This fic is set five years after the war. Draco and Blaise turned spies for the Order sometime after the events in Malfoy Manor. I think. I don’t really know. Yes, there was general hate towards the remaining Death Eaters afterwards, but I’d like to think the Wizarding World didn’t want to repeat the same mistakes. Therefore, those who defected were forgiven and allowed to live as normally as they can. The point is that the War is over and this is the story of what happened after. This is a chicklit, a romance, a feel good fic. Let our heroes be normal for once. The era of fearing a snake-like megalomaniac is over. Now their fears are just like ours – commitment and mid-life crisis.
You might have read a very similar fic in Wattpad, with almost the same title. That’s because this fic isn’t originally fanfiction. This is technically a Brielle, Christian and Ryland AU.
"I must say, Miss Granger," the voice like smooth velvet made goosebumps erupt on her exposed upper limbs. "The Minister made a poor decision on choosing red as tonight's motif. He clearly did not take into account how the colour could turn a certain lady into a siren. You are the very definition of temptation."
Try as she might, she couldn't keep the tremor from her tone. The man behind her had always affected her in a way. He knew that and exploited it every at chance he got. This time, it was expected. As it was every year since their reconciliation.
Since the end of the war, Minister Shacklebolt held a Christmas party for the Order and the Auror Department. He picked the theme for these events and (nearly) everyone complied with his antics. This year was Snow White in New York – midnight black, blinding white snow, and traffic stopping red. Hermione wasn’t sure how or when the Minister knew about Snow White. Perhaps Hans Christian Anderson was a wizard? Or maybe Walt Disney?
The very first party was held in Hogwarts and Hermione all but refused to go. That was until a certain blonde nuisance (and his mother) showed up at her door, dress and accessories in tow.
“Think of the press, dear!” Narcissa Malfoy tittered at Hermione. “You and Mr Potter believe my son is reformed, but the rest of the Wizarding World still has magnanimous doubts. Better to show a united front, yes?”
Hermione looked to Draco for help. He was grumbling in the corner of her sofa, clearly not agreeing with his mother one bit. She was primped and prodded within an inch of her sanity. The Prophet caught them entering the Great Hall and tried following them in. They didn’t succeed, but the photos made it to the headline nevertheless. At least Draco’s tie matched her dress.
"Stop harassing her, Malfoy. We need her to agree to sign those papers for the Durmont case.”
Another voice, which of her current rescuer, triggered yet another response from her traitorous body. This time it was warm tingles that spread from the top of her head to the tip of her toes.
"Come off it, Draco. I was just teasing," came the reply of the other male.
Before Draco could retort, Hermione turned around to face both men. A tiny gasp escaped her lips before she could control it. Who could blame her, though? Two of the most exquisite Aurors men stood before her, unaware of the full effect they both had on her system.
Draco wore the required red shirt, classic black pants and the requisite shiny Italian leather shoes. Blaise, on the other hand, chose a black shirt and accessorized with a red tie instead. Always the rebel, he tethered on the edge of semiformal by wearing dark jeans and attention grabbing bright red Chuck Taylor's. Both men before her represented a certain faction of the Aurors – dangerous, both on the field and on the female population. Judging by the nearly identical smirks on both their lips, they damn well knew it.
Hermione scowled. It was too early in the evening for either of them to be so annoying. Her train of thought was cut off when yet another high handed Auror caught her elbow and spun her around.
Harry pulled her into a tight hug before she could say another word. She breathed in his familiar scent of cedar wood and ink before pulling away. However, the tight circle of his arms allowed no more than a few inches between them.
"Glad you could make it, Hermione," he shot her that lopsided smile she loved so much. "I missed you."
She patted his arm twice, a gesture he knew meant that he should let go. Reluctantly, he did so.
"What? No hug for me? I got here first," Blaise opened his arms, a teasing glint in his eye.
Hermione laughed before wrapping her arms around him as well. Too soon, or far too long by Draco’s liking, Hermione let go of Blaise. Then she stood on her tiptoes, looking over both men's shoulders. Even in six inch heels, they towered over her.
"Who are you looking for, Granger?" Draco took hold of her left elbow as she almost toppled over.
"You wound us, Granger," Blaise cut in. "The two hottest Aurors are right in front of you yet your eyes search for someone else. Tell me who he is, Granger! If not Draco, tell me who else I have to defeat to garner your undivided attention!"
"Never knew you could be such a fine actor, Blaise," Harry teased as he pulled Hermione back on both feet.
"If you must know, I'm looking for Shacklebolt. I haven't seen him since I arrived."
"Why are you looking for the Minister?" Draco voiced out the question in the men’s minds.
"If you must know," Hermione huffed. "He sent an interdepartmental memo yesterday, wanting to confirm that I would be here tonight. I actually had other plans, but he made it near impossible to say no."
"Did he say why he specifically wanted you to come? Aside from you being one third of the Golden Trio and all."
"No idea," Hermione shrugged. "Said he wanted to speak with me about something important and didn't want to do it over the phone."
There came a moment of bewildered silence before it was broken by an elf apparating in front of Draco.
“Mister Malfoy, sir.”
Draco took the elf aside.
“He’s come a long way, hasn’t he?” Harry voiced out. “He and Blaise both have.”
“I’m right here, Potter.”
“All I’m saying is that you made the right decisions that night. We probably wouldn’t have won without you feeding us information from the inside.”
“Water under the bridge, Potter. Don’t mention it,” Blaise brushed him off. “I’m serious. Stop bringing it up. We were on the wrong side for far too long. A little bit of spying didn’t win you the war.”
“It didn’t,” Hermione cut in. “But it won a lot of battles that were otherwise impossible.”
She didn’t mean the actual war. Blaise and Harry understood perfectly.
"Lady Greengrass is being late, Mister Malfoy," Twinkle, Astoria’s elf bowed low. “Lady Greengrass can’t find shoes for her dress, sir.”
“You have got to be kidding me,” Draco nearly laughed at the stupidity of Astoria’s excuse this time. The vapid woman just wanted to make a grand entrance as always. “Thank you for informing me, Twinkle. You may go.”
He took a deep breath and looked back at where he stood with the others earlier. They were staring at him. Weird. He strode over to rejoin the group.
“Can’t find shoes to match her dress,” he spat. “We bought that dress in Paris. The matching shoes, we bought in Italy.”
"Grand entrance?" Blaise shook his head. "Mate, I wouldn't be surprised if she was late to her own wedding!"
Blaise didn't particularly dislike Astoria. He simply thought she and Draco weren’t a good match. Nevertheless, it was a betrothal forged at birth. Unless one of them agrees to break it, it was ironclad.
The wedding comment seemed to have struck a chord in Draco. He looked at anywhere but the three of them, but only Blaise seemed privy to his discomfort. Hermione was too busy berating Harry about his latest mission, as evidenced by the slight limp in his strides.
"Let her be, Draco," Hermione heard his comment about the shoes and tried to make light of the situation. "Ever heard of the term 'fashionably late'? Trying to look good isn't an easy task, you know."
"Pssh! You’re never late to anything and always look stunning," Draco snorted. "You take half the time most girls need to get ready and manage to outshine even the best of them. Even with that bird’s nest you call hair."
The offhanded comment startled Hermione. Blaise’s gaze over her form told her he agreed.
"Erm," Harry was startled by the words that came out of Draco’s mouth and attempted to redirect the conversation. "Mione, Molly’s been looking for you. She asked me to bring you to her if I ever see you around."
"Oh?" Hermione snapped out of her conflicting thoughts. "Well, I better show up before she starts hunting."
She stood on her tiptoes again, this time to hug Blaise and Harry and wish them a Happy Christmas. She promised Harry she’d drop by Grimmauld Place sometime in the following week. Draco hooked her hand in his elbow as they made their way across the ballroom floor.
"You okay?" Hermione timidly gauged Draco’s mood. It was never a good thing when he got irritated in the early hours of an event. He tended to end up doing the most ridiculous, if not embarrassing, things. And Astoria just loved aggravating him.
"I'll be fine," he squeezed her hand. "What's this I hear about you having other plans? I thought we agreed that you’d never leave me alone at a Ministry function ever again?”
“I had case notes-”
"Hermione, dear!" Molly Weasley cut off whatever excuse she was about to spew.
“Later,” Draco whispered.
“Good evening, Molly. Happy Christmas!”
“Happy Christmas, both of you!” she responded. “Now I understand the need to keep her to yourself, Draco, looking the way she does tonight. Absolutely ravishing. Red suits her, does it not? Gryffindor through and through. But if you could, release her so I can hug her properly."
Hermione’s eyes widened at the older woman's comment, a blush slowly staining her cheeks.
"You're right, Molly, she does look exceptionally beautiful tonight," Draco smiled down at Hermione, making her redden even more.
"Keep talking like that, Malfoy, and I'd think you were hitting on me," she teased, attempting to beat Draco at his own game. She quirked an eyebrow while he simply smirked.
Draco, not to be defeated, stepped closer until he was flush against Hermione.
"Break it up, you two," Molly cut in. “There are kids in attendance tonight.”
The two of them laughed at the older woman's comment. Since they appeared at that first Christmas party, Molly thought they made a wonderful couple and never let them, or anyone else for that matter, forget it.
"Anyway,” Molly took hold of Hermione’s elbow and tugged her away from Draco. "Kingsley is looking for you. I thought you'd appreciate the warning."
"I know, Molly,” Hermione nodded. "He sent a memo to confirm my attendance."
"What does the old coot possibly want with Granger?" Draco asked.
“Ministry matters,” Molly shrugged. "Arthur knows a few things, but even he can't claim what goes on in the Minister’s head.”
“How come-” Draco started to ask but Kingsley chose that moment to make his appearance.
"Ah, speak of the devil," Molly interrupted, gesturing behind the pair. "He's made his grand entrance and is coming this way."
Hermione and Draco turned to the direction of Molly’s fingers. Sure enough, the head of the British Wizarding World came striding towards them.
"Minister," Draco slightly bowed in greeting. "Happy Christmas."
"Draco. Molly, Happy Christmas," the man nodded in greeting. "Miss Granger, I appreciate you accepting my invitation tonight."
"The pleasure is mine, sir," Hermione replied nervously.
"Excuse me, kids, Minister," Molly cut in. "I'll see you around. Enjoy the party."
"And I think I hear Astoria," Draco turned towards the entrance on the other side of the room where a slight commotion had occurred. "I'll come find you later, okay? I have news to share."
Hermione could do nothing but nod.
"Miss Granger, accompany me in making rounds?" The Minister offered an arm, one she could not refuse.
She kept to herself as they walked, only speaking when she was addressed directly. She wasn’t in the mood to be Hermione Granger, the War Heroine, tonight.
"Let's sit, Miss Granger," he gestured to the head table. "I imagine those shoes must not have been made for too much walking."
She spotted her name in between his and Harry’s. Typical.
"I don't usually do this, you know?" Kingsley started.
"This," he gestured to her and the roved his eyes over the rest of the room. "Business during the holidays. Not since the War, at least.”
"Oh." So this was a business meeting…
"I don't," he reiterated. "But I leave for the States tomorrow and may not be able to return until just before the New Year rolls in. And I understand you are spending the holidays with your parents, yes?"
"I am, sir," she nodded timidly. Her parents were still in Australia, where they decided to stay after Hermione had found them and restored their memories. They invited her to spend the Christmas with them. Molly must have told him.
"I wanted to speak with you before we part ways. So you might be able to think about it over the next few days.” He looked at her to check if she was listening before continuing. "Harry had mentioned in passing that you are no longer happy in your current occupation. Was he speaking truth?"
Hermione understood his confusion. Everyone thought she was going to be an Auror because of the war or an advocate of other magical beings because of SPEW. But instead she had worked tooth and nail to land her position in the MLE. By the look on Kingsley’s face, he expected an answer to his question. An honest one at that.
"Yes, sir. I've already put in my two weeks’ notice. I plan on looking for a new job after the holidays."
"This is where I come in," he cleared his throat. "Do you know Travis Shire?”
"Yes, sir. Of course."
Travis Shire was the British Wizarding World’s liaison to Australia. He had been instrumental in Hermione’s search for her parents a few years back. Rumour has it that he was itching to come back to England since the end of the war.
"How would you like to do his job?"
Surely he was kidding?
“Travis was an Auror first before becoming a bureaucrat,” Kingsley explained. “He lost his young wife and infant child in the First Wizarding War. When it was over, or so we thought, he begged to be transferred to Australia. He wanted to come back to Britain when there were reports of Voldemort rising from the dead, but the then Minister refused and had him banned from entering the country. Now that Voldemort is well and truly dead, he’s officially put in a transfer request.”
All of this was new to Hermione.
“That being said, I have kept my eye on you. I know exactly how unhappy you have been in the MLE despite the outstanding praise from the Wizengamot. So I am offering you the post in Australia. I am offering you the chance to avoid any more... unhappiness."
By the way he spoke of the word, she was certain he knew the real reason why she quit. A reason she hasn't told neither Draco nor Harry yet. Or ever.
"Think about it, Miss Granger. And give me an answer hopefully after Christmas."
Kingsley stood to greet a guest who looked like he just arrived. Hermione remained in her seat, quietly mulling over what he just dropped on her. Should she go for it?
"There you are!" Blaise’s voice sounded from somewhere behind her seat. "Been looking all over for you. I thought you’d have ditched the Minister’s table by now.”
"Blaise," she spoke timidly. "Where's Draco?"
"I'm not sure," Blaise scratched his head. "Last time I saw him, he was dragging Astoria to the balcony."
"I am," she nodded. "It's just... I'm kinda overwhelmed. The Minister knows how to drop a bomb."
"Uh, bomb? Do we need to call in reinforcements? Are you sure it was the Minister? Maybe he was Imperio’d."
"Not that kind of bomb, Blaise,” she laughed nervously. “I meant he surprised me, that’s all. Do you know Travis Shire?”
Blaise’s eyes grew wide. He knew where Hermione was going with that question.
“Did you say yes?”
“I told him I’d think about it.”
He was quiet, probably thinking up excuses on why she can’t accept.
"No, Blaise. You of all people should know you can't do a liaison’s job as efficiently if you weren't physically there."
"But it's in Australia!" He whined. “That’s on an entirely different continent!”
“You could still send me owls, you know? And there’s a lot of means of transportation – both magical and muggle - if you really want to see me.”
“International floo travel and apparition are dangerous,” he continued protesting. “Flying a broom that large of the distance is tiring, and the process of getting an international portkey is a bitch! No, I’m not getting on that muggle flying contraption.”
“I know it’s hard-”
“Do Potter and Weasley know?”
“No,” she shook her head. “Ron’s in Wales for a match against the Welsh National Quidditch team. He won’t be back until Christmas Eve. Besides, I haven't fully decided yet. It hasn't even been an hour since the proposal was sprung on me. And this isn’t a decision anyone else but me can make.”
"But," Blaise opened his mouth to protest yet again. But the sound of someone clearing their throat on stage caught his attention. And everyone else's for that matter.
"Good evening," The Minister’s voice filled the hall. "I hope you're all enjoying the evening."
Hermione turned her focus to the man on the stage. Blaise took up the spot behind her, boldly resting one hand on her waist. She didn't shrink away, so he took that as a good sign.
"Right," Kingsley went on. "I interrupted your evening for a purpose. I have exciting news to share."
Surely Kingsley wasn’t foolish enough to announce her change in job title before she’d even accepted, right? For a moment, Hermione panicked. Blaise felt her jump so he re-positioned his hand to her shoulders.
"Relax," he whispered, kneading her shoulder blades lightly.
"We’re getting married!" Astoria nearly pushed Kingsley off the stage as she made her announcement.
Hermione froze. Blaise’s hands stilled.
"Draco, baby. Come up here with me."
At first the crowd was as stunned as Blaise and Hermione were. But as soon as one person clapped, the whole room erupted in applause and well wishes.
Hermione suddenly felt lightheaded. She needed to get out of there, fast.
"I think I need some air," she stepped out of Blaise’s hold and started for the balcony.
"Granger," he called out but she sped away. Gathering his wits about him, he followed her just to make sure she was alright.
Draco wanted to wring Astoria’s neck. Her father had cornered him the other night insisting that a wedding be done before summer. Draco was stupid enough to say he was going to propose soon. Astoria obviously knew and beat him to the punch. She wore her mother’s ring and nearly took Kingsley’s temporary command of the room to make the announcement to an engagement that hasn’t even happened. He craned his neck above the crowd, eyes searching for the one person he was most apprehensive to share the news with. He finally spotted Hermione making her way towards the balcony. Was it bad to hope she hadn’t heard? Fat chance.
What confused him though was Blaise following after her. Before he went through the balcony doors, he looked back to the stage and threw Draco a dark look. What the hell is going on?
"Drakey?" Astoria’s voice pulled him back from his thoughts. "Your mother’s coming this way."
"Hey," Blaise called out to Hermione as he stepped into the night.
She was standing on a corner of the balcony, illuminated only by the glow of her wand. He shuffled closer, wrapping his coat around her bare shoulders. She was absently tracing her fingers over the scars on her left arm.
Blaise didn't speak, knowing fully well she needed to process recent events. When she did, he found himself stunned for the second (third?) time that evening.
"I'm taking The Minister’s offer. I'm moving to Australia."