that you mention it, yes. Would you like me to call one of the house elves?"
She immediately wrinkles her nose and starts to chastise him but thinks better of it. They have been so civil today, and she hates to slide back into animosity. Not to mention, she doesn't fancy having an elf run from her yet again. It was very discouraging.
"I was thinking we could step out. I could use an actual break. My eyes are dry as the Sahara."
She watches as he sets his book aside and, with a nod, starts to stand. He stretches tall, working a kink from his back and rolling from his shoulders to his neck. There's something piercing in his stare as his jaw settles back into place and his gaze slowly lifts to meet her.
Merlin, he's pretty.
Standing quickly and averting her own stare, Hermione tucks a curl behind her ear and asks casually, "Any place in particular you want to go?"
Shrugging, he answers, "As long as I'm with you, anywhere should be fine."
"What do you mean?" She's not remotely fool enough to read that as some romantic compliment about her company.
Gesturing to the door and allowing her to step ahead, he answers as they walk toward the parlor where they floo'd in. "I have difficulty patronizing certain establishments without… respectable companionship."
Hermione scrunches her brow, understanding now what he means. "They won't serve you?"
"Not every place. The Shaved Duck is owned by the Davis family, and they don't seem to have issue with me. The new café isn't a problem. I think the owner came from the States and doesn't seem to have any prejudice based on the war. Most of the older places though… Well, as I said, I'd be fine with you. Or Potter," he adds as an afterthought.
"Well that's… You know, say what you want about the muggle world, but there are laws against that kind of thing. They shouldn't be able to do that to you."
He grins down at her, picking up a silver dish and offering the floo powder to her. "Are you indignant on my behalf, Granger? That's unexpected."
She huffs but takes the offered powder and waits for him to grab his own. "I'm indignant with anything that seems unjust."
"You know," he points out, "there are many people who would argue that punishing me simply is justice."
"Well, those people wouldn't be me," she sniffs haughtily. Something about her response seems to resonate and he regards her thoughtfully.
After a moment, he shakes off whatever he was thinking and awards her that pureblood grin that she's positive made many a witch's knickers damp. She offers him a sincere smile back and is suddenly struck by gratitude.
"Thank you for this," she blurts out.
"For dinner? I never said it was my treat," he responds with a roguish smile.
"Not that, you git. For all of this. For helping me all day."
"Like I said, we're partners." He comments like it's so simple, so expected. Like he's not Draco Malfoy and, she's not Hermione Granger; like he never called her a mudblood, and she never hit him in the face.
"We're partners," she says with a smile and follows him as he calls out for one of the only local restaurants that will serve him.
She spares a moment to plan action on that front, if she can ever get out of this loop. She's pretty sure a little heat from the Aurors will turn around the restaurateurs' opinions on whom they will and will not serve.
It's a bit early for dinner, barely half five, so the establishment is predictably quiet. Having missed lunch, they are both famished.
"Are you sure we should be taking so much time?" They have just received their wine Hermione ordered for the table and are waiting for the charcuterie plate she insisted on as well.
"Draco, I have nothing but time," she muses. "We're likely not going to solve this in one day, even if we find information we need. I thought it would be nice to unwind. For you," she notes, "it's only the day after New York, but I've been living long, stressful days for a while."
He eyes her a moment. "Just how many times have you done this, Granger?"
She tips her head, thinking back. "I believe this is the ninth time I've lived this Monday."
He shakes his head in disbelief. "This is insane."
Hermione shrugs but doesn't disagree. "You told me a couple of days ago not to worry; that we'd figure this out. I'm trying to stay positive. On the Brightside, I have plenty of time to do this day right." She flashes him an honest grin.
"You should do something crazy tomorrow," he grins back. "Let's face it, we're not going to do much more reading today. I refuse to chug this beautiful Bordeaux as if it's swill, so we're going to be here for a bit. We can research the day after tomorrow, but you should take a break or you'll burn out."
"Maybe…" It's a nice idea (terribly pleasant and friendly idea from Draco Malfoy actually), but tomorrow she already has plans. "I think tomorrow I'm going to try to talk to Baker. Harry tried yesterday but I only gave him a few hours and not too much urgency."
"So tomorrow you'll start early?"
She nods. "And if that doesn't work, eventually I'm going straight to Kingsley at his home by seven in the morning. I think this counts as an emergency and I plan to use any persuasion in my arsenal."
"Wear a short skirt," he quips, taking a sip.
She smiles broad before schooling it into the pursed lips of admonishment. "Not like that," she denies. "I mean, I'm going to remind him what I did during the war. What I sacrificed."
His eyes roll and he agrees, "Yes of course. All those days you could have been in the Hogwarts library, wasted. N.E.W.T.S delayed and everything."
Is that still what he thinks of her? Hermione bristles at his assessment and the levity of their meal vanishes. "I lost my family, Malfoy. I spent months hiding, dirty and starved in a forest, the whole time knowing that even if I survived I had no life to go back to. "
He blinks. Hermione looks away, clenching her jaw and trying to calm herself. She's mourned her parents, mostly. Very seldom does it hit her hard anymore. But something about this wizard just riles her up. Had someone else made that same joke, someone else who couldn't know better, she probably wouldn't have snapped like that. She braces herself now, taking a deep drink from her wine and assuming dinner is about to come to an end. She's not an obtuse person. She knows this is how it starts: Malfoy jabs at her; she takes it personally; fight ensues.
"I'm sorry… I didn't know."
Hermione looks back at him, surprised. This contrite response was hardly what she expected. She supposes after a day spent together on friendly terms, maybe he's not feeling as combative as usual. Perhaps she could take a page from that book.
"I know," she allows with a sigh. "I mean, I know you couldn't have realized. I tried to keep it quiet, after the war. I just wanted to move on."
"Were they killed?" He asks softly .
"No. No, they… don't know me anymore. I erased their memories, of me at least. They know each other as different names and I planted a suggestion they move from the country. I just… I knew he would go after them. They weren't safe but…"
"Why didn't you just tell them to run? They wouldn't have listened?" He guesses. It's a fair assumption. What muggle could possibly have realized the danger?
"They would have, actually. They had a very deep capacity for belief when it came to my magic. Surprisingly so for a couple of dentists… No, they would have agreed but…" She hesitates. This is a lot of personal information for someone she barely knows, barely likes most days.
Then again, he won't remember anyway. That knowledges makes her feel incredibly brave.
"They would have wanted me to go with them, and I couldn't do that. That's the part they would not have understood. Harry needed me, and I knew he needed help. The Wizarding world hadn't been kind to him leading up to the war, and he had a lot of trust issues when it came to authority. You would think he could have gone to the Order, enlisted some of the Hogwarts professors, but in our young minds that didn't seem an option. Then there was Snape… We never trusted him completely, but we were assured over and over that he was a good man: on the right side. Then he killed Dumbledore, and it just seemed like trust was something we couldn't afford to give to anyone but each other."
He nods, absorbing her story. "Do you know where they are now? Have you not been able to find them?"
"No I… I did." She blinks hard, remembering. "I tracked them down in Perth but they… they've moved on."
Draco scoffs. "Of course they have. You made them. But that doesn't mean they wouldn't want you back. You're their daughter, Granger. If you reverse it that would mean something."
"They have another… A daughter. I spoke to them when I found them. Just pretended to be on holiday and happy to find someone from London to talk to. My mother was only forty when I sent them away. She said they always wanted a family… wasn't sure why they waited so long. They started trying immediately and had a baby within the year."
"Do you… are you angry at them for that?"
"What? Oh! No, not at all. I just mean, I'm sure they will be fine. They still have a family. A little girl… named Hermione." She smiles sadly at that. "I didn't reverse it because the healers I spoke with suggested it had a high risk of damaging them. I'm glad they have her now, though. Sometimes I wonder if she will have magic too, or if I was a complete anomaly."
A melancholy has settled over the table and she sees Draco reach for his wine. He puts on a smirk and answers, "Well, you're certainly one of a kind, Granger. I don't know if the world could handle two of you."
She smiles, an honest smile, full of gratitude for his attempt to move on.
Dinner is delicious but the mood somewhat dampened on two occasions when Hermione notices other patrons not so discreetly glaring at her partner. He might be a git most days, but he certainly doesn't deserve to be ostracized. He was given a very light sentence after the war due to age and his actions being under duress. Rightly so, she would admit.
"Does this happen a lot?" She asks, nodding toward a couple who just muttered something about "Death Eaters" as they walked by.
"Often enough that I'm quite happy to stay in most nights."
"Oh." She realized she dragged him out basically against his will. "I'm sorry. I just thought it would be nice. I didn't-"
"It's fine," he says quickly. "I can't hide forever, right?" His smile is almost sad, and it makes her angry all over again on his behalf.
"Is that Hermione Granger? Poor girl. I heard they're making her work with that awful Malfoy boy."
Her ears burn, listening to an older woman at an adjacent table who is not even remotely keeping her voice down. A streak of Gryffindor bravery (or stupidity) courses through her blood. Across the table, Draco is pretending he hasn't heard but his fist is clenched on the table, his teeth grinding behind his lips.
"Do you trust me?"
He looks up and considers. After a very short moment he answers, "Oddly, yes. Why in particular?"
Without a word, Hermione raises out of her chair to lean over the table. She grabs his collar and pulls him forward, insistent, until she can reach his lips with hers.
It's a firm kiss, to start. She doesn't want any mistake to be made that it was intentional and that she was the aggressor. Let them take that back to their little hen circle. It was Hermione Granger who made the move on the Death Eater. She is no one to be pitied and certainly not over this upstanding, and rather handsome, wizard.
It should have been brief. She intended to just press her lips against his, hard and purposeful, to make a point. Then his lips move softly caressing her own, and his tongue flicks against her mouth. Not enough to be lude, just barely a taste. He eases her pressure, coaxing in to a more natural kiss. Before she knows it, her own mouth has parted and her tongue wants to get in the game. His hands are in her hair and she clutching at his collar when the sound of a throat clearing separates them.
They both look up to find their waiter with a slightly apologetic smile. "Sorry to interrupt. It's just…" He has two plates in his hands, the dessert they forgot they ordered, and is trying to place them on the table the two have been snogging across.
"Oh! Sorry." Hermione reaches down to find her napkin that she dumped in the floor when she half stood and makes a production out of folding it just so to put it back in her lap. Anything to keep her from looking up until the waiter is gone.
When she does lift her gaze, Draco is studying her with an odd expression. "I won't remember this, will I?"
She shakes her head in the negative. "But you will," he observes and she nods. "Will you tell me it happened?"
"I- I hadn't thought that far," she says honestly, knowing the look on her face is probably one of bewilderment. Suddenly feeling incredibly awkward, Hermione picks up her spoon and dips it in to her Crème Brulee. She has seven bites before she looks back up to find Draco also enjoying his dessert and very obviously not looking at her.
"I'm sorry," she blurts out finally, having watched him longer than is comfortable.
"The kiss. That was… Well, it was unprofessional," she lands on definitively. She nods her head sharply once to seal the point. "I crossed a line in our partnership which is very inadvisable, and I apologize if I've made you feel …uncomfortable."
"The only thing uncomfortable, Granger, is this conversation. Just… look, I know you were trying to make a point and while I appreciate the gesture, the subsequent shame on your face is doing very little to continue your little charade."
"I'm not ashamed," she says hotly. "Why should I be? I'm a free, adult witch out with an unattached wizard. And why should I care what they think?"
He shakes his head, rolling his eyes in a way that signifies mild exasperation. "I don't have the answers to your questions. You're the one red-faced and shoveling brulee faster than you can breathe."
Well if her face wasn't red before it certainly will be now. She's not ashamed. If anything, she's feeling a bit self-conscious at how passionately she took to the little ploy. Lowering her voice she says, "I don't like how they were talking about you. About us."
"I'm not terribly fond of it either, but we play the hand we're dealt, don't we?"
Looking down at their dessert plates, both virtually empty, Hermione grabs her wine glass and throws back the last of it. "Are you ready?" She asks, nodding down to his empty plate and glass.
"Back to the library?"
"We should. Or, I should anyway. I can't ignore this, or I'll never see Tuesday."
Rising first, he offers his hand to help her stand and gestures to their waiter. "Just put it through my account as usual please."
"Of course. Enjoy your evening, Mister Malfoy. Miss Granger."
The rest of the evening is quiet, a sort of melancholy settled that wasn't there before. Hermione supposes they are both thinking quite a lot about the hands they've been dealt. At eleven, she is rubbing her eyes when she finally reaches the end of the sensationalized work of Heronimous Inglewood, In the Nick of Time: How the Time Turner Rose in Infamy, onto the table in front of her. She stands and stretches her back, commenting, "I should get home."
Draco glances at a clock on the desk and nods. "You should, I suppose." He walks her silently to the floo.
At their destination they both turn and start to speak at once.
They both stop and gesture for the other to go ahead. Hermione is doubly curious what he could possibly say that warranted the very rare use of her first name. She shakes her head adamantly. "No, please. Go ahead."
"I wanted to… I just want to say I appreciate what you tried to do in the restaurant. Misguided as it might be," he adds with a smirk, and she frowns.
"One kiss from a war heroine won't erase my sins, but it was kind of you to try." She's never seen him so humble. So open. Hermione rather likes this version of him. The thought makes her quite sad.
"You won't remember this tomorrow," she observes. "In the morning, when I come see you, unless I play my cards just right, I'll set you off and you'll start the day hating me again. It's… I find it very difficult, you know. You're sort of pleasant… beneath all the git and peacocking," she adds with a smile and is rewarding with a genuine laugh.
"Compliments like that and is it any wonder I find you taxing?"
She shakes her head. She supposes that's fair. "Good night, Draco," she says softly.
"I'll see you tomorrow," he says firmly. She finds she can't quite say it back, and instead retreats through the floo. She knows the Draco she sees tomorrow won't quite be this one, and that feels like quite a shame.
It's been a couple of days, at least from Hermione's perspective, that she tried her hand at approaching Baker. Today she decides she will go to both Harry and Draco: Harry to appeal for an audience with The Time Lord and Draco to use him once more for his library.
At 7:15, she approaches Draco's office with a take away tray of coffee, enough for both of them plus Harry. "Malfoy?" She calls to him just as he's about to reach his door, and he turns to see her approach from the west hall.
"Granger? You're early."
She stops just out of reach, not wanting to intrude on the personal space of this less personable Malfoy, and offers up the coffee. "That one's for you, if you like. The one with the red straw."
He hesitates and eyes her warily, finally taking the cup and muttering, "Thanks."
"Could I ask you to come with me to see Harry? I have a situation I need to discuss, and I'd really like your input." She's aware that's a slightly misleading way to start the conversation, but she really doesn't want to explain this twice. Keeping it casual and appealing to his work ethic seems like an efficient way to go.
"You, Hermione Granger, want my input? That's new," he grouses.
"I am capable of asking for help and opinions elsewhere," she says haughtily and immediately knows this is how it always starts.
"That's not what Weasley says," he goads.
"Well, certainly if you are taking notes from Ronald of all people. I didn't ask his opinion on anything because, unless it involved food, he generally didn't have one."
He laughs at that, and Hermione grins, hoping a little mutual Ron-bashing might help push them back to friendly terms. She feels a little guilt about it, but seeing his grey eyes twinkle makes it hard to forget why. She goes on, as sincerely as she can, "Malfoy, I really do need help. Please come with me?" She never would have been so open, so vulnerable with Malfoy before, fearing he would only use it against her, but she's seen now that he is not without compassion.
Besides, if he's a prat, she can just take it out on him later. It's not like he'll remember it. Trial and error, this is.
He studies her before nodding. "Sure. Let me drop my robes and grab a parchment for notes."
She feels like a silly little girl when his studiousness makes him seem a little more appealing. Malfoy being appealing is not the goal today.
He re-emerges from his office, and they continue together down the corridor to Harry's office. The door is still open. He doesn't tend to close it until the halls are bustling. At this time of the morning, there's very little noise to distract what with the building being virtually silent.
Hermione lands a firm but soft knock on the frame of her friend's door, hoping not to startle him. He already looks deep into thought and is scribbling furiously on parchment.
"Hey," he greets casually. "I was just writing you two. I'm afraid I have to-"
"Cancel lunch," Hermione finishes with him, and he gives her an odd look.
"Yes actually. It's just, I'm-"
"Too behind," she parrots with him again and then takes over the conversation. "We need to talk. Draco, have a seat. I'll get the door."
Draco gives her a strange look at being ordered around, probably in particular since it's not her office, but Hermione is busy closing the door and casting privacy turns to find Draco still standing and Harry has risen as well. Her friend looks concerned. "Is everything alright, Hermione?"
"No. No, I'm afraid it's a bit of a challenge," she says, knowing that's an understatement. "Here." She lifts the take away tray toward him. "I brought you a Chai tea latte."
Draco snorts. "Chai, Potter? That your poncy drink of choice is it?"
Harry starts to say something, defend his choice she's sure, but Hermione smirks, tilting her head in reference to his cup, and says, "Mocha caramel cappuccino with low fat cream?" as if that says everything that needs to be said. Perhaps it does, since Harry looks triumphant and Draco's cheeks are a light rose. He's cute when he's uncomfortable. Hermione chastises herself for the observation.
She takes a seat and looks up at the two men still standing. "You may as well be comfortable." They both sit, and she pulls the last cup from the tray, taking a drink before starting in with no preamble to her story.
"I seem to be caught in a time loop. I've told you both this before in fact. This marks the tenth time I've lived this Monday. Draco, you and I have been researching time magic at the manor for a few days, and, Harry," she looks back at the man in question, "I've asked you to get me in to see Baker. All of this started after my scuffle with the Turner he supposedly repaired. He must have… done it wrong, I suppose. I'd like to request you try again. A little more forcefully, if possible."She turns to Draco who is looking at her, mouth agape. "Malfoy-"
"I fucking told you not to touch that, Granger," he says, and his tone has some bite. She winces, trying to let it go, knowing his civility is a reaction to her own.
It's in her court. It will always be in her court until she breaks this cycle. He doesn't know they could be friendly, and she has no doubt he's expecting her to bite right back. So instead, she watches his double take when she concedes, "I know. I think it might go without saying you were right. You've been great so far though, and I appreciate it." She continues with what she had intended to say before. "I was hoping that while Harry worked on the appeal, you and I could go back to the manor? We need to start research on anything relating to time magic published since nineteen forty seven."
Maybe it's her sincerity, but he doesn't hesitate much. "I… sure, Granger. Let's go." He's already up and grabbing his cup, giving a nod to Harry.
"I'll do what I can on this end, Hermione," her friend says as she also starts to take her leave. "I can hardly believe this."
She smiles apologetically. "I'm sorry. I know it's not how you wanted to spend a Monday. Just do what you can, alright?"
They say their farewells, and Hermione is following Draco to the floo network. "You just attract danger, don't you," he quips, looking steadfastly ahead.
She grins a little and replies, "That's not the first time you've accused me of that, Draco."
He seems to start when she uses his name, and it's no wonder. She's much more comfortable with him than he is with her. "I have an idea for lunch," she says conversationally. "There's a muggle bakery…they have sandwiches and such, but also fantastic shortbread. If we get there early, they might even have chocolate."
She watches his face, and he looks down with a raised brow. "I assume I shared that little tidbit with you on another Monday?"
"It's almost as good as what Pipsy brings to the library," she says back, ignoring the questions but implying the answer.
It's slow to start but then there it is: that smile of his that could alight a witch's heart. "I feel you have me at a disadvantage."
She grins back, sincere, but including this little touch of Cheshire mischief. "I promise I won't exploit it too much."
And just like that, day 10 is their best day so far.
Mid-century turns out to be a huge endeavor. They break for lunch and still have four more tomes to trudge through when they return to get into the early twentieth century. Lunch conversation is friendly enough, Hermione thinks. He is slowly warming to her during the meal, as he has slowly warmed each day they've spent together. By the end, he is swiping the last shortbread off their shared tray, and she is giggling as he stuffs the whole thing in his mouth just to keep it for himself.
They return to quietly studying. Harry interrupts at some point to let them know he has not secured an interview with Baker. After he leaves, they speak very little until they see the end of their current letter and blessedly pick up the first in the stack published as of nineteen nineteen.
"The Gamble of Questionable Magic: Why Time is Best Left to its Course."
"Sounds promising," Draco says, looking up from the last few pages of 'Freedom in Casting', a book about the use of Dark Arts as a viable path forward. "This one doesn't have much. A quick mention of Time Turners mostly in reference to the harm they could cause in relation to Dark magic."
She snorts in agreement with the book. "Well, that's not wrong."
Laying the book to the side, he levels her with a serious look. "I really can't believe this happened," he begins. "How many times on this Monday have I told you how right I was?"
Hermione sighs and rolls her eyes. "A couple," she admits. "Though not as much as you could, I will say. You've been mostly pleasant; only throwing this in my face…," she pretends to think back, "once or twice."
"I knew I was wonderful," he smirks, "but I can't believe know-it-all Hermione Granger is admitting she was wrong."
It's the kind of comment he has always made, but suddenly he doesn't seem like so much of a prick. Maybe it's that little glimmer in his eye.
"You know, I've meant to ask you," she says, thinking suddenly of her initial reluctance to visit the manor, "I've yet to see your parents when we've been here. I was… nervous. A little. The first time we came."
He shrugs. "They mostly stay to their wing. I have formal dinners with them on Fridays and Wednesdays. Most of which consists of my mother trying to set me up on chaperoned dates and my father asking how long I plan to 'mess about with this Auror business' and get more involved at Malfoy Industries."He's being uncharacteristically open, but not for the first time. This Draco is just so… nice. When she finally breaks this loop, she's going to really enjoy starting Tuesday with such an engaging partner.
"Have you no interest in the family business?" she asks politely. She doesn't want to pry, but if he's in the mood to share, she's certainly happy to learn more about him.
"It's his business, really. House arrest or not, he's still the CEO, and the company does very well. Maybe when he's closer to retirement. I'm happy with my career."
"You don't have to answer," she says carefully, "but why did you become an Auror? It's a hard job… and somewhat thankless…"
"Oh, to meet witches of course," he deadpans. It takes her a moment before she realizes he's joking, and she chuckles just as he allows himself a grin. It seems very well like a deflection, probably to keep his reasons close to his chest, and she allows him the privacy."
"How is that working out for you?"
"Well, it's mostly wizards in the department. My secretary seems interested." Hermione tries to hide the grimace she feels. It's been some days since he flirted openly with that simpering Bernice 's not sure if he reads her expression, but something in him changes course. "She's not my type though; a bit desperate. I like a witch with a lot more backbone."
A streak of boldness jolts up her spine, and Hermione picks up the banter more forward than she thought herself capable. Then again, it's not as if he'll remember. Plus, her mind wanders back to that kiss, and suddenly leading them back there is rather appealing.
"Are there no other witches then… in your whole department? Not one other you can imagine?" She looks at him with significance and gives him a little smirk of her own.
"Well… there's one," he says slowly. "Though I'm not entirely sure she's on the market for someone like me."
They are both aware he means her, and she places her book to the side. She adjusts herself on the sofa to turn toward him, tucking her feet beneath her. "I can't imagine there are many witches not interested in someone like you. I mean… once they get past that pratty exterior."
He laughs and she laughs with him. "Are you always this fun?" he asks openly. "All these Mondays we spend together?"
"Well," she hedges, tucking a curl behind her ear, "not every day, I suppose. Though, there was that one... that one time I kissed you."
That has his attention, and suddenly this isn't just silly or funny or entertaining anymore. Suddenly he looks quite intrigued.
"Did you now?" He asks softly. "What prompted that?"
Should she tell him? Should she admit she only wanted to prove a point and stick it to those biddies who had the audacity to pity her and judge him?
Fuck it. She'll go with a different story, but no less true. "I find I am quite enjoying our time together. I… I can't imagine I'd ever pass up the opportunity if it came around again." She bites down on her lower lip and shifts her weight to close the distance between them.
Turning himself as well, Draco notes, "it seems the opportunity is coming around for you indefinitely then." He pauses and then asks, "How many times?"
"How many times?..."
"Have we kissed," he finishes, clarifying the question and leaning closer.
"Oh," she breathes. "Only once."
"Seems unfair," he observes, "that you remember it and I don't. How do I even know it happened?"
"I suppose you'll have to trust me," she nearly whispers back.
Suddenly he's right there, almost close enough to touch… to taste... and he's asking lowly, "What was it like?"
She stifles a groan at the invitation in his voice and closes the distance, answering, "Bloody amazing." She pillows his lip with hers and flicks her tongue against the seam of his mouth.
It's no time before he has her lain before him, covering her body with his and pressing her into the soft cushions beneath them. The kiss is urgent within moments, and she tastes his lips and his tongue and she whimpers when his hand travels into her curls and pulls lightly to tilt her chin back. Draco explores her neck, nuzzling with his aristocratic nose as he goes. He runs a line through the hollow of her throat with his tongue. With a curse, a muttered, "Fucking Salazar," he is back to her mouth as his hands sneak beneath her shirt and caress her skin like velvet.
For the first time in ages, definitely since this time loop began, but probably much before that, Hermione just lets go. She's not been with anyone since things ended with Ron a few weeks ago, and before that, only a couple of dalliances in her formative years. This isn't anything like any of that. Ron was exploratory in the beginning, being so many firsts for one another. Eventually it was just comfortable; familiarity in its best and worst forms.
Draco is somehow demanding and hesitant. There is passion here, probably in part due to tension. Tension that was once animosity, grown sexual with maturity. When did that even start? New York? Before? Today? She can't deny she's been growing fond of him the last few days, but for him it's only one day after New York. She has trouble believing he had a complete change of heart because of one civil day in a library. Perhaps he already felt some attraction to her...
But all that is taking too much thought, and now he's brushing his thumb over the lace-covered peak of her breast and grinding his hardened length against the apex of her thighs. Things have escalated fast, and it's the most intense feeling of her entire life.
Until he stops and pulls himself up to stare down at her, his cheeks flushed and breathing heavy. "I think," he begins and licks his lips, "I think we should probably stop."
She's not proud that she whimpers like a pouting child at that. He doesn't seem too turned off by it and leans in to nip one last time at her bottom lip. "I refuse to forget this... to risk that," he explains. "I'm having a really fucking good time, and I have a feeling this would be amazing."
She smiles up at him, petting the short hair at the nape of his neck. "Selfishly, I wouldn't forget. Are you sure? A little instant gratification never hurt anyone…"
He laughs, but sits up and, like the gentleman he is, offers a hand to help her as well. "Tuesday, Granger. You're mine next Tuesday."
Hermione, still trying to slow her breathing, pats her mussed hair as she responds. "Is that a promise?"
Draco grabs her book, tossing it into her lap and then pulls her against him so her back rests against his chest. "Absolutely," he agrees, wrapping an arm around her shoulder and placing his own book on the arm of the sofa, keeping her tucked against him so they can both read. "You better not let me forget this," he warns. "I'm trying to do the right thing here, but, Merlin, I'm already regretting it." He runs his hand softly up her arm to make his point and then turns her head with fingertips on her jaw.
A soft kiss and then, "I'll make sure your sacrifice is rewarded," she says with a little cheek.
She barely hears him mumble, "You better," and grins to herself as they tuck back into their books.
Hours later, both exhausted, they seem to realize at the same time that their day is over. Draco walks her to the floo in silence and kisses her softly once they reach it. "Remember your promise, Granger."
She nods and says she will see him tomorrow, but, as always, knows it isn't really true. For the first time she sees something in his expression that tells her he knows it, too.
Hermione starts day eleven with her new friend Frente and a bit of confusion. She can't deny that what happened between her and Draco was… well, it was quite powerful, that's what. She isn't sure if she wants to jump him the moment she walks into the office or try to forget it ever happened. At least until this time loop has ended, it literally can't go anywhere.
She goes through her morning routine on autopilot, preparing for another day of all the same things. She doesn't rush in quite as early as yesterday, but instead arrives just after she knows Draco would be there.
On her way through the Ministry, she stops in Harry's office and decides to tell him privately once again, urging him to find a way to get her to Baker.
"Wait, so I've already tried to get you to him and not managed it? I thought I had more pull than that," he mumbles, slightly joking, but also a little put out.
"I still have a lot of ground to cover in the library, but if you could try some more creative avenues today? I would like to speak with him, in case the research method doesn't pan out."
Harry agrees, and she goes on to find her partner in his office. By the time she reaches him, having spent longer going over her progress (or lack thereof) with Harry, Bernice is already outside. "Auror Granger," she says politely. "Shall I buzz Mister Malfoy?" There she is again, beaming to know the word 'buzz'.
Hermione plasters on a smile and remembers Draco's estimation that she is too desperate for his taste. It's completely a catty response, but it makes her feel better nonetheless. "Yes, please. Thank you, Bernice."
The girl seems a little star struck that Hermione knows her name, and it makes her feel a little guilty for her petty pleasure a moment before.
"Mister Malfoy, Miss Granger is here to see you."
She hears his voice drawl back, "Now? Why?"
Stifling an eye roll, Hermione waits patiently for Bernice to address her. "Can I ask what this is regarding?" She asks with all the sincere joy and sunny disposition of the truly clueless.
Maybe I could set her up with Ron, she snarks in her own head.
"Please let my partner know I have a very important detail regarding our New York case to discuss and would really appreciate a moment of his time."
Bernice nods and relays the message almost verbatim. There is a pause and then finally, a long-suffering sigh they can probably hear all the way to Diagon followed by a reluctant, "Send her in."
It hurts, a little. Hermione is a tough witch, but her heart is easily bruised. The Draco from last night… her Draco… is gone forever. Now she just has to get him back. He's the same man, she knows, but it's excruciating going back to the beginning when they had come so far.
When she enters, closing the door behind her, he levels her with a look and raises one brow in question. Exasperated by the task ahead of her, Hermione flops down in the chair opposite his desk.
"I don't recall asking you to sit."
Right… it's this Draco again.
With a cleansing breath through her nose, Hermione counts to three, then smiles as genuinely as she can. "I apologize. Is it alright that I sit?"
He considers her, and for a moment she thinks he might actually demand that she get out of the chair before he waves his hand, dismissing the notion. "Whatever. What do you want, Granger? Some report I forgot to file? I swear, if this is about the budget report already-"
"No, no, nothing like that." This is all too familiar, and Hermione is feeling desperate to guide him to new ground. Civil ground.
Ground where they can snog in his library and breathe hot onto each other's lips and his strong hands can explore her skin…
Merlin, is his office always this hot?
He's looking at her warily, and she re-crosses her legs, the back of her knee suddenly a bit sticky and her body flushed. So much for trying to pretend it never was it she started this yesterday? It seems to have worked pretty efficiently. "Draco, I'm in trouble and I need your help. I'm trapped in some sort of time spell; a loop. I keep reliving this Monday over and over, and it's driving me mad."
"Funny, Granger. Is this because I made a big deal about touching the Turner? Forgive me for showing a little concern over my fucking partner-"
"This isn't a joke, Draco," she interrupts hotly. This went so much better yesterday. Because they were with Harry maybe? She makes a mental note that they start better with an audience. He seems even more defensive when it's only the two of them, alone and squared tucks that knowledge away for later as well, somewhere in her brain between 'when did the sexual tension start' and 'Christ on a stick, were his eyes always that beautiful'.
Starting again, she takes it slow. "I've already done this with you a few times, told you about the loop. I'm still trying to find the best way to tell you. Harry is already aware and trying to get me in to see Baker. Unfortunately, he's tried before and failed. In the meantime, you and I have been researching. The Malfoy library is vast, compared even to Ministry resources, and you've been incredibly kind, allowing me access and helping me research."
His eyes have widened as disbelief gives way to shock. "You're not serious."
"I am," she nods and then offers a self-deprecating tilt of her head and small, wan smile. "This is the part where you tell me that you told me so and I can't argue because… you were right."
"I was… fucking hell, Granger, I was right! I knew you shouldn't have touched that thing!"
She winces. Why does he has to get so wound up? She continues talking calmly, like she's faced with irate beast in the wild.
Or maybe, given how sweet he was last night, more of a kitten-taking-a-bath sort of intimidating. She grins in spite of everything. "I'm sure it will be fine. We just have to find a counter spell or… something."
"Or something? Most brilliant witch in the Ministry and that's how you handle the most fucked up situation that's probably ever happened to an Auror?"
"Oh that's not true, I'm sure. What about Auror Halstead in 1827 who had root vegetables growing out of his back for seven months. I certainly wouldn't want to be in his shoes…"
"Granger, I don't feel like you're taking this seriously enough. What if we can't get you out of the loop?"
"Well, then I suppose I'll grow really weary of having this conversation. And of Frente."
She ignores that and stands, hoping to hurry this along. "Would you please pick up where we left off with me? We have sorted the references on time magic and made it from modern through most of the twentieth century. Really, we're doing quite well. You're an excellent partner."
He seems taken aback, but stands anyway. "How many days have you done this now?"
She thinks back as she starts to move toward the door. "Eleven, I believe. I think today is the eleventh."
"So eleven days to figure out that I'm a good partner? I knew I should have made a bet with Weasley."
"A bet," she muses. "About me?"
"Sure. He said you'd quit the department before you partnered with me. I was sure I'd have you eating out of my hand in a week." He sneers, and Hermione can see his posturing, his front, for what it is.
"Well, you were close." A beat, as they walk out, and then she throws back saucily, "Except it's been a bit longer than a week, and so far your mouth hasn't made it past my throat…maybe my clavicle actually."
In her peripheral, Hermione sees Bernice jerk her head up and is pretty sure Draco missed a step. "Let's get coffee," she concludes. "Caramel Mocha, like usual?"
She looks back only to see him nod dumbly, and it makes her honest to Merlin smile.
Draco accompanies her to the muggle coffee shop which makes Hermione's heart warm. He is completely civil and wonderful the whole time, and she feels like a fifth year with a crush all over again.
It's a bit frustrating really.
At this point in her life, Hermione is a grown woman and not interested in prancing around on eggshells and asking "will he won't he" and pulling petals from daisies. She'd like very much to see where an adult relationship could go. Emphasis on adult and everything contained within. Some part of him is interested in her, even if he doesn't quite know it yet.
They are standing in the queue waiting to place their orders when he clears his throat. "So… back at my office… were you implying that we…."
She looks up at the most awkward Draco Malfoy she's ever seen, and it nearly makes her giggle. Stifling that with a bite to her lip she confirms, "Oh yes, we absolutely did."
"That was emphatic," he mutters.
"It deserves emphasis," she grins and would swear his cheeks are pink. How he can make embarrassed look rather dashing she isn't sure, but, Merlin, he does. "Should I not have told you?" she asks in earnest, but she's not sure she regrets it ,regardless. His reaction alone is worth it.
"What?" He seems almost startled, like he was lost in thought. "No. I mean, it's fine, Granger. Uncharacteristically forward of you."
Her smile broadens. "I can be quite forward. It comes part and parcel with Gryffindor bravery and pragmatism, after all. You're the subtle one, Draco."
"That's eerie, by the way; you calling me 'Draco'. When did that start?"
She thinks back, unsure herself. Was it just yesterday? The day he kissed her hard into his sofa and made her feel like her heart might pound right through her skin? Or the day before, sharing a civil meal, almost date-like in nature. So she shrugs and answers, "I'm not sure. Sometime in the last few days, I suppose. We've spent a lot of time together this past week." She ventures cautiously, "Does it bother you?"
"No… no, it's just fucking weird."
She laughs, and he just almost cracks a smile. Today is going well so far…
The library is just the same as always, and she directs the same search for Time Magic. Pipsy brings tea and biscuits at some point (Hermione has learned to mostly keep quiet while the elf is in the room), and Hermione teases Draco about his sweet tooth yet again. He throws a shortbread at her, and she laughs. Obviously he doesn't throw a chocolate one. That would be a dreadful waste.
They make it almost halfway through the eighteen hundreds by dinner hour, finding little to nothing of use, and Hermione determines they need a break. Throwing down the last book in her pile, she offers to take him to a muggle restaurant. Her treat.
"You mentioned to me," she explains, "that you have issues with some wizarding places. I want you to be comfortable."
He snorts. "So you want to take me to a muggle place?" There is sarcasm, but it's playful, and she swats at his arm.
"You'll survive. Come on; I'm taking you for tapas."
The restaurant she chooses is quiet on a Monday night, and they are shown to a small table on the wall, tucked back in seclusion in the low lighting. It's a relatively romantic setting. If she planned that on purpose, she'll never tell.
"Cozy," he notes with a bit of a sneer. "For a professional meal."
"Is it?" she replies, flipping her curls over her shoulder and refusing to look up from the menu. "I just come for the stuffed dates." When exactly she decided to play coy, she isn't sure. When she decided to actively pursue her partner for that matter…
"So, tell me about this kiss," he says casually, a very engaging little smirk on his lips. Apparently, he's ready to play the game.
"Which one?" She asks innocently, and he raises a brow, bemused by the looks of it.
"More than one? My, my, Granger, we've been busy."
"Well, I have had a few days to fill," and she knows immediately it was the wrong thing to say when he frowns at her phrasing.
"Oh, not like that. You're so sensitive." Equally not the right thing to say.
He looks disgusted at her, and she washes her pride down with a fortifying gulp of wine. "I'm sorry. This is hard, you know? I forget we're not at that point yet. You don't know when I'm teasing."
"This is you teasing?" he pouts. "Not terribly good at it, are you?"
She laughs. There's nothing as adorable as a petulant pureblood ferret. "Maybe I'm not. But I do have a few talents…"
He quirks his eyebrow and surmises, "Speed reading and rune translation?"
Alright, so she was going for sexual innuendo, but the teasing is still an improvement. She chuckles, and they drop the subject, focusing on their meal. It's different, this dinner from their last. It's impossible to capture the same circumstances, to create those same moments. So she stops trying and lets the evening come. By their second round of small plates, Draco has relaxed, and they are having a rather heated but civil debate about wizarding popular music - Draco's latest assertion being that Celestina Warbeck is talented, Hermione arguing that he is simply wrong. It's good natured, and the wine is loosening their tongues and their stress and the tight muscles in her back.
"You'd feel differently if you'd seen her perform live."
She swirls the wine in her glass. "Oh please. That's what everyone says when an experience is mediocre. Of course, live is more exciting. You get swept up in the crowd and the stage and the lights. The test of a musician is how it makes you feel alone in a dark room. Whether it can sweep you away or make you sing in the shower or belt out in your flat when no one's listening."
"Sing in the shower, do you, Granger?"
It's her turn to blush. She sits back in her chair, realizing she was leaning forward, getting a bit worked up, and takes delicate sip. "Maybe. On occasion," she says quietly, but still meeting his eye.
"And was I privy to that on another Monday?" he asks, teasing but genuinely curious.
She gapes at him, as if he's the one with audacity all of a sudden. "No," she draws out the word.
"How many more Mondays, do you think, before you let me reach that point?" He wriggles his eyebrows suggestively, and she giggles back.
"That's really up to you."
"To me? You don't have an opinion on the matter then?" He's amused again, and takes another long pull from his glass. They have nearly killed the bottle already.
"Of course I do. You just didn't seem to share it."
He looks surprised at that. Spearing the last stuffed date between them, he doesn't seem to want to ask further. She wonders if he's thinking he dodged a proverbial bullet. Maybe he's not as interested as she thought.
"Ready to head back," he asks, gesturing to her empty plate. Hermione had already given their server a credit card when he brought their last round of plates, so nothing is stopping them from leaving.
She starts to agree and then thinks better of it. "Let's get ice cream." She smiles at him, eyes bright, not ready to return to the library and another goodbye.
"Ask me anything," she says later. It's after ten by now, and they are one of only two occupied tables at Fortescue's. Hermione's ice cream is virtually gone but Draco seems contemplative again and is barely picking at his treat. She is attempting to engage him in conversation with such an open offer.
He looks up and confirms, disbelieving, "Anything, Granger? Are you sure you don't want some rules? You're fond of them."
"No rules," she shakes her head, ignoring his jab at her swotty nature. It's nothing she hasn't heard before, and, yet again, it doesn't carry the bite it used to. Or maybe she has been exaggerating the bite since they've been reintroduced. She can be a little…huffy, she's been told.
"How many do I get?" And now he's grinning. Good. He's been far too quiet much of the night. Where's that playful Draco? The forward one?
"One, to start, but I might allow follow ups… what do you want to know?"
"Why did you agree to partner with me?"
It's not what she expected. She anticipated questions about the days she has relived. Or maybe something really personal about her life or her past. She didn't exactly promise to be truthful, but the implication was there, so she answers, "For Harry. He seemed to really need this to work, for both of us."
"I think he was nearly out of choices for me. No one wants a Death Eater to have your back."
Hermione puts down her spoon and leans forward. "You're not a Death Eater," she answers quietly.
"Was. What's the difference then?"
"Everything. Severus Snape was as well, and now there's a statue of the git in the atrium at the Ministry."
He's tricked into a grin as he notes, "And he hates that."
"Can I say something," she asks, "without you being offended?"
"In my experience, anything prefaced that way is bound to be the most offensive thing you can imagine," he quips in return.
Hermione shakes her head, her curls bouncing against her cheeks. "It's not. Or at least, I really don't mean it to be."
Draco waves his hand around, gesturing for her to get on with it. "You may as well now. I'm too curious not to ask, even if you tried not to."
"I feel like the last few days, you've been much more natural with me-"
"What did I have to lose?"
She scowls at the interruption but continues, undeterred,"I think you're too hard on yourself, most days. And it makes you put up this front… all that arrogance and snark. I think that's all designed to keep people away, whether you mean it to or not."
"Full disclosure? Sure." He shrugs. "I mean, I am very pretty, though, so I get away with a lot."
Laughing at his comment, Hermione agrees, "Well, yes, I suppose that's true. You are terribly pretty."
"So are you."
He's quiet then, and so is she, but a blush rises up her cheeks. After a beat, she finds her voice and says politely, "Thank you."
"You must know that though, right? I mean, it's not like I go around snogging ugly witches."
"I'm completely unaware who you go about…snogging." She hates that word. It's a little silly. Like 'muggle', if she's honest.
"I'll let you know as soon as there is one."
"You're not seeing anyone? Even casually?"
Draco shakes his head in the negative. "I'm focusing on my Auror career."
"Ah.. riiiight," she drags out, like he just let her in on a secret, but he bristles at her tone.
"What's that supposed to mean."
"Nothing… just that's what I tell people too since I broke up with Ron. Sounds better than 'nobody's asking,' doesn't it?" She air-quotes the alternative response.
Seeming to appreciate her candor, he snickers and allows, "Well, yes, no one is asking now that you mention it."
"What about Bernice?" she blurts out before she can help it and then bites down on her lip. Was that jealousy she heard creeping into her own tone?
"My secretary? What about her?"
"Nothing. Forget it."
"Oh no. You said I could ask things. The least you can do is be forthcoming, Granger."
Hermione sighs and then answers, "Two of these Mondays I came to see you before lunch. We had a bit of a row… like usual… and then you made a show of asking her to lunch while I was there. You made sure to throw in some sort of suggestive language as to the type of lunch you were expecting from her."
She watches him scrunch his nose up in distaste. "Merlin, you must have been a mega bitch."
Grinning, she argues, "I was not. What even makes you think that?"
"I was obviously trying to make you jealous, so you had to have been particularly mean. I'm trying to stop that little tart from paying attention to me, not egg her on."
"Why would you want to make me jealous? I never pegged you to be that cruel."
"It's only cruel if it could possibly work, Granger. As much as you hate me, it's a lost cause anyway," he shrugs.
"Need I remind you I've kissed you twice? I may not hate you so much after all." She glances up through her lashes, completely intentional to play at being coy. "But, what I'm really wondering is why you would want me to think of you that way. Would you like it if I were jealous, Draco?"
"I…" He doesn't seem to have an answer to that, so Hermione leans forward once again and continues softly,"I was, you know. I would never have admitted it. I might never admit it again, but I was."
"You should," he starts, voice breaking a little. He clears his throat and leans across the small café table, closing the distance between them. "You should tell me. Admit it again. I quite like knowing that."
"I don't know… it makes me feel vulnerable. Can I trust you with it? Would you use it to hurt me?" she asks, knowing that he would not.
"I'd never," he answers, as predicted. "I don't want to hurt you. I'd prefer to know more of you."
"I'd like that, too," she agrees, and then closes the last of the gap between them, once again initiating a kiss.
It's just as amazing as the last two, but different as well. Soft, and unsure, this is a very sincere side of Draco. He is laid just a little bare. It's very appealing to a witch who carefully guards her heart.
It's brief, really, in the grand scheme, and when he pulls back Draco rests his forehead against hers. "Were the other times like this," he asks quietly, eyes still closed.
"No," she answers honestly. "This one was even better."
He opens his eyes to look at her and smiles. "Good, I'm glad I didn't miss this one then."
"When this is over," she promises, "I'm going to remind you. We'll relive every one of them if you'll let me." Hermione is voicing something she has only just admitted to herself. This is more than flirting. More than vague attraction. The more she knows him, the more she likes. If they can try for something, really give it a go, she's willing to do what it takes to get them on the same page.
"And then some," he agrees. "Try not to have all your firsts with me until we see Tuesday together, alright."
It's sweet really, that same general sentiment from the night before. He's more romantic than she would have guessed. So she promises, and she means to keep it. "Tuesday, I'll be yours."
Of course that means she just cock blocked herself in a potentially eternal loop. That's disappointing.
Their goodbye later that night is as emotional as ever. He makes her promise to come to him. Break down his walls and make him understand.
"I already felt something, you know," he admits suddenly, as she is holding the floo powder in hand. "Today when I woke up, before any of this. You're fucking beautiful, Granger. And one of the most intelligent witches I've ever met… or wizards for that matter."
She's blushing again and reaches up to brush a lock of platinum silk from his eyes, but says back sadly, "I would never have known it, the way… the way you talk to me."
He levels her with a significant look and raises one arched brow. "Have you heard how you talk to me?"
She grins and concedes exactly what she's been learning about herself. "I can be a bit abrasive…"
He answers with a bark of honest laughter, and then suddenly he leans in and presses his lips to hers, his fingers weaving into her hair, strong hands holding her head in he stops he says against her mouth, "I don't even mind, most days. You're hot when you're riled up."
Merlin, it's hard to say goodbye to this Draco. She does so then, with a heavy heart, and makes herself go to bed immediately, rehearsing, as she falls asleep, how she will get back here tomorrow. Back to this Draco that makes her toes curl and her heart race. To a wizard that could make her fall hard if she lets him.
Three more days pass for Hermione. She lives Monday the Fourth for the twelfth, thirteenth, and fourteenth times. Each is a trial and error with Draco, feeling her way around him and inching herself into his life, only to be catapulted back to the starting line over and over again. The most recent was slightly less successful all the way around. She had been snarky early on, and Draco had been defensive. Exhaustion, she supposes, is catching up with her.
Research, now working back into the eighteenth century, is growing more tedious. Texts are even less organized than the more modern books, and many of the points of interest seem disjointed and riddled with hubris and conjecture by the wizarding author.
By the end of the previous night, Hermione had found civility with Draco, but not the heartfelt connection, and, she had admitted to herself, that made her quite sad. That, coupled with the mediocre research results, has her particularly annoyed at Bizarre Love Triangle today. The quirky yet melancholy vocals are on her last nerve, and if she caught the guitarist in a dark alley, she'd bash him over the head with his plucky little stringed instrument.
Ugh. Two weeks of this, and Hermione is ready to move on with her life. What a luxury she never imagined she'd covet.
She goes to her en suite for her morning shower and stops dead before she can turn on the tap, one perfect spot of blood staining the pristine tile beneath her. For the first time since all of this began, Hermione is afraid.
It's all she can do to wait for a reasonable time before she can approach Draco. He told her to come to him. He assured her through kisses he would help her; made her promise to make him understand.
Coming through the floo uninvited, using the ward entry he shared with her on her thirteenth day, is sure to set him on edge, but she's not thinking about that. All she can think is exactly what she blurts out when he sees her.
Coming into his informal parlour, buttoning a cuff on his dress shirt, he looks absolutely appalled to see her. "What the fuck, Granger? What are you doing in my house at," he pulls a pocket watch from his trousers and finishes, "six fifty three in the fucking morning?"
"I'm aging," she chokes. "I didn't think I was, but I'm aging, and fuck I'm going to die like this!" Somehow, she had kept the panic at bay while in the solitude of her flat, but now, faced with this man that inspires deep and confusing emotions, she lets herself shatter, praying he will catch the pieces.
He doesn't disappoint. She nearly throws herself at him, breathing shallow through a sob, and, Godric bless him, he catches her like the gentleman he is, and that just makes her break harder.
"Granger…" He's somehow gentle and gruff all at once, but he's also solid and real and she clings as he holds her firm, strong hands wrapped around her upper arms. "What happened?"
She shakes her head, unsure how to answer, exhausted to have to go through all of this yet again, not sure she has the energy.
Trying to collect herself, she balls her hand into a fist and rests it against his chest, just over his heart, feeling the beat of it. Draco releases her arm only to cup his hand around her wrist, his thumb rubbing over her knuckle. "Hermione," he says calmly, and it nearly makes her sob to hear the kindness in his voice. To know he could be so tender, this Draco who is without the benefit of any of her heartfelt confessions or playful banter, squeezes her heart. "You need to tell me what happened. What can I do?"
"Draco… I'm… this is the fifteenth day. I've done this so many… so many fucking times." She's trying to find her footing, to start her tale through the panic, when he places both palms on her face and tilts it to meet his gaze.
"Stop. Calm down. Have a seat," he gestures with his head to the sofa behind her and then leads her to sit beside him.
Hermione sits stiffly, her hands wringing in her lap. Draco reaches over and still her movements, holding her hands in place and commanding firmly, "Start again. What happened to you?"
She breathes deep, his demeanor calming her and she starts again. "I've been caught in a time loop. For almost two weeks now, I keep reliving this day. You've been helping me try to break the cycle, to get me out. I wasn't worried really until today. But today I… my body is aging. I wasn't sure before, but now I know. If I don't find a way out… I'll die like this. I'll age and die and I'll never see tomorrow." The last word comes out strangled, and she's gripping his hands back, silently begging him to be her anchor.
"Why didn't you go to Potter?"
She blinks at him and answers honestly, "I don't know. I mean, I have before but… I just didn't think of him today."
"Your first thought was me?" Draco quirks a brow at her. It's not the most relevant thing he could ask, but she appreciates the distraction.
"I always go to you first now. We've been working together on it every day."
He furrows his brows. "How can I help you if I don't even remember what's happening?"
"Research. We've been reading through materials in your library. We do the same search each day, and I tell you how far we've reached. Right now we are in works published in the 1700's."
Hermione is feeling calmer now, her quaking subsided, and Draco retracts his hands, running one through his hair as he's working out the situation. "Have we found anything?"
She shakes her head. "Very little. But now that I know… Harry has been trying to get me through the Ministry regulations to see Baker. Today I'm going to be more insistent. I've threatened to go straight to Kingsley before, but it never seemed urgent… until now.
Her partner stands and offers a hand to help her rise as well. "Then let's go. Where will Potter be right now?"
She considers the time, cocking her head thoughtfully. "Home, probably. He will go to the office soon, though. And… honestly, I'd rather not add Ginny into this. We have been trying to keep it quiet most days, and she's never known before. I don't know how that might or might not affect the timeline, but I'd prefer to keep it between us and Harry."
He offers a grin and quips with a little sarcasm, though not unkind, "Well, well… You must hold me in higher regard than I thought."
Hermione levels him with a serious look and nods. "The highest. It took this mess to make me take a closer look. I'm quite fond of you, Draco."
He looks surprised, as he always does when she's forward, and clears his throat. "Right. Well then, let's get you sorted. Shall we wait for Potter at his office?"
"I think that's the best place to do this. Come on, let's grab coffee on the way. I have a feeling this will be a long day, and I know you face it better with a little cappuccino in your system." She offers a soft grin and then leads the way through the floo system, a confused Draco following behind.
"It's been over two weeks for me, Harry, and I'm... I'm aging." She closes her eyes, fortifying against the rather uncomfortable conversation to follow.
"How do you know? You look the same to me." Harry is looking her up and down, studying her and looking for something obvious.
Hermione glances back at Draco, realizing she never actually said what had set her into a panic. She faces Harry with a stiff spine and hides discomfort behind an indignant façade. "Because I've had my monthly."
Both men in the room scrunch their faces, and she rolls her eyes, exasperated. "Of all the things I've said today, I'm stuck in a bloody time loop, and this is too much to handle?" She is trying to fight through the fear and find her more confident self. The Hermione Granger on a mission. Gryffindor courage in spades.
"No... No, of course not." Her friend pushes his glasses up his nose and pulls on his professional pants once more. "And this is the first day I assume? It didn't happen other days?"
She shakes her head and flops down in the chair behind her, feeling a little tired and a lot overwhelmed. "It never happened before, but it happened today. Which means I'm still physically affected by time even if I can't move forward in it. I wasn't sure before... I thought maybe I would just loop eternally, damned to live the same day forever. But now... I don't know if it's better or worse. I'll die like this, Harry," she laments softly. Hermione looks up, frustrated with herself for her emotional response, but unable to help it.
Behind her, she feels Draco move forward, and then his hand is on her shoulder, comforting. Hermione closes her eyes and takes a shuddering breath. Her muddled feelings regarding her partner, clearer with each passing Monday, are not helping matters either. Every day she knows him just a little better, and every day he starts his morning disliking her. Or at least, acting as if he does. Today was one of his most quickly accepting, and it took a panic attack to accomplish it. Here she is, at barely nine in the morning, and he is already comforting her. It has become painfully obvious that the vitriol between them has been fueled by her defensive stance toward him as much as anything. It appears he really has evolved into a new wizard over the years - and it's simply her... strong personality… that sets him off.
"I need to see Baker. I've asked you before on other loops, and you tried but couldn't get me clearance. But now... Harry, I need to see him. And I'm afraid I feel concerned enough to call in the favour from my best friend. Anything you can do. Kingsley if you have to. Or I'll go to him myself, but..." she trails off, hating her desperation as much as her predicament.
Draco's hand is still on her shoulder. She feels him squeeze softly, and she is grateful. He is a calming presence, a harbor. Hermione dares a glance up at him and he offers her the most imperceptible nod of solidarity. She smiles softly in response.
"Merlin, Hermione, of course I'll go to Kingsley. I can't believe I didn't go for you before."
She snorts and quips back, "Well, to be fair, before I wasn't scared out of my wits and literally dying slowly in this loop."She feels in tune with Draco as he takes his hand away just as she starts to rise. "Draco and I are going to try his manor library again. We've been quite a few times, but it's massive. We still have a fair number of tomes to try."
"I'll open my floo connection to your office, Potter," Draco offers stiffly. Hermione is more than aware that he opens the wards and connections to his home very sparingly and she is once again struck by gratitude.
"As soon as I hear from Kimgs, I promise, I'll be right there." She watches him pen a memo and send off the charmed paper in the direction of the Minister's office. "That should reach his assistant in time to give him a heads up."
They are walking out together, and Hermione nods toward the paper as it disappears around a corner. "What did you say?"
He grins and calls behind him as they part ways down different hallways, "Serious as a heart attack. Be ready for me in three."
She grins back and mumbles, "Well, that should get his attention," but of course Harry doesn't hear it as he's already gone.
"That went well," Draco notes as they walk. "Was it really that hard to get him to help before?"
Hermione shakes her head in denial and explains, "Not at all. He offered before, but I was quite serious when I said I'd never been this concerned. The last few times I just got him up to speed and told him I was trying to handle it."
Draco frowns. "Still..."
She understands what is left unsaid. He would think something of this importance would have been a priority and so she explains even though he hadn't asked. "I've spent my life, almost all of it, at Harry's side, taking care of things. I... I might be a little prideful-" Draco snorts, amused, but she ignores it and goes on, "I don't like to admit when I need help, and I think he's just used to that. If I say I can handle it, typically I can. This, though... this is too big, I'm afraid."
"You don't have to do everything alone, Granger. Have you considered that's why you're a shite partner?"
"Hey! I'm a great partner," she bites back, hotly.
"No, you're an exceptional agent, but you're a rubbish partner. I've only had one mission with you, and, yes, you subdued the bad guy, but you didn't wait for backup," he ticks off on three fingers, "left me unawares, and got yourself caught in a bleeding time loop! You, Granger, are brilliant, but absolutely incapable of working with someone as an equal."
"I..." she starts to argue and pauses. It's not like this isn't something she has been realizing herself. She started working with Malfoy assuming he would be worthless, and yet he was the one who broke their case. He also had her back in New York, even though she did her damnedest to wrap it up before he could takes a breath, just as they reach the floo center and promptly changes the subject. "I'd like to get through the rest of the eighteenth century books today, unless we spend a lot of time with Baker."
He has the nerve to smirk at her, like he won some prize that she didn't argue back, and then gestures for her to go first, ever the pureblood gentleman. "I assume you know your way by now."
Hermione nods and tosses the powder ahead of her. "Malfoy Manor." She doesn't even wait for him on the other side and is in the library sorting the books by time he arrives.
"No, no, please go right ahead. Welcome to Malfoy Manor."
His sarcasm is full of enough humour that she doesn't even think to snap back at him. Instead, she just offers a smirk of her own and says, "Thanks," before settling herself in her now favourite chair and digging into the first book of her stack written in 1753.
It is late in the afternoon when Harry finally floos to Draco's library. He steps out, not even bothering with an initial call, and takes in Draco and Hermione both lounging on a large sofa, a stack of books between them.
"You're in," he grins, obviously quite proud of himself. "You only have fifteen minutes, though, and it needs to be now."
Hermione looks at her watch and notes the time: three in the afternoon. It's later than she realized. Harry must have worked diligently for hours to secure this interview. She's grateful, and she tells him so.
"Even if I didn't love you like family, Hermione, at the very least it's my job. Go on. Let's see what the Time Lord has to say."
Azkaban is as welcoming as always, which is to say, it is dark and cold and the staff treats the visiting Aurors like a nuisance. They are finally led down a corridor in what is the more hospital portion of the prison, each holding cell afforded basic comforts within.
The man in question looks up, separated from Hermione, Draco, and Harry by the magically charged bars. "Ahhh, finally, Miss Granger. I've been expecting you."
Hermione immediately understands. "You're looping, too." It's not a question, but he nods at her anyway.
"I suppose you were hoping I might be of some assistance to put an end to this? I'm afraid you'll be disappointed."
"You can't help me? Surely you have some knowledge... an idea of what you had done-"
"I wouldn't help you if I could, to be frank. Make no mistake," he continues, "I don't know how this happened. It was certainly not my intent, but I do believe I will just let my loop run its course."
"What... why in the world...what do you mean, you won't help?!" She is flabbergasted, to put a word on it, almost too stunned to speak.
"Mister Baker, I recommend you start being helpful before we have to take measures of our own." Harry's voice is a warning, his position as Head Auror suddenly feeling very much earned.
"Mister Potter, there is nothing with which you can tempt or threaten me that would make me more inclined to assist your friend."
"But... you're stuck like this too!" Hermione erupts. "Why punish me for arresting you-"
His laugh, hearty and straight from his belly, interrupts her, and the three wait for him to collect himself, Draco and Harry exchanging a glance. "My dear girl, I'm not punishing you. I understand your job and your motives. I can honestly say I bear you no ill will."
She starts to speak, but he holds up his hand to stop her and explains, "I'm going to spend the rest of my life in Azkaban either way, and we all know it. Unsanctioned Time Magic is forbidden more than any other offense magic, Dark Magic and Unforgivables included. But here, on this day, repeating this lovely Monday morning, I've not been officially charged. I'm still given a modicum of respect from the guards, a healthy serving of food three times during the day, the ability to send and receive owls, and access to minimal niceties. The repeated interrogation at the beginning and end of the day is a little tiresome, but I find it a fun mental exercise to change up how I handle the telling."
His eyes turn hard, and his voice cold as he concludes, "Maybe not tomorrow, but very soon, I would be left nearly for dead in a cold cell. I will be given a threadbare blanket, unidentifiable slop, and a bucket in which to do my business for the rest of my life. No, I think I'd prefer to stay as I am, thank you."
"But... surely," Hermione begins, "there would be some leniency. You never actually used the Time Turner, after all. They can condemn you for intention, but not action. The sentence for that must be different-"
He cuts her off again with a shake of his head. "There is no difference in this world between intent and deed. You should know by now, Miss Granger, the Wizardly world is far different from that in which you were raised. There is no manslaughter, intentional or not. No motivation, no parole, no witnesses, no fair trial. There is only a crime and punishment, and there is no choice as to what that punishment will be. I committed a crime, Miss Granger, regardless of intent, and Azkaban is the likely result."
"I... but that's..." Hermione, though she works in magical law, has many reservations about the system of which she is a part. She believes wholeheartedly in what she does, keeping the Wizarding world ordering and safe, but she is pragmatic enough, philosophical enough, to acknowledge a grey area the law doesn't see.
"Having a crisis of conscious, girl?" He asks, though not unkindly.
Hermione straightens and levels him with a glare. "If I was, your refusal to help me, to willfully condemn me to this purgatory, certainly doesn't endear you to me."
Baker shakes his head a little sadly. "It's irrelevant, in any case. I meant what I said: regardless of this debate, I can't help you. I thought I'd fixed the thing. Whatever I did, however we ended up here, I couldn't replicate if I tried."
Having been silent this entire exchange, Draco surprises Hermione when he speaks. "What of the other charms masters? How much did they help?"
"You're asking if they can help you now? It took me piecing together bits and bobs from all of them to reach whatever it is I had done. I don't know if individually they will be of much help, either."
"I could go to Kingsley," Harry jumps in, impetuous as always. "I'll ask for a reduced sentence. A pardon even, if you will help her."
Hermione looks at her friend fondly, knowing how seriously he takes his job and how much this means, but Baker is shaking his head sadly. "I can't help you, truly. I don't know what I did wrong." She feels deflated and sees it echoed on Harry's face. Draco still looks determined, but simultaneously at a loss.
With a sigh, she relents. "I suppose we will go back to research on our end then. Thank you for your time, Mister Baker."
He snickers and offers a little morosely, "It's my pleasure. Really, I have nothing but..."
The trip back to the Ministry is a somber one, Harry attempting a few false starts of conversation as ideas come to him, only to be shot down before he's finished them.
When they reach a crossroads of hallways, Harry excuses himself. "I'm going to Kingsley to check in. He wants a report. I'll check back in with you later alright?"
Hermione nods and thanks him before heading back toward her office. Without asking him, Draco follows. "Back to the manor?" he asks quietly.
She shrugs, suddenly feeling a little downhearted, and he stops her in her tracks, hands on her shoulders. She blinks up at him to find his jaw set.
"Don't give up now, Granger. We only made it to 1720, you know."
She nods. "Right. The manor."
"Maybe some coffee on the way? I know a café around the corner."
Hermione gives him a sad smile but agrees. "Coffee sounds lovely."
It is well past nine when Draco puts down the last book from the eighteenth century and looks over at Hermione. She was watching him finish, having set her own book to the side moments before.
"Anything?" he asks, and she just shakes her head.
"We're over halfway through the books, Draco. What if… what if we can't find anything because there just isn't anything to find?"
"Then we try something else," he answers calmly. "The Hogwarts library. Or back to the Ministry. Or ask the centaurs or research in fucking South America… we will find it, Granger."
She nods once, wanting to believe in his stubborn response. She licks her lips and stands. "It's earlier than we usually stop but… honestly, I'm worn down. Talking to Baker, having that avenue close to me, was a bit taxing."
He nods in understanding and rises from the sofa as well. "When does it start over? Your day, I mean. How late does it loop?"
Hermione shakes her head. "I have no idea, truthfully. I'm always so tired I go to sleep."
"You should stay up, at least once, to see how late you have."
"I should, I suppose, but not tonight. And certainly not to start on 1699," she laughs lightly at first, but then, feeling a need to liven this very depressing day, she offers, "If I was going to stay up late… I'd hope it would be to indulge in something more enjoyable."
Draco lifts a brow at her, "Oh?"
"It occurs to me, we never had dinner."
He grins at her and asks, "Are you asking me to dinner, Granger?"
She answers with her own smile back and nods. "I am. It wouldn't be the first time, either."
He looks a little surprised but readily accepts. "Well then, who am I to refuse now? The precedent is already set, it seems."
In a show of gentility, Draco offers his elbow for Hermione to take. Looping her arm around his, she lays her hand delicately on his wrist. He leads her toward the floo and asks, "Where to?"
Pondering, she considers, "Well, we've already been to the Shaved Duck. Oh, and I took you for tapas in muggle London."
"Muggle London, hmm? How did you convince me of that?"
She shrugs noncommittally. "I thought you might like the break from wizarding society."
"Did I like it?" he asks softly, and she looks to find him studying her.
"You did," she answers back, equally quiet. "I mean, I think you liked the food, but you definitely had a nice time…" She lets the implication hang.
Draco reaches out and brushes a curl back from her cheek, stroking the skin as he does. "We should try that then."
Hermione nods, heart racing at how close they suddenly are. So many intimate moments, first kisses and touches, and still each one makes her feel warm and breathless.
He doesn't wait for her to finish her thought, which is just as well since she has no idea what it would have been. He presses his lips against hers, and it's another first all over again: the first time he surprises her with a kiss. It takes her very little time to recover before she wraps her arms around his neck and pulls him close. What started as tentative quickly becomes heated, and then he has her pushed against the wall. One arm cages her, the fireplace to her right, while his other hand splays against her lower back, pulling her pelvis against him.
He's never been this frenzied before. Maybe because the day started so quickly, her panic gaining his trust faster than most days. Maybe because this happened so suddenly. They spent the afternoon cordial and friendly, but her flirting came on strong at the day's end. Whatever the reason, she's never felt so desired as she does this time, with his strong hand holding her tight and the hardness of him pressed into her thigh. His kiss is bruising, devouring… full of tongue and teeth and pressure.
Hermione reaches cautiously down, finding him pressed against his trousers, and strokes along the outline of him. He grunts into her mouth, and his other hand curls into her hair, pulling at the nape of her neck. She is encouraged and continues to run her fingers along his length, the pads of three fingers pressing firmly, thumb stroking up the side.
His hand has wandered from her back and he is cupping her breast through her blouse, caressing the peak and forcing a shudder through her.
They've never reached this point before; this intense petting. There is a promise of more in the taste of him, in the firmness of his touch.
Draco's hands move to work on the buttons of her blouse. He is frantic now, trembling, but never breaks the kiss. He's is caressing her mouth with his like he needs her to breathe. Her shirt is open before she can even realize it, and he pulls one cup aside to expose her breast to the cold air. His lips, ripped from her mouth, leave her bereft, only for a moment, before he runs a line of kisses across her cleavage. It is only a moment more before he finally takes her peak into his mouth, tongue flicking against her. She moans his name and runs his hands into his hair, tugging at it and pleading with him for, "more… yes… oh, Merlin… please…"
He is worshipping her ,and she wants everything he has, all that he can offer. Swept away and lost in the feel of him, Hermione regains her senses just as he is working the zip on her jeans. "Wait… Draco, wait." She lays a hand over his and pulls it away from her, lifting it to her mouth to land a soft kiss on his knuckle. "We can't," she says regretfully and closes her eyes.
"We certainly can," he pants out. "Have we ever…"
"No… no. Never this far." Her breathing is trying to even out, and she groans in frustration. "You made me promise. We can't. Merlin's fucking beard, I want to, but I can't."
He's looking at her strangely, trying to make sense of her mixed signals, she's sure. "I made you promise."
She nods, taking another cleansing breath, and explains, "You said we should wait until the loop is broken. You said you didn't want it to be something you couldn't remember."
"What the fuck? Why in Salazar's name would I do that?!"
She laughs a little at his distress. There's an element of the petulant pureblood boy he was raised to be under the delicious exterior of the man. She can't help but blurt out, "You're so adorable..." He makes a face, but she continues, "Believe me, if you hadn't made me promise, you'd be shagging me on the hearth by now."
He groans and drops his forehead onto her shoulder and grumbles, "I was probably right."
Hermione grins and pats his cheek. "You are, on occasion. I made you a promise in return though."
Looking up, he asks, "Did you? And that was…?"
"I promised that on Tuesday, I'm yours. And Draco, I won't forget."
He kisses her then; one last heavy press of his lips to hers, as he takes a deep breath in through his nose. "I can't say I'll hold you to that, but you better fucking remember."
Hermione laughs again, all the while righting her blouse and trying to look a little less disheveled. "Are you still hungry?"
"Not for tapas," he grouses, but turns to the floo anyway and gestures for her to take the lead.
It's nearly midnight when she finally falls into bed, the memory of a delicious meal, entertaining conversation, and a good night kiss to rival any that preceded it, sending her off into a deep sleep.
Nothing can shake Hermione's good mood the next day, not even Frente. She muses as she lays there, that "Bizarre" and "Love" seem apt… Not so much the "Triangle", but, hey, two out of three ain't bad.
She dresses quickly, trying not to think about the realities of the day and instead focusing on last night. Just as she had been about to toss in her floo powder to return home, he had stopped her to ask, "Why did it take you so long today?"
She had stalled, looking at him in question. "What do you mean?"
Taking a cautious step toward her, he had clarified, "To tell me about the other days. To tell me… what we'd done. How we had been together."
She had given him a sad smile before answering, taking a step closer to him as well. "I'm never sure… every day I have to walk into your office and ask for help, and every day you look at me like you loathe me. I'm a strong witch, but… every girl doubts when her heart is on the line, you know. 'What if I was wrong', I think. 'What if I misunderstood'?"
He had shaken his head and closed the distance, kissing her forehead and cupping her jaw, his thumb stroking over her cheekbone. "You didn't. Fuck, Granger, you didn't. You think I didn't know this morning that you're gorgeous and brilliant? I just thought you looked down on me. Hated me. If I knew… well, this is what happens if I know," he had chuckled. Draco had tilted her chin, locking into her gaze before kissing her soundly, chaste but full of intent, and then made to step away.
Tipping up on her toes, Hermione had reached for him and initiated one last kiss that ended up having a lot more tongue than she originally intended, before bidding him a good night and vowing once again to see him in the morning.
Now, she is humming as she dresses, choosing a particularly fitted skirt and blouse. She makes it more demure with a smart business jacket, knowing full well she will remove it as soon as they reach the manor. She doesn't want to wait today. She wants to fling herself at him the moment she walks into his office. She can't, she knows. He implied he would welcome her, but this isn't her first time around. He is wary at best. Distrusting is probably more accurate. He is also stubborn and moody and completely impossible. She grins at herself in the mirror, thinking of him, and heads to the office to endear herself to the insufferable man yet again.
She brings coffee again. It seems to help tear down his emotional walls and has the added bonus of helping her kill time so she doesn't arrive too early. Being there waiting always seems to set the wrong tone. She's getting quite good at this, if she does say so herself.
His door is closed but Bernice hasn't made it in. Hermione knocks softly on the door and asks through it, "Draco? It's Hermione. Can I come in?"
She hears a shuffling and then the door opens and he's looking down at her like she is a nuisance. She tries hard not to let it bother her.
"What could you possibly want at this time-" he cuts off as she lifts a cup under his nose. "What's this?"
"Caramel mocha cappuccino with low fat cream."
"I… thank you." A beat, and then, "What did you do?"
It's all too familiar and she sighs. "Do you mind if I come in a moment? I need your help."
He hesitates a moment before snapping the cup out of her hand and gesturing for her to come inside. She sits and begins her telling, trying hard to be both brief but thorough. There are times he makes as if to interrupt, but she mostly addresses his questions before he can ask them. She pretty well knows, after all, what he is about to say. She tells him as much many times.
An owl arrives from Harry at some point and she tells him it will be Harry cancelling lunch as she hands the unopened scroll over to her partner. He looks at her with eyebrow raised, as she recites verbatim what the letter says.
"Should we go to Potter?" he asks as she reaches the end.
Hermione shakes her head no. "I've already seen Baker. There isn't much more Harry can do right now. I really want to keep researching. I found a couple of leads yesterday I want to follow up. References to older writings that might be in the 1600s."
"Using me for my books?" he sneers. "I feel so cheap."
She laughs, regardless of how cruel he sounds. It's only her first step toward what she now believes as their inevitable outcome. No longer in denial, Hermione absolutely wants him and will do what she can to make sure: when this is all over, he will be hers.
"I'm fond of your company as well, actually. It has taken me a couple of weeks, but I'm more than happy to admit you are a wonderful partner."
She grins broadly at him even as he looks at her in question. Hermione has never been completely confident with men. In other aspects of her life, with work, with research, with strategy and plans, she is an incredibly self-assured person. Relationships, however, are different. She is never certain she is reading the signs correctly, never positive when someone returns her feelings. Knowing what she knows about Draco, about their potential, is empowering. She feels like the most confident witch in the world, ready to be forward. Bold.
"Come on," she urges, standing. "Let's go to the manor. I'll treat you to lunch later and tell you all about the last few days. Maybe we can reenact a few moments," she winks and glides out of the room, sure he will follow.
Three books all reference the same unknown writing. Recognized as an authority on magic of the ancient world, somewhere there exists a document written by a wizard as he travelled and studied. Hermione is more and more encouraged, but can't seem to find the name of the wizard or an exact reference to the title of the book. It must be quite old and so, as they make their way to the lowest shelf in their search, she is nearly giddy with anticipation.
"We should break." She looks up to find Draco setting a book to the side and looking at her expectant. He clarifies, "We need to eat. It's past four already and we've missed lunch. Let's take in an early dinner."
Hermione, who hadn't realized how late it was, agrees but with reluctance. "I think we're close. Maybe we could just try to make it to 1675-"
"Granger, you need to eat. You're running on nothing but coffee and however much sleep you get each night, unknown as that is. The books will be here."
She huffs and tosses the book on the sofa beside her. "Fine. Where should we go?"
"I could have the elves bring-"
"Nope," she interrupts. "They hate me and I'm not dealing with that."
A grin spreads across his face as he denies, "They don't hate you, Granger. They are bleeding terrified of you." He chuckles a little, entirely amused by the whole affair.
Hermione crosses her arms and bounces her foot. "Well, they certainly don't like me then. Come on, let's try something new."
Shaking his head, he returns, "Anything we've had will be new to me today."
The thought makes her rather sad. "I know." The mood of the room shifts as she feels a wave of something wash over her. It feels like sorrow.
"Hey." She looks up to find him watching her. "We will find the answer. You won't be stuck like this forever."
It warms her to realize he is trying to comfort her, completely unaware that it's not her predicament that bothers her, but rather his part in it. She tries to smile a little, to look comforted for his benefit, and gestures toward the floo. "Shall we, then? You seem to like Spanish cuisine."
"You want to go to Spain?"
He looks confused and she laughs. "No, just a muggle place that serves tapas."
Draco makes a face. "I'd rather go to Spain."
She grabs his arm, being very familiar with him, and drags him along with her. "You'll like it. I can absolutely guarantee it, muggles and all."
He still looks distrusting but follows anyway. And of course, he likes it all just fine. The food, the restaurant… Hermione feels like they are becoming regulars, though of course, this is the first time for everyone except her.
It is after six as they are finishing the last glasses of wine from the bottle. Draco has a bit of color in his cheeks. It is likely from the drinks, but Hermione would like to think it has a little to do with their current discussion.
"So, I've kissed you at least ten times then?"
"Oh, at least," she verifies. "Probably ten times in a day on some days."
Draco shakes his head. His face is this adorable combination of bemusement and disbelief and intrigue. "Who would have thought? Hermione Granger and I, snogging our way through a time loop."
"No one was more surprised than me, I assure you," she grins back. Leaning across the table, feeling incredibly forward, she asks, "Would you like to try it?"
He looks surprised. "What, kiss you? Just… just try it?"
Hermione shrugs, swirling her wine in her glass. "I mean, if you're comfortable of course. You certainly didn't hesitate yesterday." She finishes with a wicked little smile and runs the toe of her left pump up his calf.
"Are you honest to Merlin propositioning me? My, we are forward."
She shrugs, still smiling and aware she is playing a dangerous game. "To be fair, for me it's simply a repeat of the status quo. I wouldn't want you to feel left out."
She watches as he drains the last of his wine and then stands. Offering his hand, he urges, "I think it's time we take our leave, wouldn't you say? It seems we have a schedule of sorts to keep."
Hermione accepts his assistance and rises. His hand is a live wire on the small of her back as he leads her from the restaurant, electrifying and thrilling her. He is the consummate gentleman, gesturing her to precede him through the door and offering his arm as they walk the street away from muggle London to an apparition point. He leans in to her and asks, "Are you sure you want to go back to the library? Seems a waste really... I'm rather inclined to learn more about our... previous interactions."
She giggles like a lovestruck girl, and rather accepts that is exactly what she is. "Believe me when I say I'd like nothing more," she replies in earnest.
They don't even make it back to the apparition point before he has her pushed against the brick of an alley, one hand on her thigh beneath her skirt and the other gripped into her hair. His mouth devours hers before trailing a line to her neck, suckling and licking the skin beneath her ear. He stops to insist, "Tell me what happens next, Granger. Do I take you in the alley?" He flicks his tongue against the shell of her ear, hand travelling higher until he is tracing the line of her knickers. "Do we make it home first?" She groans at the seductive tone in his honeyed voice, the depth of it reverberating against her. "Do I have you here, shoved against the wall? Or do we wait, fumble our clothes off down the halls of my manor? I could bend you over the desk in the library," he continues, all the while tasting and sucking at the skin of her neck, her jaw. "Throw our research to the floor and lay you out on the wood."
She groans at the image as his mouth returns to hers, imagining being spread before him as he explores her skin. This is a different Draco. He seems much more inclined to follow through with his delicious promises, and she is very inclined to let him. This tension that has been building between them for days (at least for her) is becoming unbearable and, Sweet Merlin, does she want to give in.
"Are you sure," she pulls away to ask.
"Am I sure I want to fuck you right here in this filthy alley? Gods, yes." He nips at her lip before returning his attentions to her neck, removing his hand from her skirt to, instead, lift her shirt and cup her breast reverently.
What has changed? It's all she can think as she enjoys the feel of him, the taste of him. Why is he so desperately ready to take her today but not on other days?
Then she knows. This Draco has been subject to her teasing, sex pouring off of her. The other days then? She supposes on other days he cared about her more. Knew her better. She hasn't told him of her family today. They haven't discussed philosophies or the war. He hasn't been contrite for his treatment of her and she has conceded that he is a changed and amazing wizard.
In short, this Draco doesn't know her, and that makes her rather sad.
"I can't," she chokes out, absolutely incensed at herself for stopping him. Great Godric, she wants this…but not like this. Not when it can be different; has been different. "I don't…not when you won't remember it. A kiss is one thing," she explains, "but I don't want to be alone in this. Having to wake up tomorrow with you sneering at me and know that we…"
She trails off, afraid to meet his eye. She feels him extract his hands from their very intimate positions and place his hands on her shoulders instead.
She looks up and he is studying her. "Exactly how close have we been?" She starts to answer, but he stops her to make his question more clear. "I don't mean physically. I mean, this is more than just… this, isn't it?"
She nods and agrees quietly. "It's more than this, and it's… getting harder for me. The more I," she swallows, bracing herself to open up a little more. "The more I care about you, the harder it is to see you every morning. To explain what has been happening. Not just to me but between us."
He looks at her a moment longer before he seems to come to a conclusion and steps away from her. She feels a moment of intense hurt until he offers his hand and she takes it. Leading her away from the alley and to the apparition point, he is quiet a long time before, "I wouldn't want to forget. I mean if we… had continued. I would hate to find out later it had happened and I'd never remember the first time."
She relaxes at that familiar sentiment. This Draco who had started to feel like a stranger is exactly the same man he always is. Their experiences and memories may change, but he never really does. Had she let them continue, he would have regretted. Had she told him on another Monday that they had been together, he would have lamented never being able to get the experience back.
Hermione steps closer and wraps her arm around his, pulling him against her side. They don't speak any more until they are back at the Malfoy library.
Draco grabs a book and settles in at one end of the sofa they usually share. She takes a tome of her own and starts to walk past him when she stops and leans over her partner. He looks up and she closes the distance, pressing her lips against his. "I really did want to," she says with a shy grin. "You no doubt will forget this tomorrow, unless we have a miraculous discovery tonight, but I want you, for more than just sex, Draco."
He gives her a smirk and pulls her down by her blouse until her lips are brushing his. "Let's look for a miracle then." His tongue traces her seam before parting her lips for a brief but intense kiss.
Having trouble settling her breathing, she is panting, pressing her forehead against his. "Right. Miracle." They exchange one last grin before she takes her place on the sofa and starts on the next in a long line of remaining books.
Day seventeen is much like many previous. Hermione and Draco stumble into familiarity and then spend the day trying to save her. She takes him for lunch, but they stay at the manor for dinner. Hermione leaves the room when the elves bring the food, and Draco laughs at her like it's endearing. Conversation turns more serious, as it often does, and, by the end of their meal, he is gripping her hand, running a thumb over her knuckle, and she is gazing back with her usual adoration.
Hermione is almost ready to give up for the day when she picks up "Primitive Magicks of the Orient" by an unknown author. She can't imagine how old this one is. It seems to be held together by a paperclip and a prayer… or, in magical terms, a stasis charm.
She glances at Draco who is absorbed in his own reading. Settling in, Hermione pushes her bare feet against his thigh. He looks up and smiles, resting his hand briefly on her calf before going back to holding his book with both hands.
Her breath catches when she finds the chapter… the particular passage… this might be exactly what they have been looking for!
"Draco… Draco, listen to this!" She sits up and scoots closer to her partner as he closes his own book and sets it to one side. Their heads together, she starts to read.
"'It is from the empire of Khmer that I write this, having discovered the most rich and powerful magicks'," she reads from the chapter introduction. "'The Emperor is, himself, gifted in our ways and has studied'-" she stops, skimming down the page. "Hold on. Here," she picks up again from farther down the page. "'The view of time as commodity is not a new one, but none have captured its potential in the way of this God King. Controlling the course of events, managing history as one might create an artistic work, this community has flourished, even in face of foreign invaders for decades.'"
Scanning through the next page, she lands on a passage and stops, heart almost refusing to beat in the shock of it. "What is it," Draco nudges, trying to read over her shoulder.
"A spell," she breathes. "There's a spell, in ancient runes. I need… I need to translate it," she stutters. "I need a reference guide." She looks up, locking her gaze and says more clearly, "Draco, I need a comprehensive reference guide on ancient runes. This might be it."
He's up without hesitation, asking the library for what he needs, and five thick tomes land on the main shelf. He chooses one that looks to be the most current amongst them, binding crisp and fresh. "They're mostly the same book," he explains, referencing the five. "This is the most recent edition. Should be the most accurate based on any modern findings."
Hermione takes it from him eagerly and sets in to work. "There's no way I'll finish this tonight," she laments. "There are too many characters and it's already so late." Looking at the clock, she sees midnight has already come and gone.
"In the morning," he says, "come here first. "Don't go to my office. I'll be awake by half six. Floo over immediately. Tell me I promised to let you in. Tell me… tell me whatever you have to." He's looking at her with earnest eyes, and she puts the book aside, taking his face in her hands.
"I hate this," she says. "I hate the end of every day."
Nodding, he agrees. "I hate that I forget you every day. How many times have we done this? How many times have we had to start over?"
"Too many for me," she answers. "None for you." Hermione gives him a sad smile that he returns. "I can't regret that this happened. I never would have seen you like this."
He leans forward and lands a soft kiss on her lips. "I'm too stubborn. A bit prideful," he muses. "I wouldn't have made it easy."
She laughs and kisses him again. "I'll make you. Every morning until I can get out of this."
"Yes," he agrees on another kiss, a teasing one, tongue barely brushing against her lip. "Make me, please."
Something in his tone makes her forget the book and the time and everything as she pushes against him, shoving him onto the sofa and climbing astride his lap. Their kiss turns desperate and, Sweet Merlin, he feels divine. All hard angles where he should and soft skin and firm, searching hands.
He stops her after a short time, turning his face down and pressing his forehead against the bridge of her nose. "Not tonight," he says through heavy breath. "Not when I won't remember. Tomorrow maybe. Don't you dare let me forget."
"I won't," she promises, not surprised by the predictable outcome.
They collect themselves, gripping one another and slowing their pulse until finally she pulls off his lap and they both stand, hands clasped between them.
"Tomorrow. Be here as fast as you can. I'll help you."
"Tomorrow." She looks up, lost in his pretty grey eyes and feels a familiar sorrow, like mourning, wash through her veins. "I'll see you tomorrow."
It takes Hermione and Draco working together a total of three Mondays to completely decipher the runes only to find it to lead, not to only a simple incantation, but the recipe to a potion. A ritual is required in the brewing, and stones to ground the magic to the source. It is incredibly fortunate that Hermione boasts a memory nearly untouched by comparison, so that she may remember the progress they made without losing any ground. She can take no notes, mark no pages; Hermione's brain is the only resource available at the beginning of each loop.
"We can use the gardens," Draco tells her on the morning of her twenty-first day. It is half seven, and she has just brought him up to speed.
She nods and thanks him. He can't know that he already said this the day before, but she thought it best if he offered it again. Knowing how to handle him has become second nature. Hermione supposes that will come in handy if she ever finds a way out of this and can pursue a relationship with him.
The ancient translation had been slow and measured, interspersed with very little conversation between them. Though they have had little physical contact the past few days, Hermione continues to feel drawn to him for his mind, his wit, and the surprising amount of care and attention he has paid her situation.
They gather what they need, asking Harry to use his considerable influence to source the required potion ingredients. It is a lengthy list and includes difficult to obtain items for the average witch or wizard. Finely powdered amethyst with exact specifications as to the harvesting location, unicorn hair from a female, untouched by a male, pickled mermaid scales, and nirnroot. Beyond the obvious expense and difficulty in acquiring what they need, there is a dark quality to the potion, and Hermione is grateful to have Harry on their side, part and parcel with his considerable ministry pull.
She is incredibly fortunate that the one costly commodity not required, is time. The potion only takes a couple of hours to create, once all the circumstances are met.
Walking down a manicured path on the Malfoy grounds, Hermione is anxious. Draco told her his family has a quiet place beyond the rose bushes and stables, where his ancestors, the original Malfoi family, had conducted their practices. "When magic was not so sanitized and regulated," he had smirked at her. "When you couldn't learn it in books."
Hermione is mesmerized by the idea. She has invested time in private study of ancient magic and a part of her, deep at her core, yearns for that wild aspect of something so intrinsically part of her.
Halfway to their destination, Hermione stops short as she is face to face with Lucius Malfoy. He is coming from the direction of what she assumes to be the stables. The fact that the family keeps horses had been, until today, unknown to her. He is attired in traditional equestrian gear, complete with tailed coat and hat. If Hermione wasn't already experiencing a little snafu with time, she might think she'd transported back a century or two.
"Father," Draco greets him with a polite nod but little warmth.
"Son." He pauses, making a show of giving Hermione a once over, before he offers a very proper, "Miss Granger. Welcome to Malfoy Manor."
She isn't sure what she expected, really. She hasn't seen the Malfoy patriarch in a few years. Her most vivid memories of him are an imposing man with an air of superiority and very nice hair. Less vivid, are her few memories during, and after, the war. He had looked haggard and desperate; a man who made mistakes and is trying not to admit to it, even as he lives with them.
To look at him now, you would never know he had been anything but a gentleman and an heir. He still appears to feel superior, but less intimidating. It seems a shame all that prejudice and hatred had to destroy what she can easily recognize as an old and traditional family name. Being hated by pureblood society never made Hermione turn her prejudice back on them, at least not theoretically as a whole. Her own family has traced its lineage back to the thirteenth century. Her father had made it as sort of a hobby. That and model ship building seemed to be his great loves in life… aside of course from Jean Granger. She stole that from him, when she changed his name to keep him safe. She hopes he still makes ships and never wants to know if he doesn't.
"Thank you, sir. Draco has been an excellent host. We are just touring the grounds."
Lucius raises an eyebrow at Draco. "I thought she was only your partner, Draco, absolutely nothing more?" The way says it sounds like he is parroting Draco's words from some previous conversation.
She watches as Draco merely shrugs and agrees. "She is my partner, and isn't that enough for a simple stroll?"
She hasn't told this Draco of their past. Not today.
Fuck, that's frustrating. Does it even count as their past when he hasn't lived it? Yes, she has decided, it does. No worse than amnesia, he is still the man she has shared so many moments with, and she'll be damned if she's going to give that up.
Still, it hurts to see him behave so blasé towards her and their partnership.
Lucius turns to her once more. "I'm afraid, Miss Granger, there is very little beyond the crest of that hill." He points down the path where Draco was leading. "Some untended land. Overgrowth. It's really unseemly… nothing worth your time."
"I thought to show her the Coventina well, actually. Granger is rather impressed by old, traditional things." Hermione wonders if Draco has actually picked up on that fact about her interests, or if he is simply covering for them to his father. She hopes the former.
"Yes, well, I'm sure her muggle upbringing afforded her very little history beyond tellyvision and … those contraptions that toast bread…"
"Toasters?" Hermione offers, mockingly helpful with a raised brow.
Lucius waves the thought away. "Yes, yes. Those. Regardless, enjoy your stroll, children. Draco, might I have a word this evening once your… guest has departed?"
He continues on, and Hermione looks over at Draco. His face is that blank mask she thought was his entire persona before this started. That haughty expression that spoke volumes about his indifference and arrogance, that she now knows hides a wizard of sincerity, compassion, and depth. "Is he angry that I'm here?" she asks quietly. She might have been angry, indignant, if this had happened weeks ago. Now she knows there is no faster way to make Draco bristle than to indicate she is taking out her frustrations on him, and he hasn't done anything to deserve that.
"No. Well," he amends after a beat, "perhaps a little, but not for the reasons you think. He is… unimpressed with my choice of career."
"Ah, right… because it's not Malfoy Industries," she says knowingly, forgetting to stop herself. He looks at her with a curious expression.
"Sorry… you, ah… you told me that. On another day."
"I did?" He seems genuinely surprised. Hermione can imagine why that would be. After all, this is a relatively personal piece of information, and, as far as he knows, they have spent the last three weeks researching and translating and little else.
"We've actually spoken, quite a lot. Some days, we spent a lot of time together. Even I can't research for two weeks straight without growing restless." She laughs lightly, but he doesn't join her.
"What else did I tell you?" Draco is studying her now, searching her eyes. She grows nervous at his intense gaze.
"Draco," she hedges, "now really isn't the time. We need to start the process before it gets too late."
"It seems to me you have plenty of time, Granger. And since when do you call me by my given name?"
She stutters an apology. "I just… Malfoy, I mean. Sorry. I just… some days I call you Draco, and I wasn't thinking."
"Why are you so nervous? Is there something I should know?"
"Gods, am I that transparent?" she mutters, and then sighs in resignation. "I'll tell you everything in the morning, you know. I mean, as soon as I reach a bloody Tuesday, I'll give you a full report."
"Why not now then?" He asks and takes a step closer. He looks down at her, less than a step between them. She recognizes he is trying to intimidate an answer out of her, but that's not the affect it has.
"I can't… I need to concentrate. On the potion. I can't think with you this close," she answers softly. The sexual tension is purely one sided, but having him so close, passionately questioning her… He may as well be licking a line up her knickers for the way it's revving her up. When exactly did she become this enthralled?
"That's an interesting reaction," he notes. She must be giving off pheromones in waves by now, her body language screaming that she wants to touch him.
"We may have… grown close… once or twice."
"How close? This close?" he asks, gesturing between them. "Closer?"
Her eyes flutter closed a moment and she nods.
"You've been giving me looks all day," he says. "Did you think you were subtle, Granger?"
She shakes her head and offers a wry smile. "Gryffindors are notoriously unsubtle."
"Brave, though," he comments. "Daring." He smirks at her, bending his face close to hers and nearly brushing his nose against her cheek. "I dare you."
Hermione doesn't even think before closing the distance and finding his mouth with hers. It feels like it always does. Like her perfect home. His response is immediate, lips pressing against hers and his hands finding their way to their proper places: on her back and tucked into her curls. She isn't the least bit ashamed that she whimpers at the contact, grateful to be back in his arms. The kiss is spectacular, but all too brief.
"Fuck, Granger. Does this happen every day?" he questions, lips so close it's nearly still a kiss.
"Not every day. But… the best days."
"How many times?"
She shakes her head. "I've nearly lost count… but not enough. Not yesterday or the day before. I've missed you," she admits to him and to herself. "But," she goes on, "I'm exhausted of this. I want you to be where I am. I need to wake up in a world where you already know how I feel about you."
"And how do you feel about me, Hermione?"
Her knees give a little at her name on his tongue. He rarely calls her that, even on their best days. Whatever vibe she has been unknowingly giving off must have been a strong one. "I care for you. Probably enough to scare you, honestly. Tomorrow, when this spell works and I wake up on Tuesday morning, I'll go slow. Give you time to get on the same page with me."
"I'm not entirely sure I want slow," he chuckles. "I think I want more of whatever this was."
She smiles, a little sad. "I've promised you before, I'll be yours on Tuesday. We just have to get me there."
Draco steps away and grabs her hand, grinning. "Then we need to move on this potion, don't we?"
The ritual is straightforward enough. Some of the more unsavory components are added first, combined with earth and imbued with primal magic through incantation. Unlike most potions, heat is never applied. This leaves the final product difficult to palate, only a spell to break down larger particles makes it consumable at all. Heat, the book had mentioned, would have changed the elements too thoroughly, especially the fresh earth.
When they have finished, Hermione looks at Draco for courage, and he gestures for her to go ahead. "What are you waiting for, Granger? An embossed invitation? Go ahead and fix your mess already." He grins and winks and she takes the potion like a shot of whiskey.
It tastes about as bad.
"I don't feel different," she says, licking her lips and scrunching her nose at the taste.
Draco shrugs at her. "I've not had a lot of experience with ancient rituals to enact a change in the timeline so… who knows."
She giggles lightly and then turns serious. "This is the first time I might wake up and not have to face your indifference. I'm… nervous."
"Why would you be nervous? You've spent weeks with me."
"Right but… I always knew what to expect before," she says, biting her lip and looking at him through her lashes.
His grin turns a little wolfish, and he steps closer. "So you'd feel better if you knew what to expect? Shall I give you a hint?"
Her breath hitches a little and she whispers, "Yes, please."
Every kiss with Draco is a new experience, and this one doesn't disappoint. There is a question in his movement. Uncertainty. Some days he is confident and he takes her breath away as he devours her. Today, his hesitation is endearing and she coaxes him into a more passionate undertaking, parting his lips and licking at his tongue.
"Fuck, Granger, what are you doing to me?"
"I think I'm seducing you," she grins against his lips and feels his chuckle in response.
"Shall we take this inside? Have you seen my room, yet? Or do I usually take you on the library floor?" There is something both wicked and reverent in the way he speaks to her.
Hermione shakes her head and leaves a delicate kiss on the corner of his mouth. "You've not had me at all. Early on, you made me promise we would wait."
Draco pulls away and gives her a wicked grin. "So I haven't missed our first time then?"
She smiles back and confirms, "No. Some excellent kisses, but I'll do my best to recreate them for you."
They clasp hands as they return to the manor and take an early dinner in the lesser dining room. It's the first meal they have shared at his home outside of their casual experiences in the library. "We should celebrate," he had said, and asks the elves to bring a bottle of wine from the cellars.
The elves are, as she imagined, excellent chefs. By the end of the lengthy meal, it has grown late. Hermione shared with him the fate of her family during the war, and he opened up once again about his own experiences and regrets. She's never felt closer to him than she does on this Monday.
"Stay," he says. It's just past nine and there is really nothing more they can do but wait until tomorrow. Hermione was just slipping on her flats by the floo and looks up to find Draco leaned against the door frame, watching her intently. "Stay tonight," he says again.
"Stay with you?"
He nods and walks closer. "Just to sleep. I want you here in the morning… please."
She searches her brain for any reason why this isn't advisable. The most obvious being the abject temptation of staying with him during the night, and she starts to voice that concern. "I don't know if that's a good idea, Draco…"
"Just to sleep," he says again. "Then tomorrow," he grins that very wolfish grin of his, "we won't waste any time."
"I… alright." She follows him in a haze, her pulse throbbing with anticipation and want. Draco, she learns, sleeps in silk shorts and nothing else. The gentleman that he is, he calls the elves to bring a night dress for her. It is lovely, as she would expect, but relatively demure. Being more covered seems to settle her nerves a little as she crawls into his massive bed and straight into his open arms.
Laying on his chest, running a fingernail down the alabaster skin of his sternum, she comments, "I hope I can wait until morning."
He answers with a dexterous hand, running slowly up her side. "We can wait," he assures. "It will be worth it. I think… I think you're worth it."
She hums her agreement and drifts off, feeling cherished and adoring him in return.
In the early hours, Hermione is in that state of near wakefulness, aware that she feels more rested than she has in days. There is a peace, settled in her heart, a weight of stress lifted as she remembers delicious snippets of the previous day.
"Everytime I think of you, I feel a shot right through with a bolt of blue…"
Her eyes snap open, taking in her familiar bed, alarm clock flashing 6:00 am in glaring red and Hermione, unashamed and wrung out, sobs herself back to sleep.
Hermione doesn't hear the owl that Harry always sends. If he sends a follow up, she doesn't hear that either.
She wakes, instead, to the floo, and drags herself from bed, not bothering with her questionable state of dress. Her sleep attire is comprised, as it typically is, of a muggle band shirt (not Frente, she thinks, thank fucking Merlin) and short cotton shorts. She sees Draco's head in the floo and notes his double take at the look of her.
"Granger, what the fuck? Are you… wait, are you sick?"
She looks down at herself. She didn't think she looked that bad. Before she knows it, she is collapsed to her knees, body crumpled under the weight of distress, crying once again and hating herself for it.
She thought… she was sure they had found the key. Desperation washes over her, desolation not far behind. Vaguely she understands that Draco says he is coming through, and then he's there. For the Draco of today, he is very comforting, placing his hands on her shoulders and trying to convince her to look at him: To explain what happened.
But for the Draco of yesterday, it's just not enough. He would have wrapped his arms around her and held her and, knowing that, realizing that Draco is gone, just makes her cry harder. She is clinging to his robes, shaking her head in a gesture that is supposed to represent that she can't speak; doesn't know what to say. He is patient but seems lost and finally her sobs taper off to shuddering breaths and she is gathering herself as best she can.
"I can't do this today," she finally manages. "I just…not again. I just need a break."
"Merlin, Granger, I know New York was a little draining, but-"
"It's not fucking New York," she hisses. "It's been weeks! It's this! It's… it's fucking you! I can't do this today…"
She's nearly too wrapped up in her own panic to notice, but manages to catch a glimpse of his face as it shutters. He's offended and hurt and building up his walls. In her current state, she isn't sure she cares. If he can't be her Draco, then what does it even matter if he hates her?
"Get some sleep, Granger," he bites out gruffly, sneering down at her as he rises to his feet. "You obviously need it."
With a billow of his robes that would impress Severus Snape, he is back through the floo, leaving Hermione to pick up the pieces of her life and her heart once again. She doesn't leave the bed for the rest of the day, forgetting to eat and napping away the hours.
Day twenty three finds her a bit lethargic but completely cried out. She showers early and, not sure what else to do with herself, decides the potion is worth another try. One failed attempt is not worth this much grief, she reasons. Her stressed and exhausted body and mind needed yesterday to fall apart. Now, it's time to press on.
By ten past seven, she is sitting in Bernice's chair, waiting; two cups of coffee on the desk.
Hermione looks up and gives him a smile. It's not quite sunny, but she is sincerely happy to see him. She is feeling apologetic, if anything, at the way she treated him yesterday. It is little consolation that he doesn't remember it. "Good morning, Draco." She stands and picks up his cup, offering it to him.
"I… thank you?" He takes the cup hesitantly. Cautiously. "What are you doing here?"
"I need to speak with you. Can I come in please?" She gestures toward his office door and follows him inside after he nods and leads the way.
Removing his robe and settling into his chair, Draco gestures for her to take the seat across from him. With no preamble, Hermione sits and leans forward, elbows on the desk. She locks in to his gaze and says clearly, "I need help. I've already spoken to Harry and he is gathering the ingredients I need. I have to make a potion today and the information I need is in Malfoy Manor." The recipe itself has been committed to her brain, of course, but Hermione is hoping to look back over anything she may have missed.
"How do you know I have what you need," he sneers. She can see him bristling at how familiar she is being and plunges forward anyway.
"Because you've taken me to your home a dozen times now. More actually."
"Not to accuse you of being memorable, Granger, but I think I'd remember taking you home." He's looking at her with that put-on disgust, voice haughty and sarcastic. On her more sensitive days, that can cut her to the quick, but after a full day of self-pity, she's back to her stronger self.
"You definitely would, but not under the circumstances." She takes a breath and starts her telling. One might think she would have the script memorized by now, but she finds it more entertaining to phrase it differently each time.
"For almost a month now, I've been living this same day. Baker botched up the Time-Turner and the result is a time loop. He's caught in it as well, actually. A few days ago, we found a lead, you and I. The first attempt was… not successful. I was hoping to try again. Will you help me please?"
He blinks and then, "Are you fucking serious?! I told you not to touch that thing!"
Hermione can't help her response. She giggles, delirious with exhaustion and almost a relief at a return to her new normal. "Oh I know, as you keep reminding me… countless times now in fact. Merlin, you're even handsome when you're exasperated at me." She shakes her head, so desperately happy to be back, talking to him. Of course her admission at finding him attractive has left him with his mouth agape and at a loss for words.
"I'm sorry. I know this is a lot to take in and I'm moving quickly today. I just want plenty of time to read the text and try the potion. Can we please head to the manor? Harry should have everything secured in a couple of hours."
"I can't believe you're serious. You're not serious… are you?"
"I'm afraid I am. And I know I can count on you because… we're partners." She gives him a smile, knowing that's exactly how he feels about it right now. She can't appeal to his emotions quite yet, but he has made it very clear that he takes their partnership seriously.
He contemplates and then nods, licking his lips. "We're partners," he agrees. "Come on, then. Let's get what you need."
She nearly responds with a flirtatious comment about Draco fulfilling her needs, but decides against it. If this doesn't work this time, she's not sure she can survive another heartbreak so soon. Keeping the day more professional is the name of the game.
They stop by Harry's office and he already has most of what they need. "I'm just waiting for Magical Creatures to give up some Unicorn hair and the nirnroot to arrive via portkey. I can bring them to the manor if you want to get started on the research."
She accepts the parcel he hands over containing the other ingredients. "Thanks, Harry. Hopefully by tomorrow… well… hopefully I'll see a tomorrow."
"Maybe there's something I missed," Hermione is saying as they walk the manor corridor to the library.
"What is the theory behind this exactly?" Draco asks, genuinely curious.
"The idea is that our bodies can be made sort of…fluid; more in tune with our magical signature and not so attached to the time stream. There are countless ways our lives could progress and mine is not going anywhere. I need to sever my ties to the time stream so I can more forward once again. The potion is supposed to aide with that. The basis seems to be part of the original Time Turner construction."
"You've really made a mess for yourself, haven't you, Granger?" He shakes his head in that way he has, two parts frustrated; one part bemused.
"You can't imagine," she agrees.
They find the research materials quickly now that Hermione knows where to look. She translates the ritual once again, asking Draco to look over the ancient runes and check that she hasn't missed anything.
"Nothing that I can tell. Is this the same way you did last time?"
She confirms, slightly disappointed to have found no error. Perhaps if she found a miscalculation, she had reasoned, then there would be an easy way to fix whatever was broken. At this rate, she is doomed to a repeat of the day before.
The second attempt at the potion is no more successful than the first. Hermione is slightly less disappointed this time around, having nearly expected it to fail. She hadn't felt any different after taking it, and they had not found any places to deviate from the original recipe and ritual.
The third attempt, on day 24, is much the same. On that day they had even consulted with Professor Flitwick, the new Potions master at Hogwarts, two Ministry archive specialists, and a retired (and curiously less grumpy) Severus Snape. None of their mentors or contacts had been able to find fault to their previous attempts and had little to offer in way of suggestions for change.
She nearly loses track after that. She knows they try the potion another handful of times, nearly a dozen, and she also takes one more day to rest and feel sorry for herself. She has run through the stages of grief for her old life, and is beginning to accept there is no way to break the cycle. On what she calculates as her thirty-sixth loop, she decides to change the monotony of her days. If this is all the life she can have, she should enjoy it occasionally.
When Frente wakes her, as they so rudely are want to do, she rises and puts on muggle clothing. In fitted jeans, a comfortable jumper that tends to enhance her breasts, and boots to the knee, she strides down the halls of the ministry with purpose, barely noticing the odd looks she receives at her less-than-professional attire.
"Good morning, Miss Granger," Bernice greets her. Hermione took time with her make-up today and enjoyed a leisurely cup of tea, refusing to rush. She finally arrived past eight in the morning, quite a bit later than her usual schedule. Her first stop had been Harry. She told him she was taking a personal day and was going to suggest Malfoy do the same. New York, she had told him, was perhaps more draining than she had let on. Harry encouraged them to take the day and thanked them yet again for the exemplary job they had done.
It was all Hermione could do not to snicker at that, knowing how spectacularly she had cocked up her life with one casual mistake.
She had been delayed still further by a surprise run in with Ron. Hermione had been distracted as she walked through the corridors, rehearsing the conversation ahead with Draco, when she had looked up to see her ex (ex-everything: ex-boyfriend, ex-partner, nearly ex-friend) walking her direction, his head down studying the front of the Daily Prophet.
Hermione had seen the moment he noticed her as it flashed across his face. There was apprehension and anger and a deep-seated disappointment, the latter she felt mimicked in her own heart. He had stopped in his tracks and made to turn down a different corridor, but Hermione decided she just wasn't having any of that.
He winced but stopped nonetheless. Wearing a polite smile, not the sunny expression with which he had favoured her for so many years, he had greeted her stiffly and more than a little wary. "Hey, 'Mione."
She approached with purpose, stalking toward him at a fast pace, and he had actually backed away as if afraid she might do him physical harm. As soon as she was within reach, she had flung her arms around his neck and held him close. His hesitation was brief, but then he sighed and enveloped her right back. "What's this about? You alright?"
She sniffed back a tear, fully aware this was a friendship her pride has nearly lost her. "I'm fine. I've just missed you." She had stepped back, and he eyed her with caution. "It just feels like we haven't talked in weeks."
He'd scrunched his brow, adorably confused, and argued, "I just saw you Thursday; 'round the coffee cart."
She'd nodded, remembering. He'd said 'hello' and she had returned a cold 'Ronald' and then she'd left for New York. She has lived what feels like a lifetime of memories since then. Instead of saying any of that she had just replied, "Yes, well, we hardly spoke then. We really haven't since…"
"Since we broke up," he finished for her and she'd nodded.
They studied each other a moment before she took a deep breath and pleasantly inquired, "So, how's Jones?"
"He's fine. Doesn't like sugar in his tea and won't eat chocolate so he's bloody weird… but fine."
She'd laughed at the sweet simplicity of Ron Weasley, missing him more than she had even realized. Not dating him. Not having to pick up after him and schedule his errands and micro-manage his correspondence, but this: Easy casual conversation with a good man and sweet friend.
She hadn't replied for more than a beat, just studied him with a fond smile, and he'd eventually asked, "You sure you're doing alright? You don't seem like yourself."
"I'm good, really. I'm just… I'm happy to see you."
He'd grinned at her. One of those honest, man-child grins that used to make her crazy when it seemed like he didn't have a care in the world. With her new perspective on life, she had started to appreciate it for the charming expression it was always meant to be. He returned her sentiment, agreeing it was nice to talk to her and seeming quite sincere.
"Hey," he'd suddenly said, "I've been meaning to ask… I mean, it might be weird to ask, but you see her a lot. Malfoy has that secretary…"
"Bernice?" He floundered a moment and she'd tried to rescue him from his own discomfort. "She's very nice, yes."
"Right… do you think… I mean, do you know if she's, you know, seeing anyone?"
She was struck at how utterly, adorably awkward he was then, realizing quickly that he was innocently asking his former girlfriend for dating advice. It was that kind of insensitivity that made their relationship unbearable, but now is oddly endearing. Ron was always impetuous, somewhat emotionally thoughtless, but also devastatingly sincere. You always knew what you would get with Ron. No secrets, no games.
"You know, I don't believe that she is. Would you like me to put in a good word?"
His smile had lit his entire face, full of wonder and gratitude. "You'd do that? I'd be really thankful, if it's not a bother."
"Not at all," she'd confirmed. "I'd be happy to." She'd smiled back, a little sad, knowing this whole conversation is irrelevant, the ground regained with her old friend for naught, until she can break her loop.
Having misread her darkened expression, Ron had ventured, "Was that…I probably shouldn't've asked right? I mean, since we were, you know… together."
"No, really, it's fine," she assured. "I think you would be good together. I just have something else on my mind."
"Anything I can do?"
"You're surprisingly helpful sometimes," she'd answered honestly, "just by being you. We should meet for coffee one morning. You, me, and Harry. I miss us, all three of us, together."
His grin had returned and he nodded. "You got it. Name the day. Just, maybe not super early. You and Harry have an unnatural love of mornings."
She had laughed at the perplexed grimace on his face, noting his honest confusion at "morning people", and had bid him a good day. She had been comforted, when she really considered it, to know that reconciliation with one of her dearest friends is within her reach. If she can just see Tuesday, it's going to be a good day.
Now, it is well past nine and Bernice is settled in with a muggle nail file and a cup of tea.
"Good morning, Bernice. I was hoping I could see my partner. I have a message from Harry."
"Oh! Oh of course!" Bernice jumps at Hermione's casual use of Harry's name, no doubt quite impressed, and fumbles to reach the contraption to speak to her boss. "Mister Malfoy, sir? Miss Granger is here with business from Mister Potter."
The groan heard from around the world, or at least through his door, emanates from his office, but he follows with a relatively polite, "Thank you. Send her in."
With a spring in her step, Hermione starts to waltz into the office, but stops just long enough to look back at Bernice and ask, "Do you know Ron Weasley?"
Her smile lights up and she answers excitedly. "Of course! Who doesn't?"
"Well, he would very much like to get to know you. I mean, if you're interested."
Bernice's eyes go wide. "Ronald Weasley would like to get to know… me?"
On Hermione's nod, the other woman squeals and Hermione takes that for a good sign. "I'll have him owl you," she says with a wink, and then skips the rest of the way into Draco's private space.
"Alright, wrap it up," she orders with a smile. "You're taking the day off."
His jaw drops and his eyes widen before he seems to shake it off and glares at her. "Trying to be rid of me, Granger?"
She laughs and boldly comes around his desk, daring to take his hand and gently pull. "Nope. I'm taking you with me actually. We've had a hard few days," she explains, referencing days of failed potions, but he doesn't know that. "I've already cleared it with Harry. We are taking the day and I'm treating you to brunch."
He jerks his hand away and folds his arms, petulant as ever. "I'm busy, Granger. I don't know what this is-"
"This is me taking your advice. I devote too much time to this job and I need a break. You, also, could use a break. Hence: Brunch." She offers him another smile, sincere as she can, given the melancholy trying to itch at the back of her brain at his hesitation. "What could it hurt," she argues. "I only bite on request."
She hopes a little flirting will nudge him along but instead he looks at her strangely. "Are you really Granger?" He makes a big show of looking toward his door, out into the corridor past Bernice's desk. "Is this a polyjuice prank? Weasley? Smith? Give it up, guys, or find a better actress."
"Am I really so awful usually?" She asks.
He surprises her with a bark of laughter. "Well... I mean, yes," he finally manages. "At least, you are to me. The fact that you started the day and refrained from calling me a ferret and a Death Eater was my first clue."
The honestly in that stings her a little. She remembers the day he started as her partner. She had greeted him with that nasty ferret moniker and, really, what kind of partner does that?
Crossing the room, she closes the door for privacy and returns to perch on the edge of his desk, just to the left of him. "You, Draco Malfoy," she says in a strong, sure voice, "are a wonderful partner, and I have been unfair to you. Let me take you out, at least. Will you give me that much?"
He searches her face. "You want to go to brunch?" She nods and waits. "Alright... let's go then."
Hermione nearly squeals like Bernice as she hops off the desk, but maintains some level of dignity.
"Where should we go? That disgusting diner Potter always drags us to?"
"I thought The Shaved Duck," she suggests. "Is that alright with you?" It seems the best way to make him comfortable this early on. She doesn't plan to tell him about the time loop today, just get to know him better without thrusting him into the role of knight in shining armour.
"That's fine. I know the owners."
"Do you?" She feigns ignorance. "How is the wine selection?"
He pulls up short just as he is about to reach the door. "Granger, it's not even ten."
She shrugs and grins," we have the day off, Draco. Besides, it's five o'clock somewhere." She winks and precedes him out the door, offering Bernice a cheeky little wave on her way past.
Brunch is lovely, if Hermione does say so herself. She keeps the conversation relatively light, speaking mostly about work and the more frivolous moments of their time in New York.
"He nearly had his hand on your arse." Draco clucks his tongue and mutters, "Americans," full of well-bred judgment, as they reminisce their first experience with a muggle taxi.
"Thankfully, I had you there to defend my honor."
Draco chuckles. "As if you need defending. If he only knew who he was being so familiar with. I'm sure you could have brought him to his knees with a wandless hex... or a good old fashioned smack to the face." She laughs at that and, since he has firsthand experience, she can't really argue the point.
The meal they share is well prepared and, being late morning on a work day, the restaurant is rather quiet. Afterward, Hermione suggests they head to Fortescue's for ice cream and is almost surprised he accepts the offer. He scoffs at her shock. "What wizard in his right mind turns down ice cream?"
Before she knows it, they are half way through their almost-matching dirigible plum sundaes and having a silly banter about the only difference between them.
"You don't put chocolate on plum, Malfoy. Obviously caramel is the proper choice."
"You put chocolate on everything, Granger. Dessert aficionado you claim to be, surely you know that," he drawls in reply.
She thinks back to his love of shortbread in that particular flavour and agrees, "Well I have been made aware that chocolate is the preferred version of nearly everything... by a very smart wizard."
He raises an eyebrow. "Hermione Granger complimented someone's intelligence? Alert the prophet."
She mock huffs at him. "I am more than capable of recognizing intelligence. After all, I'm quite brilliant and observant myself," she says with a grin. Pausing a moment, she then points her spoon at him, "You, for instance, are a rather intelligent man."
"Me? Why I'm touched you noticed."
He's still being flippant, but Hermione wants him to understand she means it. "You know, I owe you an apology."
He nearly drops his spoon but catches himself and asks for clarification. "Not that I disagree necessarily, but... why?"
"I was completely unfair to you when I learned we were going to be partners. In my defense, every other partner Harry stuck me with was a complete nightmare, and once you're burned that many times... Anyway, I should not have made an assumptions. You were top of your academy class after all."
"And second at Hogwarts," he adds. "There was just this one little swot I could never beat..."
She grins, quite pleased at the humour in his tone. She is about to quip back at him when he interrupts, placing his spoon on the table and leveling her with an intense gaze. "I should apologize to you. More than anything you've ever done, I was-"
"Stop." She shows him the palm of her hand, the universal signal to pause in thought. The conversation is about to take a turn far more serious than she wants. She's had the contrite Draco over and over again. Today, she wants to forget the abject tragedy of her recent life and just live; a handsome wizard at her side.
"You don't have to do that," she assures him. "Harry has been telling me for ages how different you've become. Even Ron told me how funny you are. Let's just get to the part where I assure you that we are on a completely clean slate together. If you'll overlook my attitude the past few days, of course."
Hermione offers her hand across the table and cocks her head to the side. "I'm Hermione, and it is a pleasure to work with you."
His hesitation is a living thing between them. She finds that the more forward she is early in the day, the more it seems to spook him. Slytherin self-preservation, she supposes. Finally, he takes her hand, and, in a move that is all Malfoy, turns her knuckles upward and kisses them delicately, murmuring, "The pleasure is mine," in his most seductive voice. He looks rather pleased with himself and she imagines he expects her to blush and stutter.
But Hermione has had her tongue down his throat and her hand on his cock. So instead she grins an almost wicked grin and answers, "We'll see about that."
They both return to their desserts, contemplating the charged atmosphere between them. When both of their spoons hit the bottom of their respective dish, Draco daintily wipes the corner of his mouth with his napkin and asks what their next stop should be.
Hermione tries to feign surprise that he intends to accompany her. Though really, if he hadn't offered, she intended to demand. "How would you like to go on an adventure with me?"
He scoffs at her. "I hope it doesn't involve an invisibility cloak and a three-headed dog. Or a secret chamber and some polyjuice potion." He considers for a moment and then retracts, "On second thought, the polyjuice could be fun. I've heard you were quite fetching with ears and a tail…"
She gasps at him just as she was starting to stand. "Who told you that?!"
Draco's answering expression is bemused and smug. "Potter. Or actually, maybe it was Weasley... Doesn't much matter, though. It's true isn't it?"
"Yes," she grouses. "It's true. And it wouldn't have happened if you weren't being such a prat!" She's on dangerous ground now and she knows it, but something about memories of their school days riles her up. He ceases being her gorgeous partner for a moment and she only sees that platinum-headed boy who taught her the wizarding world's most racist ephitet.
"Hey, I tried to apologize and you wouldn't hear it," he answers confidently. "In my mind, that means you can't throw anything pre-eighth year in my face."
"You… but… ugh! It's so irritating when you're right," she finally lands on, but a crooked little smile curls her lip as she says it, and she embraces the future instead of the past. "So, do you want to go on an adventure or not?"
He answers her with a broad smile and offers his elbow like the princeling that he was raised to be. "I'd never refuse a lady… or my partner, so you're still covered." He winks and leads her to the door. "So what is this adventure?"
"I," she announces proudly, "am taking you to muggle London." As anticipated, he stops dead in his tracks.
"Muggle London. Don't worry, I can personally guarantee you will be just fine. Muggle New York was far scarier, after all."
"And what will be we doing in Muggle London," he questions, obviously wary.
"So what is this contraption?"
Draco is gazing up at a slow moving muggle carnival attraction with mild distaste. They had walked for a while, when they first arrived in the city, popping in to muggle stores and taking in the sights. Draco is impressed by the sheer size of everything, the wizarding world being rather cramped and low to the ground by comparison. They've finally reached what Hermione thought would be a fun way to wrap up the afternoon as the sky begins to warm into the orange hue that signals evening's approach.
"This is called a Ferris wheel."
"I can see it's a wheel... but what does it do? And what's a Ferris?"
Hermione drags Draco along in the line. The ride is slowly emptying its cars and letting new riders aboard. Once they are settled and the muggle operator moves away, Hermione resumes the conversation.
"George Ferris invented the construction of the wheel, and so it's named after him."
Draco is looking down beneath them. The next car is loading, leaving Draco's long legs hanging a few feet above the ground. Hermione, being more petite, is even farther from Mother Earth. "But it's charmed right? I mean, I've not heard of him, but was Ferris a wizard? It must be… what? A perpetual motion charm?"
"Not at all; just muggle invention. It's a machine. Like cars and televisions and, you know, toasters." She almost giggles to herself with the call back to another Monday, poking a little fun at the arrogant ignorance of Lucius Malfoy. It's a shame no one else gets the joke.
They are slowly carried off the ground as more muggles are loaded below them. "What does it do then? I mean, is this it?"
"It will go faster eventually. Once everyone is on board for this circuit, it will spin a few times and we just enjoy the ride. They usually stop it a couple of times as well, so we can appreciate the view."
"Seems a lot of effort for not much purpose," he comments and Hermione can't exactly disagree. Her pride in muggle invention understandably doesn't extend to Draco, who has lived a life of fantasy compared to her own.
"The first Ferris wheel," she explains, slipping in to lecture mode, "was designed for an exposition in The States. The architects were competing with Paris where they had just unveiled the Eiffel tower for their own event. At the time, they were designing something taller than muggle buildings. It was quite the undertaking."
The wheel is picking up speed and Hermione closes her eyes, enjoying that swooping feel deep in her stomach on the drop and the elation on the rise, the breeze keeping her present and delighted. When she opens them to check on her partner, he is eyeing her curiously.
"This doesn't scare you?" He asks. "You're afraid to fly on a broom, where you have control, but this is fine?"
She shrugs, and agrees with his assertion, "I guess I just trust the science behind this. I trust magic because it is beyond my understanding and faith is the only choice. I trust ingenuity because I know theoretically how it works. What I have less faith in, however, is my own ability to sit a broom and not topple off." She laughs good naturedly at herself.
He doesn't respond for a while and then they are at the top of the wheel and it comes to the predicted stop. Hermione is gazing out and the horizon, dotted with the muggle life that is continuing below, even as hers has nearly come to a halt. She contemplates the nature of her life, now perfectly represented by this wheel. Perpetual motion with no purpose or end in sight, but at least she can find some joy on the ride.
"You aren't what I thought," he says, quietly, from beside her. She looks to find him staring once again, puzzling her out. "Or rather, you're what I thought you might be underneath… but never with me."
Hermione smiles a little sadly and parrots back, "and you are not anything like I expected. What a tragedy I almost missed it." She takes his hand and shifts closer on the small bench, their knees now touching.
When he places a hand at her waist and pulls her closer still, her breath catches, and this feels like what they are always building towards. "What changed today, Granger?" He is speaking with his nose brushing hers and she is screaming inside for him to close the distance.
"I just... I guess my perception of you," she answers as honestly as she can. "I like who you are."
"I think," he works out, licking his lips and making her shudder, "I might be rather interested in who you are as well."
It's the softest kiss yet. The sweetest, most romantic, delicate kiss; sitting above the world with the sun dipping in the sky. Her instinct to take charge, to pull him to her and deepen the contact is strong, but she resists and tries to live in this moment with this Draco. This hesitant, unsure Draco who is testing the waters of her affection.
They jolt when the ride starts to move again and look at each other with trepidation. Just when she is sure he is going to let the moment pass he asks, "Do you have other plans for us, Hermione? Or would you mind if I take the lead?"
She absolutely wouldn't mind at all and tells him as much. At this point she might follow him to the ends of the earth.
His surprise, as it turns out, she rather predicted. He secures a portkey through a friend of his mother, with very little effort or delay, and they arrive in Paris by evening. "A Tower to rival your Wheel," he tells her, and they spend their time like lovers, strolling along the riverbank and eating in a cozy restaurant with intimate tables and excellent wine.
It is midnight by the time they return and he invites her to the manor for a digestif, but she knows what he's really asking. "Maybe it's too soon," he says, seeing her hesitation.
"It's not," she denies, shaking her head. "I want to… more than you'd believe." She swallows and settles an earnest gaze on him. "I simply can't tonight. Tomorrow, Draco, you wouldn't be able to keep me from you."
She tips on her toes and lands a kiss on his lips, the last of many they will have shared tonight. "Can I hold you to that?" He asks with a lop-sided grin.
She nods once, taking a breath and tells him, "I sincerely hope you do."
Of course, acceptance being one of her accomplished stages of grief, she knows that he won't. Part of acceptance, part of grieving, is letting go. She's not certain what form that will take just yet, but she knows she can't mourn her life forever.
Hermione gives herself a couple more days of potion attempts. During which, she speaks with the foremost authority on time related magic in the Americas, a Charmed Devices professional from Germany who specializes in Time-Turners, and, completely unrelated to fixing her plight, her parents.
She secures a portkey from Harry before he even makes it to the office, noting how easy it is for him to offer his assistance, and tucking away that knowledge for future reference. Full of trepidation and fear, she travels to Perth.
Her parents and her sister, Monica, Wendell, and Hermione Wilkins, are right where she left them. Now a little girl, the younger Hermione has started into school and is excelling in all subjects. Hermione is allowed a visitor's pass, a little Confundus going a long way, and introduces herself to the girl as a relative she's never met. Shrewd little thing that she is, she studies her for some time before determining precociously, "Well, you do have Mother's nose."
She spends a short time with the girl, and then says she is going to surprise her mum and dad. She's able to glean that her mother isn't at their dental practice today, having taken Monday as her personal time not accepting appointments. Hermione would love to see her father as well, but she will take advantage of her mother being at home.
Her mother answers the door and recognizes her immediately. Unfortunately, she recognizes the young girl she met 'on holiday' a few years before, not her wayward daughter.
"I'm sorry to disturb you, Missus Wilkins. I was wondering if I could talk to you. It's rather important."
The woman, welcome and motherly as she remembers, invites her in for tea and ushers her into a sitting room just off the main entryway.
"Maybe I don't know you well enough to judge, but you look like you've seen a ghost, my dear." Her mother lays a tray of biscuits on the table in front of her tea and then has a seat on the sofa next to Hermione.
She takes a breath and makes no comment as to her haggard appearance. She knows she has looked better. A month looping the same Monday, and then confronting your mother who doesn't remember you, is all rather stressful.
"I need to try to explain something to you, and I'm not sure how to go about it. I know you will have trouble believing me, but I can't… just please listen and… I have pictures…" Hermione breaks down then, sobbing as the woman sits a little stiffly beside her. She's uncomfortably aware that she is only making the situation more awkward and tries to get herself under control.
"You're a pretty thing," Monica finally says quietly, as Hermione's sobs taper off.
She looks up to find her mother looking a little angry, and, also, quite sad. "I'm sorry, what? I mean, thank you, I guess, but I don't understand…"
"He's not been right since we had our daughter. I couldn't put my finger on it, but it's like he's missing…some piece of himself. But I never thought…I was sure he loved me enough…"
Hermione is looking at her mother in abject and unapologetic confusion. "I don't understand. Who-"
"Wendell. I suppose you've come to beg forgiveness? To confess your sins with my husband?"
Everything clicks and Hermione, bright girl that she is, realizes her mother has just jumped to the conclusion that she is having an affair with her father.
"No! Oh no, you misunderstand. I came to tell you… oh, Merlin, you'll never believe me…" She steels herself and levels her mother with a sincere look. "I've come to tell you that I am your daughter. I know you don't remember having me, but it's true. I have photos and documents that will go a long way to prove it, but you're going to have to take a leap of faith. I can also explain why your husband hasn't seemed himself the last few years. He likely thinks the same of you."
And so she begins. She explains everything and her mother sits unnaturally quiet through most of it. She doesn't mention magic or spells yet, keeping the conversation more on her mother's missing memories of their past. Hermione knows her mother, scientific and educated woman that she is, is struggling to reconcile the life she remembers with the photos she's being presented. Not digital, easily enhanced photos either. Polaroids with the tell-tale white strip, show a beaming Monica, nee Jean Granger, holding an infant Hermione. Next, a toothless little girl is photographed holding a drill in her parents' old dental practice. She shares images of birthdays and Christmas celebrations and countless candid shots of her parents doing all the things they love to do, Hermione right along with them.
Her mother studies them, not speaking for a long time. "How is this… if this is true, why can't I remember?"
Hermione swallows. "It's something I did. Your memory is gone and it's my fault. I'm so, so sorry."
"Like… like an accident?"
"Sort of," she admits. "I can tell you more, but I'd like Dad to be here maybe and… and I just want to be sure this is what you want. You have a new life now, and you don't remember everything from England and… I mean, you have a daughter," she whispers.
Hermione lets the tears that have welled in her eyes wash down her cheeks and looks away. A soft hand reaches and wipes away one wet track. "If this is true," her mother starts carefully, "you don't think I have enough love for two daughters? You can't possibly think-" She cuts off and tilts Hermione's face to look at her. Searching her glassy eyes, her mother finishes, "You can't think I won't love you if you're my daughter. It might take time to get to know you, but I would never… I want to know everything about you."
Hermione breaks all over again and sobs into the woman's shoulder. This beautiful, kind, fierce woman who was her home for so long. They stay that way for some time more, talking about England and the old practice and memories the woman finally understands are vague because they are incomplete. When Wendell arrives, he finds them sitting over an empty pot of tea and nothing but crumbs on the biscuit tray.
"Well hello, young lady. You were that… Jean, was it? On holiday not long after Monica and I moved here."
Going through it all again with her father is just as heartbreaking, but by the time the younger Hermione makes it home from her after-school elective art class, they have assured her time and again they want to know everything. That they want her in their lives.
The little girl seems quite bored with the adult conversation going on around her, until Hermione leans her direction and stage whispers, "Do you believe in magic, Hermione."
The little girl looks at her parents, like she's asking permission, and then answers, unsure. "I believe in it, but no one else does. Everyone says I have accidents, but I can make the accidents happen."
"Oh, Hermione," her mother chastises, like this is a conversation they've had often and she's too exhausted of it to say more.
Knowing there is so much more to be discussed, elated at the bond she could have with this vivacious girl, but realizing that her day is running short, she tells the family that she has much more she wants to share with them, but exhaustion from her travel is catching up with her. They tell her they will cancel their days tomorrow, contacting clients first thing in the morning, so they can learn everything that happened to their older daughter and themselves.
Hermione knows they won't remember tomorrow, but hope has blossomed in her heart. Finally, inexplicably, there is a chance for her and her parents. They can never regain the memories they lost, but she can share more and more now that she knows they are willing: That they can forgive her… love her again. She is determined now, more than ever, to change her fate and live her life.
On day thirty nine, she tries one last determined effort at the potion. When it seems no different than the previous days, she tells a Draco who is less emotionally invested than usual, that she is about to do something desperate. He warns her against letting the recklessness she shares with the late Godric Gryffindor make her do foolish things, but her mind at this point is nearly made up.
That afternoon and into the evening, she starts to research as best he can, preparing herself on what steps she would take in a last ditch effort to save her own life.
Hermione arrives at the Ministry just as Draco does, nearly running in to him in front of his office door.
"Granger, wh-?" She cuts him off, flinging herself against him and crushing her lips into the crevices of his.
She woke feeling purposeful today, after not sleeping terribly well and dreaming of Draco under the Paris lights. She is going to take control of her life in every way she can.
Feeling him struggle a bit, she lets him pull away from her, but doesn't release him. He looks down at her with shock, and she apologizes. "I'm sorry. I know this is probably surprising."
"Surprising? Yes, I'll say s-"
"But I can't waste a moment of today. Today is all I have," she chokes out, and it must be something in her vulnerable expression, but he stops trying to extract himself from her hold and studies her face.
"Are you alright, Granger?"
Shaking her head, she answers, "I'm really not… and I think I'm going to do something about it."
He finally pulls away now, and she allows it, but he opens his office door and leads her through with his hand on her back. "Come inside. Tell me what's happened."
Hermione allows herself to be placed in the guest chair at his desk but stubbornly holds on to his hand. Finally, he gives up on breaking the hold and drops to his knees in front of her. "What's going on with you?"
"Gods, Draco… I'm so tired of telling you this…"
His confusion is expected, but he waits patiently, and she finally delves into her story, giving an abridged version of her general predicament.
"How many times did we try the potion?" he asks, after she explains the theory.
"A handful. I've been thinking about it the past few loops, and I think maybe it's not strong enough. Like the Turner already made my body susceptible to an unnatural course, and the potion can't counteract it."
Draco is thoughtful for a moment, and she notices he is tracing his thumb over her knuckle. She had refused to release her hold on him the past few minutes, and he no longer seems to mind.
"And the rest?" he finally says quietly.
She looks at him for clarification, and he nods his head at her, indicating, she supposes, her general demeanor. "The kiss, Granger. What else happened between us?"
She sniffles through a soft laugh. "Oh. Yes, that." He waits patiently while she collects herself, and then she places her free hand on his cheek. "We've spent so much time together," she begins. "I can't even put into words…"
"You could try-" he starts to demand, but she cuts him off, locking her gaze onto his soulful grey eyes.
"I love you. And I think… you might feel something for me, too. Or, you have at least. You could. I took you to Muggle London yesterday," she chuckles, "and it wasn't even the first time. We've shared dinners at The Shaved Duck because it's the only local place that gives you the respect you deserve. I told you about my parents and how I lost them to my own stupidity during the war."
He looks at her in question, and so she explains, "I erased myself from their minds and sent them out of the country to keep them safe. They have a new life now and another daughter, and I'm mostly alone."
"What the fuck, Granger?" He's startled by her admission and seems to have questions, but she doesn't want to dwell on this part of her story. She wants to talk about him. About them.
She takes a breath and removes her other hand from his, placing it on the other side of his face. "You have been compassionate and generous with me in a way I never expected, and every day, you started out only thinking of me as a partner at best. You're funny and, fuck, devastatingly handsome," she grins, "and I'm grateful I've been able to see that. To know you."
He's looking at her dumbstruck, and Hermione drops her hands. Sitting up straighter, she takes a breath before she reveals, "I think what I have to do, is to secure a working Time-Turner and go back to stop myself from getting stuck in this. I believe… I'm nearly certain that's the only way to get out."
"If you do that," he works out, "you… this you… will vanish."
She nods and answers sadly, "I know. But if I don't, I'll be stuck like this and die living this same day over and over. It's starting to break my heart. Every day, starting out with you like this… disliking me and questioning me… it hurts."
"I don't dislike you," he denies, but she shakes her head sadly.
"Yes, you do. You don't hate me. You've told me that, and I believe you. or we would never get as close as we do by day's end. But you don't care for me and, honestly? I don't blame you. I've been rude and dismissive of you in the short time we've worked together, and you didn't deserve it. You deserve… so much more. I just hope, when all of this is done, I find my way back to you."
"This is insane. I mean, don't you think we should take another look at the potion?"
Hermione sighs, "We have. I mean we tried more than once and barely deviated from the original."
"I want to see it." This is her decisive Draco, the one she used to think was arrogant and now she admires for his resolve. "Let me see what we've done. I want to take another look."
She smiles at him a little sadly but agrees. "Let's go to the manor. But first-"
She's cut off when, right on cue, Harry's owl arrives to cancel lunch. She tips her head toward the parchment as she takes it and finishes, "I just need to tell Harry we'll be taking a personal day."
"What's that?" He gestures toward the message as she is writing her reply.
"Harry canceling lunch. Imagine how annoyed I was with him when he did it an entire week before I realized I was looping."
Draco raises an eyebrow. "It took you a week? I thought you were supposed to be bright." That teasing quality is already showing through his snark, and Hermione grins.
"Oh, I'm absolutely brilliant," she laughs, "but apparently my life is so methodical it takes a week to figure out the days are exactly the same. Since then though," she assures him, "I've tried to make the most of it. Come on, let's take a look at that potion before I do something drastic. At least, I can spend one more day with you." Melancholy washes over her, but she hides it behind a smile and leads the way to the floo.
Draco and Hermione spend two hours looking over the potion, the runic translation, and the books on potion theory they used the last few days to confirm their recipe. In her reply to Harry's lunch cancellation, she had requested the usual potion ingredients as well, just in case.
"There has to be something…" Draco is staring at one of the older of their reference books and becoming visually frustrated. He has one leg crossed at the ankle, foot bouncing in agitation, and finally he tosses the book aside. "This is fucking ridiculous. There has to be some way... something we did wrong."
Hermione closes her own book and shakes her head sadly. "Believe me, I wish that was the case. I don't… I don't want to lose all of this. These past weeks."
Moving from the fireside chair in which she has been lounging, Hermione joins Draco on their usual sofa, laying her head back against the cushions in defeat. Giving him a sideways glance she continues, "My worst nightmare, when I discovered I was aging, was that I might be stuck doing this forever. Damned to an infinite number of this exact Monday. But now… considering changing it all… I think my nightmare is losing this perception of you."
She sits up and takes his hand and then pulls them both to their feet. "Come on. Nothing is happening here today. Let's go get something to eat and just…" She trails off and laughs, changing direction. "I was going to say I could get to know you better, but I actually know you pretty well. Let me tell you about me, and you can decide if you'd like a repeat of one of our more intimate encounters."
She winks and he grins at her. "You can't vanish. I like you much better than yesterday."
Hermione shrugs as they walk toward the floo. "I'm still me. I've not really changed much."
"You certainly have to me."
"Yes, well," she concedes, "that's because I assumed you were still a giant prat, and I was terribly misinformed. Don't tell anyone, but occasionally I get things wrong."
He shakes his head and her and agrees, "I wouldn't dream of it. Shaved Duck?"
And they spend another meal, one of many, but, Hermione secretly knows, possibly the last. Over appetizers they talk about some of the days they've spent together. Hermione regales him with stories of his muggle experiences, dinners they've shared, wine they've drank. By the main course, they move on to the heavy topic of the war. Draco apologizes, and Hermione waves it off. She admits Harry and Ron have been telling her for months that Draco is a "good bloke", but she, in her usual stubborn way, had to see it for herself. "Now, I have seen it," she tells him, gripping his hand across the table. "I've seen it every day for weeks. I meant what I said this morning. I don't know how much it resonated at the time, but, Draco… I'm in love with you."
They are leaned close, food forgotten, and he is running his thumb over her knuckles once again. "I wish I could remember it all," he says, and she nods in sorrowful agreement.
"What about adjusting the incantation to include 'vitae' in conjunction with 'tempus'?"
They are back at the manor library and Draco is suddenly even more engaged than he had been. She curled against him this time, feet beneath her and his arm around her shoulder. Revealing her feelings for him opened a floodgate of her own action. She is taking absolutely no care to be aloof or emotionally removed.
"We tried that," she tells him. "On the third try. It was one of your suggestions."
He nods, not seeming to know what to do. Glancing at the clock, Hermione sees the day is nearly at its end. "Draco, I think I might have to-"
"No. You're not using a bloody Time Turner, Granger. You could lose too much." He seems far more agitated than he should be, and she tries again, gently.
"It's alright, Draco. I've resigned myself. I'll just start over, and I'll never know-"
"And I'll never know," he bites out, glaring at her but gripping her hand.
He argues vehemently and finally she relents, unable to find another way of escape. "I'm just going to go to the Ministry to check something in the archives. I shouldn't be too long."
He gives her an anguished expression but nods, and she calls for the Ministry from his floo.
Already after four, her time is growing short, and she makes for Harry's office immediately. He's still there, of course, and she slams the door behind her.
He looks up startled, and she stops him before he can ask too many questions.
"Do you trust me, Harry?"
Surprise flashes across his features before he agrees, "Of course I do. With my life."
"I need your help, and I need you not to ask anything. And if Draco comes in, tell him I went to the archives for some research and I'll meet him back here when I'm finished. Can you do that?"
He only hesitates a moment and then nods. "Of course. Anything you need, Hermione."
With a breath to hide the panic building inside, she calmly asks Harry for what he needs and then disappears, portkey in hand, to destinations unknown.
Promising Draco not to do anything rash, and then running headlong into her plan, is probably the hardest thing she's ever done.
The second hardest is actually making it happen.
Securing a working Time-Turner is enough to have her Kissed in Azkaban. It takes much of what is left of her day, but she manages it nonetheless.
Even with the benefit of immediate travel by portkey, it is well into the evening by the time she secures the Turner. It is a testament to her reputation and that of Harry Potter that she was even able to do so when Baker had such trouble repairing his. She assures Mister Hoshikari, at the Wizarding Japanese consulate, that it was vital Auror business that led her to them, and that the artifact would be used with responsibility and care. Harry's letter, written with no questions asked, gives her the credentials to seal the deal.
Please assist Auror Granger in any way possible. She is currently involved with a delicate assignment and we appreciate your cooperation and discretion. She has our highest clearance to access information and tools to achieve her objective.
The Polyjuice she requires for her plan is much easier to source. A stoic Professor Snape had sneered at her, but agreed to gift her a vial from his private stores in exchange for her promise to get him out of 'that blasted Hogwarts reunion spectacle'. She had glimpsed a half-naked Luna Lovegood, cheerily eating cereal at the island in his kitchen, and given him a raised brow as she took her leave. He smirked devilishly and closed the door in her face. That explains his improved attitude during their floo call days before.
She's sure Draco is in a panic by now and tries not to think about the trust she is breaking. The look on his face when she left told her he didn't fully believe her excuses. It is fortunate he won't remember her betrayal. Fortunate and devastating, all at once.
Hermione takes a breath and twists the charmed device to deposit her in the past. She sets herself back one day before the incident, hoping to leave as much of the future intact as possible.
Travelling to New York eats up much of her preparation time. She travels the muggle way, careful not to leave a Wizarding trail through floo networks or portkeys. Hermione lands at Laguardia International Airport with only a matter of hours to spare, and makes her way into the city.
Finding the hapless muggle looking for a taxi, is surprisingly easy. He must have been trying to hail a cab for some time that day before he tried to steal hers. He doesn't seem the overconfident type. Certainly not the kind to shamelessly proposition a stranger getting in a cab. Confounding him and leaving him wandering away in search for a calzone, she quickly finishes her potion with one of his stolen hairs and waits for the moment to arrive.
Suddenly, it's her cue, and she puts on her best sneer, and passable accent, and shouts, "Hey Lady! You gettin' in that cab or not?"
She watches her other self look up in disgust and steels herself for a believable performance. "I am, yes." Merlin, do I always sound so haughty?
Hermione lets the borrowed eyes of the muggle man pan down her other body and offers, "Well, maybe we could share then. Where are you headed, Sweetheart? I don't mind taking a little detour…"
Now is the tricky part. Pretending to be oblivious to the past Hermione's disdain, she moves the stranger's body close and settles a light touch onto the back of her jacket, acting as though to help guide her into the car. As subtly as she can, she drops a vial wrapped in a bit of parchment in the pocket of her smart little business coat.
She barely has time to cast the nonverbal spell on Hermione's hands that will act as a shield from actually touching the Time-Turner. Her past self might handle the item in the scuffle, but it will be as if she's wearing surgical gloves. She hopes it's enough.
Then, her plan complete, Hermione is muscled out of the way when Draco steps between her and her other self.
"Slide over, love. Let's not keep the driver waiting."
It hurts, seeing him. And yet she also can't help but feel a flush of affection that, even then, even when she was a bossy little nightmare to him, he still came to her rescue like a gentleman. She looks up and locks eyes with the other Hermione who looks like she might say something, but, as quickly as it came, the moment is over and the door to the cab is closing between them.
She walks, after that. She knows she only has a short time before this either works or before she learns she has just damned herself to some new eternal hell.
Grabbing a cup of coffee, she finds herself in Central Park taking in the beauty of life. All the mundane details of existence are suddenly very bright and full of color. There is no precise moment of reflection, listening to the laughter of a child or seeing herself in the love of an elderly couple as they walk by. It is much more subdued but no less profound. The feel of a breeze across her exposed skin, the sounds of cars in the distance, marking the chaos and vibrancy of life for so many people, the pattern of her own breath, striking a beat that is the essence of life.
She's alone when it happens. A pretty brunette on a lonely bench in a city of millions. Tucked away as she is, hidden by the trees barely lit in the moonlight, one moment she is a witch who fears and loves and laughs and the next…
I love you, Draco.
…she is gone.
"Why didn't you wait for me," Draco growls at her.
"You don't just wait when there's a Time-Turner involved. He could have been anywhere in a blink."
"Partners, Granger. We're fucking partners. Use that charmed galleon next time. It's there for a reason." He's jerking Baker into a sitting position and weaving additional spells to be certain the man can't release himself. The Time-Turner is laying on the ground, glittering in the low light.
Hermione bends to touch it and Draco barks, "Don't! Do not touch that. Merlin, Granger, how did you survive the war? Reckless fucking Gryffindors…"
"I've already touched it, Malfoy. It's broken. He was turning it like mad and yet here we both are."
He screws up his mouth and Hermione thinks of a little boy, trying hard to find a reason for his own petulance. "It's protocol."
She rolls her eyes but uses her wand to levitate the thing into her bag, settling it within the fabric of an old striped scarf she carries, just in case, and sealing it inside.
Baker is still muttering about the Turner, unable to believe it didn't work. He continues talking to himself as Draco and Hermione pull out their emergency portkey and prepare for the trip home. They've only been gone a couple of days. This was one of the most successful missions in DMLE history.
Baker's words resonate with her as she makes her way home. Imagining the tangible concept of time, and the implications of altering it, is a little complex even for her brilliant mind. She pours herself a glass of wine and slips off her shoes.
Her jacket is the next to go, slipping it from her shoulders, when suddenly she feels a weight that shouldn't be there. It's small, but she reaches in her pocket to find a vial with a parchment wrapped around it.
If you are reading this, then at least the potion was good for something, keeping these memories tangible in your time line.
I, and by that I mean you, have been stuck in a time loop for weeks. The memories here will answer any questions you have. Going back before the loop, stopping us from beginning it at all, was the only way I could see to get us out of it.
I need you to know a few things. First, that your friendship with Ron is worth so much more than your petty grudge. Second, you must seek out your parents. They will be surprised, of course. They will have questions. But I think in the end, they will accept you. They might even love you again, if you're patient with each other. Your sister is going to need you when she gets her letter. She's already manifesting accidental magic. Don't make her go through this alone like you did.
The third, and possibly most important thing I need you to know, is that Draco Malfoy is the most wonderful wizard you've ever met. I know what you're thinking and stop it. Watch the memories. You'll see.
When you see him, please give him the other note I've left here.
She unfolds the second note that was wrapped within the first. Hermione is fighting panic and disbelief against intense curiosity, and decides it's not a breach of privacy to read a letter she herself supposedly wrote, right?
I know I'm bossy and difficult. I know you think I hate you. But we could have something truly amazing, if both of us will let it happen. You're my only regret, leaving this cycle behind. I can't bear the thought that all of this will be lost, that you'll hate me again, and I'm begging you, please help me. Be patient with me. Make sure that we find each other again.
I love you.
She eyes the vial, feeling dumbstruck and confused. It's too late to do anything now, being already past midnight and being too exhausted for a grand adventure, but first thing tomorrow she will find a Pensieve and take a look at these so called memories. She has a doubtful, disbelieving nature, but this is her handwriting, and it seems too far-fetched to not have merit. Tomorrow, she reasons, first thing. She will set her alarm like usual and find out if there is anything to this supposed future.
She looks up to find Draco barreling toward her, nearly shoving witches and wizards out of his way. She has never seen him quite this intense, except maybe in some of those memories her future self had given her.
Hermione had woke at six in the morning with a splitting headache to a melodic cover of Bizarre Love Triangle and promptly rolled over to get more sleep. Her eyes had snapped open only moments later when she remembered she still had the vial of memories of a day she was supposed to have repeated. She had checked the item for dark magic or traces of curse and found none.
A floo call to Hogwarts later, and she was standing in Headmistress McGonagall's office asking for a favour. "I'm sorry to come on such short notice. I just had these memories to view and it's not entirely Auror business."
Her old Head of House had waved away her apologies. "I assure you, it is no trouble. Please feel free to use my office. I will be looking after the students during breakfast then teaching the first two periods, so you will have your privacy."
Hermione was quite grateful, after the fact, to have had the room to herself. She had emerged from the Pensieve an emotional wreck. The days the other her had spent in fear, the turmoil she had experienced, and most heart wrenching of all, her farewell with Draco Malfoy, left her reeling.
"We'll find a way, Hermione. Don't fucking give up."
"Draco, it's not like I will actually die," she had reasoned with him patiently. "The me from New York will just move forward as I was intended to do."
"I don't know that version of you!" He had roared at her, and she had realized his anger was a mask for his abject hurt. "I don't know her and she doesn't know me. I know this Hermione. I care about this Hermione," he had entreated softly and she observed herself melt into him, tears tracking her cheeks during their final kiss. She had watched herself lie to him then, assure him she would return after a trip to the ministry, and then subsequently start her trek to the past.
In the end, Hermione only managed to watch a small collection of what seems to be an endless supply of memories. What little she sees, is enough to feel like she's broken her own heart.
She had left Hogwarts with a lump in her throat and her stomach in knots only to find herself walking into her office in early evening. She's not even sure why she's here. She had already told Harry she was heading to Hogwarts for some personal research. She's sure he would understand if she just took the day. Then, Draco… well, he won't care one way or another where she's been, or so she thought.
She had spent the bulk of the day watching then replaying the select memories, striving for understanding; committing them to her own library of knowledge as if she had lived it. Part of her, a version of her, actually had. It's hard to accept that this 'what could have been' is also 'what actually was'. Does that make it just as real as the life she will go into now?
"Malfoy?" She watches his approach with trepidation, unsure what he will do when he reaches her. She has intended to give him the note and share what information she can. Only, he looks so angry, and she has to somehow reconcile the man she saw in her own memories with this version of him: This Malfoy that just returned from New York with her and now seems really irate that she… that what? That's she's late to the office? Why is he so angry?
"How dare you! I've been looking everywhere for you!"
"I… sorry?" Hermione is stunned and stands stiffly as he reaches her and grabs her upper arms in a solid but somehow gentle grip.
"Where have you been?" Draco is searching her face and her breathing speeds with her pulse. Was he worried for her perhaps? His thumb strokes her cheek and he mutters "I thought I'd lost you. I was sure you were going to…"
He stops then, and it isn't until his lips connect with hers that she realizes what's happening. She feels as much relief as fear for what is to come. "Draco," she tries, gently pulling her lips away.
"Hermione." He mumbles it against her mouth like a prayer and she feels her knees go a little weak.
"You remember?" She asks. "You know about the time loop?"
He looks confused and pulls back to search her face. "Of course I do. I just saw you this this afternoon-" Draco stops, his hands dropping from her arms as he looks her over. "You did it," he says without question. "You're different… You're not that Hermione."
Inexplicably, tears well in her eyes and she feels a rush of guilt and shame; like she stole something from him. From them both.
Softly, she tells him what she can. "I…I went back… The other me did. She stopped me from touching the Turner and… she gave me this." Pulling the note and the vial from her pocket, she shows him the swirling memories and parchment. "There's a note for you, too."
Looking down, at her hand, he takes the offered letter and begins to read. He's staring hard at the parchment and taking purposeful breaths. After a time, he gestures to the vial and asks, "Have you seen them? Her memories."
Nodding, she explains, "Some of them. That's what I was doing most of today. I… I feel like I've lost something important." Her eyes continue to leak silent tears, and she can't help the apology, "I'm so sorry."
"I only had one day," he says tragically. "You stormed in to my life not ten hours ago, and, somehow, you nearly made me love you by just telling me I should."
She tries for levity but it comes out more of a sob, "I'm bossy like that."
His own answering laugh is also weak and sorrowful. Then he levels her with a sincere stare and says clearly, "I begged you not to go."
"I know," she whispers. "I saw it. And now… I don't even know where to go from here."
A thought occurs to her and she asks, "Wait, how is it that you remember? If I changed it all, you should never have known I was looping."
Draco reaches into a pocket and pulls out a vial that is very familiar. It was in the memories she has just viewed. "Is that…"
"The potion. When you went off Merlin knows where, and I thought maybe I should try it again. And then, I was thinking, if you had done something completely stupid, which you did… I thought, maybe it would do something for me. Keep me from moving on into a time line when you were still looping. I may have altered it a little; added something to bind me to the current day rather than simply making me fluid. When you left I had a feeling you were about to do something insane. And, so, here we are."
Her head is reeling at this. He took a modified, untested potion when he thought she would be leaving him. All the memories she has just seen make sense. The way she had fallen for him so quickly, without question, and it's no wonder why. "I loved you," she says. "I could see it… nearly feel it. And the memories… Merlin, Draco, how could I not. You're the most complicated, compelling, compassionate-"
"I like your adjectives for me a lot better than the ones Weasley got," he interjects and she laughs, remembering barely a week ago when she was thrust into this partnership she hadn't wanted, letting loose a tirade on her red-headed friend with words beginning with "I". Which, she reflects on the lessons learned in the select memories she just viewed, is another relationship she needs to salvage.
"It's only been a day," he notes. "I've begun falling for you in one fucking day. It seems like we haven't really lost too much time…right?" He's searching her face for confirmation, and she is faced with the sincere and open man from her own voyeured memories.
She nods, hesitantly. Though she will still mourn the weeks she lost, their history for him is only a few hours old. "Would you like… to see them? The memories? I only watched a few. It was overwhelming." She bites her lip and adds, "They're yours as much as mine."
He contemplates and she is sure he will tell her no, but then he offers his arm. Hermione slips hers through the crook and, though she only watched their days as an observer, something about the sensation of his touch feels like home. "I think I'd like that. Maybe we could grab a coffee on the way? I know a-"
"Café on the corner?" she finishes with him.
He raises a brow in question but guesses rightly, "I feel like you might still have me at a disadvantage."
She offers a tired smile and promises, "I won't exploit it too much."
They walk silently for a while and have nearly reached their destination when Hermione pulls up short, tugging on his arm. "Draco?"
He looks down in question and Hermione uses his surprise to give him a soft kiss, just at the corner of his mouth. "I don't want to waste any time with you. I've seen who you are and… I want you to know that I'm...I'm open. To trying. To knowing you. I just don't want us to let this slip by."
She's not feeling terribly eloquent, but he seems to understand anyway and nods at her. "We won't," he assures. "I'm not letting you go again anyway, so it's a moot point." He smirks, and the expression no longer seems cruel to her, as much as devilish in the best possible way.
Satisfied, Hermione follows him into a café she's seen them frequent; follows him without question into an unknown future.
Draco wakes slowly to the sun warming his back, the light of a new day flooding through the large windows of his rooms, and a soft figure pressed against him. He feels her shift in her sleep, snuggling back into him and pressing her arse into the curve of his body.
It had been nearly unspoken between them that Hermione would stay the night at the manor, neither wanting to risk the reality of waking to the same nightmare of a loop as before. There had been a concern between them that, having consumed the potion created to fool time, Draco might end up in his own continuous nightmare. Coupled with the fear that Hermione might still somehow still be affected, neither wanted their night to come to a solitary end.
After enjoying a cup of coffee yesterday evening and some rather heavy conversation, they hadn't wanted to waste more time. By seven, they were both ready to see the weeks they had spent together.
Hermione had suggested Hogwarts for the viewing, but Draco quickly suggested they make use of the one in his manor's Solarium. The truth was, even if he didn't own a Pensieve, he hadn't really wanted to see the Headmistress. Reformed though he might be, forgiven in an official capacity by the Wizarding world, he still feels immense shame around the older Order members.
"You have your own Pensieve?" She had asked, incredulous.
Draco, in his usual way of hiding discomfort with haughty snark, had scoffed at her. "Of course I do. What, you think I'm some sort of peasant?"
He had known the likelihood that she would bristle at that. His particular brand of humour, especially when hiding real emotion, can be rather off-putting. Especially, in his recent experience, with the somewhat sensitive Hermione Granger.
Instead, she had chuckled and answered, "Oh, obviously not. Lead on then, Your Highness."
And so, they had travelled together and landed in the manor's north side (the closest family apparition point to the room that is their destination).
He had watched his partner pull up short when she turned the corner to find his mother lounging in front of the massive windows, bathed in the soft glow of moonlight through the panoramic windows.
"Oh, Draco darling, I hadn't expected you."
"I apologize for disturbing you. I wonder if I might steal the room to utilize the Pensieve?" He had gestured to the corner, but Narcissa's eyes never left Hermione. "You remember my partner, Hermione Granger, of course," he had introduced and waited, with a held breath, for the two most powerful witches in his life to decide if things were going to be complicated.
Hermione had only taken a moment before offering a polite smile. "It's lovely to see you, Missus Malfoy."
Narcissa, likewise, only waited a beat before she responded in kind. "You as well, Miss Granger." Rising, she nodded to them on her way to the door. "I'll just step out and let you have your privacy. Draco, my dove, should we require an extra setting for breakfast?"
Draco had been stunned at her perception as much as the welcoming offer. He'd glanced at Hermione and, not wanting to be presumptuous, answered, "It might depend on how late our business concludes. I'll alert Pipsy in the morning."
"Very well. Good evening, darling. Miss Granger."
They had both been rather shy after that, fully aware of the implications and possibilities between them. Draco had found in Hermione, in a remarkably short time, an intriguing, intelligent, and stunningly sexy companion, who had seemed to care deeply for him in return. Unfortunately, she remembers none of it.
Of course, to be honest, he remembers very little first hand; only what Hermione had told him. The woman who had come to him that morning had been so different than the one he'd known the past few days. She was open to him emotionally and made him feel like there was something in him she valued. Potter had told him for ages she really wasn't the harpy he had seen, but that Draco himself brought out the worst in her. Even Weasley, for all the vitriol he had witnessed between them, had cautioned Draco not to judge her purely by what had been a poisonous and doomed relationship. It was probably the most self-reflective he'd ever seen the man.
This morning, the woman pliant and warm in his arms, he has finally seen the witch her friends know her to be.
Closing off the room after his mother's departure and warding for privacy from the elder Malfoys and even the elves, they had clasped hands and fallen into the memories with a great deal of trepidation. Together, they watched themselves share meals, philosophical conversation, intelligent debate, and, finally, kisses so intimate they made them blush.
He had felt immeasurable discomfort and sympathy when they relived the memory after the first failed potion. They'd watched as she had awoken alone and broken down completely; his own heart hurting to watch her shatter, alone in her flat. Draco pulled Hermione out of the memory for a much needed respite, and they sat together reliving what they'd seen. He held her hand and pulled her close, comforting her against the shadow of her forgotten emotions.
They had forged ahead and continued until the final day, Hermione having bottled memories all the way up until her desperate bid to use the Time-Turner to break her cycle. The memories did not comprise every moment of every day, but rather, highlights of each one. They had not been spared the hard parts, though; reliving together the bad days as well as the blissful. He is glad for that, knowing this comprehensive selection of memory is a true picture of who they are together. Not perfect, but real. That, in his estimation, is even better than perfection.
In the end, they had come out drained, emotionally spent, and looked at each other for a long time, unsure how to proceed.
"Stay," he had finally said, his voice hoarse and quiet, glancing at the time and seeing it well past two. "Please, don't leave. I want to know you don't disappear."
She hadn't argued, answering that she was equally invested in seeing him with the sunrise. It wasn't questioned that she would sleep in his bed. She crawled into the crookof his arm as if she'd always belonged. They had lain together until even later in the night, talking about what they had witnessed and what it meant for them going forward.
Now, morning dawning through the manor windows, Draco has never been happier to see a new day. He imagines that opinion is shared by his curly-haired partner as well.
Pulling her tighter against him, Draco nuzzles a line up the back of her neck and breathes out against her, "You're still here."
He listens as she replies with a happy hum of agreement. "So are you."
Draco brushes her hair aside to press delicate kisses against her neck, one arm snaking around to turn her face to him. "Good morning," she whispers and settles into place securely.
"Morning, love. What should we do today?"
She grins and hedges, "Well, we are expected at the office."
He huffs a bemused laugh and assures her, "We are most definitely taking a personal day, Granger."
"Oh? Then did you have plans for us?" She gives him a smile that is somehow both shy and coquettish and his heart thrums in his chest.
Running a hand down her side, he settles just above her knee and then trails a path up her leg, pushing the skirt of her gown up on the way until his hand is resting on the top of her thigh. He is testing his resolve as much as hers; his bravery against that of his witch.
"Oh…" she breathes in surprise but is trying to keep up with the banter. "Then I suppose I'm suddenly free." She hesitates a moment before placing her own hand at the waist band of his shorts and says, "It occurs to me I made you a promise."
"Did you? What was that?"
"Well," she says slowly, seemingly for affect, "it is Tuesday."
Draco hesitates, tasting his next words in his mouth. He licks his lips at the bitterness of their reality. "You know, I would never hold you to that. That promise… it isn't really yours to keep."
She gives him a sad smile and argues, "It is. I want it to be. Unless, do you look at me and not… not see her?"
"Of course not. You are her, but you still felt differently about me yesterday. About us. I know you're not there yet, and I can wait-"
She cuts him off with her lips on his then shakes her head firmly. "You don't have to play the gentleman anymore. If you can nearly fall in a day, so can I. I'm her, and I know what I want."
Draco groans in relief and kisses her soundly, sliding his hand around the curve of her thigh to cup her arse beneath her gown, smoothing reverently over her skin.
"You're sure?" He confirms, tasting a line under her jaw and hoping very much that she is.
"I'm sure," she returns, and then there is very little else that needs to be said.
Shifting to loom over her, Draco concentrates on the inexplicable connection between them. When she barged into his office yesterday morning, he'd thought she was mad. By the time she left him in the afternoon, he thought perhaps he was the one of questionable sanity. Through little more than her regaling him with stories of their shared weeks, she had convinced him that losing her would be tragic; that letting her sacrifice their time together was not negotiable.
She had been gone over an hour when he finally admitted to himself that he hadn't remotely believed her, and then his panic had set in. He had used the time left to himself to continue his own research; tweaking the potion for his own purpose and determined she would not spend an eternity alone.
Potion in hand, he'd tracked down Harry at the ministry. The Head Auror had reported Hermione had told him she was headed to Hogwarts on personal research. It hadn't been the ministry archives she'd mentioned, but it had calmed him slightly to think maybe she really had been working on the potion. When more time passed with no sign of her, he had taken his modified potion and hoped to Salazar he wasn't making a bad situation much worse.
When she had finally arrived, he spied her walking toward her office with a slightly haunted look. He'd taken her countenance as being defeat over another theory disproved. There had been relief at seeing her even as he barked her name and stalked toward her, agitated and overwhelmed. It was inexplicable, how much he already cared for her. This woman who had been rude and dismissive of him for days had come on fast, a natural disaster in his buttoned-up, private life. Draco had not let a witch close since his botched betrothal to Astoria Greengrass. He had imagined it would take a long time for another lover to break down his walls. Yet, apparently, he had, not only let Hermione in, but had reveled in their connection.
Perhaps, he thought, her open and confident pursuit had been a relief. He'd been lonely for some time, after all.
Now, there is that same relief at her presence as she arches beneath him and moans into his mouth. He'd watched them, in memories, crash together only to pull away and promise each other a phantom tomorrow. He's hard pressed to believe she's really here. That tomorrow has truly come.
He feels one of her petite hands run fingertips down his back only to settle, as if hesitant, just at the band of his silk pants.
"Waiting for an invitation?" He breathes out in question.
She giggles and he feels the corner of her mouth curl up against his in an alluring smirk. "I was under the impression I already had one." He feels her push delicately against the fabric and it slips down a little between them, the tip of his erection slipping free and brushing against the thin silk of her dressing gown.
"I'm glad," he whispers as he slides her gown further up her thighs, exposing her stomach and finally her breasts, "we didn't miss this. I wouldn't want to relive this in a Pensieve."
Hermione grinds her pelvis up against him as she struggles to slip the gown over her head, making him hiss at the delightful contact of her bare skin against his partially freed cock. "Me too. So many of our firsts, still ahead of us."
He leans forward and kisses her softly, grinning. "Like the first time I touch you here?" He reaches down and gently cups her mound over her silk knickers, relishing in the moan that she gives him in return. He runs his forefinger along the line of her slit, finding her damp through the material, all the while alternating soft kisses and heavy breaths against her lips. Her agreement comes as pants and whines more than words, and Draco pushes the material aside to touch the heat of her skin.
Distracted by the feel of her, warm and welcome beneath him, he doesn't notice her hands travelling his body until she brushes her fingertip against him where he is straining for release. Her petite fingers reach beneath his own meager covering and wrap around his shaft. Draco's answering moan is born of relief so palpable, he falters his exploration of her body to enjoy her attentions; enjoying the feel of her pumping her hand down his shaft, learning the shape of him and what movements will make him moan.
Eventually snapping out of his paralyzed state, Draco shucks his pants from his legs and helps Hermione finish pulling her dressing gown over her head. Her curls bounce free and splay around her head as he lays her back down. He is kissing her more forcefully now, one hand trying desperately to rid her of her last stitch of clothing between her legs. He feels her movements became more erratic, touching him everywhere. Her small hands pet a line up his cock, press up the planes of his back, run furrows through his blond hair, tugging at the locks. He shares the urgency, gripping her face and invading her mouth so deeply with his tongue, he's almost afraid she might choke on him. She meets him in kind, all the while her pelvis begins to grind rhythmically against him, one foot running up his calf as he settles between her legs.
"I feel like we waited so long," she laments. "Can I have you?"
He understands the sentiment. Though the memories were not lived first hand, they spent hours reliving moments of love and lust between them. They had seen each other in the same light their alternative bodies had seen. He had fallen hard for the open, kind, fiery woman he now knows her to be. He can only assume she now sees him as the sincere man he showed her over and over again, day after day, trying to rescue her from her fate.
"I'm yours," he promises, and impales her with purpose.
They stay that way for a breath. Two. Three. When he finally moves and he feels her pull in a deep breath of contentment. Draco kisses her again, timing his tongue against the movement of his hips and groans into her mouth. She is tight as a fist and twice as warm, and it's all he can do make this last for her. It feels like he owes her something truly spectacular, having asked her to wait for him so many times.
His thrusts are measured, building friction and gauging the movements that might send her over the edge. He kisses her jaw and her neck before finding her breast and licking languidly. Her breath hitches when he coaxes the other peak with his fingertips and she shudders when he removes his mouth from the first to take in its now sensitive companion. Draco envelopes her, warm breath tickling her skin as his tongue lashes across, over and again. All the while, his hip movements are steady and deep and he feels her tighten and squirm and writhe against him.
"More," she begs. "Harder, please." It is a plea, but there is demand behind it, and Draco is happy to do his witch's bidding.
By the end, his mouth can no longer work at her breast, concentrating as he is on a punishing pace. He presses his forehead against hers, sweat dampening the hair at his temples, and then he opens his eyes and finds her staring at his face. Her mouth is slack but her gaze is piercing and they stay that way, staring each other down, until he shouts and empties inside her. Hermione, for her part, finds her release at his crescendo. She says his name so sweetly in that moment, and he crashes his mouth against hers, kissing her deeply as they both come down.
They lie together, after, brushing fingertips along each other's skin, their hearts pounding beneath their bones. Eventually, Hermione whispers, "We should probably tell Harry."
Draco, his eyes closed and luxuriating in the feel of her, quips, "I wouldn't want to make him jealous. I mean, I know he has the she-Weasel and everything, but he can't be completely unaware of your numerous charms."
He hears her huff and feels the soft smack to his chest as she admonishes, "Not what I meant, Malfoy." He can nearly hear the smile in her tone. "You're a smart wizard. I meant about the loop."
Draco nods, lazily drawing invisible patterns on her skin. "Ah, yes. That would be the professional way forward. Baker, as well. We should check on him."
"I'd almost forgotten. I wonder if he's even there," she answers back.
Draco hums in reply, equally curious. They had finally watched their conversation with Baker late last night. Not completely sure how the magic of the broken Time-Turner worked, Draco imagines they are as likely to find an empty cell, as they are an inexplicably aged corpse.
"I suppose then, we aren't taking a personal day," she teases, and he chuckles, threading his fingers through her hair.
Draco rolls them so he is leaned over her and brushes his lips over hers. "How about a long weekend. We'll make an appearance and tell Potter we'll see him Monday." He leans back then and says with mock thoughtfulness, "The way I see it, we've actually put in weeks with barely a day off. We're overdue some personal time."
Hermione giggles and pulls him down, answering with a kiss and no more words. It is well past nine before they leave his bed, and Harry's owl, wondering if they are coming in, has already come and gone.
"I told him we had some research to finish up, but would be in shortly," Draco says to her reflection in the mirror as he adjusts his tie.
He watches her approach, and her arms slip around him, keeping a lock on his gaze in the mirror. "Have I told you? You're quite handsome, Draco Malfoy," she says. Draco isn't yet used to this forward and flirty side of her, but he rather likes it.
"I've been trying to tell you that for years, Granger," he smirks back, earning a smile from her in turn. Spinning in her hold, he kisses her delicately, briefly, and watches her eyes flutter closed. "Should I tell you you're beautiful," he questions, thumbs playing over the bones of her cheeks. "Do I get credit for all the Mondays I told you how brilliant and gorgeous you are?"
She grins and her eyes open. "You get credit, but that doesn't mean you never have to say it again."
"You're beautiful," he says seriously. "I'm sorry for what happened to you, but I thank Merlin it did."
Her voice is quiet and she agrees, "Me too. Draco… do you think somewhere, I'm still looping? Do you think somewhere there are versions of me and versions of you trying to find their way to each other?"
He thinks about that for a moment, returning to his question as to Baker's fate and remembering all the versions of himself who had nearly fallen in love with this witch and would have woken alone on a Tuesday morning. He's quiet for a long time and finally says, "I believe I could tear a world apart to find you. Maybe I continued brewing the potion and found a path backwards to where you are. Maybe I stole a Turner of my own and rescued you from your fate. I'd like to think," he works out slowly, "that in any reality, I'd find my way to you."
"How did we miss almost miss this," she wonders. "How did I miss who you are?"
Draco smiles again and kisses her once more. "Because you're a stubborn little know-it-all, and I'm a defensive, sarcastic recluse."
She laughs in what seems like agreement and then pulls away, offering her hand. "Shall we go tell Harry? I think I'm ready to start my time off."
As anticipated, Harry is shocked by what he hears. Equally unsurprising, is the fate of Baker. The guards at Azkaban report that they had entered his cell, delivering breakfast and preparing his move to a more permanent location, to find an aged corpse, apparently dead of natural causes. It seems oddly tragic, want-to-be villain (or perhaps he wanted to be a hero) though he was. Now reduced to nothing but matter and mass, his body no longer has a magical signature to continue the loop. He is back in the time stream with no more importance than a parchment. A thing. Hermione says she hopes he enjoyed his days of three square meals and access to reading materials enough that it was worth it.
When they run into Ron on the way back from Harry's office, Hermione seems to delight in letting him pretend that he doesn't know quite who Bernice is, but if Hermione says the witch is interested, he might send over a memo if he has time. Hermione grins at his back as they watch him walk quickly around the corridor, obviously headed toward Draco's office rather than his own.
"You know he's going to cock it up, right?" Draco whispers in her ear. "She's a little overly sensitive and, well… Ron."
Hermione giggles in agreement but argues, "We'll be around to help. He's a good man. He just might need a little perspective. I'd like to think I'm authority on the topic."
"So where should we go on holiday?" Draco asks thoughtfully. "Potter was more generous than I expected, giving us the week."
She smiles up at him. "I think I'd like to take a trip to Perth." He sees her confidence falter a little and she goes on to explain, "I mean, I don't know if you'd want to. I certainly don't expect-"
Draco scoffs at her, stifling a grin. "You think I'd let you confront those poor muggles alone? Plus that little one, she's going to need to know which Hogwarts house to ask that daft hat for. Of course I'm coming, silly witch."
"You can't push her into Slytherin," she warns with affection. "The world isn't quite that progressive yet."
Draco rolls his eyes and agrees with a sarcastic drawl, "Obviously. I was thinking Ravenclaw. She looks to be a little swot like her big sister."
"You know that's where the hat had wanted to put me."
He looks down at her as the walk and raises a brow. "Why did you argue?"
"Well, first I asked for Slytherin. You might have noticed, I have aspirations to do big things."
Draco grins and concedes, "I have seen evidence to that fact." He pauses and then surmises, apologetically, "It didn't want to let you in, did it?"
"The hat said, and I quote, 'that house is full of a great lot of haughty little tossers. Let's see you in Ravenclaw. Or hufflepuff. There's a streak a loyalty up here you could drive a carriage across'."
Laughing unabashedly at that, Draco finds he can agree at least to some extent. "Well you are smart. And loyal, no question. So how did you end up in Gryffindor?"
Hermione, the witch who just might be the love of his life, looks up and winks. "Because it was the only choice it didn't give me. I don't like being told what to do. When I thought as much to myself, the hat said I was certainly stubborn and reckless enough to make it as a lion."
They both pull up short, having reached the floo, and he asks, "Did you ever regret it? Being in that house? How different everything might have been…" He's thinking of all the dangerous adventures and hardships. He's thinking of her parents, lost to her for so many years and a sister she doesn't know. He's thinking of the tragedies and pain she suffered for daring to befriend Harry Potter, the champion on her house.
She's thinking very hard on a response and then says, quite seriously, "I was really bitter at that hat for not letting me in to Slytherin. Especially…"
Draco steps closer and puts a comforting hand on her back, waiting for whatever truth she wants to confess, when she suddenly bites her lip around a smile and finishes, "especially when I caught sight of this little blond ferret with a pointy chin and pretty eyes. I think I might have a diary entry somewhere that says 'saw the cutest boy today. Wish he was in my house, but, according to that hat, he's probably a tosser anyway'."
He chuckles, surprised by her cheek, and leans down to kiss her soundly before arguing, "I highly doubt that."
"Oh, it's true. I mean you were a tosser, I later discovered, but you did have pretty eyes."
"Are you always this fun," he asks, unintentionally repeating a memory, and it strikes a familiar chord with both of them.
She pauses a moment and then works out, "Well, there was that time I kissed you."
He smiles then and she answers in kind. Offering the floo powder to her, Draco waits for her to take her portion and then gestures for her to go ahead. "Then I imagine we are going to have a lot of fun," he says before she starts forward.
She nods and tosses in the powder, crooking her finger for him to follow. "Malfoy Manor," she says clearly, and he, quite happily, is right on her tail.
Hello! ::waves:: So this is the final actual chapter; the original epilogue. What follows next in chapter 20 is a less traditional epilogue. I'll be posting that tonight as well so this will be complete. Thank you for reading and commenting and kudos-ing. I hope to see you on my next one!
"Excuse me, Missus Wilkins, I wondered if I might have a moment of your time."
The woman Hermione knew for seventeen years as 'Mum', eyes her, and then a light seems to go off behind her irises. "Jean, right? I remember, we met you on holiday. Five or six years ago? It's lovely to see you."
Hermione smiles and steps forward when her mother gestures to come inside. "And this fetching young man...?" she prompts.
Draco takes the hand that Monica Wilkins has extended and places a chaste kiss on the backs of her knuckles. "Draco Malfoy. A pleasure."
Monica invites the two inside and offers them tea, British hospitality not being one of the memories Hermione stole from her years before. "Make yourself at home, Dears. I'll just be a tick."
As soon as she's gone, Hermione slumps into the same sofa she took last time and groans into her hands. "This is... Ugh, where do I even start?"
Draco, who is investigating various muggle knick-knacks and trinkets, returns, "Well, be sure she knows you're not here to confess shagging your father."
She giggles, in spite of herself and most certainly in spite of the circumstances. "What if they can't forgive me?"
Leveling her with a look, Draco approaches and cups her cheek, placing a gentle kiss to the top of her curls. "They will. Merlin, Granger, they already have. Stop worrying and dig up some Gryffindor bravery."
"Maybe you could tell them," she suggests, half-hearted.
"You know it should be you, Granger. But, remember, I'm right here. At least this time you're not alone."
Hermione nods and straightens her skirt over her knees. Today will already be different than the last time she tried to reconnect. It's late in the afternoon on a Thursday and, after a short investigation, Hermione and Draco discovered that the Wilkins always have dinner together on Thursdays just after six. Monica leaves their dental practice at three to start preparation while her husband finishes with clients. Wendell is tasked to stop at the young Hermione's violin lesson to pick her up on the way home, and the family dines together shortly thereafter. Now, it is half five and the house has the soft aroma of roast beef wafting throughout. Hermione's tears prick, remembering so many meals back in England of the same.
Unaware of the tear escaping her lashes, Hermione is surprised when she feel Draco scoop the drop away with his forefinger, settling on the sofa beside her. "She'll love you, Granger. If there's anything I have faith in, it's that your mother will always love you." He pauses, thoughtful, and then says quietly, "No matter what you've done."
She's fully aware he's moved on to self-reflection and his relationship with his own mother. She grips the hand he has laid on her knee, offering, as well as accepting, comfort.
"What's this? Oh, Jean, are you quite alright?" Monica sweeps back into the room, a tea service perched in her hands, and lays it on the low table before them. She looks at Hermione in concern, noting her glassy eyes, and then trains her gaze on Draco, inquiring, "Can I get her anything?"
Draco starts to respond but Hermione breathes deep and answers, "No, thank you, Missus Wilkins, I'm fine."
"It's Monica, dear. I told you last time. No reason for formality."
The woman gives her a friendly smile and Hermione chokes on a sob. She's not sure if it is the kindness in the woman's voice or the idea that she has been invited to call her a name that isn't even true, but suddenly she's living the confession all over again, and she hasn't even given it yet.
"I'm sorry," she starts, apologizing for her current outburst as much as for the wedge she placed between them with her well-intentioned spell. "I need to speak with you. I've done something...You have to understand, I wasn't, maybe, thinking clearly. I was panicked and afraid and I wasn't considering the consequences."
Draco cuts in, seeing the situation spiraling toward misunderstanding. "To be clear, Missus Wilkins, she isn't shagging your husband or anything like that."
Wide-eyed and sitting stiffly, the woman nods, acknowledging his comment. Hermione sees herself making the same mistakes as in the memories she viewed and starts over, clearing her throat and wiping her tears. How did this go last time?
"This is going to sound completely unbelievable… but you're my mother. I know you don't remember having me, I know you think we met for the first time five years ago, but it's true. Before you moved to Perth, we lived together, in England."
Monica looks between them and then stands, abruptly. "Alright, I think that's enough of that. Perhaps you shouldn't be here when my husband is out."
It's immediately obvious to the pair that Draco's presence has changed the dynamic. Hermione's mother had been much more comfortable when it was only the two of them. Now, she is out-numbered and feeling defensive.
"I'll just step outside, Hermione." Draco rubs his thumb over her knuckles before pulling his hand away and goes to step around the agitated muggle.
Monica stops him with a hand on his forearm. "What did you call her?"
He smiles and repeats. "Hermione. Jean is actually her middle name. Quite a mouthful, yeah?"
Hermione watches him from her position on the couch as he leaves via the way they came in. Her mother slowly turns to look at her, mouth agape, aggravation and apprehension warring on her face.
"Please," she implores, beginning her story again, "I've come from England to find you. I thought I could just try to forget… but I miss my family. I miss Daddy and his model ships and his ugly Christmas sweaters. Even that awful green one with the dancing reindeer he wore to my first recital… I miss our Friday board games, even though you always were so mad if you lost, sometimes you'd topple the whole board while Dad and I tried not to laugh. I miss your roast beef. The smell of it now… it smells like Easter dinner, but only the years we didn't go to Grandmother's for Mass. I want to tell you about my life now; my career. I want to tell you about Draco, who I think I'm completely in love with, and I know you'll tell me he's absolutely insufferable, but then you'll get to know him, and you'll adore him too. Someday, if I marry, I want Daddy to walk me down to that silly Beatles song he always insisted he'd give me away to. I want to know my sister. I want… I… I don't want to be alone, Mum." She runs out of words and her entire body hitches with denied sobs.
The quiet of the house is a deep hum that fills her ears as she waits, eyes squeezed shut and salty tracks drying on her face. Just when she thinks she should plan her retreat, her mother speaks, her voice strained. "How can I possibly believe this?"
Opening her eyes, Hermione blinks and then reaches for her handbag, extracting a stack of photos and parchments. The first is a Polaroid from 1985 and Hermione looks very much like her sister in the picture. Her mother is in the photo as well, smiling at the camera and holding up what must be one of Hermione's first Reception era school projects. "I'm six here," she says softly. Tracing her finger over the image of her young mother, she says wistfully, "This was my favorite dress on you. I stole it once and tried to put it. You caught me, in your closet, with the shoulder strap around my neck. I told you it fell off the hanger, and I was trying to put it back for you." She looks up and finds her mother looking at her curiously, slightly less distrust in her eyes.
She turns the first photo over to reveal another beneath it. In this one, Hermione is perched on a window seat holding a small calico cat. The family pet before Hermione was even born, the animal had passed when she was eight years old. She looks at the image fondly and starts, "This was-"
"Abbey," her mother breathes.
Hermione looks up once again and finds the woman searching her face. "That's Abbey. She was your my husband's before we were married."
Hermione nods, following along and helping to tell the same story. "You told him you were more of a dog person and asked him to give the cat to his mother."
"But he refused," Monica presses.
"Because he loved that cat almost as much as he loved you, but he said Abbey couldn't afford her own rent so you could always just visit." Hermione had heard the story a thousand times as a child, her father taking particular pleasure in pretending he would have chosen the cat over his wife.
"Who are you?" Her mother looks haunted now, and that breaks Hermione's heart once again.
"My name is Hermione Jean Granger, and you don't remember me because of something I did…an accident of sorts…but I am your daughter. Your name is Jean Granger and your husband's name is Frank. If you'll keep an open mind, I can tell you so much more."
"I just… I can't believe…"
Her mother may have said something further, but the door opens then, and a curly-haired ball of energy bounds into the room followed by a boisterous man and a pensive Draco. "I hear we have a guest… Jean! Lovely to see you again. I imagine you won't even recognize this one-" He is patting the younger Hermione's head affectionately but pulls up short when he sees the watery expressions on the faces of his wife and the young woman beside her.
"Wendell, I think we need to listen to what this young woman has to say." She clears her throat and looks at her youngest daughter. "Hermione, darling, how was school."
The girl huffs and rolls her eyes. "Fine, except Holly Mayweather says her stupid mask is going to take first at the art fair, which is just ridiculous since they specifically said it should be a traditional medium. A mask is not a traditional medium, and my watercolor is much more appropriate."
Hermione looks up to see Draco catch her eye. He mouths 'swot' at her over her father's shoulder, and she is grateful for the little giggle she bites in, the mirth washing away some of the tension in her bones. She adores this petulant little girl already.
"Your watercolor is superb, and I think you have a very good chance, sweetheart. Why don't you go drop your things and take your bath before dinner while Mummy and Daddy talk to our friends?"
The girl eyes them both, but then shrugs and bounces away. "Call me for dinner!" She yells over her shoulder and disappears down the hallway.
Hermione's father doesn't waste any time then, pulling up a chair close to his wife's side. "What's going on?"
Without a word, Monica hands over the Polaroid of Hermione and the cat, followed next by the one featuring herself with their oldest daughter. "Who is this?" He starts, and then continues to ask for information, even before they've had a chance to answer. "Who is this with Abbey? Lord, does that girl look like our little Hermione. Your family, then? Are you a relative of Monica's, Miss Jean?"
"I… " Hermione trails off, reeling from the rapid questions and chaotic nature their meeting has suddenly taken.
"She says she was our daughter," Monica tells her husband softly.
The man looks at Hermione, brow furrowed in confusion. She nods at him, and tries again. "I'm so sorry. I know this is just impossible, but it's true. Look."
She thrusts another photo in his hand. In this one, he is wearing that awful sweater that she loves so much and lifting a young Hermione to put a star at the top of a rather bedraggled looking tree. "We were late, that year, choosing the tree. You had a dental conference in the States and we missed the beginning of the season. I was so disappointed, but you said it was lucky we came along, or nobody might have picked that poor tree. Unfortunately, I was too smart for my own good and said it probably would have died during the next deep frost anyway, so either way it would be firewood by New Year."
"I don't understand." He's frowning and trying to hand the photo back, even as her mother is trying to peer over the edge. Hermione shakes her head, refusing to accept its return, and places another in her mother's lap.
"That's at Grandfather's house. I was only four when he died so I don't remember much, but that's me on the swing. You're pushing me," she addresses her father, "while Mum is inside, visiting. You always said you were grateful I was so fond of that swing because it meant you didn't have to listen to Grandfather prattle on about football or the gossip between Mum and Grandma Watson."
Hermione looks up, eyes glassy, to find Draco handing her an envelope. "Sorry but this might be important. An owl brought it, while I was waiting outside."
"An owl?" Her parents look shocked at what is probably the least fantastic thing they've heard yet.
"It's from Harry," Hermione whispers, then, reading quickly on, looks at Draco with a broad smile. "Severus thinks there might be a way…"
Turning back to her parents, Hermione explains in the best way she can. "I have a… friend. Mentor, really. He's sort of a scientist. One of my old professors and absolutely brilliant at research. He's been trying to find a way we might be able to restore your memories and… he might have found it."
Shaking his head, her father waves his hand about, far too overwhelmed to continue. "Wait, wait. I still don't understand. You're saying we have a grown daughter… you're our daughter… but we don't remember you? But we remember everything else from our life, only you're missing?"
"Mister Wilkins," Draco breaks in smoothly, his most charming demeanor fully unfurled, "unbelievable as it is, that's exactly what she's saying. Hermione has quite a few more photographs and also some legal documents that might help, but if this other method works, none of that will be necessary."
"Hermione has them?" Now he's completely confused.
"That's my real name," she explains. "You can keep calling me Jean, though. That would be easier, I'm sure, since you seem rather fond of the name," she says with weak humour.
Monica looks at her husband, completely at a loss.
"I don't… if this is some scam-"
"No, no," Hermione is quick to assure her father. "I don't want anything from you. I'm not asking for anything, just… just that you'll listen and consider what I have to say. I just miss you both so much." Her voice breaks a little but she fights through it. "The first few years, I thought it would get easier with time, but it's not. It just gets harder: Every Christmas that I spend alone… every time I think about the future and not having you in it."
"Your friend," her mother says, speaking for the first time in a while, "he can help us? If this is true, he can help us remember? Is it like… hypnosis?"
"It's a… newer method. Something different, but similarly trying to unlock the memories from the recesses of your mind. Would you… are you willing to consider it?"
The entire room is bathed in hope and trepidation, all parties looking to each other for direction. Feeling the least emotionally invested over the ordeal, Draco offers calmly, "He's willing to travel here. To meet with you."
Hermione looks up in surprise. "He would do that? For me?"
Draco smirks and corrects, "For me, actually. Plus, apparently Lovegood has some sway with his side projects, and she's fond of you."
Hermione snorts, also privy to the nature of that odd pairing, then looks back to her mother. "If he comes here, will you meet with him?"
Her father is the first to agree, her mother seeming speechless. "It would be wise to at least grant our due diligence. Set it up. We'll speak to the man. What's his name?"
"Professor Severus Snape."
He wrinkles his nose. "What an odd name."
Draco mutters, "Yes, the amount of alliteration at our school was astounding." Hermione cringes at the fake name she gave her father, an also alliterated Wendell Wilkins, realizing it was questionably realistic as well.
Standing and reaching his hand to his lover, Draco tells the former Grangers, "We should probably take our leave. We don't want to keep you from your dinner, and I think this will be much easier once Severus can explain more. We'll let you know when he can meet. Very likely, this coming Saturday if you would be available." They nod and murmur that would probably be fine.
Accepting his hand, Hermione rises and looks down at her parents. "Thank you, for listening. I… I love you both." She sweeps past Draco then and out onto the street, struggling for breath a little until she is in the open air.
Draco, a few paces behind having left with a more polite farewell, slides his arm around her and she leans her head on his shoulder. "I feel like it went better in my memories," she laments.
"You should know by now, you can't always achieve the same results. Circumstances change everything. I was here. It wasn't Monday. It couldn't be exactly the same."
"It didn't have to be worse," she grouses.
Turning her to face him, Draco shakes his head. "It's not. You're just taking it slower this time, that's all. They're already doubting what they know." He searches her eyes and assures her, "They'll love you. Just maybe not as much as I intend to," he grins.
She lets a smile creep onto her face. "Thank you," she says, tipping onto her toes to place a kiss on his lips.
He doesn't pretend not to know what she's thanking him for. Strong though she is, it is obvious she was craving support where her family was concerned. "You're welcome, Granger." He starts leading them away from her parents' home and toward an apparition point close by.
"Now, can we please continue our vacation? Potter is hell bent on giving us a new case Monday. If we're going to have to deal with Severus this weekend, I at the very least want one day of nothing but carnal delights with my girlfriend." Conversationally, he adds, "The concierge at our hotel says there's a muggle beach here where you can go topless."
He wriggles his eyebrow and Hermione laughs. "I am not going nude in public. Besides, you can have me nude indoors."
"But indoors I can't be smug at everyone for having the hottest witch on the beach," he mock pouts.
"Believe me, I can do many wonderful things for you in private that will make up for your inability to peacock with the other males." Pulling him close by the collar of his shirt, she licks her lips and asks, "Would you like to see what those things are?"
She squeals when he scoops her up without another word and apparates them back to their wizarding accommodations. "You have the three minutes it takes me to write Severus to be naked and ready, Granger."
"I only need two," she grins and starts for the bedroom. "Shall I leave my shoes on?"
A wicked smile stretches his face, imagining his beautiful witch in those red pumps she's currently wearing and nothing else. "Yes please. You're right: Forget the beach. My new idea is we don't leave the bed for at least fifteen hours."
"See," she calls from the adjoining room, "that's why we're such great partners. We have good ideas when we think together."
Scribbling the letter to his old Potions professor as quickly as possible, Draco rushes to the bedroom, unbuttoning his shirt, to find her as promised: Nude except for her shoes and laid out on the bed, waiting.
He grins like a kid at Christmas but can't help to snark, "You're a rubbish partner, Granger, I keep telling you." She starts to huff and probably say something completely swottish, but Draco slides into place above her and silences her with a kiss. He pulls back and finishes the thought with all the sincerity in his arsenal, "but you are a terrific lay."
She laughs in the face of his sarcasm. "Well you are a terrific partner…" she says, a promise of more to come that never does.
"What? I thought we were just listing positive aspects. Was there something else you think you do rather well?" She's all wide-eyed innocence, blinking sweetly at him.
"Oh, I'm going to make you pay for that."
"Yes," she agrees, biting her lip, "make me, please."
It takes him the next fifteen hours, but Draco would say he proves his point rather well. By the time they receive the reply from Snape, a characteristically curt agreement to meet her family on Saturday, Hermione is feeling too boneless to worry, tucked as she is into Draco's side. "He'll take care of them, Granger," Draco soothes unnecessarily. "By Sunday, you'll have a whole new family."
She hums, truly believing it for perhaps the first time, as she runs her hands along his skin, balancing a fingertip along the ridge of his clavicle. "And you," she affirms quietly. "I'll have you."
"I took an untested potion for you, witch. I could have died," he says dramatically. Tilting his head to lock his gaze with hers, he tells her much more seriously, "You couldn't be rid of me now if you tried."
Hermione smiles and settles back against him, content and assured. "That suits me just fine."
Here we are at the end! I'm equal parts confused and fascinated by time travel, so this collection of bits tries to explain or wrap my mind around what is going on in the background - in other universes...
Plus, we get a bit more closure with Jean and Frank who I enjoy immensely mingling with the Malfoys.
Thank you all one last time! You've made this a pleasure to post again!
Monday Morning – Ministry of Magic – 1 Day Since the Baker Altercation
Draco has looked up to find his partner barreling into his office. Her mane of curls flying behind and her muggle clothes looking very out of place in the ministry, she seems to have forgotten her robes in whatever panic she's found herself.
"What's wro-" His question is cut off when she flings herself at him and he finds Hermione Granger's tongue snaking into his mouth, her delicate hands gripping the short hairs at the nape of his neck. He had intended to merely ask what was wrong, but now more questions are running through his brain. As much as anything can run through his brain with a warm witch nearly climbing into his lap.
She pulls back for air and he leans just enough away to meet her eyes. "Granger?"
"Draco… I'm sorry if this is sudden."
He laughs loudly at that. 'Sudden' doesn't even scratch the surface of what he was thinking, but he supposes it's a good opening for conversation.
"Finally succumbed to my charms?" he quips at her, unsure how to navigate a Granger that isn't nagging him, berating him, or barking orders. She's certainly an improvement like this. It has not gone unnoticed that she is still straddling him in the chair, arms wrapped around his neck. He is not ashamed to say that his hand settled on her hips during her attack and he has just opted to keep them there.
"You have no idea," she smirks back. That was unexpected. He starts to ask for clarification when she seems to shake herself out of the moment. "Sorry… look, Draco, I need your help. I just really didn't want to mess about by taking the day slow. I've been stuck in a time loop for about 30 days. No, I'm not making fun of your concerns over Baker, no, I haven't lost my mind, and, yes, I'm quite serious. I've spent a month living this same Monday. In that time, I've also completely lost my mind over you. Can we please go to the manor to try a potion to save me so I can wake up on a Tuesday in your bed?"
He blinks at her. There's a lot to absorb here, and Draco is trying to keep up. "You…. You're in a time loop?"
She grins. "I'm glad you're with me. And that you didn't get hung up on the part about the bed. Yes, a loop. Will you help me please? I brought you Starbucks."
He looks over her shoulder to where she has gestured with a backwards glance. A white cup with a vaguely familiar green logo is sitting on his desk. He hadn't even noticed her putting it down, distracted as he was by her grinding into his lap.
"I… thank you?"
"You're welcome." She hops off his lap and offers a hand for him to take. "Come on. Grab your coffee."
He does as instructed in a bit of a haze and follows her, hands clasps together, to the floo. She doesn't hesitate when she takes the powder and announces, "Malfoy Manor."
Following behind, Draco thinks this might be the strangest day of his life. But, still reeling from a particularly eager and talented snog, he's pretty sure it is one of his best.
He won't remember it, but this is only one in a collection of days in which Draco falls in love with Hermione Granger over and over again.
The Worst of Days
Tuesday Morning – Ministry of Magic – 2 Days Since the Baker Altercation
Previous Day: Draco and Hermione spoke briefly with some mild animosity before she left for the day. She was not aware yet of the time loop.
Harry looks up to find Malfoy standing in the doorway looking annoyed.
"She didn't come in?"
"No," he grouses back. "She left early yesterday, after being a complete bitch I might add, and she didn't come in at all today. I know she's your star agent or whatever but I would think a little accountability might be in order."
Harry takes a calming breath and answers diplomatically, "She is accountable, Malfoy. In fact, she never misses. I was surprised she agreed to half days this week. Have you floo'd her place?"
Draco shrugs and grunts out, "Tried. She didn't answer. Or wasn't there…I don't know."
Mild concern settles in and Harry approaches his private office floo, calling out for Hermione's flat. Rather than initiate a call, he lets himself in through her wards. She gave him access long ago, but he's never used the privilege until now.
"Hermione?" He calls through the room, eyes on her bedroom door which is standing open. Behind him, Draco's head pops into the floo. He can't come through, but he can observe the scene.
Harry shakes his head in the negative and tries a little more loudly, "Hermione? Are you home?"
"Granger! Where the bleeding hell are you?!"
Turning to offer a glare briefly, Harry then focuses back on the remaining rooms and starts to explore each one. Her second bedroom, full of her cluttered office space and various mementos and brick-a-brack, is empty, as is the water closet just off her sitting room. He's cautious as he approaches her bedroom next, hoping very much he doesn't see anything from his dearest friend that would be inappropriate.
It would be weird, Hermione would hex him, and Ginny would destroy any bits of him left unscathed.
Fortunately and unfortunately, he finds nothing at all. Her en suite also stands open and looks equally bare.
"Huh." He is shaking his head and thinking as he returns to the sitting room where the floo still shows Draco's face. "Nothing."
"I know you know her better than I do, but this isn't standard Granger behavior."
"No," Harry agrees, pensive, "it's really not."
They try an owl next, but the bird returns with the message unread. After that, Harry pulls out and metaphorically dusts off his muggle cellular telephone. Since few wizards have them, he really only uses it with Hermione, and only then after wizarding methods have failed. Returning to her flat one last time, he finds it still empty, and, even more troubling, her phone is ringing from her bedroom where she leaves it at night.
Draco accompanied him this time, Harry letting him through the wards. "Does she usually keep that contraption with her?"
"Almost always," Harry says quietly. "Especially if she intended to be out all day. I wasn't really concerned before, but the longer she's gone, the more out of character this seems."
It is now early evening and the pair has been trying to contact Hermione since mid-afternoon.
They are both silent for a moment when Harry offers, "Why don't you head out, Malfoy? It's late. There's not much more you can do."
He's surprised when his agent hardens his gaze and shakes his head. "Not with my partner missing, Potter."
Harry blinks and gives a decisive nod. "Alright then. Let's see if anyone has talked to her today. I'll start with Ron."
"I tried her insipid assistant this morning. I'll check around other departments."
They part and meet back two hours later, both empty handed. Worry has settled in to both of them at this point, especially Draco with what information he has discovered.
Harry is waiting for him in the atrium when he sees the blond approaching with a quick and purposeful stride. "I went to the holding cells," he says as soon as he is within earshot as to not be shouting across the ministry. "Fucking Baker is dead."
"What the f- What do you mean, dead?"
"They found him this morning, and there's been an investigation. Why we weren't notified yet is beyond me," he grumbles, irritated and starting to feel a bit of panic. "It's more than that though," he goes on. "He was… he was old, they said. Aged and dead of natural causes. Heart attack. They have the body at St. Mungos."
"Do they think it was something to do with the Turner? Did he… I don't even know what to suggest. Just… something with time and he aged rapidly?"
"I don't fucking know, Potter, but if it happened to him…" The implication hangs, and a disturbing image flashes through Harry's brain of an elderly Hermione Granger corpse, curled up and dead in some bizarre location like on her shower floor.
"I think we should recheck her flat," he says, trying to keep the worry at bay. The words are barely out of his mouth when Draco turns on his expensive dragon hide heels and nearly jogs to the floo system.
The search, of course, uncovers nothing. She isn't there, not even a hint of her. Certainly not a body. Harry is both relieved yet also spiraling further into panic.
"Where else could she go, Potter? Does she have anyone? Family? Anyone we haven't tried?"
Harry shakes his head. "No one. Her parents are alive but… they aren't in the picture any more. No siblings, Grandparents deceased. Ron and me… we're what she has."
"Well she can't have just disappeared. What are we missing?"
There is a pause before Harry offers, "The Time Turner? Baker's broken one… It should be under stasis in the evidence archives. Maybe we could have someone look at it? Flitwick?"
"There's that Time guru in Germany. Freidensreich? He's been in all the research journals the last few years."
Harry nods. I'll set something up. Get us some meetings tomorrow. You should go to sleep. This time, that's an order. I'll see you in the morning."
He watches his agent hesitate before offering a clipped nod. He turns and is just at the floo to head back to his manor when Harry stops him. "Malfoy?"
Looking back with an expectant raise of his eyebrow, Harry tells him, "I know you and Hermione don't really get on, but I appreciate your dedication to the job. She's your partner, but… well, just, thanks."
He doesn't think Malfoy will answer him at all, the beat of silence going on just long enough for Harry to start to turn away. "She may not think much of me, Potter, but I know there's more to her than the harpy I see. She's important to people. And, as you say, she's my partner. That means something. We'll bring her home."
With a billow of his robes reminiscent of his Godfather, Malfoy makes his exit, leaving Harry a little perplexed but confident his agent won't stop until they find his friend. It makes sleep easier that night: The determination on the other man's face.
The Best of Days
Tuesday Morning – Ministry of Magic – 2 Days Since the Baker Altercation
Previous Day: Hermione and Draco spent the day together and tried the potion to jar her out of the time loop.
"Potter!" Harry looks behind him to find Malfoy charging toward his office. He hadn't even made it to his desk yet and nearly spills his coffee when the man's voice made him jump.
"She's gone! She's fucking gone!"
He knows immediately what he means. Hermione. "I thought… didn't you brew the potion yesterday?"
"We did! We did everything right! I was so careful… What the fuck do we do now?!" He doesn't even give Harry a chance to respond when he brushes past him and growls, "I'm going to fucking Baker. I'll Crucio the bastard until he bleeds. I'll-"
"Malfoy! Malfoy, stop, just…"
It's a miracle the auror even halts his step, as determined as he is, but he does, and Harry takes a breath. "I'll go with you," he finally says. He won't let his new agent Crucio the man. That will just land him in Azkaban and do nothing to find Hermione. But a little muggle good cop, bad cop… that he might play along with.
In the end, it doesn't matter what Harry would allow or how serious or not Draco had been. When they reach the holding cells, there is a flurry of excitement. Harry grabs one of the guards by his sleeve just as the man is rushing by. "What happened?"
"One of the prisoners died last night," the man barks out, trying to wrench his arm away.
Malfoy is in the man's face before he can shake off Harry's grip. "Which prisoner?" He growls at him.
"The Time Master or whatever. Baker. He's dead and… there's a lot of questions."
Both wizards are glaring down at the man who seems to wither. "Look, I don't know what happened, alright? He was fine last night, I swear. My shift ended at eight and he was alive."
Sensing the man to be as ignorant as he claims and much more worried about any possible jeopardy to his career, they let him go, watching him scurry away. The two aurors seek out a better source.
Malfoy nods toward another guard, this one wearing the robes that denote a higher rank. "Him."
Following his gaze, Harry starts that direction, Malfoy just behind him. "I heard our prisoner was killed. I need a report."
Harry doesn't like using his 'authority voice', but sometimes, his youth often being a hindrance with older personnel, he feels he doesn't have an options.
"Not killed," the man sighs. "I don't know where you heard that, but my men didn't do anything. And I already have Shacklebolt breathing down my neck about it, thanks. He just died."
Malfoy leans over the desk, palms on top of whatever paperwork the man had been working on. "How does a young, healthy wizard just fucking die in the dead of night when he was perfectly alive yesterday?!"
Annoyed at the disrespectful tone, not to mention Draco's hands creasing some of his papers, the guard smacks at his fingers until the young auror stands up straight once again, crossing his arms and meeting him, glare for glare.
"He wasn't young and healthy this morning. In fact," he gestures with a nod of his head behind him. "Take a look. They're moving the body to Mungos to run some diagnostics."
Harry and Draco turn to find Baker's very aged body being levitated from the building. "What…" Harry doesn't finish the question. They know what happened. No one else, perhaps, but Harry and Draco are more than aware.
"He looped… forever. Until he died. Could that…?" Draco can't seem to say the words and Harry shakes his head.
"No. I don't believe that. Let's… let's go to her flat." He sees devastation in Draco's eyes that mirrors the same in his own heart.
They find nothing. It does little to ease their concerns, but does lead them to a level of hope.
"She won't die in that loop," Draco says firmly. "She doesn't because… because I won't fucking let her."
He sounds petulant to Harry. A little boy refusing to give up a treat, but the sentiment is still appreciated. "That's good, but I don't know how-"
Malfoy wheels around on him. "I need a Time Turner, Potter. I know you have connections. If she's not dead, I obviously do something to save her."
"Malfoy, Time Turners are illegal… and rare… and, I don't even have connections like that-"
"Oh, fuck off, Harry, yes you do!"
He takes a step back, shocked by the uncharacteristic outburst from the usually stoic wizard. Malfoy's eyes are burning into him and he lets the insubordination slide. "Maybe the Americans? Or the Japanese consulate? They have different laws about time manipulation."
Nodding and looking slightly pacified, Draco clips out, "I apologize for my behavior. I just… I need a Turner alright? And… I'm going to go to Snape and ask for his help on the potion. I have an idea to at least buy her time."
Harry smiles at him, a crooked grin full of affectionate mockery. "Bring her home, keep her alive, and you can keep calling me Harry."
Ignoring the quip about his given name, Draco says back with sincerity, "I think it's safe to say at this point, there's no world in which I won't find my way to her."
Sunday – Abandoned Building in Wizarding New York – Moments after the Baker Altercation
"Just take it, Granger."
Hermione is eyeing Draco suspiciously and he doesn't appreciate it one bit.
"You need to be stuck in this loop again, alright. If you don't, I'm not sure what will happen to you. If I can't get you out, I'm sure you'll die." He isn't even remotely embarrassed that his voice cracks on the sentiment. Baker is subdued and unconscious, as is the other Draco, and Hermione is looking at him like he just murdered a kitten. This isn't the reunion he'd been hoping for.
"How do you I know you're who you even say you are?" she asks. "You could just be some polyjuiced villain, trying to poison me!"
"Alright, first, Granger," he says with exasperated affection, "no one is trying to assassinate you. Your aspirations of greatness are not yet realized, and I don't think you are a threat to anyone as a low level auror. And second, if I did want to murder you, you think this," he gestures down to himself, "would be a logical way to go about it? Follow you to the States as a polyjuiced version of someone already here and make up some convoluted story about time travel? I could just bring you a fucking poison-laced Starbucks at your office if that was the goal."
"Draco Malfoy doesn't know what Starbucks is," she tries, even more suspicious, and he chuckles at her.
"I do now. My swotty partner said I drink it every day while she is stuck in a loop. I know exactly how you take your coffee, in fact. I know… I actually know a lot about you."
He takes a step closer, trying hard not to seem intimidating. "Granger, please… take the potion. It should ensure you stay in the loop until we can find a way to get you out. Please."
"You're… I'm surprised. I'm having trouble believing it's really you. That you're this concerned."
"I'm more than concerned," he tells her. "I'm fucking terrified. Granger. You told me you had been stuck in this loop for weeks and we had spent almost every day together. You were… different. A version of you that isn't always trying to prove herself and stay on top of every situation. Harry says it's the version of you he knows."
"Harry?...Since when do you call him Harry?"
"Since we've spent weeks trying to find you. Trying to figure out how to fix this. We are going to get you out, Hermione. I'm going to get you out."
He reaches forward and brushes his fingertips down one cheek, trying not to show his hurt when she flinches. "Please… take it." He lifts the vial up into her line of sight once again.
"Won't this mess up everything? The time line you want me to continue on? I won't do whatever I'm supposed to next if I know about this."
"I'm obliviating all of you," he answers simply and she looks aghast.
"You will do no such thing! You can't just go about obliviating people without their permission!"
He gives her a condescending cock of his head? "Oh yes? Would Frank and Jean agree with that?"
She stops short, any more tirade drying up on her tongue. "How did you know…"
Hermione looks almost afraid of him and he hates it almost as much as he hates not being able to hold her. "You told me. About what you did during the war. I was hoping… you might have a perspective on making hard choices for the greater good. I don't… I don't want to do this," he admits. "If I had another idea… I'd prefer to let you remember me."
He steps forward again and this time she doesn't flinch; doesn't back away. "Please, Hermione," he begs again. "I just want to... I know you have to take this. I'm sure of it. If you don't…" He swallows. "If you hadn't, I think you would already be dead. But you never have been. I think this is what keeps you safe."
He watches her lift her arm hesitantly. "What will it do exactly?"
"Make sure you stay in this time stream until we come up with something better. I hope I never go back where I came from honestly. I hope my world just disappears and I never have to know what it's like to wake up without you."
She looks more than startled by his phrasing, and he uses her shock to close the final distance and cup her face in his hands. "Hermione…" Whatever else he thinks to say, he swallows down and instead presses his lips, briefly but firmly, against hers.
"Malfoy, I don't-"
He shakes his head at her. "I can't even explain what I don't understand myself. Just… take it," he entreats again, referring to the potion. "Hopefully, I'll see you Tuesday." He grins against her lips.
He relaxes when he feels her nod and she quietly agrees, "Ok."
Stepping away from her, he watches as she only hesitates a moment more and then downs the potion like a shot of whiskey. He pulls a face, grimacing and a shudder traces through her frame. "It's awful."
"I imagine it is. But a really smart witch told me that's because the potion can't be heated and the components don't break down properly. I miss her telling me what to do." He smiles at her fondly and watches her pretty cheeks blush pink.
"Are you ready?"
She looks nervous, but, in true Gryffindor fashion, straightens her shoulders and states with conviction. "I'm ready."
He steps up to her once again and pulls his wand from his robes. "I miss you," he tells her, but before she can respond he lays the wood against her temple and whispers, "Obliviate."
He hopes it's enough. He and Potter agreed that changing anything more of the past might be detrimental to the future, but if this doesn't do anything, he might do something more drastic. He's ready to try anything.
All Roads Lead Home
September First – Platform 9 ¾ - Years after the Baker Altercation – Any world
Stop fidgeting." Little Hermione glares at her big sister but does as instructed. "You're going to love it."
She is standing in a very odd part of an otherwise ordinary train station, her sister and the older woman's husband standing just behind.
"It just seems there would be a better way to travel there," she sniffs, all the entitlement an eleven year old can manage seeping through her words.
A short bark of laughter sounds from behind the group, and the girl turns to find her uncle Lucius smirking at her. "I've been saying that for ages. Muggle public transportation… such a plebian choice." His answering sniff lets anyone paying attention know exactly where a young Hermione learned the haughty gesture.
"I think it's a bit charming," Jean Granger throws in. "Sort of retro-chic". She is holding her granddaughter in her arms, the small child squirming to get down. Barely even able to toddle, everyone in attendance agrees she needs to be under control, but the fit she pitched in her buggy wasn't worth the effort.
"Here, let me." Narcissa plucks the child from Jean's arms and promptly hands her off to Lucius. The two ladies grin at each other. Lucius pretends to look at them sourly, but then cuddles the girl close to his chest as she wraps her little arms around his neck.
"I wish I could take my I-pod," Hermione's little sister says for the hundredth time today. Hermione starts to answer her, but the girl says, "I know… I know… no electronics at Hogwarts. Absolutely primitive," she grumbles.
When she boards the train, the farewell is not particularly tearful. The Grangers have been through this before, after all. Their youngest daughter is just as precocious and independent as their older one had been. They will miss her. Everyone assembled will… but more than anything they are excited for her.
"We will see you for Christmas, love." Their hugs are warm and smiles bright, and what some might consider the wizarding world's strangest family waves at another young Hermione Granger entering a new world.
"Shall we have tea?" Narcissa is absently stroking her granddaughters platinum curls as she speaks.
"Oh, yes, lovely. Frank, let's bring the car."
Lucius Malfoy's eyes light up in wonder. He clears his throat and asks politely. "Do you think I might… try a spin around the fountains?"
Draco leans over to Hermione as they make their way out of the station. "You know this will be much harder when it's her, right?" He nods toward their daughter, swinging her legs around Lucius waist.
Hermione looks up to find her husband gazing adoringly at the little girl and smiles. "It can't be helped. She won't be little forever."
He nods. "You can't stop time right?"
Smiling back up at him she agrees. "You can't… I mean," she goes on with a hint of playful sarcasm, "you can make it loop continuously forever, but not stop it, precisely."
Draco halts her in place with an arm around her shoulder, his other palm cupping her cheek firmly, and kisses the cheeky grin on her face.