Disclaimer: I own none of the characters in this story and make no money from this work. It's just my fantasies I'm compelled to write. I owe it all to JK Rowling for creating such compelling characters for me to play with.
Summary: This story is set two years or so after the second Wizarding War. Hermione and Draco have both run off to Muggle London to escape their memories of the war and start new lives as they each figure out what they want in life. What happens when they meet up again by chance encounter? Has Draco really changed? Has Hermione changed too?
Everything is canon from the books and movies (at least I think so!) but veers off into a different world after the war and is not epilogue compliant. Pairing is Draco/Hermione if you haven't figured that out yet, with some Harry and Ginny thrown in too. Filled with some fluffy romance and drama. Rated Mature for sexual situations and bad language, but no smut. Happy reading! And please remember to leave feedback!
Hermione sat in the small Muggle café and read her book as she sipped her coffee. After the war ended, she found herself needing to escape the Wizarding world for awhile. She had been offered countless jobs at the Ministry and even had a chance to go back to Hogwarts to finish out her last year, but she turned it all down. She wasn't against magic or anything, but she felt like her childhood had escaped her because she was always involved in life or death battles since she was eleven years old. It was just too much. And she'd seen too many people that she cared about die. And it was all in the name of pure bloods versus Muggleborns and good and evil and dark magic and light magic. She just wanted a chance to be a normal girl for awhile. A normal twenty year old with her whole life ahead of her. That's when she made the decision to move to Muggle London and work in a bookshop. It was an unexpected choice for the girl who was once called the brightest witch of her age. Everyone expected great things from her, which was precisely why she wanted to get away for a bit. She wanted time to find herself and figure out who she really was without the threat of death hanging over her head. She knew someday she'd return to that world and do something good, but for now, she was just taking a breather.
Harry and Ron had not shared her desire to leave. Harry became an Auror and Ron worked with George at the joke shop in Diagon Alley. She and Ron were still seeing each other, but it wasn't as often as he wished. Hermione could still visit him easily by apparating herself to his house, she just had to make sure no Muggles saw her disappearing into thin air. And she still spoke to Harry and Ginny all the time too. She hadn't deserted them all. She just needed a little time for herself away from everyone. And even though Ron tried to stop her, there's no stopping Hermione when she's made up her mind about something. And this was definitely something she felt she had to do.
She was so lost in her book that she didn't notice the blonde man enter the café. And she definitely didn't notice him pick her out of the crowd and stare at her intently. He couldn't quite believe his eyes. His first instinct was to turn around and leave, but then he thought better of it. It was time to stop being a coward and running away from things. There was a time when he would have swaggered right on over to her and said something horribly insulting and rude and laughed when she got mad at him. But now the fight had left him and he had no words he wanted to spew forth just to see her reaction. To be honest, he was a little afraid of her, not that he'd ever admit it to anyone. But she was far more clever and talented than he ever gave her credit for. Plus he didn't know if she was hiding a wand in her handbag, even if they were in the middle of a Muggle café. She might Avada him right on the spot if he wasn't careful. He decided the best course of action was to pretend he didn't see her. He went up to the counter and ordered a coffee, glancing over his shoulder just to make sure that the brown haired girl didn't notice him. Her nose was still buried in her book. Just like always. But she looked different somehow. Older and wiser. Prettier than he remembered. Not that he ever really thought she was ugly. But something about the way she looked now made him wish he could keep staring at her, but he turned his head around to accept his coffee. Now was the problem of where to sit. All the tables furthest from her were taken. The only open seat he could find was right across from her. He thought about just getting the coffee to go, but then he realized to himself that he didn't really want to go.
So he boldly sat down at the table across from her and just stared at her for a moment. He averted his eyes when she started to look up, as if she sensed his eyes on her. Had she spotted him, he wondered? He looked up from the table and glanced at her. She was looking right at him now and he saw her expression turn to a scowl when she realized just who it was she was looking at.
"Malfoy?" she asked with disdain in her voice.
"Granger," he said calmly as he took a sip of his coffee.
"What the hell are you doing here?" she asked him.
"I'm just having a bit of coffee. And yourself?" He was trying to be cool and unaffected like he usually was. He didn't want her to know that it was difficult for him to talk to her, especially since she seemed very unhappy to see him.
"I'm having coffee as well," she replied coolly. "But I meant what are you doing in London? In this place? Why aren't you sitting in your manor on top of your piles of money?"
He laughed somewhat bitterly. "Yeah right. My piles of money. It's not my money, Granger. It's my father's. And right now, we aren't speaking, if you must know."
"Why not?" she asked curiously.
"Why do you think?" he tossed back at her.
She thought for a moment and then shook her head. She realized she didn't really care why he was there. She just looked back down at her book and pretended to read. Of all the people to run into, why did it have to be him, she wondered to herself. Before she knew it, he was slipping into the booth across from her, still holding his coffee cup in his hand.
"You just gonna pretend I'm not here, is that it?" he asked.
"Why are you sitting at my table? Go back to your own table. And what do you care if I pretend you're not here?" she shot back at him.
"Look, Granger, I'm not here to bother you. I just thought maybe you could do with a bit of company, that's all. I don't see your sidekicks anywhere."
"I don't have sidekicks. And I'm perfectly content to sit here alone and read my book." And she went back to doing that, ignoring his presence at her table.
He just stared at her for a moment then he sighed and sat back into the booth. Silence overcame them but he couldn't seem to stop himself from speaking.
"So really, what are you doing in a Muggle café without Potter and Weasel?" he asked softly, so no one would hear him using the word 'Muggle'.
She looked up at him. "His name is Ron, not Weasel. And for your information I'm taking a little break from the magic world. I live here now."
"You live in the café?" he asked with a smirk.
"Not in the café, you git. In London. After the war, I just wanted to escape a bit. Get my head on straight without worrying if I'm going to die at any moment," she admitted to him.
He nodded. "Yeah, that's why I'm here too. To escape. My family's name is disgraced now and everyone thinks we should be rotting in Azkaban instead of roaming free. It's not exactly a good time to be a Malfoy."
"Is that why you and your father aren't speaking? Because you're mad at him about the war?" she asked quietly.
He thought for a moment and then answered her. "Partly, yeah. He forced me to do things I didn't want to do. I know it wasn't all his fault. He was being told what to do by Voldemort. He had no real say in anything. None of us did. But it's his fault for aligning himself with the Dark Lord in the first place. So yes, I'm mad at him for that."
"Well I'd be mad too if my family was a bunch of Death Eaters. Which come to think of it, aren't you one too?" she asked giving him a hard glare.
"I never wanted to be one. They forced me," he admitted quietly, looking away from her.
"Do you still have it?" Hermione asked curiously.
"What? The mark? Of course. Do you think it washes off with soap and water?" he laughed bitterly. "It'll always be there. But that doesn't mean that's who I am."
"Then who are you?"
"That's what I'm trying to figure out."
She thought for a moment before speaking. "That's what I'm trying to figure out too."
They just stared at each other for a minute until it got too uncomfortable and they had to look away. Hermione wasn't used to sharing a conversation with Draco Malfoy that didn't begin and end with insults and threats and wands being waved around. It was weird. He was weird. She didn't even understand why he was talking to her at all. All throughout school he'd done nothing but call her a filthy little mudblood and practically spit on her. And now he was just sitting there in Muggle clothes, sipping a coffee, sharing a booth with her at a café while talking about his life. What was wrong with this picture? Everything was wrong with this picture, she decided.
"How long are you planning on sitting here?" she asked him with irritation in her voice.
"At least until I finish my coffee," he replied with a small smile.
"Well drink fast because I'd prefer to be alone."
He took a sip and looked at her. "You really want to be alone, or you just really don't want to be with me?"
She sighed loudly and crossed her arms. "Why would I want to be with you? You were a slimy little git who taunted me mercilessly and stood by and watched me be tortured by your lunatic of an aunt, while you did nothing. Not to mention the fact that I know you can't stand me or my kind. What I don't get is why you're still here at all. We're not friends, Draco. We never were and we never will be."
He studied her carefully. He could see the derision on her face and he knew he deserved that. And the truth was, he had no idea why he was sitting with her trying to make conversation. If any of his old friends could see him now he'd never hear the end of it. And if God forbid his father knew, he'd have a conniption fit. But something about Hermione Granger had always gotten under Draco's skin. He always hated her, but he respected her too. She never put up with any of his bullshit and never cowered in fear of him. In fact she'd done just the opposite. She always stood up to him and even punched him in the face once. That was the day he realized that he actually liked this girl because she wasn't like anyone else he'd ever known. But he could never tell her that. Or tell anyone else. They'd never understand. And it's not as if he could have just waltzed up to the Gryffindor table and sat down with her and had a real conversation. Potter and Weasley would have killed him. And all his friends would have thought he'd gone mad or been confunded or slipped some kind of potion that made people crazy. So he kept his distance mostly. Unless of course he was taunting her. But he only did it so she'd pay attention to him. It was the only way he could interact with her at all without it posing a problem. But it was different now. They weren't at Hogwarts. There was no Slytherin table and Gryffindor table. There were just two people having coffee in a regular coffee shop where no one knew who they were.
"I'll leave if you really want me to," he said finally.
"Yes, I really want you to," she told him sternly.
"Fine. I'm sorry to have bothered you." He stood up and walked towards the door. Then he turned around. "Maybe I'll see you around sometime." And then he left.
Hermione had no idea what had just happened. She was confused why Draco was being nice to her when he never was before. She knew that people could change, but why would he change? She knew he wasn't completely evil and had actually tried to help them out once by refusing to identify Harry when the snatchers brought them to Malfoy Manor. She knew he knew it was Harry. He wasn't daft. And he knew that her and Ron were with him so it didn't take a rocket scientist to figure out the mangled up looking boy they were showing him was Harry. But that didn't make Draco a hero. It just made him slightly redeemable in that instance. It certainly didn't make her want to be friends with him though. She didn't understand what had come over him. Maybe he was just lonely? After all he was alone in a strange city surrounded by Muggles. Maybe he was just relieved to see another magical person and he figured they could bond over the good old days at Hogwarts. Except for that he was supposed to hate her. And they had no fond memories of each other. What would they bond over? The time he tried to kill Dumbledore or the time she threatened to curse him and punched him in the nose? She shook her head to try and dispel all thoughts of Draco Malfoy. She wanted to get back to her book. She just hoped she did not see him around like he said she might. She didn't want to see his face again.
The days ticked by and Hermione visited her favorite coffee shop nearly every day. And every time she was there, he would be there too. He wouldn't talk to her, but he would sometimes look her way and smile. She just looked away and pretended not to notice him. But it was getting old. Was he stalking her? Was this some sort of evil plan of his? What did he want from her? One day, three weeks after their first encounter, she'd had enough. She got up from her table and sat down at his table. She slammed her book down in front of him with fire in her eyes.
"What the hell are you doing, Malfoy?" she asked angrily.
"What do you mean? You said to leave you alone and I'm leaving you alone," he told her innocently.
"Yeah, but you keep coming in here precisely when you know I'll be here. And then you just stare at me. It's weird and confusing and I just don't know what you want from me."
"I don't want anything from you. I just thought maybe if you saw me enough your hardened shell of armor would dissolve and maybe you'd eventually find me charming enough to talk to," he explained with a slight smirk.
"Charming? You think stalking me is charming? Have you ever even had a girlfriend, Draco?"
"Of course I have. What do you take me for? A eunuch? I've had lots of girlfriends."
"And is this how you woo them? Follow them around and stare at them across crowded coffee houses for weeks on end?"
"No. Normally I don't have to do anything. Girls just like me," he shrugged.
"Well aren't you humble," she laughed incredulously.
"It's true. I mean I used to be somebody. Besides, I never said I was trying to woo you. I'm just having coffee," he picked up his cup and showed it to her before he took a scalding sip.
"Why do you have to come to my coffee house then? There are loads of others."
"This isn't your coffee house. It's a public place. I can be here if I want to. And besides, it worked," he said slyly.
"You finally stopped ignoring me and here you are at my table. So maybe I'm a little bit charming after all." He put his hands behind his head and smirked at her.
"Charming my arse. I just got sick of you always being here. It's distracting. This is where I come to relax and I can't do that with you watching me all the time," she explained heatedly.
He just looked at her for a moment then he laid his hands on the table and leaned over to her. "So are you still going out with the Weasel or has that fizzled itself out? I don't imagine he visits Muggle London all that often."
She groaned. "Again, his name is Ron, not Weasel. And I don't see how it's any business of yours. And stop trying to change the subject."
"I was just curious. I mean I always thought you and Potter were the hot item, so imagine my surprise when I heard you hooked up with the Weasel. I mean Ron. Whatever you want to call him. I gotta say, I can't see the two of you together. You and Potter? Sure. I mean he is the Chosen One after all. But Ron Weasley? Honestly you could do better," he said examining his nails and never looking her in the eye.
"You really thought Harry and I were together? That's ludicrous. And Ron happens to be a perfectly wonderful person. You have no idea what you're talking about. You don't even know him. He happens to be quite amazing. And to answer your question, yes, we're still together."
"How does that work when you're here and he's elsewhere doing whatever it is he's doing. I think I heard he was running a joke shop. Is that true? Suits him. I mean, he is a bit of a joke."
"I see Ron often enough. And he's not a joke. And if you call this charming, then obviously your parents never taught you the meaning of the word. Insulting my boyfriend isn't going to get you into my good graces," she told him with annoyance.
He leaned closer to her. "Then what will get me in your good graces? Should I beg? Should I grovel? Should I stand on a table and apologize profusely for all my wrongdoings?"
"That would be a good start," she said with a slight smile. "I'd actually pay to see you groveling and standing on a table in the middle of a crowded café."
He sat back and laughed. "Never gonna happen." Then he turned serious as he looked her in the eye. "I am sorry though. For everything. I know I'm a right bastard and don't deserve forgiveness from you or anybody. But I am trying. I gave up my whole life to come here and try and start over. I was just a stupid kid with a huge ego and no idea what the hell I was doing. I thought I wanted to be powerful and feared, like my father. But it turns out that in the end he wasn't so powerful or feared at all. He was just a puppet. And so was I. Did you know Voldemort took my fathers wand away? He didn't stand a chance. And if I didn't do what I was told, neither did I. So you can continue to hate me for everything I've done, but I've changed. I'm not like that anymore. If I was, I wouldn't be here. I'd be back at home trying to build back our reputation. And instead I came here. To be anonymous. To have a new life. And frankly, you're not making it easy for me."
"Why should I make it easy for you? You never made anything easy for me," she pointed out.
"I just thought maybe the great Hermione Granger would be more forgiving."
"I am forgiving. When someone deserves it. But I'm not convinced you do."
"What do I have to do to prove it?"
She thought for a moment then shook her head. "I have no idea. But you have to stop following me. It's just creepy."
"Well if I stop doing that, then how will I see you again?" he asked her.
"Why do you want to see me again?"
"I thought you were supposed to be smart."
"What's that supposed to mean?" She crossed her arms and glared at him.
"It's quite obvious that I'm desperately trying to make friends with you now, whether you like it or not. And I can't very well do that if I never see you again."
"Why do you want to be friends with me now? I'm still beneath you, aren't I? I'm still just a mudblood after all."
"I don't use that word anymore. You're a witch. A very talented and brilliant one, I might add. And that's all that matters. If I still hated Muggleborns do you think I'd surround myself with Muggles every day and pretend to be one?"
She had to think about that long and hard. He had a point. Obviously he wasn't shouting out the rallying cry for pureblood wizards or off killing Muggles in his spare time. He was living as one. And the Draco Malfoy she knew would never stoop to such a level. Maybe he really had changed?
She sighed. "Alright. If you want to be my friend, you can be my friend. But tell me one thing. Am I your only option? Is that what this is about? Or do you have other friends still?"
He hated to admit this to her, but it was the truth. "I have no friends, Hermione. But I'm not here because you're my only option. I'm here because I want to put right something I fucked up years ago."
"Hating you for all the wrong reasons."
"Well I hated you for all the right reasons," she said pointedly.
"I know you did. But give me a chance. You never know, you might even find you like me," he said hopefully.
"I think that's doubtful, but I'll give you a chance. But one more crack about Ron and I'm turning you into a ferret again," she said with a sly grin on her face.
"You crazy bint. You wouldn't dare," he laughed.
"Oh yes I would. And then maybe I'd keep you for a pet. So you better watch yourself."
He held up his hands. "Okay, okay. I promise to be nice."
"Good. As long as we understand each other."
"Perfectly well," he nodded. "Now would you like another cup of coffee? I'm buying."
"I thought you had no money and that it was all your fathers? Do you actually have a job?" she asked with a raised eyebrow.
He laughed heartily. "A job? Please. You're killing me. My mum gives me money. She just doesn't tell my father because he doesn't approve of my exile into the Muggle world. But Mum? She'd never let me live in poverty or squalor."
"Mama's boy," she said jokingly.
"I am not! Just because my mother loves me and I love her doesn't make me a mama's boy."
"She saved Harry's life you know," Hermione uttered softly.
"Yeah, I know. She lied to Voldemort and said he was dead. She told me all about it."
"She did it for you."
"I know. Why do you think I love her so much?" he said plainly.
Hermione had no answer for that one. She wouldn't count Narcissa Malfoy as one of her favorite people, but she couldn't deny that the woman loved her son above all else. At least that was something to admire about her.
Finally Hermione spoke. "I don't need another cup of coffee. I was just leaving anyway."
"When will I see you again? Do you want to have lunch sometime?" he asked her tentatively.
"Lunch? With you?"
"Well you said we could be friends. And isn't that what friends do? I know a nice little place. Do you have a phone?" he asked.
"Yes, a phone. Neat little Muggle contraption. Easier than sending an owl, which might look a bit suspicious in the middle of London."
"Yes, I have a phone. Do you?"
"Of course. Now give me your number and I'll call you."
She rattled off the digits and he wrote them down on a napkin with a pen she had in her purse. She just stared at him writing and wondered what the hell she was doing giving him her phone number. But what would the harm be really? She could always just not answer. That was one way to avoid him. But part of her didn't really wish to avoid him. She was curious about him. At least this new him he was presenting her with. She didn't have much curiosity about the boy she once knew. But he seemed so different now. Much more human.
Once he put the number in his pocket, he just stared at her again. It made her uncomfortable.
"So then, I'm going to be going now. I have to get to work," she told him quickly.
"Work? Where do you work?"
"I'm not telling you," she said with a small laugh. "If I did, no doubt you'd show up there all the time too."
"No I wouldn't."
"Yes, you would."
"Alright so maybe I'd stop by. But it depends on where you work. Do you flip burgers at a greasy spoon? Serve up fish and chips somewhere?" he asked with a grin.
"No, of course not. I think I can get a better job than that," she laughed.
"Let me take a guess," he offered. "Hmm, where would Hermione Granger work? A library?"
"Close, but no."
"A book store?"
She was irritated that he guessed correctly, but he still had no idea which one. And she wasn't going to tell him.
"I'll see you later, Draco," she said refusing to confirm or deny his guess.
"Later Hermione," he said as he watched her grab her purse and her book and depart the coffee shop hastily.
He wasn't sure what he was doing exactly. Or why he'd been following her to this coffee shop for three weeks. It was ridiculous. But something about the way she hated him so much, made him that much more determined to show her that he'd changed. Draco wasn't used to not getting whatever his little heart desired. Be it a new broomstick or a girl. Whatever he wanted, he just got. But he knew times were different now. He didn't have much need of a new broomstick and this girl wasn't giving him the time of day. Which made her that much more appealing. He didn't much care if she had a boyfriend or not. It wasn't like he was really looking to date her. He just wanted to talk to her. It would be like having a bit of his old world back, without actually having to return and face everyone else. Of course it would have been easier if he'd run into a fellow Slytherin instead of Gryffindor's princess. He might still have some weight to throw around if it was someone else. But somehow he doubted it. None of his old friends were speaking to him anymore. And his old girlfriend Pansy laughed in his face when he tried to get back with her. Not that he cared much. He didn't love her. She was just a girl he passed the time with. But it still stung when she rejected him and told him that she wanted nothing to do with him anymore.
And it wasn't because he chose wrongly which side to be on during the war. It was that he never chose a side at all. Sure, he was aligned with Voldemort and the Death Eaters, but he was a coward. He didn't want to be with them. He hoped they lost. He wanted life to go back to normal. He didn't want Harry to die. And he certainly didn't want to kill Dumbledore. But he had no choice but to act like he was on their side and do their bidding. In the end he failed at even that. He couldn't kill Dumbledore. He couldn't kill anyone. He just wanted to hide and wait for it all to end. He liked to talk big, but he wasn't a fighter. Sure he could fight. He knew a lot of powerful dark magic. And light magic. He was very skilled. But he didn't want to fight or choose a side. The reality of actual war and death and fighting made his stomach turn. He was actually relieved when it was revealed that Harry wasn't dead. That meant his possible salvation and perhaps he wouldn't have to be a servant to Voldemort anymore. But he never anticipated the animosity his family would get in the aftermath. They were branded either cowards or traitors. The former Death Eaters who were punished looked down on them for escaping their own punishment. And the people on the other side didn't think they should be allowed to be free. They didn't fit in anywhere. There was no old life to go back to.
Draco was invited back to Hogwarts to finish out his last year, but he declined. He didn't want to see that place again. And he knew he wouldn't be welcome there anyway. So he had decided to leave. His father had been against it from the very beginning, urging Draco to stay and help rebuild the family business and help untarnish their name. But he didn't want to do that. His mother wanted him to meet a nice pureblood girl and get married and have babies. But he told her he was way too young and had no mind to be married or have kids. He was still a kid himself. He was not even twenty yet and he wanted to live his life free of the burdens his family put upon him. And after what happened with Voldemort and being forced to take the Dark Mark, he swore he'd never do another thing that his parents told him to do. Which was a good thing, because they'd not approve of his fascination with Granger. They'd be horrified. But he didn't much care what they thought. He knew his mother would never disown him for associating with someone not of pureblood status. But she would be disappointed. But it's not as if he was going to marry this Granger girl. He just wanted to know her. To speak to her. To spend time with her. He had no idea why. But maybe it was so she could teach him how to be a real person and not a pompous git. The last thing he wanted to be was like his father. And he used to idolize him. But now he saw how wrong he was. Living as a Muggle was interesting to him. They had all sorts of things he'd never even seen. Like computers and telephones and a television. And if you wanted to write something down you didn't need a parchment and a quill. You could use a notepad and a pen. Much easier really. Why did his family hate Muggles so much? He suspected it was because they were smarter than a lot of wizards and witches. They had science and technology. Things he knew nothing about, but was learning. Not that he didn't enjoy magic. He did. He loved it. But he didn't see why a person couldn't live in both worlds quite happily.
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