"All right, Nick, I hope you have what I need."

It was a terrible day to be traipsing about London - gales of wind coupled with heavy snowfall had brought all forms of transportation in the busy city to a near halt. There were a few brave souls out on the streets though, people who had ventured out on foot like Hermione, swaddled from head to toe in cold weather gear.

A small bell chimed as Hermione rushed into a quaint bookshop, eager to get out of the inclement weather. With a quick smile in response to the clerk's cheery greeting, she brushed the lingering snow from her hair and coat, and tried to breathe some warmth back into the tip of her nose.

Oh, what a difference a day makes, Hermione thought dryly as she slowly unwrapped her scarf.

December was ushered in by a gentle turn of the season; the winter days were mild and pleasant in spite of the cold temperatures.

Or at least it had been until this morning.

The view she'd woken up to see outside her bedroom window that morning was nothing short of awe-inspiring. The storm, which at first seemed at least several kilometres away, swiftly engulfed everything within sight within the space of a minute. Watching the scene unfold, Hermione was suddenly thankful for the well-maintained heating system in her flat.

Hermione had just finished breakfast when she heard the tell-tale tap of Rose's owl. Reading her daughter's missive, she groaned. She nearly replied to Rose refusing to her request. With the abrupt turn in the weather, Hermione was sure Rose would understand. But then she considered how she'd be spending her day off otherwise – shut inside her lonely flat with not even a new book to keep her company – and decided that facing the storm was preferable.

Of course, that was before Hermione realised Rose had sent her on a wild goose chase. She'd already visited eleven bookshops with no luck. It was ridiculous, really. She was after a popular children's book that was still in print, and not some ancient, first edition tome. And yet the book, which she was beginning to believe was the rarest book in all of Great Britain, was nowhere to be found. Ordering the book online with Christmas fast approaching was not an option. Hermione really hoped that Nick's Knick-Knacks & Written Treasures would be lucky number twelve. The thought of trudging through the snow to visit the remaining half dozen shops on her list was enough to make her cry.

The shop's bell rang out again, signalling the arrival of another brave book lover, as Hermione wove through the bookshelves towards the fiction section. Once there, she realised her mistake; she needed to find children's fiction rather than general fiction. She sighed, massaging her temples to ease the beginnings of a headache.

Hermione picked her way to the children's section, and mercifully, the book she was after was there, sitting happily upon a prominent display! She felt her exhaustion slip away as she strode forward to grab the elusive book. To her surprise, she encountered firm resistance when she tried to take it off the shelf. She tugged harder, careful not to damage the cover or bend the spine. With a frustrated growl, she addressed the interloper.

"Excuse me, sir. I had this first, so I would appreciate it if you would–" Hermione sputtered, startled by the handsome face of her rival. "Malfoy? What are you doing here?"

"I would think it was obvious, Granger." Draco rolled his eyes. "We are in a bookstore and therefore I, Draco Malfoy, am here to buy a book." Then he tilted his head towards the object between them. "Now if you don't mind, kindly unhand my book."

Hermione raised her chin in defiance. "Not a chance."

"I'm sure there are plenty of other books here to fulfill your bookworm fantasies," Draco drawled as he tugged it his direction. "Why don't you go find another? Or for that matter, a dozen others. This book is important to me."

Hermione pulled it back. "Well, it's important to me, too."

"I thought we were friends." He leaned forward, clucking his tongue near her ear. "Is this really how you treat your friends?"

"You are getting ahead of yourself, Malfoy." She took a step back and to the side, trying to tip him off balance. "Calling us 'friends' is a bit of an exaggeration, isn't it?"

"Oh, don't go denying it now," Draco said with a wink, foiling her attempt with his quick reflexes. "We regularly hold civil conversations and we haven't tried to hex each other to oblivion in over twenty years. If that's not friendship, I don't know what is."

Hermione yanked the book again, and she all achieved for the effort was for most of her hair to fall out of its tie. She tried to blow the loose strands out of her face, to no avail. "All the same, you're not getting this book."

"Has anyone ever told you you're quite pretty when you're flustered?"

Hermione chuckled, enjoying the exchange far more than she'd like to admit. "Flattery won't get you anywhere, Malfoy. Just give up. You'd be wise to not get between a woman and her book."

The wry smirk he'd been wearing since they'd ran into each other faltered for a moment; something close to anguish had marred his features. She would have missed it completely if she hadn't been watching him. "Come now, Hermione, be reasonable. Please."

Hermione hesitated, her heart constricting uncomfortably. This wasn't how the game was supposed to go. There was supposed to be banter, mild insults, and, on the rare occasion, some innocent flirting. But Draco was deviating from their established pattern.

Her grip on the book went slack. To Draco's credit, he didn't immediately take it from her, and that fact increased the squeezing feeling in her chest. Merlin, sometimes she hated her conscience. Hermione asked quietly, "Tell me why."


"You heard me," Hermione said with a huff. "Why do you want this book? If your reason is better than mine, I'll give it up."

Draco crossed his arms against his chest. "And if I don't want to tell you?"

"I know several non-verbal hexes which would be appropriate for the situation. Don't make me test your friendship theory."

Draco smirked. "You wouldn't."

"You sure?" she asked, doing her best to maintain a tough countenance. She felt unexpectedly relieved when his expression changed from distress back to amusement. Damn Draco Malfoy for being so unfairly attractive. And damn her for noticing it at such an inopportune moment. Hermione reasserted her grip on the book. "I told you this book is important to me."

Draco sighed, letting the air leave his chest slow and measured, and his whole demeanour changed, suddenly soft and vulnerable. He sized Hermione up, his gaze lingering as he carefully searched her face for something. A full minute passed before he spoke, the tenor of his voice low and hushed.

"It's for Scorpius." He paused for a beat, gauging her reaction. When Hermione gave no indication that she was letting go, he frowned and continued, "Astoria loved Muggle stories."

"Yes, she did," Hermione said with a sad smile. One of her hands fell away from the book to curl around the note in her coat pocket. "I had forgotten about that."

"Oh… Right." Draco rubbed his thumb across his forehead, looking away. "You were a part of that book club she attended."

"What does Astoria have to do with this book?"

Draco drew in another deep breath before he answered. "She'd been reading this series to Scorpius when she fell ill." He shifted his weight from one foot to the other. "She'd hoped to finish them all before… before she passed. Time just wasn't on her side, I guess. She only made it to the second chapter."

Hermione pushed the book fully into his hands and let go. "You can't find her copy, can you?"

Draco swallowed hard as he tucked the book under his arm. "How did you know?"

"I didn't, not until just now. But Rose must have."

Hermione pulled the crumpled note out of her pocket, smoothing out the parchment before reading it aloud.

"Mum, I'm sorry to ask you at the last minute, but I need you to work some of your bookworm magic. I don't have time to go into detail or I'll be late for Potions, but receiving this Christmas gift would mean everything to one of my classmates. I already tried the shops in Hogsmeade and Diagon Alley, but their Muggle selections are sorely lacking. Could you please find it and get it to me before we break for holiday?

I love you, Rose

P.S. – I just realised I forgot to tell you what it was. We both know I'd lose my head if it wasn't attached firmly to my body. Anyway, I need a hardcover copy of Prince Caspian by C. S. Lewis, and not one of those cheap looking ones printed after the movies please. Thank you, Mum. You're the best!"

When she finished her recitation, Hermione handed the letter to Draco and turned away, giving him time to collect himself; she hadn't missed the way he misted up when she mentioned the name of the book. For the lack of anything better to do, she sat down in a nearby chair. It was a tight squeeze, considering it was designed with a child's frame in mind, but she managed.

"Your Rose is a sweet girl. Scorpius is lucky to have a friend like her," Draco said as he pulled a bean bag next to her chair and plopped down on it. After a few seconds of comfortable silence, Draco's eyebrows furrowed.

"What's wrong?"

"Nothing. I just…" Draco sat the book in his lap, tracing the golden filigree on the spine with his finger. Then he gave it a soft rap on its cover and held the book out to Hermione. "Here."

Hermione ignored the book and instead leaned forward in her chair to press the back of her hand to his forehead.

"Granger, what the hell are you doing?"

"I'm checking to see if you're ill," she said with mock seriousness. "No fever, though, so you must just be daft."

Draco raised an imperious brow. "Daft?"

"You'd have to be if you think that gift would be more meaningful to Scorpius coming from Rose than you."

Draco hesitated, the book still held outwards. "But won't Rose be disappointed?"

"Of course not. She'll be happy for you both. I'll shop for another gift tomorrow." Hermione patted Draco's shoulder as she stood up to leave. "I'll see you around, I'm sure. Wish Scorpius a Happy Christmas for me, won't you?"

"I will... Hermione?"

She stopped at the end of the aisle, shelves full of brightly coloured books and bean bags and child-sized tables between her and him, and turned back. "Yeah?"

"Have dinner with me."

"I'm sorry, I really shouldn't. I'm a married wo–" Hermione stopped mid-sentence, her eyes wide with the shock of what she'd almost said. Draco looked as startled by her response as she felt and that made her blunder all the more painful. Her thumb rubbed the underside of her finger, running over the still evident ridges left behind from her absent wedding ring. Choking down her mortification, she gave Draco a sharp nod of dismissal. "Goodbye, Malfoy."

Hermione dashed out of the shop without looking back.
(I’m not married anymore.)

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