Hermione didn't often wander the non-Wizarding streets of London anymore, even after her parents remembered her again, finally. (Professor Flitwick had never scolded her for the tangle of charms they had to unravel, not after that first moment when he'd realized why she'd done it.) As time trickled past, though, she found herself drawing away from her new training, away from her cubicle at the Ministry, away from the memories and the missing faces and the bonhomie. One evening, she wrapped a coat around her shoulders and walked through one of the Ministry's illusory gaps into the slush and soot of an alley behind a Kingsbury pub.
It was snowing, so she tucked her hands into her pockets. She puffed her cheeks out as she exhaled, watching the vapor of her breath float around her like smoke. She strode down the road, the heels of her boots wobbling over the pavement. Snowflakes stung her cheeks, and every once in a while, she'd stop to peer into a shop window.
There were carolers in the distance, and as she passed one crowded bakery storefront, her left foot skidded on a patch of ice. Somebody grasped her by the elbow as she steadied herself, and she looked up to smile.
Draco stared down at her, the corners of his mouth tight. "Granger."
"Malfoy?" she asked. She twitched her shoulders, but kept her hands jammed in her pockets, her wand cool where it was tucked into her waistband. "What are you doing here?"
He tilted his head toward the bakery's window display, and it seemed a long moment before he looked back at her. "The gingerbread house," he murmured finally, sheepishly.
"What?" Hermione blinked and almost missed his smile.
He turned back to the window and stepped closer, his hand sliding from her elbow to her shoulder. "Look."
Hermione stepped forward, and his hand ghosted against her shoulder blade and then her spine. The gingerbread house was elaborate, more of a castle than a house with its turrets and chocolate crenellations and a moat of icing piped around it. Hermione squinted. "It almost looks like--"
"I know," he responded. "As if they'd been there."
The arch of a candy cane peeked out from the icing moat. It could be random, but the tip of it was pointed, almost like a tentacle. Hermione shivered, and Draco shifted closer to her.
"Who do you think it is?" she asked. She didn't peer through the glass, where the shoppers and shop workers mingled. "They can't be Muggles--none of them have seen it."
"Not the way it looks now," Draco replied.
Hermione caught her breath. She thought of statues smashed, of stone splintering and crashing. She thought of the scars tracing over her back and arms, and--
She twitched again, and realized her hand was clutching at Draco's coat. She looked up, at him, and away from the bakery. "Should we go inside?"
He gazed down at her for a moment, then shook his head. Then: "We?"
"Yes," Hermione said, and she was surprised how much she meant it. "Somewhere else?"
Draco smiled again, and this time it lasted. "Where?"
Hermione looked back the way she'd come. "I don't know." She looked at Draco and shrugged. "Away."