“All human wisdom is contained in these two words— ”Wait and Hope.”
― Alexandre Dumas, The Count of Monte Cristo
Bright lights and lime green.
Hermione grappled with those fleeting observations as she struggled towards consciousness. Her head alternated between mind-shattering throbs and stabs of shooting pain so intense she saw lights behind her eyelids.
She could hardly consider her circumstances with such brain-melting pain poking and prodding at her gray matter. A flash of lime green and something vile slid down her throat. Sweet relief, the pain ebbed.
A soft voice, “Jenkins, lower the light levels again, we’re close.”
The bright lights barely dimmed.
“Hermione, if you can hear me, you’re exiting a magically induced coma. You’ve been in an accident but you are very safe and in a controlled environment, try to remain calm as you come out of it.”
Hermione decided that she liked the sound of the soft voice: velvet against her eardrums. But she liked what the voice said much less.
Magically induced coma? Accident? Did that mean she was at St. Mungo’s? Of course, lime green robes. The color palette made sense.
She tried to force her eyes open again; they fluttered under the attacking lights. She squeezed them shut, sucked in a breath, and opened them again. A world of color and light and blur greeted her.
A figure stood nearby. She couldn’t make out any details about the person, except that they were person-shaped and dressed in lime green robes. Almost certainly St. Mungo’s, then.
“My name is Healer Lucas,” the figure above her said. Hermione was struck by how odd it was not to see someone’s lips when they spoke. She blinked rapidly, trying to erase the cloudy filter from her eyes. “I’m here with my apprentice, Healer Jenkins. We’re the healers assigned to your case.”
Hermione tried to swallow, her throat caught part way through the motion, her only relief from the painful dryness being the potion they’d dose her with.
Healer Lucas, catching the motion, offered her water.
Hermione had never tasted something so refreshing in her life.
“Hermione, we need to perform some initial diagnostics now that you’re conscious,” Healer Lucas pressed gently. “If at any point you need a break or feel too unwell to continue, just let me know.”
Hermione didn’t trust her own voice just yet, so she nodded. Healer Lucas procured a parchment out of nowhere.
“Do you know your full name?”
Oh, gods. How bad was it that they needed to ask her her own name?
“Hermione,” she gave a small cough and tried again. “Hermione Jean Granger.”
Healer Lucas made a note.
“And what year is it?”
Hermione could feel an unfamiliar rush of hot panic fluttering inside her. She normally had control over her nerves, she didn’t rattle easily. She was a tried and true Gryffindor to her core. But she could feel something dreadful lingering.
Healer Lucas made another note.
“And who is Minister for Magic?”
Another note. Hermione couldn’t take it anymore
“What happened to me?” she asked, her voice cracking. “How bad was it? Why do you need to ask such basic questions?” The fluttering of anxiety had swelled from her stomach to her chest. Her throat tightened. Her insides roiled.
Quite patiently, Healer Lucas set her parchment aside.
“These diagnostic questions are essential for establishing a baseline.”
“A baseline for what?” Hermione asked, her voice breaking into something shrill. Her heart hammered behind her ribs. “A first year could answer those questions correctly, let’s skip to the relevant information and tell me what’s going on.”
Her demand probably sounded petulant, but Hermione felt like her chest might crack open from the panic.
Healer Lucas took a deep breath, inhaled through her nose, exhaled through her mouth.
“You need to breathe,” she said. Hermione tried, truly she did. “And while a first year may be able to answer those questions correctly, you did not.”
Hermione sputtered her exhale.
“You did not answer them correctly.”
The anxiety vanished, leaving in its place something cold and vacant. Terror.
“Two of the three, my dear. But we’re prepared for this-”
“What do you mean two of the three? Which two?” Hermione didn’t even recognize her own voice, so cold, so low, so unlike her own cadence. “I know my own name,” she insisted.
“Let’s circle back to that,” Healer Lucas said. “You’ve had a very traumatic brain injury, and memory loss is a potential side effect we’ve been preparing for.”
“Memory loss?” The words felt leaden on Hermione’s tongue.
“We hope only temporary, the magical mind is a powerful and adaptive thing, but it can also be unpredictable. Jenkins is already working on your treatment plan.” Jenkins waved tentatively to her from his place near the door.
“Let’s start with what you got right. Kingsley Shacklebolt is indeed the Minister for Magic,” healer Lucas started, her voice ever so gentle. “However, it isn’t the year 2001, it’s 2007.”
Hermione’s stomach flipped, the vacant cold of terror clashing with a renewed surge of hot anxiety, two sides of the same terrible fear-tainted coin. Six years? Six years. That was— that was utterly impossible. Hermione’s head throbbed as it whirred into action, trying to recall anything and everything she’d ever read about the brain, psychology, magical comas, head trauma. All of it.
“And while you’re partially right about your name being Hermione Jean Granger, you hyphenated last year-“
A roar from beyond the door interrupted the placidity of Healer Lucas turning Hermione’s world upside down.
“Where the fuck is my wife?”
Muffled voices, a thud against the door. Hermione and Jenkins jumped at the same time.
“Get off me Potter, I’m not waiting-“
Harry? Hermione’s fear shrank at the promise of having Harry here for her. It would be okay.
“Thirty seven hours Potter-“
More muffled voices, some shouting from further away. Another thud against the door.
“She’s my wife!”
The door flew open, Jenkins jumped out of his seat.
Harry Potter stood in the doorway, nose bleeding, and arms wrapped around a struggling Draco Malfoy who had blood on his otherwise crisp white shirt and his wand drawn, having evidently just about blown the door off its hinges.
More lime green robes rushed to the doorway, grappling at the blond man who’d clearly lost his mind.
“She’s my fucking wife!” Malfoy snarled as the other healers pulled him away, still screaming down the hallway until a flash of red light brought silence. Stunned.
Harry sheepishly met her gaze, blood trickling down his face. He didn’t bother to wipe it away.
“Uh. Hi, Hermione,” he glanced at the healers in her room, as if seeking direction or permission to speak to her.
“Harry,” Hermione began, voice very controlled, but she could feel the blade of panic slicing at her vocal cords. “Why was Draco Malfoy just screaming bloody murder about his,” and the word almost strangled her as she said it, “wife?”
His green eyes blew wide.
Healer Lucas pinched the bridge of her nose, painfully displeased with the recent series of events.
“He was referring to you, my dear,” she said. “That was the other question you got wrong. Your name is Hermione Jean Granger-Malfoy.”
Hermione had to be sedated again.
The next time Hermione woke she begged her healers for a better explanation, her brain burning with questions. They had no real answers to offer. They sat with her, irritatingly calm, explaining her diagnosis, her care plan, her limits, and what she could expect in the coming months. They tempered her hope with maybes, possibilities, and potentials. They spoke of no absolutes and offered very little confidence, leaving Hermione with the sense that when she got her memories back, if she got her memories back, it would be a long road and a difficult one to navigate.
“The brain and its magic are very fragile,” Healer Lucas had said, in yet another attempt at offering a satisfactory explanation.
“I’m quite aware that Healer Lucas. As I’ve told you, I have extensive experience with Obliviation and its reversal, I don’t see how this is any—“
“Don’t call me that,” Hermione snapped, a visceral recoil.
“Hermione,” Healer Lucas corrected, employing her most calm and controlled tone. “As I have told you, your injury was the result of contact with an unknown dark artifact from your work at the Ministry which makes your treatment plan entirely unprecedented. Time and patience are our best allies in this.”
Hermione huffed, frustration rising, “if I could take a closer look at my scans, perhaps pull a few books to—“
Healer Lucas lifted a hand to stop her, they’d had this conversation at least twice in the last two hours.
“Hermione, you are the patient, not the caregiver. I appreciate your intellect and your tenacity, I do, but I must ask that you defer to the professional opinions of those of us who are trying to help you.”
Hermione pressed her lips together, smothering her rebuttal. She knew a lost fight when she saw one.
“Rest for now,” Healer Lucas ordered, standing suddenly. “We’ll see if any memories happen to resurface and we’ll begin planning for your discharge.”
Begrudgingly, Hermione slept, caught on the downward crest of her wave of adrenaline, crashing her brain to a near stall.
When she came to again, Ginny sat at her bedside.
“Hey,” the redhead whispered. “How are you?”
Groggy. Tired. Very, very confused. Hermione’s face must have said enough. Ginny scooted her seat closer to the edge of the bed, chair scraping against laminate floors. Carefully, and slow enough that Hermione could pull away if she wanted to, Ginny reached out and held Hermione’s hand in her own.
“I spoke to your Healer just a little while ago, they’re going to discharge you later this afternoon,” Ginny said, her voice quiet. “Apart from your missing time, she says you’re doing really well physically. I have a whole packet of information for you in my bag.” She pulled out a folder of information, presumably her treatment plan, along with a couple weeks worth of Daily Prophets for Hermione to read.
Hermione screwed her eyes shut, sorting through all the new information she’d been flooded with over the twenty four hours she’d been mostly conscious. Opening her eyes again, she examined her friend.
Ginny didn’t look much different than how Hermione remembered, but she carried herself differently. There was a subtle bit more command in the set of her shoulders, in the line of her posture, and something stiffened and tired around her edges. Her face looked almost exactly the same as when Hermione had last seen it in 2001, apart from the dark circles under her eyes.
“Ginny, you look…” Hermione began, not really knowing how to go on.
“Exhausted. I look exhausted,” Ginny supplied with a forced laugh. “I have two children under the age of three and a best friend in the hospital. I don’t think I’ve slept in years.” She gave Hermione’s hand a squeeze. “I’ve been so worried about you.”
Hermione’s stared, her world spinning for a moment, latching onto Ginny's words.
“Children?” she asked.
Ginny’s eyes widened, her grip on Hermione’s hand tightened. “Oh— right, I’m sorry. Don’t worry about that for now, we’re supposed to reintroduce information slowly. Try not to overwhelm you.” Ginny offered a smile, kind but wary.
“You have children,” Hermione repeated. “And I don’t remember. Wait—“ another lurch in Hermione’s mind. “Whose are they— are they Harry’s—your kids, I mean?”
Ginny laughed again, a genuine, tinkling sound, “yes they’re Harry’s. We married in January of 2003, our anniversary was last week. You were my maid of honor.”
Grief suddenly swelled in Hermione, heart aching for a memory she did not know.
“Married. Kids,” Hermione felt choked, short of breath. “This is so much to wrap my head around, Ginny.”
“I know,” Ginny said and then grimaced. “Well, I don’t, actually, I can’t possibly know what you must feel like. But I’m here for you. I came because the boys and I thought it would be best if I were the one to give you the basics before your release. There’s some baseline information about your life that you should know before—“
“Before I have to go live it?”
Ginny pressed her lips together, considering her words. “In a sense, yes.”
“Please tell me the Granger-Malfoy bit has been an elaborate joke,” Hermione said, her voice tight.
“Healer Lucas told me you’ve been asking for Ron,” Ginny said, redirecting.
Hermione’s stomach dropped. She had. Pointlessly she assumed, given the context clues.
“We didn’t think it would be a smart idea for him to visit you, he agreed. He sends his best though, he’s been just as worried as the rest of us.”
“But I’m not his— we’re not— together anymore?” The words taste sour in her mouth, tinged with bile.
Ginny’s face fell.
“Healer Lucas also said your most recent memories are from April of 2001?” Ginny asked carefully.
“You aren’t actually answering any of my questions, Ginny.” Hermione couldn’t quite tell if she was more annoyed or anxious.
“You and Ron,” Ginny began. “You broke up at the end of 2001, and it was the right decision, Hermione. You both think so now.”
“Forgive me for not having the same frame of reference as you do,” Hermione snapped, annoyance winning out.
“It really was for the best, you’re both much happier now,” she insisted. Hermione did her best to control the welling of tears pooling on her lower lids, a blink away from spilling. “And no, the Granger-Malfoy bit isn’t a joke,” Ginny continued. “You and the ferret are obnoxiously perfect together, and don’t you dare tell him I said that.”
“Referring to my alleged husband as a mustelid doesn’t exactly instill confidence, Gin. Additionally, I have no interest in telling Malfoy anything whatsoever.”
“About that,” Ginny started, taking on a defensive sort of posture. “Harry and I are perfectly willing to let you stay at Grimmauld Place with us and the kids, but there will be a lot of stimulus with the three of us plus a toddler and a newborn, and, well, pointy is your husband and the healers think it’s best you be around familiar things and people so—“
“Are you really suggesting I go live with Malfoy?” Hermione nearly shrieked.
“You already live with him,” Ginny hedged.
“I— well, shit. You can’t be serious, Ginny. We’re talking about Malfoy here. He could curse me or carve more slurs into,” Hermione broke off, holding up her left arm for reference, but finding the familiar ‘mudblood’ carving notably absent.
Ginny’s face softened, some of her tense worry melting away. “Trust me, Hermione, of everyone you know, probably myself and Harry included, Draco Malfoy is the least likely to cause you any kind of harm.”
Hermione stared back at her unmarked arm. She’d spent two years trying to erase the hateful words Bellatrix Lestrange left there and had only just come to terms with the fact that it didn’t seem likely they could ever be healed or removed. Ginny squeezed her hand.
“He invented a potion to remove it,” Ginny said, nodding at Hermione’s bare arm. “He gave it to you the Christmas before you started dating.”
Unbelievable. It was actually unbelievable. All of it.
But when Harry showed up as Hermione was being released and reiterated Ginny’s recommendation that she stay at her own flat, which she happened to share Draco Malfoy, Hermione reluctantly agreed. Because Hermione knew how to listen to logic, she knew how to accept the recommendations of her closest friends and the professionals in her medical care, much as she may dislike it. She trusted Harry. She trusted Ginny. And that would have to be enough, even if she didn’t trust Malfoy.
Hermione was in a daze by the time Harry opened the door to what he insisted was her flat with Malfoy. Malfoy. Who was also there, walking carefully a few paces behind them, looking like a quiet ghost of a man. A far cry from the unhinged version of him she’d seen at St. Mungo’s, but still just as unsettling.
Hermione distracted herself by watching the wards to the flat greet her without issue: a shimmering sensation of familiar magic against her skin. Part of her hoped they’d reject her, keep her from entering because that would mean they weren’t keyed to her, that she had no reason to be there.
Harry had already walked through ahead of her. Malfoy trailed somewhere behind.
“You can get through the wards here?” she asked Harry, trying to cling to the practical, reasonable, logical things she could wrap her mind around.
“Malfoy gets tired of answering the door while you’re working and I visit a lot, so—“ he trailed off.
“How trusting of him,” Hermione mused, trying to imagine a world where Draco Malfoy willingly gave Harry Potter free access to his home.
Unless this wasn’t actually Draco Malfoy’s flat and this was actually some sort of strange, elaborate ruse. Hermione tried to banish that intrusive thought; it wasn’t logical, no matter how much easier it would have been. She’d seen her medical records, read the Daily Prophets Ginny brought her, too many things would have to have been coordinated for a ruse this complex. Unless…
Any doubt that this flat belonged to Draco Malfoy vanished when the door swung open.
It was a small space, really rather cramped, and certainly much smaller than any place she could imagine a Malfoy inhabiting. But the living room that greeted Hermione was decorated like a gods damned Slytherin common room, so there was the nail in that coffin.
“A green velvet couch?” she asked, caught somewhere between a shriek and exasperation. Of all the things. “Really?”
She turned to face Malfoy for the first time since she’d been released from St. Mungo’s.
He looked startled at first, the worry carved into his features transforming into confusion, then he broke out into a peal of laughter.
Hermione whirled. Harry had nearly doubled over with laughter as well. And Hermione found herself sandwiched between her best friend and his worst enemy, evidently sharing a hilarious inside joke. She turned a few more times, torn as to which insufferable prat deserved her ire the most.
She honed in on Malfoy, who, she realized, she’d never seen him laugh like this, not with such an unguarded joy. The corners of his eyes crinkled, his white, perfectly straight teeth on full display. He had a dimple on the left side of his mouth.
She put her hands on her hips, this was not the appropriate time for any wizard, best friend, alleged husband, or otherwise, to be laughing at her.
“Well?” she asked, awaiting her explanation.
Malfoy sobered, straightening, twitches of laughter still pulling at his features. Something else on his face softened as he met her eyes for what felt like the first time in Hermione’s entire life. For a moment, it felt like she’s stepped into a whirlpool.
“I can’t even begin to explain what a nightmare the past three days have been, Hermione,” he started. She recoiled at the sound of her first name being said in his voice. She was Granger. He was Malfoy. “But that, Merlin, that right there gives me hope. But the story of that sofa is definitely one for another time.”
“Can I be there for it?” Harry asked, wiping tears from the corners of his eyes, not even bothering to suppress his chuckling. “Please, can I be there for it? Ginny too? We could send invitations, I’m sure Neville would want to see it. Hell, send your Friday night gang invites too, we can make a whole evening of it.”
“Sod off, Potter,” Malfoy said. Somehow it was the nicest insult Hermione had ever heard him hurl.
Hermione continued to stand there, hands on her hips, half expecting one of them to finally explain. When neither did, she huffed past Harry and fully into the living room of the home that was meant to be hers.
But everywhere she looked she saw Malfoy. Crammed into the small sitting room was the enormous tufted green velvet sofa, not one, but two coffee tables wedged side by side, a couple of additional end tables, a cozy looking leather armchair, another, much less comfortable looking leather wingback, and all of it in some version of black, green, or silver. It was honestly a little bit nauseating.
The only bit of herself she could find in the crowded space was the hundreds of books stacked onto every last horizontal surface in addition to the overflowing built-in bookcases lining an entire wall.
“Are we,” and she cringed at the plural pronoun, “moving or redecorating or something?”
Harry nearly choked and Malfoy shot him a dark look.
“Sorry,” Harry apologized. “I don’t really know if I should laugh or cry. I think I’m coping with laughter.”
Hermione didn’t even have it in her to be annoyed that her question went unanswered, she was more concerned with the protective look that shot across Malfoy’s features.
Malfoy broke his annoyed stare at Harry and looked at her, face immediately warming. He shrugged, “we have a lot of books and not enough space for them.”
“And all this furniture?” she asked.
“We have a lot of that, too.” He didn’t elaborate further.
The three of them stood in an uncomfortable silence. Hermione continued to examine the space around her, peering into the adjacent kitchen. Malfoy stood very still, watching her like she was a skittish creature that might scurry away at any moment. And Harry had started nervously raking his hand through his messy hair.
Harry broke the tension first, “I should go,” he said. “Ginny’s expecting me soon.”
Hermione turned to him, feeling her eyes widen. He was leaving her alone with Malfoy? Of course he was, she knew he would. But it seemed far too soon.
Ignoring what could have only been a look of abject horror on her face, Harry stepped forward and gave her a hug. “You’re gonna be fine ‘Mione,” he whispered before releasing her.
“Floo if you need anything,” Harry said, turning to Malfoy. The boys— men— nodded to each other before Harry helped himself to a handful of Floo powder from the mantle and was swept away in a green flash.
Silence enveloped the room once again until Malfoy let out a long breath.
“Can I give you a tour?” he asked.
The tour was as uncomfortable as it was unnerving. Hermione didn’t know how to interact with Malfoy in a way that didn’t involve, at the very least, thinly veiled hostility.
But he seemed perfectly cordial, afraid of her almost, granting her ample space as he walked her through the kitchen, showing her where things were before she even had the chance to ask about them. He pointed out the shelf with her brand of tea, where her secret stash of sweets were kept, and where his favorite candies were that she was informed she was not allowed to have.
It almost sounded like a joke, the corners of his eyes crinkling with the happiness of some memory she didn’t share.
“And this is Crook’s treat jar,” he said, motioning towards a small jar on the counter.
“Crookshanks?” she asked, the first words she’d spoken to him since Harry left. She felt breathless for a moment. Her cat was still alive. He would be old, certainly, but Hermione had just assumed since no one mentioned him that he must have died in the six years of memory she’d lost. That, and she’d had quite a few other things demanding her immediate attention.
Malfoy smiled at her and Hermione had to look away. It was too warm, too kind, too unlike Malfoy.
“I closed him in the bedroom before we came to pick you up. I didn’t want to overwhelm you,” he said quietly.
“Where?” she asked.
“This way,” Malfoy offered, walking her down the long hallway between the living room and the kitchen. He gestured to a door on the left, “that’s the bathroom.” He pointed to another door on the right, “that used to be our guest room but we did one too many experiments in there. Between your confiscated artifacts and my potions, well. It doesn’t work quite right anymore.”
“What doesn’t work right?” Hermione asked, finding herself pulled towards the door. A hand shot out to block her path, but still giving her plenty of personal space.
“The whole room doesn’t work right, even time’s a little funny in there,” Malfoy reached a hand to his hair, longer than she remembered it being. His face contorted for a moment as if his explanation caused him pain. “Potter broke down the door once because we’d been in there for two days and didn’t even know it. We’ve been thinking about making the whole room unplottable.”
“Really?” she asked, curiosity piqued even higher, but immediately regretted it when she saw Malfoy begin unbuttoning the top buttons of his shirt.
She spun, absolutely uninterested in seeing Malfoy without a shirt.
“Sorry,” his voice sounded behind her, an edge of exasperation bleeding through. “I was just showing you my collar.”
Tentatively, Hermione turned back to see he had the top of his shirt stretched towards his left side, revealing a jagged scar running across his collarbone, still pink. It looked newly healed.
“The room flipped us, as in turned us upside down and then back again, when the boy wonder broke in. A cauldron landed on my chest, broke my collarbone in three places. Had to skelegrow my entire sternum. Whatever we did, we broke the room,” he said the last part with a fond smile. Hermione couldn’t help but wonder if he was a little proud of what they’d managed. “But you didn’t want us using it anymore, and especially with you not remember everything we had in there, I have to agree.”
“When did that happen?” she asked, still propelled by curiosity.
“Earlier this month.”
“Oh,” was all Hermione had to say in response. She couldn’t help but eye the handle, fingers itching to reach out and explore whatever lay within. She resisted.
Instead, she brought her attention to the door at the end of the hallway, “Crookshanks?”
Malfoy nodded, deft hands redoing the buttons of his shirt as he led the way towards the last room.
Hermione scooped up her mostly orange companion as soon as the door swung open.
“Oh Crooks you’ve gotten so gray,” she whispered to the half-kneazle, burying her face in his fur.
“He’s doing alright for an old guy,” Malfoy said from behind her. He hadn’t entered the room. Instead, he leaned against the frame and watched her with worry lines creasing his forehead again. He had his arms crossed in front of him, sleeves rolled to the elbows, looking as casual as one could in whatever expensive brand of dress shirt he wore. With a guilty bolt in her gut, Hermione admitted to herself that he was quite handsome, questionable life choices notwithstanding. He’d also been very patient. Hermione cleared her throat, swallowing her pride.
“Thank you for being kind, Malfoy,” she said.
She’d intended for that to be a nice thing to say, but he frowned, face twisting before he caught himself. His features neutralized, the light behind his eyes slipped into something distant.
“Of course,” he said. “I’ll be sleeping on the sofa. It’s already getting quite late, so— uh. The right side of the bed is yours.”
He didn’t wait for her to respond, he just closed the door with a soft click. It was a full minute before she heard the sound of his footsteps retreating. Hermione knew because she’d been holding her breath and couldn’t figure out why.
The bedroom felt just as cramped and foreign to Hermione as the rest of the flat had. The room was crammed with furniture much like the others had been. An enormous bed, far too big for the space, was draped in burgundy sheets, unmade. There were two more overflowing bookcases nearby, an armoire, a separate dresser, two nightstands, a settee (honestly? A settee?), and a door to what Hermione assumed was the closet.
Crookshanks grew restless in her grip so Hermione released him. She walked towards the dresser and braved a look in the attached mirror.
Six years, from a distance, looked like nothing at all. But up close—
She had a couple of fine lines just starting to carve a path of laughter at the corner of her eyes.
She had more variation in the texture and tone of her skin, a little more fullness in her cheeks.
She had longer hair, weighing down her curls and keeping them somewhat under control.
She had a tiny silver scar curving along her right eyebrow, almost invisible, but certainly a new addition to her face.
She also had dark circles under the eyes, but time had nothing to do with those.
Hermione ran a hand through her hair. It felt the same. She felt the same. But she couldn’t deny that something in her reflection said late twenties, not early twenties. She sighed, resignation sinking into her bones. She was exhausted.
She opened one of the drawers to the dresser and then immediately slammed it shut again. She did not need to know if Malfoy was a boxer or briefs kind of guy (though, evidently the answer was boxer-brief). She braved another drawer, more men’s clothes. When she finally found women’s clothing she blanched.
The clothes Ginny had brought her to the hospital were completely normal, up to and including the simple cotton bra and panties. The undergarments in the drawer in front of her were much more elaborate than what she was used to: silks, laces, and tiny scraps of fabric she wouldn’t dare wear.
She closed the drawer and opted for the closet, a silent prayer on her lips for a flannel pajama set.
Her prayers went unanswered. A barrage of black, white, and gray greeted her on the left side of the closet: men’s trousers, shirts, jumpers, and dress robes. Despite herself, Hermione snorted at the few hints of green interspersed amongst the monochrome. Slytherin loyalty evidently still ran deep.
On the right side closet, color assaulted her: dresses, skirts, blouses, trousers, even a couple of gowns crammed into the overflowing space. And not a flannel pajama in sight. Hermione didn’t wear these kinds of clothes, not the racy underwear in the drawers or the oddly business casual to formal range before her. She wore practical clothing, she enjoyed a basic denim, a cotton shirt, and a cozy jumper.
Hermione ground her teeth together and left the closet with a frustrated huff. She had two options, ask Malfoy where her sleeping things were kept or sleep in what she had on. And really, that wasn’t a choice at all.
She regarded the bed, eyeing the stacks of books on each nightstand. Malfoy said the right side of the bed was hers, but curiosity drove her to the left, wanting to know what books he had stacked there. On the nightstand sat a potions periodical, two mastery level potions textbooks, a book on wand lore than looked genuinely fascinating, and The Count of Monte Cristo.
Her brows furrowed at the sight of the muggle literature, breath catching as she reached for it. Hermione couldn’t control the tiny spasm in her hand as she flipped the book open to the inside cover. Her heart twisted. Printed in the carefully practiced script of a proud eleven year old was her own name. Her parents had given her the book for Christmas when she was eleven and it had been one her favorites ever since. She’d loved it at eleven because it was a big book, the kind of book adults were impressed she could read. She loved as she grew older for the intricacies of the story, and for the fond memories she had of the last Christmas with her parents before magic became the center of her world. It was a memory of a simpler time, not necessarily better, but simpler.
She put the book back and retreated to the other side of the bed. Her nightstand held a book on recent transfiguration advances, something on dark artifacts that looked straight out of the restricted section, a few novels, and a planner embossed with her initials. Or rather, embossed with HJGM. She considered the offensive combination of gold leaf letters as she peeled off her jeans, unhooked her bra from under her cotton tee, and climbed into bed. Crookshanks immediately joined her.
She reached for the planner, feeling strangely at odds with herself. She found the page for the day before the accident. The box was littered with notes in what was indisputably her own handwriting. She’d made a list for anything and everything: read Neville’s new article, grab take out on the way home, prep for 11 o’clock meeting, check how Draco’s scar is healing, and so on and so forth for an entire page of her life she’d lived less than a week ago and had no recollection of.
She pressed the open book to her chest, gripping it with clenched hands. She hurt, a pain stowed away inside her chest, an unwanted passenger in her life. She didn’t know who this person was or how to be the version of Hermione everyone knew now. And worse, she didn’t feel like she had a choice. Not from the way Ginny and Harry had looked at her. And certainly not from how Malfoy looked at her.
She allowed herself one painful sob, tears breaking free before she pulled herself back together. She looked at the planner again, appreciating on a small level that structure brought her sanity no matter the year. She flipped forward, blank pages for days she’s spent in at St. Mungo’s. She flipped more and stopped, nearly jumping out of her own skin. In red ink, at the top of three days that week, was a single word, once again written in her own hand, and underlined far too aggressively: sex.
This could not possibly get any worse.
The next morning Hermione exited the bedroom feeling like she hadn’t slept at all. She was torn between hope and anxiety that she might dream up a memory to help bridge the gaps between her mind in 2001 and her mind in 2007. She woke more than once with a lump in her throat and a hammering in her chest. Crookshanks hovered nearby with his cat version of concern, which was to say, very little at all.
She found Malfoy in the kitchen with a cup of tea ready for her.
“How are you—Oh,“ he started as he set the cup down in front of her, stepping as far into her personal space as he had, well, ever, as he pulled out a chair for her to sit in. “I should have shown you where your clothes are.” His face fell, clearly annoyed with himself.
“I found the formalwear, but those dresses didn’t seem especially conducive to quality sleep,” she said, attempting a friendly tone.
He gave a small laugh and sat opposite her at the table, his own cup in front of him. “Your wardrobe has—evolved recently. You have a stash of comfortable pieces in the back of the closet.”
More new information. Hermione tried to find the right place in her brain to log it, to memorize it, to become it.
“I’ve taken the day off work, well, I took the whole week off, but as it’s now Friday—” Malfoy began.
“You work?” Hermione couldn’t help herself, the incredulity was obvious in her tone. She hadn’t thought often of Malfoy since his trial. She’d testified on his behalf and then set the man out of her mind, focusing on returning to school for her NEWTs, restoring her parents’ memories, and beginning a fruitful career in a world without a dark wizard plaguing it.
But if she had thought of what Malfoy might be up to in his barely earned freedom, she would have assumed it was something vague and nebulous, along the lines of ‘managing the estate’ or ‘embezzling from the trust’ and other such posh aristocratic nonsense. But working? At a job that required he inform someone that he needed time off? That would have never crossed her mind.
Malfoy set his tea down, a patient, serene sort of expression on his face as he answered her, “Yes, I work.”
She’d expected a quip, or a snarl, or something. She had insulted him, at least implicitly. Insult adjacency.
Instead, he’d gone rather vacant in the eyes.
“You had that same look last night,” she observed, studying him.
A bit of warmth flooded him before it vanished again. It was almost like watching a kaleidoscope behind someone’s eyes. But instead of colors, they were emotions, and instead of multiplying in every conceivable direction they were whittled down, one by one. She’d never seen anything like it.
He cleared his throat, shaking his head lightly, “sorry, I occluded a little too hard too fast.”
He shrugged at her, as close to sheepish as she’d ever seen Draco Malfoy look.
“It’s helping me manage this,” he concluded.
Hermione found both her hands palm down on the stable, staring at him with unmasked curiosity.
“You’re an Occlumens?” Her question sounded closer to an accusation.
She watched another emotion flake and break away behind his eyes before he answered.
“Yes, it’s quite helpful when one has a murderer as a house guest. I haven’t had to use it regularly in a number of years though, so I’m a touch sloppy.”
“And you need to use it because of me?”
“I do. But not all the time, at least not fully. Only when necessary.”
“If you didn’t want to bother at all, I wouldn’t mind—“
“That’s not going to happen,” Malfoy said, and if he hadn’t been occluding, Hermione was certain his tone would have been quite nasty.
“Why not?” she challenged.
Malfoy offered her a smirk, something so Malfoy-esque that it didn’t even feel real; it felt planted, faked. “Because I’d very much like for you not to hate me.”
“I don’t hate you, Malfoy.”
“Even in 2001?”
Hermione briefly wondered what would happen if he whittled down every last emotion he didn’t want until he had nothing left but his control. Would he shatter that too? Break it into smaller, more manageable pieces? Would his will become iron clad or brittle and ready to snap? She wanted to ask him, Merlin it was interesting. But also, not the right time.
“Even in 2001,” she answered. “I didn’t even know you in 2001. And what I did know of you was from your trial, the war, and school. None of which are particularly pleasant memories. Trust you? No. But hate you? No, I’ve tried rather hard to forgive and move on.”
He was silent for a moment, watching her.
“Well, that certainly colors our first interaction after my trial differently,” he said, the hint of a real smile ghosting across his face.
“How do you mean?”
“Another time, perhaps. We’re off topic,” he said. “My point was that I’m not working today because I was planning to accompany you to visit your parents. They’ve been understandably worried, memory loss is obviously very personal to them.”
“When did you speak to my parents? Are they still upset with me? Last I remember they’d only just agreed to have dinner with me—”
“Your relationship is much better now,” Malfoy assured her. “It’s not perfect, but they came around pretty quickly. I’ve kept them updated every day on the small torture box you send me hearts on.” From his pocket, Malfoy produced a cell phone and waggled it at her.
Hermione wanted to sink into the very center of the earth at the thought that she might be sending Malfoy anything heart related via telecommunications.
“You know how to use that?” she asked.
“Not exactly. I know the three buttons I have to push to hear your voice and the other three buttons to hear your parents’ voices.”
Hermione snorted, the entire concept completely silly. But even as she allowed herself that little, happy thought, she felt herself stilling, sobering.
“Malfoy,” she began. “I appreciate it, I do. That’s— well it’s far more than I expected. But I think I’d prefer to visit my family on my own.”
She risked a glance up at him.
He’d stiffened against the back of his chair, shards upon shards of feeling flaking away behind his eyes until all Hermione could make out was the icy stillness of a concentrated stare.
He nodded briefly, “of course.”
He stood quickly, and Hermione noticed for the first time that he too still wore yesterday’s clothes. The normally crisp lines of his dark trousers and white shirt had descended into a chaos of creases and crinkles, evidence of a poor night’s sleep. He looked like he wanted to say more but thought better of it.
Instead, he disappeared into the bedroom and reemerged minutes later looking completely pulled back together.
“I have errands to run,” he told her, voice still tight and cold. “Your parents are expecting you around noon, they’re connected to Floo.”
He looked at her just long enough for Hermione to nod that she’d heard him before he disapparated with a pop.
Hermione found herself enveloped in a crushing hug immediately upon exiting her parents’ fireplace. Which sent her tumbling into a fit of sobs.
“Oh darling, it’s alright,” her mother whispered against her hair as Hermione let herself fall apart for the first time since waking up at St. Mungo’s. She’d given into tiny swells of tears here and there when they hit her with particulars force, but never such resounding sobs of agony and relief. She’d been so successful at holding them back, from the grief of losing years of her life to the emotional unpredictability that was finding oneself married to a stranger; she’d held it all in. But to really have her parents back. That was too much.
“You were so upset with me,” she managed to choke against her mother’s cardigan. “Mum, I thought you’d never forgive me.”
“Hush, honey, that’s long past us now,” her mother whispered as they knelt together, on the living room floor. “Come now, we have some food ready.”
Hermione allowed her mother to pull her to her feet, where she then launched herself into her father’s arms, so desperate to know she really had them back. By the time she disentangled herself from her parent’s arms, she’d been steered towards the dining room, where four places were set.
Hermione sniffed, wiping her face with no dignity, too wrung out to care.
“Is Draco on his way, dear?” her father asked as he walked Hermione to a seat, giving her arm tiny squeezes of encouragement.
“Oh,” Hermione started, eyeing the fourth plate on the table. “I told him I’d rather visit by myself.”
Her mother smiled at her, reaching out to hold her hand.
“That’s quite alright,” she said. “We just assumed he’d join you.”
Hermione’s father sat across from her.
“Please thank him again for us,” he said. “He kept us very well informed, brought us to see you while you were still unconscious.”
“Malfoy brought you to St. Mungo’s?” Hermione asked, trying to imagine Draco Malfoy escorting two muggles through a magical hospital.
“Of course he did,” her mother answered without missing a beat. “He’s very considerate.”
Hermione couldn’t reconcile those words with her image of Malfoy so she said nothing. She helped herself to some food, pushing it around her plate more than eating as she tried to think of a single thing she could say to her parents that didn’t cause a lump to form in her throat.
Finally, after an agonizing few minutes of silence, she settled on, “have you heard how much time I lost?”
Her father offered her a smile, “Draco told us. You’re going to be fine dear, we know better than most. It just takes time.”
Hermione’s heart wrenched. His tone was kind but his words still sliced through her, a direct assault through skin and bone, directly to her heart. Guilt flared inside her.
“They don’t know that,” Hermione said in a small voice. “The healers hope I’ll get my memories back, but they don’t know with certainty.” She cracked, choking on another sob. She balled her hands into fists, pressing them to the top of the table, trying to anchor herself to something solid. “I can’t help but feel like I deserve it.” The admission tore through her.
Her mother was immediately beside her, a soothing hand rubbing circles into her back, whispering words of assurance.
“This is not some kind of recompense for what you had to do to us,” her father said in a level voice from across the table.
“It stands to reason—“ Hermione began, but her father cut her off.
“It most certainly does not. The universe doesn’t operate on a debt system. There’s no version of this world where you deserve to lose what you’ve lost.”
Hermione didn’t have the wherewithal to do anything but cry, meal forgotten, into the arms of her mother who, somehow, had forgiven her.
Day had turned to night by the time Hermione left her parents’ house. She cried more than once while she was there, occasionally slipping into a well of grief that she could only dare visit in her childhood home, comforted by her family. But they laughed too, toeing carefully around the last six years so as to not overwhelm, and instead slipping easily into discussions of a happy childhood, dental practice anecdotes, and the weather when conversation grew thin.
After a full day of reconnecting with her parents, coupled with the emotional toll her tears took, Hermione felt dead on her feet by the time she stepped through the fireplace and into the flat she was meant to share with Malfoy.
She stopped, frozen in place at the sight before her.
Draco Malfoy lay sprawled, unconscious, across the obnoxious green sofa. Asleep, he looked much more like the boy she’d known in her youth, worry lines vanished, the tightness around his eyes and jaw released. His hair fell messily over his forehead, no longer beholden to whatever product or charm he used to keep it in place during the day. He slept with his mouth partially open. Which was almost endearing.
But the thing that gave Hermione pause, that stopped her in her tracks and pulled at her heart with a familiar feeling of longing she’d never before felt directed towards the man in front of her, was the sight of Crookshanks, curled in a ball and fast asleep on his chest.