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Chapter Text

“Space,” Hermione muttered to herself, viciously tearing through the papers of her project. “He had the audacity to ask for space. Well if he wants space, he’ll get space. I am done making all of the effort. If he doesn’t step up, I’ll-“

“You’ll what? Rip him apart like your project there?” an amused voice offered from the door of her office.

Hermione grinned sheepishly, recognizing the voice, and set down her papers before standing to give the visitor a hug.

“It’s been so long, Ginny. I was beginning to think you had forgotten about me.”

“Never!” Ginny exclaimed, long auburn hair swinging as she shook her head lightly. “You’re one of my oldest friends.”

Hermione smiled fondly at her friend. “I really did miss you. It's been so quiet here without you.” She and Ginny hugged each other once more before separating.

“How is Harry doing?” she asked Ginny. The other girl’s smile softened at the mention of her new husband, and Hermione listened as she chatted about their recent honeymoon. Ginny, as a new member of the Holyhead Harpies, had managed to procure a rare few weeks off for them to travel to Paris and then settle in together. Hermione was happy for her friend. Ginny and Harry were just as happy together as they had been at Hogwarts, and if anything, Ginny seemed to be even more in love than before.

“… and we stopped for a quick chat at the Burrow before going back home. Mum is doing great, and she was so excited to hear about our honeymoon. I can’t wait until we can see Ron again, too-“

Ginny paused, her smile fading into a knowing look as Hermione squirmed at the mention of Ron.

“What’s going on with you two?” Ginny asked, brushing her long hair over her shoulder. “I take it he’s done something dumb again?”

Hermione sighed. “No, as much as I want to blame him, I have to say that this was equally my fault.” She twisted the promise ring on her finger before taking it off and placing it on her desk. “We just don’t seem to fit anymore. Both of us have changed since the war, and even I am beginning to think that we were better off as friends.”

Ginny nodded sympathetically. “That,” she said, gesturing at the abandoned promise ring, “really did mean something to Ron. Do you still feel anything for him?”

“Yes,” Hermione said immediately. “I’m just afraid that he doesn’t care as much for me anymore. He never makes the time to listen to me and whenever we’re together, I just feel slightly off-balance. Has he said anything to you?”

“No, he hasn’t.” Ginny frowned, expression thoughtful. “From what I’ve heard, Hermione, it might be better for both of you if you get some space. Just- don’t settle. I love both you and Ron, but if things don’t feel right anymore, it might be time to try something new. I want both of you to be as happy as I am with Harry.”

Hermione smiled softly at Ginny before pulling her into another hug. “Thank you, Ginny. I’ll keep that in mind. Tell Harry I say hello.”

Ginny grinned. “Will do. Let’s talk again soon!”

Ginny closed the door softly on the way out, and Hermione groaned in frustration at the mess of papers on her desk. If she hadn’t already had enough relationship problems in her life, she was also having trouble keeping her small department organized. The one or two other wizards working under her were turning in medium quality work at best, and Hermione spent practically all of her time working on projects that never made it anywhere. All of her petitions for werewolf rights or required vacation pay for house elves were gently pushed aside or left to stagnate at the lower levels of the Ministry. Hermione felt overworked, underappreciated, and mostly just exhausted.

A knock sounded at her door.  Hermione set her now-organized stack of papers on her desk and wearily trudged to the door. She opened it and then paused in shock at the person standing in front of her.

Draco Malfoy. Hermione hadn’t seen him since she and Harry had testified at his trial after the War. Since then, Hermione had graduated from Hogwarts and started a Department in the Ministry. She liked to think that she had changed a great deal since the War, but he looked exactly the same to her. The same cruel boy who had pushed her down and hurt the people close to her, who had insulted her and made her feel small simply because of her blood.

His lips were moving, but all Hermione heard were the calls of ‘mudblood’ that she had endured at Hogwarts. This, she thought to herself, was the reason why she was stuck in a ministry job with miserable pay and with no chance to make an impact. It was because of people like him, people who looked at her and saw only her untameable hair or her celebrity status. He, she thought, was the reason why her life was going nowhere. All of the exhaustion and frustration that had been building up over the past year burst out, all aimed at the person standing in the doorway, staring at her almost expectantly.

Assistant?” she said coldly, his words catching up with her. “Are you sure you’re willing to work with someone going nowhere? I’m a mudblood, Malfoy. Are you sure you want to taint yourself with such a loathsome, disgusting person?”

His eyes widened, and he stepped back almost subconsciously. Hermione watched him, feeling suddenly drained. “Go away, Malfoy. I don’t need people like you in my life.”

He opened his mouth to object, then took a deep breath and walked away.

Hermione felt a moment of guilt at the hurt she had seen flash across his face, but she pushed it down viciously and began to re-organize her papers, stopping only to shove the promise ring on her desk into the depths of her briefcase.

“People like him…” she muttered to herself, sighing.

The hours flew past her as she worked, and before she knew it, it was one in the morning. Ron had undoubtedly already gone home to get some restful sleep, uninterrupted by any of the worries that had kept Hermione up late. She gathered up her papers sluggishly and stepped out of her office, locking the door behind her. An owl waited patiently at the door, and she smiled softly at it.

“Poor thing,” she said, taking the message from it carefully. It looked at her expectantly and then reproachfully when it realized that she had no treat. “How long have you been waiting here?”
The owl looked at her disdainfully and then took off, a feather floating in its wake.

Hermione sighed, unfolding the paper. If the owl had returned without waiting for a reply, it was most likely Ministry business of some sort. Sure enough, the paper sported the unmistakable M associated with all Ministry documents.

“Dear Ms. Granger,” the paper read, “I am writing to you on War trial business. I’m sure you are aware of the sentences now being handed out to those sentenced during their trials. Due to your presence at the trial of Draco Malfoy, and his uniquely light sentencing due to your testimony, we are asking you to take responsibility for his penance. We have assigned him a job as your assistant. Your department may use him as you like. He will receive no pay for his work and will be allowed no magic during his time at the ministry. If you choose not to make use of his work, we will postpone his penance and his status will continue to be that of a war criminal. Thank you for your cooperation. Signed, Sybill Nott, Head of the Department of War Crimes.”

Hermione read the paper through a second time, then crumpled it up in her hand. If what it said was true, she had just single-handedly destroyed Malfoy’s chances at changing his status. Even as a war hero, Hermione had seen the plight of the Slytherin war criminals. Although many had been let off with light sentences for legitimate reasons, all suffered from anger within the wizarding community. A few of the supposed war criminals had even been killed during the upheaval immediately following the war. She may not like Malfoy, but she could never knowingly make a decision that could ruin his life.

Hermione smoothed the paper out, read it again, and then walked determinedly toward the lift. She made her way toward the floo spots, eyes on the ground as she considered her options and finally reached a decision. She would go to Malfoy Manor the next day and fix things, she told herself. There was no way she could live with anything less.

Before she could comprehend what was happening, she had collided with someone else, jolting the paper out of her hands. The person steadied her, and she stepped back only to see Draco Malfoy once again for the second time that day.

She took a surprised breath. He must have been waiting this whole time, even though there had been a chance that she had already left.

 “Granger,” he said uncomfortably. “I…”

He closed his eyes for a moment, took a deep breath, and then looked her in the eye. His grey eyes pierced hers, giving Hermione a sense of déjà vu to some forgotten moment in the past.

“I realize that I was horrible to you at Hogwarts,” he stated with determination, “and nothing I do will ever excuse that. I’m not looking for friendship or even forgiveness. I just need the job. I promise, I will be the best assistant you’ve ever had.”

Hermione watched the way his fingers had tightened almost painfully on his briefcase and the resigned look on his face. She saw what she had missed in her office earlier that day: there were dark bags under his eyes and he looked as if he had lost weight. He no longer held himself with arrogance; his shoulders were firm, but his chin dipped downward as if he was used to dodging insults and barbed comments on the street. His voice pulled her out of her thoughts.

“I understand,” he said, a look of disappointment crossing his face briefly. “Have a good day, Granger.”

She could see his mind already drifting, calculating what other options he had, how he would be able to keep going with the stigma of the family name weighing him down. She made her decision.

“Wait-“ she said as he turned away. “It’s Hermione. Not Granger.”

Malfoy turned back, expression carefully blank.

“If you’re going to be my assistant, you should call me by my first name.”

A smile slowly made its way onto his face, and her heart beat a little faster. 

“Thank you, Hermione,” he said sincerely, eyes on hers. “You won’t regret it.”

Hermione watched him walk away, a faint smile on his face, and realized who he reminded her of: herself, on her first day at the Ministry. It looked like Malfoy had changed after all.

Chapter Text

Hermione woke up late due to a faulty alarm clock and arrived at the Ministry half an hour past her usual time. She made her way through the sea of black robes, stopping only when she spotted a familiar head of white-blonde hair at the entrance to her office.

Hermione groaned in frustration. Of course, it was Malfoy’s first day. The one day of the year that she had ended up late.

She broke through the stragglers on the edge of the crowd and approached Malfoy, noting the moment when he saw her and relaxed slightly from his stiff position.

“Granger,” he acknowledged, eyes taking in her harried appearance. She waited for him to say something condescending about her late arrival, but he stayed silent, instead turning his gaze to the offices surrounding them.

Hermione soon saw the reason for his stiff position- many from the crowd took a moment to hiss a “filthy death eater” or forcefully shoulder him as they walked past. She instinctively moved between him and the crowd, taking a deep breath.

“Malfoy, you-“

“Get your bloody keys out, Granger. I haven’t got all day.” She glanced up at him with reflexive annoyance, and then eventual understanding. His sharp grey eyes met hers for the first time that day, and she nodded before taking out her key.

“Please come in,” she told him, opening the door and tucking her keys back into her bag. A faint crashing sound came from inside the bag, and Malfoy gave her a reluctantly impressed look as he passed her. “Undetectable extension charm?” he muttered under his breath.

“Undetectable extension charm,” she confirmed, mouth turning up slightly at the corners. She followed him into her office, closing the door behind her and gesturing for him to sit in a chair.

“Welcome to the Department for the Protection and Defense of Magical Creatures. My name is Hermione Granger, and I am the founder of this department. We are a branch of the older Department for the Regulation and Control of Magical Creatures, and we are working to help any magical creature in need of assistance.” She looked expectantly at Malfoy, who smirked slightly at her.

“By assistance, do you mean forcing wages on unsuspecting house-elves?” Hermione started to argue with him before seeing the genuine, if small, smile on his face. She smiled back at him, rolling her eyes.

“Our department helps any magical creature that may need us for legal support, with no discrimination. We’re also on the leading edge of legislation concerned with the wellbeing of all magical creatures. This includes navigating the unfortunate setbacks with werewolf rights. And, yes, I am actually still trying to help house-elves, even if it isn’t one of our main concerns.”

Malfoy narrowed his eyes calculatingly. “How much difference have you managed to make as a department of one?”

Hermione startled slightly. “One? I have several Ministry employees working under me-“

“Of course, Granger. And that’s why all of the paperwork is on your desk.”

She considered arguing with him, but contented herself with glaring at the offending stacks of paperwork. “My employees are perfectly fine. They’re just… slightly less dedicated to their work than I would like them to be.”

“Well, it’s good you have a department of two now,” he said simply, pushing back his chair and standing. She glanced at him cautiously and was surprised to see the lack of judgement on his face.

“Your office is this way…” she trailed off, holding the door open for him and leading him to the room next door. “I’ll be right over there, so feel free to ask me any questions. There’s some paperwork on your desk for you to get started on, and you’ll need to manage the phone for any incoming calls.”

He gave her a questioning look. “They’re new here. We’ve begun to incorporate some muggle technology for efficiency. The owls got a bit.. messy, and the paper airplanes situation was ridiculous. I’ll teach you how to use it.”

“No, that’s fine,” he told her absentmindedly, sifting through the paperwork. “I know how to work a phone.”

Hermione paused, temporarily speechless. Draco Malfoy, muggle-hater and previous Death Eater, knew how to work a phone? She noted the almost dismissive silence and awkwardly made her way towards the door.

“I’ll be in my office if you need anything, then.” She gave him the fake smile she reserved for reporters and former Slytherins and moved towards the door.

“Granger,” Hermione heard as she closed the door behind her. She opened the door again, giving him her attention. “Thank you.”

“It’s no pro-“

“No, thank you,” he told her, grey eyes flashing with frustration.

She smiled almost unwillingly. “You’re welcome, Malfoy.”

When she finally made her way back into her office and collapsed into her chair, the smile still lingered on her face.

Hermione was surprised to find that Malfoy was actually a good worker. He arrived precisely on time every morning and left at the right time every evening, leaving a neat pile of completed paperwork on his desk. He handled any calls with diligence, and she even managed to go home at normal times instead of staying late. She hated to admit it, but Draco Malfoy did seem to be the best assistant she had ever had.

A week or so after he began work, this theory was confirmed as fact. Hermione had just surfaced after starting a particularly grueling project. Like most days, she had expected to stay on late. After checking the time and noting that it was actually still the evening, she realized what her day had been missing- the large piles of paperwork on her desk.

With a growing sense of suspicion, she checked the empty office next door and found them all stacked on Malfoy’s desk, neatly ordered and filled out. She stood in his office for a few minutes before packing up her stuff and heading home with a sense of satisfaction.

Even the batty receptionist in her flat building noticed how much earlier she was arriving back and managed to sneak in a couple of snarky comments about it.

While she did appreciate the extra time at home, it also left Hermione with a growing sense of loss.

At the age of twenty-four, she had expected to have a steady boyfriend (a particular ginger-haired man with an affinity for quidditch), a large living space to call her own, and a thriving career that would make a difference in someone else’s life. Instead, she had a ‘give me some space’ relationship with Ron, a ratty flat with no library, and a career that seemed to be going nowhere.

This only served to contribute to Hermione’s growing insomnia. Many mornings, she woke after only a few hours of sleep and had to make her way to her office and work on projects that were promptly ignored at higher levels of the Ministry.

On one of these mornings, she passed Ron’s office at work and found her boyfriend flirting with Pansy Parkinson. (While Pansy had managed to shake off the stigma of the Slytherin house and Hermione had even grown to respect her on a good day, she did not appreciate seeing the woman flirting with her boyfriend.) (Or her ex-boyfriend. Whatever he was to her.)

Ron leaned closer to Pansy, and whispered something to her before leaning in and kissing her intensely.

Hermione froze, trying hard to work up enough anger to argue with Ron about it. Instead, she felt a growing sense of numbness. She had been trying to work it out with Ron for years, but obviously, their relationship was going nowhere. Just like her life, she thought faintly.

The halls were remarkably empty, and Hermione made it to her office in record time. The door to Malfoy’s office was open, revealing an empty room, and she felt the numbness grow stronger. She hadn’t even realized until then that she had come to rely on him. Now even he seemed to be missing when she needed him.

She considered calling Harry, but quickly dismissed it. He and Ginny were still in their honeymoon phase- she wanted them to enjoy their time together before their careers pulled them under again. Instead, she fell asleep in her office, a sense of hopelessness settling over her.

Hermione slowly became aware of the grumble of the afternoon crowd flooding past her office door. She pushed away the memories of Ron and Pansy, instead focusing on her assistant.

The door to his office was closed, light now coming from underneath the door, and she found that however numb she felt towards Ron, she could easily summon up anger at Malfoy. It felt familiar and she remembered her fist making contact with his face third year. He might think he could hurt her or sabotage her department, but she would show him otherwise.

If there was one thing she had learned over the years, it was that it was never safe to rely on others. Hermione Granger, the smartest witch of her age, made her own way in the world.

He was nearly asleep at his desk. She almost softened at the now-familiar signs of sleep deprivation, but she steeled herself. She would have trouble sleeping, too, if she had the scar of the dark mark on her arm. She opened the door and watched him almost visibly freeze, eyes flying to the person in the doorway. When he saw her, he relaxed slightly.


“Malfoy,” she said coldly, fixing him with a slightly harsh look. “I don’t tolerate lateness. You may not prioritize the work we do in this department, but I do.”

“Don’t tolerate it? I seem to recall you being late on my first day,” he said, giving her a small smile. He had become slightly more comfortable with her during their time working together, but she was too tired to give him her usual grin.

He had no right to come in late and then joke about it, she told herself. She closed her eyes for a brief moment to prepare herself for what she had to say. When she opened her eyes, his smile had faded.

“What happened? Are you alright?” he asked, standing up. It was the last thing she had expected from him- she had come to rely on him being a source of anger and hatred. She sat down in the seat across from his desk, relying on confusion and anger she was feeling.

“I’ll have to fire you if you continue coming to work late,” she told him. “Where were you the entire morning?”

He sat back down across from her, closing his eyes briefly as if it physically pained him. “I’ll work harder, if that’s what you’re talking about. I can stay later.”

“Why were you late this morning?” she repeated, scanning his face carefully.

“I was… I got caught up with some friends,” he told her, shifting in his seat.

“With who? Pansy Parkinson, maybe?”

Relief crossed his face. “Yes-“

“You couldn’t have been, because I very clearly saw her in the Aurors area this morning.”

A look of understanding crossed his face, followed by some sort of internal conflict. “Granger,” he started, “I meant to tell you about them, but I thought you and Weasley were on a break. You-“

“Why would you do that?” she asked him, her voice getting slightly higher. “It’s not like we’re friends. We will never be friends, Malfoy. Didn’t I make that clear?”

She saw hurt flash in his eyes very clearly before disappearing. “Crystal,” he said, straightening up and gesturing her towards the door.

“If you don’t mind, I have paperwork to catch up on,” he told her, avoiding her eyes.

Hermione paused, looking at the way his left arm hung unnaturally at her side, and felt any leftover anger drain out of her.

“What’s wrong with your arm?” she asked softly, watching him pause.

“Nothing’s wrong, Granger.”

She grabbed his left wrist and he froze, unnaturally still. “Don’t-“

She rolled up the sleeve of Malfoy’s robes carefully and gasped at the blood soaking through a bandage that had already been applied. After unwrapping the bandage, she saw a long cut running down his forearm, distorting the scar of the Dark Mark.

“Malfoy, who did this?” she said urgently.

Pain twisted his sharp features, and she pulled out her wand to heal it.

“Don’t,” he told her, catching her eyes with his own. “It’s fine. I deserved it.”

“No, it’s not,” she told him firmly, muttering healing spells and gently siphoning off the blood. "And you don't deserve this, Malfoy. No one does." 

"How can you say that?" he asked her bitterly. "I stood and watched while you were tortured, Granger. I... I still have nightmares of you screaming."

"Well," she told him "At some point, you just have to let it all go. We've all changed since then, most of us for the better. What truly counts, Malfoy, is who we are now."

Hermione realized then that, no matter the misgivings she might have had, she meant it. He might not be an angel- or a Gryffindor- but he had proved to be more loyal than a person she had considered to be one of her closest friends. She didn’t like who he had once been, but she quite liked him now.

In fact, Hermione thought as he helped her lock up their offices, this might just be the beginning of a wonderful friendship.

Chapter Text

Hermione was at her desk completing a muggle crossword, and Draco Malfoy sat across from her, working. His white-blonde hair caught the sunlight coming through her (enchanted) window, and the sharpness of his features was thrown into stark relief.

Hermione made a note to make him eat more (he really was quite thin) and pointedly ignored how content she felt.

“Seven- letter word for salt tax,” she muttered, tapping her quill against the paper. Her legs were cramping in the tight space, so she stretched out and then curled up again in her chair.

Almost two months had passed with barely a word from Ron, and Hermione was getting tired of waiting. While she missed cuddling with him and kissing him on the sofa of her flat, she missed their friendship even more.

Both he and Harry had been the only ones who had believed in her even before she became ‘Hermione Granger, the smartest witch of their age’.  She was smart enough to know that eventually, she would have to do something to fix the situation. Ron’s insecurities (and tiny emotional range) left him generally useless at such things.

“Gabelle,” Malfoy said, pulling her out of her thoughts.

“That’s not it,” she told him, before inking it in. “Oh, you’re right!"

“You don’t have to sound so surprised,” he told her, taking a moment to look up from his work. “You weren’t the only brilliant student at Hogwarts.”

“I seem to recall beating you for top marks in all of our classes,” she replied, smiling slightly. “But yes, you can be rather intelligent at times.”

Rather intelligent, she says.” Malfoy returned to his work, smirking slightly. “That’s practically a commendation for Minister of Magic, coming from you.”

“Oh, shut up and do your work,” she told him, smiling fondly at him. Fondly she thought to herself. He really had grown on her. It had taken a while, but his particular combination of dry humor and perseverance had won her over.

It had been almost a month since they had last had a real argument- they bickered all the time about work, but she held a certain amount of respect for his opinions that seemed to be reciprocated.

The only thing that bothered her about their friendship was how little she knew about him outside of work. It had taken her almost a full month to find out that he had broken up with Astoria Greengrass, and even this she had heard through the department’s proverbial grapevine.

“Malfoy,” she started, glancing at him from across the desk. He put down his work, leaning back in his chair slightly, and she took it as a sign to continue. “I’ve been thinking that we should connect our floos.”

Now he looked at her, grey eyes flashing with surprise. She stumbled on, looking at him warily. “We need a new method to communicate for work. My owl is exhausted from all the messages we need to send, and apparently, the electricity in my flat is questionable at best-“

“No. Absolutely not,” he told her, holding her gaze with his. “Floo is not an option. What else is there?”

She stared at him for a few seconds, taken aback and still deciding whether to be hurt by his pronouncement. “Well, you do remember the protean charm, don’t you? I seem to remember you copying my idea sixth year.”

He almost visibly relaxed in his chair and she decided that she was hurt.

“Merlin’s beard, Malfoy, what’s wrong with being connected to my flat by floo? I thought you were over all of that…” she trailed off, bewildered. He hadn’t mentioned the "m" word since becoming her assistant, and she had thought he really had reconsidered his old ideas.

His eyes widened almost comically. “Granger, no. It’s not that. It’s just… no.”

When he didn’t offer anything else, she conceded reluctantly. “Alright. Protean charm it is. I’ll use fake muggle coins so you won’t lose them like you might with wizarding money.”

He gave a slightly bitter laugh, and Hermione shut her eyes tightly. She had forgotten how poor the Malfoys actually were now that Lucius had died in jail and Narcissa seemed to be dedicated to staying in the manor for the rest of her life.

She glanced at him cautiously and, finding no upset expression, proceeded to charm a pair of muggle coins.

“This,” she told him, “is five pence. I doubt you’ll lose it, but I put a sticking charm on it anyway. If you happen to use it, it’ll return to your pocket within two minutes or so.”

She slid it across the desk to him and held up an exact replica for him to see. “This is mine. If either of us changes anything about the coin, it will transfer to the other coin. It might not be great for sending messages, but we’ll know when we need to meet up to look over a project.”

She didn’t have to wait long to hear his response- he looked it over carefully and then gave her a full-on grin. “You really are brilliant, Granger.”

Her heart nearly stopped for reasons unknown, and she hardly heard him as he told her goodbye and made his way back to his own office.

Only afterward did she realize that, in typical Malfoy fashion, he had managed to avoid thanking her for the coin. She grinned at hers before tucking it into the pocket of her robes.

“Hmm… his home situation is really unique, Hermione. I’ve heard that Narcissa is dreadfully sick. Has been ever since Lucius died.”

Hermione, sitting in the chair at her hairdresser’s, smiled vaguely. No wonder he hadn’t wanted to be connected by floo. With a parental situation like that, Hermione wouldn’t have even managed to get to work every day. As it was, she had managed to restore both her parent’s memories and had decent relationships with both.

She thought about all of the times he had arrived at work with dark circles under his eyes and grimaced. It wasn’t just PTSD or insomnia as she had thought. He must have been taking care of Narcissa too.

She resolved to lighten his workload very slightly and try to be more sympathetic to any late arrivals.

“Finished!” her hairdresser proclaimed. “How does it look?”

Hermione examined her now-straight hair in the mirror and gave the witch a wondering smile. “I don’t know how you do it. I’ve tried so many products…”

The witch smiled back at her, tapping her nose. “It’s a secret. I will say, though, it’s just like magic!”

Hermione caught the wink and followed her to the register, making a note to research hair-straightening spells further. She had avoided cosmetic spells for the majority of her time at Hogwarts, but she might as well start figuring them out. She was twenty-four now, after all.

“That’ll be forty-five pounds, dear.”

Hermione obliged, handing the witch the money and wishing her a good afternoon. On the way out, warmth seeped through the material of her robes from her pocket. She pulled out her five pence to make sure, and it was pulsing urgently.

“Malfoy? What’s going on?” she called out, apparating to her office. She ventured next door to his and found him working intently at his desk, papers spread out around him in a haphazard fashion.

She sighed, pushed aside the urge to order it (she had learnt not to in a rather dramatic quarrel earlier that month), and sat down across from him.

“This bloody wording isn’t right” he muttered, tapping his quill against the paper impatiently. He wrote something else down before glancing at her and fumbling his quill. Oblivious, she gestured toward the paper.

“Here, let me have a look,” she said, grabbing the paper from him. She read over what he had written and then reread it before looking back up at him.

“You’ve really got something here, Malfoy. I’ve been looking for something to go in next to the part about banning segregation of werewolves. This could really make a change if we can get the higher-ups to pass it. And, with that part there, it would practically be blasphemy not to.”

He grabbed another piece of paper. “Look here, Granger. If you use the evidence you already had on that paper and put it here...” She saw the calculating look in his sharp grey eyes as he pieced together a new idea, and gave him a fierce grin before setting to work.

She grinned at him before setting to work.

It was nearly two in the morning, and they had worked through the night. Hermione rested her head on her arms and listened to the shuffling of paper as Malfoy continued to work. It slowed down and eventually ceased.

“Granger?” His voice was almost a whisper. She heard a sigh, and then a louder “Wake up, Granger. I can’t bloody apparate you to your flat, remember? I haven’t got any magic when I'm in the ministry building.”

She blinked at him wearily, trying not to marvel at the sharp line of his jaw. “I’m awake. I thought I’d just try to get some rest.”

His eyes flicked over her for a moment, before he gave in with a sigh. “You do look awfully tired…”

“I’ll apparate us to my flat, and we can continue working there if we need to,” she told him, bustling about the office in an effort to organize his piles of paper. When she gathered them all together in her bag and pulled out her keys, she found him still standing there.

“No. I am not going to your flat.”

Hermione rolled her eyes at him and practically pushed him out the door, locking it behind them. “No arguing. We have to finish this, and your office is one of the least comfortable working spaces I’ve been in.”

“Granger,” he said, voice slightly strangled as she tugged him along by the arm. “Hermione.”

She paused and then turned to face him. “What is it?”

He closed his eyes briefly, as if trying to compose himself. “You don’t want me in your flat. I’m a former Death Eater.” When she gave him an unimpressed look, he continued. “The reporters will find out somehow, and Potter will have a fit. You know how reporters are about-“

“Yes, I do,” she told him, voice quiet. “They can twist anything into a weapon that can destroy you.” She let go of her grasp on his arm before continuing. “That is exactly why I don’t care anymore. Their words can’t hurt me- the only word that did isn’t used anymore.”

Guilt passed over his face at the last sentence and he started an apology, but she held up her hand.

“I know what I’m worth, and no one else can change that. I’ll be fine," she told him. "I also know what you’re worth, Malfoy. You’re a good person. You ‘ve changed, and I am proud to be friends with you.”

He gave her a look that she couldn’t quite comprehend, and a muttered “Alright then, Granger” that she could, and she apparated them both to her flat, his hand grasped in hers.

The entrance to her flat was dark, and she flipped on the lights, taking off her shoes with a sigh.

“Wait here,” she told him before padding silently towards the sitting room. She glanced hopelessly at the mess, stood for a moment, and wasn’t surprised when she heard him walking up behind her anyway.

She risked a glance at him, prepared to defend her flat (it was perfectly cozy, if a bit too small on some days), and was surprised to see a smile on his face.

“It’s very…you,” he stated, sitting down at her table and then raising his eyebrows at her.

Hermione hurriedly took out the papers and got started again, keeping her eyes firmly on the work in front of her. She was afraid that if she looked at him for too long, he might notice the ridiculous grin on her face.

At some point, he wandered over to her kitchen and made tea for both of them, setting her cup down in front of her. She tried some and looked at him thoughtfully. Draco Malfoy making tea the muggle way in her flat...

She pushed down the warm feeling that particular thought gave her and chose not to examine her reaction. Instead, she asked him a more pressing question.

“How do you know how I take my tea?”

She was surprised to see his ears redden slightly at the tips from where he was leaning over his work.

“You told me when I first became your assistant. It’s not my fault my memory isn’t a failure like Weasley’s,” he said. She could practically hear the smirk in his voice.

“Ron has a perfectly fine memory,” she scolded him, before remembering her situation with Ron. She tried to work up a bluster again. “I don’t see why you don’t like him. Can you at least call him Ron?”

He looked up at her, a shadow crossing his face. “His name is Weasley. What, do you want me to start calling him Weaselbee again?” When she rolled her eyes at him, he frowned. “I don’t like him because he doesn’t deserve you,” he said simply, before ducking his head and continuing working.

Hermione would have believed that he was perfectly unaffected if she hadn’t seen how red the tips of his ears were.

She shook her head almost affectionately at him before catching herself and turning back to her papers.

“Alright, let’s finish this up,” she told him, frowning thoughtfully at a phrase on her paper.

“I won’t fall asleep if you won’t, Granger.”

When she woke up later that morning and saw him asleep next to her at the table, head on his arms, she was not the least bit surprised. She did, however, wait a couple of minutes before waking him up.

It was purely because he needed the sleep,  she told herself. It had nothing to do with how relaxed and content he looked while sleeping.

Chapter Text

Hermione and Draco had fallen into a rhythm, working at their offices during the day and spending time at her flat when they couldn’t finish a project at work.

On one such day, Hermione relaxed against her sofa, examining the man sitting next to her. Draco had been working assiduously for the past hour or so, and she examined him now, taking in all of the small details. He had rolled up the sleeves of his shirt subconsciously, something she knew he never did in front of others, and she examined the scarred dark mark as she looked him over. A short strand of pale hair fell into his eyes, and his sharp grey eyes looked focused rather than nervous (as they often did at work).

His movements were graceful and smooth, and rather than seeing these characteristics as pureblood, Hermione saw them as Draco. Those same hands had pulled her into a hug many times and pulled a blanket over her shoulders when she fell asleep after working too late. Those same hands were part of someone that Hermione cared about, and while she might not know in what way, she knew that she meant something to him too. She knew he had never been very touch-oriented: his childhood must have been full of sharp words and silences. But somehow their friendship had grown around shared touches- an occasional hug, shoulders bumping while working.

He still smirked and teased her, but he never went far enough to hurt her. She could always tell by the look on his face that he was analyzing her- storing pieces of her away, in the same way he looked at his paper now.

Her thoughts turned back to her work very slightly and she realized that the thoughtful look on his face had turned darker, and that he was now scrutinizing her rather than the paper in front of him. He moved to pull his sleeve down, his movements now rough and his expression a mix of shame and hate.

Hermione didn’t know what pushed her to do it, but as she had many times before, she felt a need to protect him. Different from the first time, however, was how well she now knew him. She knew the wit behind his once hurtful remarks, the softness under his sharp features, and what his friendship felt like. So this time, she touched his forearm carefully, and then his face.

“Don’t” she breathed, and that was enough to stop him. He froze, eyes locked on hers, and she could tell he was taking in every detail of the moment.

“This,” she told him, tracing the mark on his forearm carefully, “is just a part of you now. I lo-“ she faltered, then continued on, a blush rising on her cheeks. “I value your friendship very deeply, and that means that I care about all of you. The hate that was once part of this mark is no longer a part of you, Draco. This mark is just a scar, and we all have our scars.”

His eyes moved almost unconsciously to what she knew to be the mudblood scar on her arm, and she drew in a breath when he very carefully rolled up her sleeve and traced over it with his own graceful fingers.

He glanced at her, cautiously but directly, and said “I will always be so sorry, Hermione. This- this word, it has nothing to do with how I think of you now.” His jaw tightened in frustration, and he ran his other hand through his pale hair, his distorted dark mark flashing across her vision in the dim lights of her flat. “I-“

She let out the breath she had been holding in and carefully took the hand that had been tracing her scar. “I know,” she told him. “I know.”

He leaned closer, grey eyes still on her, and she leaned closer too. Then they were kissing.

Draco Malfoy was kissing her, his lips moving gently against hers, and she, Hermione Granger, was enjoying it. She didn’t know who pulled back first, but suddenly they were no longer kissing, both breathing heavily. His eyes were a darker grey now, and he took in her particular state of vulnerability for a moment before standing abruptly.

He ran a hand through his hair, but she didn’t enjoy it like she did earlier. It was jerky and rough, and so were the rest of his movements. He gathered up his papers, and was halfway towards the door of her flat before he paused, features shadowed.

“I’m sorry, Granger,” he told her, eyes closing in what looked like pain. “I can’t do this.”

That’s all he needed to tell her. Her mind raced through ideas, but she was sure of one thing: he didn’t want to go any further than friendship. He didn’t want this with her.

She found her voice in that moment, all of her emotions rushing to the surface but none coming out in her voice. “Malfoy,” she told him, voice smooth and emotionless. “I’ll see you at work tomorrow.”

Some emotion flashed in his eyes, but it was gone before she could even analyze it, and so was he. The door to her flat closed softly behind him, and she sank back onto the sofa, blocking what had just happened from her mind. Something had gone wrong, but she couldn’t find it in herself to get up and figure it out.

She tiredly considered their relationship and decided that she didn’t care how much it hurt right now, as long as she could fix their friendship. She didn’t know how, but somehow his friendship had become almost as important to her as Harry’s or Ron’s. If we’re fine, so am I, she thought drowsily.

They were fine, after all. Weeks passed, and then months, and their friendship remained intact. He even came back to her flat at the beginning of the next month, and they were able to withstand the pure force of unsaid words flying at them every time they open their mouths. He started to tease her again, and they worked almost as closely before, but she could tell he was different. He was distant from her, and nothing she did quite changed it.

Eventually, she locked her emotions into a corner of her brain and knew he had done the same. If that was what it took for them to be okay, that was what she’d do.

Soon it was early February, and Harry and Ginny invited her out to lunch on Valentine’s Day. She accepted, mostly out of embarrassed gratitude- Ginny knew what was going on with her, and didn’t want her to be alone.

Hermione looked forward to the day with a sort of happiness tainted with disappointment- she may have wanted to spend the day with someone else, but she really did need to catch up with Harry and Ginny. She had barely managed to talk to them since their wedding, and she knew that they needed her in their lives as much as she needed them. At some points, her reliable common sense had been all that had kept them together after a particularly fiery disagreement.

When the day came, Hermione spent the morning cleaning her flat- she refused to do something as ridiculous as mope about being single on Valentine’s Day. Instead, she scrubbed and swept her way through her flat’s small collection of dust bunnies.

Soon it was time for her to leave for the wizarding cafe, and she pulled on a jumper before apparating to the right location.

Harry and Ginny were waiting outside, smiling slightly as they talked, and Hermione felt almost guilty for interrupting their first Valentine’s Day as a married couple. She watched them interact for a couple more seconds before walking up to them and enveloping them both in a hug.

“It’s been so long, ‘Mione,” Harry said fondly. “You need to come over to visit more often. How is work going?”

Hermione smiled almost subconsciously, blushing slightly. “We’re really doing something, Harry! Our last project finally got approved at the highest levels, and our next one already has a positive response.”

“I’m so glad. You two deserve it,” Harry told her. She pulled Ginny in for a hug, too, and then looked at Harry thoughtfully. “Is auror work still going well?”

His grin widened, and as he started telling her about a recent experience, Hermione sighed happily. He really was happy, she thought to herself. Both she and Ron had been worried about how he would handle the aftermath of the war, but his relationship with Ginny seemed to have helped him more than their worry ever had. He gestured as he talked, stopping only to open the door for them, and she listened intently.

After catching up for a while- married life was great; yes, they were considering having children once their careers leveled out a bit; no, Mrs. Weasley hadn’t yet managed to name one of these future children- Harry and Ginny went unusually silent.

“Hermione,” Ginny started hesitantly before glancing at Harry.

Harry nodded, then met eyes with Hermione from across the table. “I know that what you had with Ron didn’t quite work out, but we were wondering if he could join us. We would like to all catch up together, and it just didn’t seem right without Ron here.”

Hermione surprised both of them- and herself- by nodding thoughtfully. “I haven’t had the chance to work things out yet, but I really do know what you mean.” She glanced at them before grinning slightly. “Believe me, I certainly do have something to yell at him about, though.”

“Oh, bloody hell,” she heard from behind her. Ron stood there, smiling sheepishly. “I will accept any yelling if you want to get it out of the way now.”

Hermione looked at him carefully, relieved by how little residual anger she actually felt. “Surprisingly enough, it doesn’t seem that will be happening,” she told him, before giving him a stern look. “We will, however, be talking about this after lunch.”

Chapter Text

Hermione kept her promise- they all parted amicably after lunch and Ron side-apparated with her to her flat.

“Wow, it’s really been a while,” he remarked, looking at the small changes that had occurred over the months. He turned to her, body tensed slightly. “’Mione, I-“

“Let’s sit down,” she told him solemnly. She led him to the sofa and he followed suit, sitting next to her gingerly.

“I’m a prick,” he told her. “I know I shouldn’t have started a relationship with Pansy-“

“No, you’re not a prick,” she told him softly, sighing.

“I’m not?” he asked, puzzled.

“It wasn’t your fault, Ron. We weren’t working out, and we had decided to take a break. It’s perfectly fine that you wanted to kiss other people. If anything, it was my fault for letting our relationship fall apart like that.”

Blimey, Hermione,” he said, now absolutely bewildered. “It’s not your fault. You’re brilliant and, well, sometimes relationships just don’t work out.”

She gave him a wavering smile, remembering how much she had once loved him. He was courageous, Quidditch-loving, sometimes insensitive but always loyal. She had loved him since her first year at Hogwarts, and now it felt like something was ending, something that she could never get back.

Unwelcome tears welled up in her eyes. “I really do care about you, Ronald,” she said, voice faltering slightly. “You and Harry- you mean the world to me. I just wish-“

“Me too,” he told her, smile slightly wistful. “But sometimes you have to learn to move on.”

“When did you get so wise?” she laughed, wiping awkwardly at her tears. He pulled her into a hug, and she sank into his familiar scent.

“I love you guys,” she told him, smiling through her tears.

“I love you too, ‘Mione,” he said, hugging her tighter.

 “Granger!” Hermione heard from the entrance of her apartment. Draco walked in, as he often did to consult with her for work, and his eyes flicked back and forth between Hermione and Ron.

“Weasley,” he nodded in acknowledgment, eyes skimming over the person in question.

Ron nodded back at him awkwardly, and Hermione took in a moment that she had once thought impossible. Neither of them had hatred in their eyes- only an awkward kind of understanding. Draco stepped closer to Ron and said what she had also thought impossible.

“I’m sorry,” he told Ron.

Ron hesitated, then gave him a nod of understanding, and Hermione relaxed slightly. She hadn’t realized until that moment how much she had been hoping for her friends to accept Draco. While she had told them all about how he had changed, she had never expected for Draco to actually make the effort first. She looked at him almost in wonder and was surprised when he continued looking fixedly at anywhere but her.

Draco broke the silence. “I expect congratulations are in order, then,” he said, grey eyes finally flicking towards her. He held her gaze as he said “Take care of her, Weasley.”

Hermione opened her mouth, realizing exactly what he was thinking, but he interrupted her. “It’s fine, Granger,” he told her, eyes dull and emotionless. “I’ll see you at work.”

Then he was gone, the swoosh of apparition filling her small flat. Hermione and Ron immediately came to the same conclusion, and she turned toward him, mouth opening.

“Good luck, ‘Mione,” Ron told her, eyes soft. “Harry and I- we’ll support you no matter what.”

She found it ironic that he had finally found a way to communicate with her after their breakup, but she only smiled and gave him one more hug, taking in his Ron-ness before stepping back.

“If Pansy doesn’t see how great you are, she doesn’t deserve you,” she told him, and she knew in her heart that it was true. Ron may not have been her true love, but he was and always would be one of the best friends she had.

She turned around, clearing her mind and setting up her floo to transport to the Ministry. If she was right, Draco would probably be working. In a way similar to Hermione, he used work to clear his mind and push away any problems in his life.

She hurried through the crowds of people, pulling at her old jumper sheepishly, and found him sitting in his office like she had thought.

“Draco?” she asked, voice determined.

He turned around, still gathering the papers on his desk, and she saw his jaw tighten when she leaned against the doorway. “I’m resigning,” he told her.

“Excuse me?” she asked, voice a bit higher than she would like.

“I have the papers here. I’ll- I’m sure I can find another job sometime. Eventually, they’ll clear my status.”

Hermione looked at him in disbelief. “Is that all this was to you? A way to clear your name?”

He stopped what he was doing and his expression darkened. “Of course not. You know better than that. I just- I can’t work here anymore.”

He paused, handing her the papers before moving to brush past her. “This should finish the project we’ve been working on. Best of luck, Granger.”

She stared at the papers in her hands before hurrying after him, finally catching up to him next to the floo spots. “Malfoy,” she called out. “Draco!”

He turned around in annoyance and then shock.

“If it makes a difference,” she told him, slightly out of breath, “Ron and I aren’t together!”

He continued to look at her, eyes wide, and she moved closer.

“I know that you don’t want a relationship with me,” she said slowly, “but-“

“What the hell are you talking about, Granger?” he asked, sounding as out of breath as she did. “I- Back then, I pulled away because I was a Death Eater and-“ he ran his hand through his hair with frustration. “Well, I’m not Gryffindor, and I gave up being chivalrous weeks ago. If you want anything to do with me, I’m yours.”

He looked at her as if bracing himself for rejection, and she was struck by how similar it was to the first time they had stood in this spot- him with shielded hope in his eyes, and her struck with how much power she held over him.

She made the same decision as the first time, and stepped closer, resting her head against his chest. “You’re mine?” she breathed, smiling at him. “I’ve never been more glad that you’re not Gryffindor.”

She leaned up, brushing her lips against his, and gasped when he responded, hands tangling in her hair. He deepened the kiss, biting slightly at her lip before they both pulled back for air.

“Who would’ve thought?” she asked him, breathing unevenly. A ridiculously large grin was already settling on her face. “Hermione Granger and Draco Malfoy.”

 “Who would’ve thought, indeed,” he said softly, before kissing her again.