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A/N- Just a few things to add that I couldn’t fit into the story summary, then you can get on with the reading!

This is a Dark!Harry fic that I have created for one of my good friends. She gave me a list of things she wanted to see in a story and I wrote it out for her, so I’m hoping everyone loves it as much as she does (so far, since it’s not finished).

Even though I chose angst and horror in the genres, it’s also pretty humourous. It actually doesn’t start getting dark until we are a few chapters in, but I thought everyone should be aware of that.

This is NOT a songfic- I had this story started (and at this point I’m over 50,000 words in) ages before the song of the same title came out, but it’s very, very fitting, to say the least.

I do not own Harry Potter and unfortunately make no money from borrowing the characters and making them do my bidding. I know... life sucks.

I’m done!

On with the reading!

 

Prologue

“Hello, Mrs. Catchery!”

Hermione beamed at the woman who just walked through the door, causing a bell to tinkle above her head while she smiled at the young lady.

“How’s your day going, dear?” The older woman asked, not just for the sake of making small talk. Mrs. Catchery actually wanted to know. Hermione had this effect on plenty of her regulars, which is why they were regulars in the first place.

“Just great, I got a large shipment in today. An assortment of Muggle novels, since they’ve been flying off of my shelves like they’ve been summoned. People can’t get enough of them.”

“Well, I know I certainly can’t,” the older woman, who was wearing a ridiculously large mink coat said, winking.

Hermione gazed at her outfit for a moments before looking back outside, where the sun was shining down with serious power, considering it was only April.

“I have your order prepared, actually,” Hermione said, emerging from behind the counter in her classic muggle attire, slightly tight jeans, and a t-shirt that read, ‘Push My Buttons,’ with a computer keyboard stretched across her chest. She rushed into the backroom, her flats jingling slightly from the zipper that adorned the back, and came out moments later hovering a large box in front of her.

Mrs. Catchery had a serious soft spot for the muggle writer John Sandford, and Hermione wasn’t going to deny her of it. Hermione exchanged the box for Galleons and she placed the gold in her till, waiting for Mrs. Catchery to say something about her attire; something the woman did every single time she came into the store.

‘Push My Buttons,’ the woman mouthed to herself, as though working out a puzzle in her mind, before glancing up at Hermione with an impish grin on her face.

“Muggles are so callous,” she stated, but not in a mean way. In fact, the woman’s cheeks went a little red, as though she was embarrassed from her words, “but they sure have style.”

Hermione laughed out loud as the woman gestured to her mink coat, before she picked up her new box of books and headed for the door with a nice, “See you in a couple of weeks, dear,” before the door snapped shut behind her.

Hermione was 26 now and loved her job more than pretty much anything else in her life, not that she had much outside of her career. She was busy because she owned and operated her own book store called Pleasure Bound, and she only had two part time employees working for her a few days each week, usually in the evenings.

The war had taken its toll on the wizarding world, and muggle attire, tradition, and even electronics, in a way, had made their way into the world of magic. Upper class citizens weren’t even against wearing muggle clothing, once they sunk their claws into designer labels, such as Chanel, Armani, and Versaci. She consistently saw the rich wearing high end clothing, always accompanied by Gucci, Jimmy Choo or Manolo Blahnik high heels; something that Hermione not only wished she could walk in, but also afford. She stuck with skinny jeans or leggings, witty t-shirts or tank tops, and flats or sandals, the latter only donning her feet after treating herself to a relaxing pedicure.

Hermione had spent her fair share of time fighting a war and being another one of ‘the guys’, rolling around in mud while trying to stay alive, not showering nearly often enough and always feeling less than attractive, so she went out of her way now to accentuate what was naturally hers, taming her hair, donning light makeup, and having fun with her style in general.

She took her job seriously, but she still had a good time doing it and she certainly wasn’t going to spend her time wearing something stuffy like a uniform; she wasn’t going to make her employees wear them either. So much could be portrayed by clothes, which was something she both loved and took advantage of, and she knew that it was probably a little bit insane to have one walk in closet, as well as a second bedroom, packed full of clothes and shoes and different accessories, but she couldn’t find it in her to care.

That was her life now.

Now that her, Harry and Ron were not best friends.

The war had changed that, too.

During ‘The Second Great War of the Wizarding World’, Hermione had been left behind by her friends, left to fight the ‘less dangerous’ battles, even though they always wound up with deceased Order members on their side, while Harry and Ron went on to be the heroes of the world, the ones that would always be remembered and spoken about. That hurt Hermione more than she could ever say. Not because she wasn’t being remembered by everyone in the world, but because she hadn’t even been remembered by her best friends, the friends that had been together since they were eleven years old. Hermione always thought it would be the three of them together in the end of it all, but somehow she got left behind in safe houses, surrounded by people who were virtually strangers to her at first.

Hermione accompanied the two boys on their search for the Horcruxes, but as soon as they realized they were out of their element, which took a surprisingly long time, they headed back to the Order for help. They had managed to collect, but not destroy, a locket that had been desecrated by Voldemort’s soul, but after many months of living in a tent and scrounging for food they had decided to call it quits and bring in reinforcements.

That’s when Hermione was left behind.

She was pretty bitter about the whole thing in the beginning, but as the three friends began drifting apart, she started to care a lot less about it all.

Harry was now withdrawn and lived the life of a recluse. The war had lasting effects on him and Hermione had slowly drifted away from him because of his attitude and the way that she felt around him after the war ended; she couldn’t find a way to help him and the guilt almost choked her sometimes.

Guilt because she honestly had thought she could help him heal and become whole again.

She couldn’t.

The war lasted from the time Hermione was sixteen, until she was twenty-one, and Harry and Ginny had started dating the final year of the war; after Harry finally realized his thoughts of protecting the younger Weasey were fruitless and Ginny nagged until he gave in. They had been together until a year after Ginny graduated. Hermione figured the press and fans were driving Ginny and Harry apart and no one had ever tried to dissuade this notion from her mind.

It wasn’t her business, apparently, and she quickly stopped asking questions about it.

Hermione tried to contact Harry about once a month for the last few years, and sometimes she got responses, while other times she didn’t. She hadn’t actually seen the ‘Saviour of the Wizarding World’ in almost two years, and the last time she had spent time with him they had fought. Harry wasn’t the same person that he was before tiring out from the war, and Hermione was trying to help him see the light; something he obviously didn’t want to do. She left him alone after that, but still tried to at least contact him and send him a letter every so often.

She wanted to see him, but something was stopping her, something in her heart and soul. She was worried about him, but she was afraid of him too. When they fought about his health when she had last seen him, he had very uncharacteristically raised a hand to her. She had flinched away from him and he hadn’t hit her, but he had been so angry and the rage on his face made her sure he was going to; she was scared to be around him, especially alone, since that day because he had seemed so unlike himself.

She had decided many times that she would put in more of an effort to see her old friend, scared or not, because he was probably even lonelier than she was, but never actually went through with it. She was sure that the argument they had was just a silly disagreement, and the rage in his soul had probably passed by now but for whatever reason she never made the effort.

She was busy with her own life.

Hermione heard from Ron just as little as she did from Harry, but Ron wasn’t living the life of a recluse. Ron had miraculously, some would say, got on with the Chudley Cannons once the war had finally come to a close, and he was seriously involved with one of the chasers on the team. He had toyed with the idea of becoming an Auror, but in the end he had decided that he had had enough of fighting and all of the stress they had lived in for most of their lives.

The Chudley Cannons were still one of the worst teams in history of the sport, but Hermione tried to give him plenty of support whenever she wrote to him. She hadn’t set eyes on him in the flesh in over a year, and the one time she had seen him had been at one of his games, so she barely got to say two words to her former best friend. Ron had spent the evening following the match that they had actually won surrounded by reporters, fans, and his family.

Ron’s girlfriend, whose name Hermione couldn’t remember for the life of her, even though it was on so many posters and she was sure she had seen it millions of times, was also around Ron all the time, and was somewhat wary about Hermione. She supposed that was fair, even though Hermione and Ron both knew that there weren’t any feelings between them, but girlfriends were allowed to be unsure about other females around their boyfriends.

It was sad, really, but Hermione supposed that that was what happened when people grew up and started their lives.

It didn’t make it any less lonely, knowing that.

Chapter One

Hermione threw herself into her shop when she had acquired it, and now she was toying with the idea of opening a little café in her store, allowing people to lounge and read books that they’ve purchased with a nice cuppa and some baking. The area beside hers was vacant and for sale, and she had actually done quite well with her own store, especially since Flourish and Blott’s didn’t reopen after the war. It would extend her store by a long shot and draw in new customers, and she really did think that people would enjoy it.

Hermione finished unpacking her order of muggle novels she had received that morning before deciding to take a small break. She checked the time and knew that Freya, one of her part time workers, would be to the store at four, which was in a couple hours. She took a seat behind her cash register and pulled out the Daily Prophet, which was now, thankfully, reporting nothing but the truth, since it was owned and operated by new staff.

She read it from cover to cover, stopping every so often to help a customer, and came across a few things that peaked her interest. One article made dread twist her stomach and caused her hands to shake slightly, while the other two were just… sad. The first article she came across was tiny and crammed into a two inch section of the paper, almost as though the editor didn’t really want people to read it; it had no flashy heading and very little information, but it still made her feel somewhat ill.

“The grave of the once extremely popular headmaster at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, Albus Percival Wulfric Brian Dumbledore, was vandalised this weekend past. The current Headmistress was unavailable for comment, but it seems as though the perpetrator was unable to access the tomb; wards that were protecting it from dark magic were activated, which left the tomb unscathed.”

That was it.

Hermione’s reaction to reading this article was completely justified, since she knew for a fact that the Deathstick, as some had called it, was residing in that very tomb at the moment. Her hairs stood up on the back of her neck as she tried to figure out who else knew of its existence, outside of the obvious Not-So-Golden Trio.

The other two articles she read were in the obituary section of the paper. Two people she knew, or rather, knew of, were on the page, and she found herself unable to tear her eyes away. The first one was not someone she knew, was someone she would actually now, never get the chance to know, but she had went to school with the father of the child that the article was about.

It seemed that Blaise Zabini had married not long after the war, and judging by the small article all that Hermione could see was the woman’s name; pure-blood no doubt. Hermione realized that she had actually heard this last name before, although she didn’t know the witch in question: Astoria Greengrass. Pure-blood, for sure. They had a baby boy just two days prior, but unfortunately he had died of ‘natural causes’ not long after he was born.

Hermione’s heart went out to the family, even though she didn’t really know them. She hadn’t spoken one word to Blaise Zabini during school and honestly had never given him a second thought, and Hermione thought that maybe the Greengrass girl who was in her year was named Dora or something, but still, Hermione was the type of person to feel awful for anyone who had lost a child.

The second name that she knew on the paper in front of her was Narcissa Malfoy. Her husband had died four years ago from a heart attack when he was cleared as innocent by the Wizegamot (ironic or what?!), but the obituary was very vague and all that it stated was that she had died, again from ‘natural causes’, and was outlived by her son Draco Malfoy.

The following months for Hermione were a whirlwind of new and returning customers, working at her store on a very regular basis and making sure all of her shelves were kept full, soaking up all of the knowledge that she could while taking breaks, toying with the idea of buying the still-vacant shop next door and going home to her empty flat in the evenings and muggle London on weekends to spend time with her parents. She had finally decided to take the time to drop by Harry’s cottage, but he wasn’t there, and every time she decided to stop by after that was to an empty house. She was beginning to get frustrated by the fact that she just couldn’t seem to touch bases with him lately and left a note on his doorstep to come see her whenever he had a chance, pinned down beneath a rock. She hadn’t seen Ron at all, although she had received an owl that he had finally proposed to his chaser girlfriend, whose name was Bryony, incidentally.

That didn’t make Hermione feel any better about her lonely life, either.

She wished that Ginny were around to talk to, but they had never really been that close and she had been signed on with the Holyhead Harpies, another Quidditch team; Ginny basically had to live at the training grounds and was busier than Hermione, in a sense. She was single and would at least know how Hermione was feeling, but Ginny was almost two years younger than Hermione and would have had other things on her mind.

Hermione sighed and almost gave herself whiplash as an owl tapped on her window, startling her from her musings. She realized it was the Evening Prophet, and cursed the owl for almost making her snap her neck about news that she really didn’t care much about.

She took the paper from the owl anyway, pressing a knut into the pouch that was situated around the birds middle before it took off, and she went to make a cup of hot tea before she could get into the paper. She unfurled it after placing the mug of steaming tea onto her table and looked through the paper.

There was another small article that she noticed was lacking information about a break in at Borgin and Burke’s, but she really didn’t pay much attention to it because she honestly didn’t know much about what was happening in the darker spectrum of their world. She spent too much time focusing on her shop to be bothered by things that she knew little about.

She was surprised, however, to realize that Borgin and Burke’s was still even operating in Knockturn alley, which wasn’t that far from her store in Diagon Alley.

Nothing else caught her eye until she was at the obituaries, and she felt almost unsettled when she saw what was printed. Another baby of one of her pure-blooded schoolmates had passed, and the rumours she had heard in the past bubbled to the surface of her memory.

She had heard that pure-bloods were having serious problems procreating with other pure-bloods. Some people called it a curse, while other’s tried to press the Muggle term of genes, but no one in this world really understood what that meant. The Blaise Zabini incident could have been coincidental, as well as this one, but she had an odd feeling about it now and tried to remember if she had come across anything about it in her book store.

She hadn’t.

Not that she would have a problem ordering books that might help her figure it out.

Could there really be something out there causing pure-blooded babies to die? Was there anyone researching this? She felt a thrill shimmy up her spine as she realized that this could be something she could really try and figure out, something to help her fellow generation.

She studied the sad eyes of Parvati Patil and her husband, Barnaby Syndergaard, who was also a pure-blood. Hermione knew this because he had made sure to tell her at least seventeen times the one time she had met him, and she started to think that maybe there was something to the rumours, after all.

Hermione thought back to all of her schoolmates who were pure-blooded, and realized, with the exception of the Weasley’s, there weren’t many with more than one child. The Patil’s were twins, so therefore it was only one birth, but Blaise Zabini was an only child, as well as Draco Malfoy, Pansy Parkinson, Ernie Macmillan, Neville Longbottom, Lavender Brown, Luna Lovegood and Millicent Bulstrode, to name a few.

Could that be right? Was this all a coincidence?

It was right then and there that Hermione decided maybe there was something to this after all, because the more she thought of students who went to school with her, she realized that a high majority of them were single children, and now, after they married a different pureblood, their children were dying.

She shuddered at the thought of losing a child, and went to grab a Hogwarts class photo, trying to pick out everyone in the picture that she knew was pure-blooded; a feat harder than it sounded, since people were flitting in and out of the frame, moving around constantly.

She held her breath while she resolved that she would try and figure out more about this.

She jumped when there was a harsh knocking on her door, dropping her class picture onto the floor and staring at her entry way. She wasn’t expecting visitors but maybe Harry had finally decided to show himself.

Hermione moved to the door slowly, purposefully avoiding the floorboards that she knew were creaky before almost laughing at herself, feeling foolish. These weren’t Dark times anymore and she really didn’t have anything to fear. She patted her pocket for a moment to ensure that she still had her wand, and then opened the door quickly.

Her eyebrows knit in confusion when she saw who was standing there, someone she hadn’t even seen for at least seven years. He looked almost the same, except he was taller than she remembered and his face didn’t seem to possess quite the sharp angles that it used to. His hair was longer than she recalled and it wasn’t gelled back in the serious manner he had worn it for their seven years of school. He had seriously broad shoulders and was just huge in general, towering above her 5’5” frame. Hermione was shocked to see that he was wearing muggle attire, before she realized that he would be no exception to the latest fad, but she dropped her eyes to his jeans and shoes, surprised all the same. All of this flitted through Hermione’s mind in less than ten seconds.

“Draco Malfoy?”

He nodded, and Hermione was more confused by his actions. He had his hands jammed into his pockets and looked almost meek, a thought that almost made Hermione laugh because she knew he was anything but. He was almost reminding her of the way he and his family had looked after the fall of Voldemort, when they sat awkwardly at the mass funerals; not exactly fitting in, but trying to without drawing too much attention to themselves.

“Can I come in?”

His voice was gruff, and she automatically stepped back. Somewhere in the recesses of her brain she was glad that she had tidied up earlier that day, as well as mentally cataloguing her outfit, for some insane reason.

Skinny jeans? Check.

Cute wife-beater top that said “Muscles and Mascara”? Check.

Freshly pedicured bare feet? Check.

Long bauble necklace? Check.

Her hair was pulled into a high pony, wisps strategically falling around her face in a flattering manner.

For some reason, she was pleased about this, and she figured it was because he had always made fun of the way she had looked in school; she wanted to prove him wrong.

Even though she was over his appalling behaviour of their childhood.

She was.

“Please,” Hermione said politely, “Let me get your cloak! And your shoes can just go there,” she said, pointing to a rubber mat beside her door. Hermione took his cloak and hung it up and gestured toward her couch. “Can I get you something? Tea, perhaps?”

She had clearly not had guests in a while if she was going out of her way to make Draco Malfoy comfortable in her home. In all fairness, though, she hadn’t seen him in years and he really didn’t deserve to have the past thrown in his face, she was just as awful as he was when they were children and he had, after all, tried to defy Voldemort. Maybe he had been a coward about it, along with his parents, but Hermione couldn’t begrudge the fact that they had at least tried, in the end.

“Tea would be nice.”

Hermione got Draco a cup of tea and refilled her now cold cup as well before going into the living room to sit on the armchair that was near the couch, passing him his mug before pulling her legs up so she could probably rest her chin on her knee, if she wanted to. Draco took a delicate sip before placing his tea squarely on the coffee table and looking her directly in the eye.

“I know this must be strange for you, and before we begin this discussion, I just want to apologize to you for my past transgressions.”

Hermione waved her hand, as though sweeping his comments aside.

“I apologize as well, but it was years ago and we were quite young. Everything is forgiven.”

Draco looked relieved and continued watching her until she got nervous.

“So what can I do for you, Mr. Malfoy?”

He looked like he wanted to laugh, but he said, “You can call me Draco.”

Hermione nodded, feeling exceptionally awkward, before she said, “Okay, so what can I do for you, Draco?” The name rolled off of her tongue in a foreign way, but she liked it, and she was glad to see that he had noticed she wasn’t a beaver toothed, bushy haired know-it-all anymore, judging by the way he was looking at her.

Okay, well maybe she was still a know-it-all.

“I hear you own a bookstore now?”

Definitely a know-it-all.

Hermione nodded slowly, unsure where this conversation was heading and beginning to feel unnerved by the way Draco was watching her. She picked up her necklace and began running it through her lips, a habit she had picked up months ago and didn’t seem to be able to break. She realized what she was doing and saw Draco Malfoy staring at her mouth, so she dropped the beads quickly, wringing her hands together.

“Have you heard anything about Blaise Zabini?” he asked, somewhat evasively, but Hermione felt her heartbeat pick up a little bit. Was he here to talk about things that she had been musing about seconds before he knocked on her door?

“I heard about his loss, yes.”

“I was to be the Godfather to his son.”

Hermione was unsure what to say to that little tidbit of information. Draco was talking to her as though they were all great friends in Hogwarts, as though she should feel some sort of comradery with him and Blaise. She had completely forgotten about the dark-skinned man’s existence until she had read the article, and she found it strange that Draco was sitting here in her flat telling her these things. Instead of acknowledging his words she just informed him about what she had just read in the Evening Prophet, trying to get them to solid ground; just the facts, please.

“I saw that Parvati and Barnaby Syndergaard also lost a child, just this morning,” Hermione said sadly.

“Pure-bloods?” Draco asked, looking a little surprised at her words.

“Aren’t they all?” she asked, surprising Draco again.

“It sure seems that way.”

“Can I ask you something? It might be a little bit too personal, and if you don’t want to tell me then I completely understand, but I’m incredibly curious about this.”

Draco looked wary, his eyes taking on a guarded look and his jaw clenching slightly, but he nodded all the same.

“Did your parents intend to have only one child? How about most of your schoolmates? Was the one child per family thing set, or was there another reason?”

Draco’s eyes widened, “So you know why I’m here?”

Hermione was confused again, and Draco answered her question instead, “My mother carried three other children, one before my birth and two after, but unfortunately they were either stillborn or she miscarried late in her term.”

“And your classmates?”

“I know for a fact that Mrs. Parkinson and Mrs. Zabini both had other pregnancies that ended in heartbreak.”

“Why is that?” Hermione asked quietly, almost to herself, and she picked up her mug of tea and cradled it in both hands, blowing into the steam. Draco was hesitant to speak to her again, she seemed to be deep in thought, and so instead of breaking her concentration he picked up his own mug and sipped at it. He glanced around her tiny flat and noticed that she had actually acquired good taste, somewhere along the way, and he was glad to see that her house was clean, even though he knew there was no way she would have a house elf.

His eyes then fell onto the picture on her floor, and he reached down and picked it up, smiling softly at the memory of Hogwarts. He inspected the young faces of his friends and schoolmates, and realized it had been years since he had seen most of them. They would have graduated over nine years ago… where had the time gone?

“I was looking at that to determine how many of our classmates were only children, well the pure-blooded ones anyway,” Hermione said, obviously broken out of her reverie.

“Too many,” Draco said, “Which is what brings me here. I’ve heard rumours my entire life about how pure-bloods were cursed and unable to have more than one child, if any at all, but that’s ludicrous, someone wouldn’t be able to just put a curse on every pure-blooded witch or wizard in the entire world. Anyway-”

“-Is this occurrence happening all over the world or just England?”

Draco cocked his head to the side for a moment, and Hermione hoped he wasn’t about to yell at her for interrupting him. She thought he was finished speaking and she started to ask her question just as he was beginning to talk, but he didn’t seem mad, and just said, “You know, I’m actually not sure, but I assumed everywhere.”

“Hmmmm…”

“Anyway, now that our generation is having a hard time reproducing, I figured it would be something for someone with impeccable research skills to look into…”

“And you want that person to be me?” Hermione was beyond surprised, her left eyebrow ascending on her forehead.

“I may have acted like a complete imbecile in school, but I was always aware that you were, and are, incredibly smart. I didn’t need to hear Lupin call you the brightest witch of our age in order to figure that out. You have always been fact oriented and I’ve even heard that you planned a majority of the battles during the war, because you were the best researcher they had. I’m not arrogant enough to let this slip away and continue to be a rumour because I can’t pull my head out of my arse and put aside our differences.”

Hermione snorted at the word ‘differences’, and it didn’t slip by Draco’s knowledge. He narrowed his eyes at her, but seemed content to let it pass. He probably didn’t want to piss her off when he was here asking for her help, which is something the old Draco Malfoy never would have done; she did have to give him credit there.

“Well, I really think that with both of our brains working on this, we could figure it out. My library is more than extensive enough to help us with this.”

“Can I think about it?”

“Of course.”

Hermione felt an odd feeling of trepidation building up within her. She couldn’t explain it, because Draco was being perfectly nice, and she was extremely interested in whatever was going on with these deaths, but she wasn’t thrilled to be putting herself out there beside him. She realized that Draco was staring at her again.

“I’d have to see if my part time girls could pick up more hours,” she said evasively.

“I’ll pay you.”

“That’s not where I was going with that.”

“I’ll pay you anyway, probably more than your bookstore brings in.”

Hermione bristled.

“How could you possibly know how much I make from my store?”

She wouldn’t put it past him to somehow secure her records. He was the famous, handsome, rich bachelor, Draco Malfoy, after all. Hermione rolled her eyes inwardly at the words that always seemed to accompany his picture in those stupid Witch Weekly magazines her employees, Freya and Clementine, always seemed to be leaving around her shop.

Draco didn’t answer her question, but he was watching her closely again.

“So what do you do, now?” She asked him, hoping that it would distract him and cause him to look away. She knew her house was warm, because she was only wearing a wife beater, and she noticed that Draco’s long sleeve shirt was only rolled up on one arm, which was strange.

She was about to ask him why he was wearing his shirt like that, but his reply sent her thoughts flying.

“You’re supposed to be thinking.”

“I meant think for a few days, not think for two minutes. This is a huge deal and would change my life.”

“What life?! All you do it work and come sit at home by yourself. Hell, you haven’t even had a visitor in days.”

“How wou… how do you know that, Draco?” Hermione asked, eyes blazing. She could feel the hairs on her arms and the back of her neck standing up straight because what he said obviously meant he had been watching her, and that creeped her right out. This made her trepidation rise again.

“You have no one.” Draco stated baldly, staring right at her.

“Get out.” She said, her temper rising quickly. She didn’t need this pompous arse, who she had decided to forgive for his old behaviour which was obviously still under the surface, reminding her how badly her life sucked.

“I’m not leaving until we decide what to do!”

We.

We?!

Hermione wanted to scream at him that there ‘was no we’! She didn’t even know this man, and here he was sitting in her house, demanding things from her and being almost foreboding with his weird attitude and words.

“Why have you been watching me?” Hermione asked, seething, “and if a woman asks you to leave her house, you should, Malfoy. Unless you’re used to pushing your presence on people who don’t want your egotistical, irritating - “

“It’s not like I’m stalking you, Granger, I assure you, I -“

“- Pompous, self-absorbed, smug -“

“- I was simply trying to decide whether to talk to you here or at your sto -“

“- Conceited, vain, self-involved -“

“- And tonight I finally worked up the courage to get over myself and walk up to your door and knock!” Draco almost yelled, stopping Hermione’s diatribe in its tracks, her mouth open and eyes staring at the man who just admitted that he needed courage to walk up to her door.

“Close your mouth, Granger, before you catch a fly.”

Hermione snapped her jaws shut and glared at him for a moment.

“Can I let you know in a week? I have things to do this week.”

Draco looked agitated again before he sighed and finally agreed that a week would be fine.

“Why are you in such a hurry?”

“I just know that my parents had been curious about this for years and I feel like I need to do something, now that my best friends’ babies are dying.”

Hermione nodded and remembered that both of his parents were dead, and she thought maybe she would extend her condolences about his mum, but he wouldn’t want to hear that from her and it would probably just piss him off, so she kept her mouth shut.

Draco stood up, holding out his hand to her in a rare show of polite feelings toward her; she took it and let him pull her up, noticing that her hand folded into his until she could barely see it anymore. A flutter in her stomach accompanied this thought, but she brushed it off and walked him to the door, passing him his cloak from her rack while he shoved his feet into his shoes.

“A week,” he said, and was gone.

**

Hermione thought long and hard about what she could do, but she realized that Draco hadn’t really given her a choice. They didn’t know each other well, but he obviously knew that if he brought it to her attention, she would do everything she could to try and figure out what, if anything, was going on. She knew that it would be a lot of research and very time consuming, but if they could actually figure it out lives would be saved; that was all the validation she needed.

She could save lives, and she knew the moment she realized it, which was about three minutes after Draco Malfoy walked out of her door, that she would do it.

She didn’t need to tell him that right away though, let the pompous arse be on tenterhooks for the week. She didn’t want to start spending all of her time at Malfoy Manor before she needed to, anyway, so she wanted this week of peace before she was surrounded by Draco and all of his annoying ways, and stupid possessions in his ridiculous manor.

She called both Freya and Clementine to work early the next day for a staff meeting, and asked both girls if they would mind taking more hours for a while. Both were glad they were given the option, because apparently they both needed more of an income.

Freya was married, and apparently her husband had just got his hours cut. Clementine was engaged and was planning a fairly large wedding and she told Hermione that more of an income would be great for the time being so that she could put more money toward her upcoming nuptials.

Hermione purposely didn’t tell her employees that she would be working with Draco Malfoy.

They were slightly obsessed with him, and Hermione could do without all the shrieking that would accompany her statement.

The knock on her door yanked her out of her musings and she jumped up and rushed forward to open it. Draco was there, as she knew he would be, and she ushered him inside quickly before retreating back to her space on the couch while he shed his cloak and shoes.

Tonight Hermione was wearing black leggings with ruffles on the bottom, a dark green racerback tank top that said ‘I put the HOT in psychotic’, and her hair was loose around her shoulders in large curls; just to prove to Draco Malfoy that she wasn’t sporting an animal on her head.

Not that she cared what he thought.

She really didn’t.

But she did notice that his eyes strayed down her body slowly, and it looked to her as though he had to swallow a little harder than normal around his Adam’s apple, making an audible noise. She smiled inwardly, hoping she was proving herself to him.

And then she thought that maybe she had some sort of issues…

“Have you made a decision?” He asked her, settling himself on the armchair and reaching for the mug of tea that she had waiting on table for him.

“I have,” Hermione said, trying hard to hide the smile that was slowly overtaking her features.

Draco saw her fighting off a grin and he felt like his stomach had plummeted a couple feet, he couldn’t believe that she was willing to put everything between them behind her, everything in her life on the back burner so that she could help him.

“You’ll do it?”

“Yes, I will. I couldn’t just turn my back on this, it needs to be figured out.”

“Thank you,” Draco said, still somewhat stunned.

Hermione was momentarily surprised, but then she didn’t know why; he was probably used to saying thank you after he got his own way, which, she assumed, was more often than not.

Spoiled prat.

“So when would you like me to start?”

“I was thinking tomorrow, if that’s okay with you?”

“Sure! I’m so excited to start researching this, it’s all very interesting.”

“Hopefully we can figure it out.”

Hermione nodded and they both sat back to drink their tea for a moment before Draco said he would prefer to pay her by the day, instead of the hour, but he really only wanted her there from Monday to Friday and from 12-5.

“I know you still have to look over your own business,” he explained, when she asked him about the odd hours.

That shut up her inner thoughts for a moment.

“My two part time employees have agreed to take on more hours, so if you needed me earlier some days then I’m sure I can swing it.”

While talking to him, Hermione went into the kitchen and came back out to place biscuits on the table, homemade, she was proud to say, and she was glad when he reached forward and took one. He dunked it into his tea and then took a large bite, his eyes closing slightly as he chewed.

“Ginger Nuts? One of my favourites, this is really delicious, where did you buy them?”

“I made them.”

“Really?”

“Really.”

“They’re so good,” he said, reaching forward and picking up two more.

“So what do you do now, Draco?”

She thought she could at least get to know something about the prat if she was going to be stuck with him for a while.

“I work in the Department of Magical Accidents and Catastrophes at the Ministry. I’m an Obliviator.”

“Really? So you have to work around muggles?”

That was an amusing thought.

“Well, I get to modify their memories, yes. It’s an interesting job, seeing all of the ways that wizards and witches make our presence known to unsuspecting muggles. It’s a job that I found to be easy, and it doesn’t take a lot of my time, which is good, because I actually have a lot of other things going on with Malfoy Family businesses and the like. Plus my manor takes a lot of my time.”

“Why does the manor take a lot of your time?”

Draco had stuffed another cookie into his mouth, and as far as Hermione could tell he had already eaten half a dozen. “Just upkeep.”

Hermione thought that was incredibly strange, since she knew that he had house elves, but she dropped the subject, because she honestly didn’t care what he did that took up all of his time. She had a moment of inner laughter, imaging Draco wearing a large visor type hat and flowery gloves, digging around in a garden and pulling weeds, his arse covered in a pair of shorts that resembled daisy dukes and a too-small, dirty wife beater that ended somewhere above his belly button.

If only.

She realized she was smiling like a maniac when Draco raised one of his eyebrows at her, and she wasn’t even going to bother trying to lie or explain her thoughts.

He wouldn’t even know what daisy dukes were, anyway. Hermione knew because she spent a lot of time alone in her apartment with her magically enhanced television set and movies, but she doubted Draco sat around watching movies and old muggle T.V. shows.

“I thought for sure you’d want to be an Auror,” she said, trying to come across as sane.

“I considered it, but… they’re all so terribly scarred,” he said seriously.

Hermione couldn’t stifle her laugh this time, she wasn’t surprised at all that the only reason he didn’t want to become an Auror, almost the elite, was because they were scarred.

Vanity at its finest.

“I happen to like the way I look,” he said haughtily, ostentatiously checking his fingernails. This caused Hermione to laugh even harder, imagining him with an eye like Moody, and lo and behold, Draco started grinning at her.

“I wasn’t surprised to hear that you had opened a bookstore,” he said once her laughter died down, “Your love for books is obviously still as obscene as always. I was surprised, however, that both Potter and Weasley didn’t become Aurors.”

That slapped the smile off of her face.

“Harry had… a very tough time after the war was over. I think the last thing on his mind was entering a job that would make him have to continue fighting. Ron… I don’t mean this in a bad way at all… but I don’t think Ron would have even passed Auror training.”

Draco snorted but tried to hide it with a cough, causing Hermione to send him another one of her famous glares.

“I’m serious, he was smart, he was brave, but I don’t think he had it in him to run out and face death every single day of his life.”

“How often do you see them?”

“I see them sometimes,” she said evasively, not really liking that question for some reason. She thought maybe it was because she was somewhat embarrassed about not having any friends now, not really, but she couldn’t be sure if that was why she felt defensive all of a sudden.

“When was the last time?”

Hermione’s eyes widened with realization as she thought about it, and her defensiveness faded in place of shock, she hadn’t actually sat down and consciously thought about the last time she had spent time with either of them. “Merlin, I haven’t seen Harry for almost two years, not for lack of trying, and Ron in… just over a year now.”

Draco was surprised. He thought the bloody golden trio would be together forever, and he noticed that any information about their time spent together was never really brought to light. He knew that Hermione hadn’t spent her time with the two during the war, but he thought that maybe she was off being heroic somewhere else, especially after he heard all the raging about her battle planning.

He felt somewhat sorry for her though, he had seen his best friend, someone he had been friends with since before school, two nights ago. He chose not to comment on this strange bit of information, especially since he had been hearing rumours that Harry Potter was now completely barkers.

“Well, I suppose I should go,” he said, dusting biscuit crumbs from his fingers and standing from his chair.

Hermione stood up as well, but as Draco made his way to the door she rushed into the kitchen. In an act of kindness toward someone that she really didn’t like, (really!), she came bustling back out with a paper bag in her hands. Once Draco had his cloak on she passed it to him; he looked at her curiously for a moment before peering into the bag and smiling widely.

Hermione was sending him home with a bag of biscuits.

“If this continues I’ll have to hit the gym even harder,” he commented, thinking about eating a biscuit at that very moment, and Hermione raised an eyebrow at his obvious statement, letting her know that he works out without being weird about it.

Even though it was weird.

She didn’t care if he worked out or not.

At all.

Even though she went to the gym daily and was about to hand over that information before she thought that he would think she was trying to make things a competition. And he wouldn’t care that she worked out, anyway, right?

“That didn’t really sound like a complaint,” Hermione stated seriously, instead of biting.

Although, she could obviously tell that he worked out regularly.

Not that she was looking.

“I think it would be worth it. I’ll come over to your store at noon tomorrow to side-along apparate you to the manor, since your only other option is to apparate outside the gates, and that’s about a twenty minute walk.”

“Okay,” she said, a little uncertain about side-along apparating anywhere with Draco Malfoy.

She didn’t have a death wish.

He quirked his eyebrow, almost like he knew exactly what she was thinking, and without even saying goodbye he opened the door and left.

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