Draco Malfoy couldn’t take his eyes off the unconscious woman on the gurney in front of him. He had thought his mind was playing tricks on him. He was still reasonably sure that it was. He wanted to blame the adrenaline. He no longer had that excuse though once they were stable in the ambulance, with his best friend Blaise Zabini behind the wheel, sirens blaring as the navigated towards the hospital. Without thinking, Draco cast a finite incantem and a revelio, for good measure, and checked her arm. He felt his face pale significantly as his fear was confirmed. Glancing up he caught Blaise’s eyes in the mirror. “It’s her,” he heard himself whisper.
“What the fuck is she even doing here?” demanded Blaise from the front seat, eyes focused on the road.
“I don’t know,” Draco whispered back, his eyes taking her in from top to bottom and back again, but this is not how he imagined reuniting with one Hermione Granger.
Draco cast a quick tego and watched the offensive word on her arm, the one that confirmed just who she was, disappear as the doors flew open. Snapping everything away behind the closed doors of his mind, Draco quickly went back into Paramedic mode. Whatever questions he had wouldn’t matter if Hermione didn’t survive, and damn it all to hell if she was going to die because of a fire after surviving a war back home.
The rest of Draco’s day passed in a blur, and it wasn’t long before he and Blaise were back at home in Orchard Heights. “Do you want to talk about?” Blaise had asked as he handed Draco his favorite beer, a local artisan blend made by the guy down the street.
“There’s nothing to talk about,” Draco had responded, absently thanking his friend for the beer and simultaneously removing the top with his ring. The ring he stole wore, faithfully, every day, even if it didn’t matter anymore. “I just don’t understand what the fuck she’s doing here!” he declared suddenly standing.
Blaise leaned back casually against the sofa; one arm bent so his hand could support his head while the other brought his beer to his lips for a casual sip. There it is he thought to himself as he watched his best friend since birth pacing back and forth in the living room of their shared four bedroom house. Glancing at his watch he made a note of the time, Pansy and Theo would want every detail later he was sure.
Draco meanwhile had no idea what was going on in his best friend’s head as he continued to pace like a caged animal. It was bad enough that he had left England to explore the world before settling in the States, in Salem, Oregon, no less, where he worked as a Fire Medic (a term he rather loved even though it wasn’t quite accurate). He loved his job. He would never have thought it possible, but manual labor agreed with him. He loved the aches and pains those early days had left with him, and the mental stress and exertion kept his mind sharp. His Quidditch skills were put to good use as he often had to trust both a team and his instincts; not to mention the varied nature of his career meant that there was never a dull moment.
And he had earned it.
On his own.
His father was likely rolling in his grave.
He and Blaise had done it as a lark at first. They had been traveling all over the world and had been making their way across the States. Blaise was already in love with muggle movies and television series when he noticed that every movie that involved a Firefighter seemed to include women tripping all over themselves as a result. Draco had told him it was make believe stories, but then they had been in NYC and seen it happen in a grocery store first hand. Draco had brushed it off as a fluke, but from then on whenever they went to visit a new city, Blaise would inevitably force him into a grocery store the moment he spotted a Fire Rig out front. Chicago. Austin. Memphis. Detroit. Vegas. LA. Every time without fail, they would note at least a dozen women were flirting with the uniformed men inside.
The following weekend they ventured into Salem, Oregon, where the Wizarding World and Muggle world lived side by side, albeit sight unseen by those who did not believe in Magic. While the States still had their variation of the Statue of Secrecy and MACUSA was just as big of a pain in the ass as the Ministry of Magic was back home, Salem seemed to thrive in a way that Draco and Blaise had never imagined growing up in their sheltered selfish Pureblood bubble. For both men, it felt instantly like home, true there were no rolling hills or vast openness like Draco’s beloved Wiltshire countryside, but he felt at home in the forests, and the two boys enjoyed rucking, hiking, rock climbing and repelling. Draco had fallen in love with waterfalls and insisted every hike they took included one. Blaise only agreed if they could jump into the crystal clear water after climbing to the top.
It was here that Draco had had enough of Blaise’s firemen fantasies and, after a long day hiking and yes, jumping into waterfalls, had found a local bar where a group of firefighters was drinking off shift. Draco had offered to pay for every round for the rest of the night in exchange for honest conversations about what their life and careers entailed. And while there were a few guys that were exactly the kind of man-whores that Blaise had been idolizing and envisioning, quite a few more were family men that found their buddies as amusing and ridiculous as Draco found Blaise. One of them though had seen something in Draco, and the conversation the two of them had had had changed Draco’s life.
The next day, Draco convinced Blaise to put his money where his mouth was and apply with him to be a local fireman. Blaise, not one to back down from a challenge, had agreed but only with some clear ground rules – they needed to train for a few months before applying, they would use no magic, and they had to have a place of their own. “If I’m getting a job, I need a bed that’s mine and not just a hotel to continue to crash out.” After almost a year spent living in hotels, Draco had understood the appeal and agreed; only to add one additional caveat – no distractions. Blaise had grumbled, knowing full well that by “distractions” Draco meant women, ok and men, and probably booze, too. Still, he had agreed.
They had sworn a wizards oath and immediately set to work.
Their initial training was excruciating. It turned out that neither man had time for distractions with the amount of work they were putting in, and both lamented that perhaps muggles were ruthless, cruel bastards to put their bodies through this kind of torture willingly. But then they had noticed the changes in their bodies.
It wasn’t a stretch to say that they were both fairly vain to start with, and both men had always been fit. But boot camp, as their trainer referred to it, was meant to build muscle and prepare them for the heavyweights of the hoses, and the oxygen tanks. They refused to run on treadmills, thinking they were the dumbest thing ever, “You run and you run, and you never go anywhere!” Draco had exclaimed the first time the trainer had tried to put them on one. So they had thrown a little extra money at their trainer to hit the trails with them, and they had gradually increased their pack weights until they were at twice the weight would be required to wear when they tested. It had only taken a month with a nutritionist and chef to teach them how to cook and fuel their bodies properly, and both had found a love for cooking. “It’s potions you can eat!” Blaise had exclaimed with satisfaction one day after taking his first souffle out of the oven.
At the end of 90 days, both boys had seen their normally lean bodies fill out, their shoulders broaden, waists narrow slightly and the tantalizing V over their lower abdomens that left Blaise feeling like a supermodel. There were jokes about stealing Schmedium sized shirts from Will Smith’s closet as both men’s shirts strained at their biceps. Draco was most proud of his legs, and though he’d never admit it, his butt. The dimples at the top with the cut on the side. He’d seen Blaise check it out more than once and a guy who had always been secure in his manhood, he didn’t mind at all that his bi-best friend thought his ass was worth staring at.
It was more than their physical appearance that had changed though. While this was not the first time either of them had gone without magic, having both had to go six months without their magic after the war as part of their probations, they had chosen to spend more and more time not using it – mainly to avoid the temptation of recovering or spelling something to make it easier. To ease their discomfort, they spent their downtime not only studying the different aspects of fire training “Did you know that people go to University for Fire Science?” exclaimed Blaise after they left the library one day, their bags full of books to help with their research. But they had also studied the way that the magical and non-magical worlds worked together in Salem.
Draco had been intrigued that there was a University of Magic called the Salem Institute and both he and Blaise had found themselves integrating into the community around the school as they had popped in to listen to free lectures and took advantage of several workshops the school offered. They had been surprised when one of the Professors had asked them to stay after a workshop. He had recognized their names, being an ex-pat himself, Hogwarts Alumni and fellow Slytherin, and had offered them both support and resources and friendship. Draco had been wary at first. He knew that the Averys were fellow members of the Sacred 28 and that there had been Averys that had fought alongside the Dark Lord during both wars. Professor Avery, Adalric as he asked them to call him, told them he had followed Sirius Black’s lead. Adalric was a year younger than Sirius so they weren’t exactly friends. Still, Sirius had shown him that he didn’t have to stay with his family’s traditions or decisions. When the war had begun months later, his mother had sent him to live with relatives in the States. She had already lost his two older brothers and his father to the Dark Lord; she wasn’t going to lose her youngest child as well. A mother’s love was something Draco understood, and he found himself slightly jealous that Mrs. Avery had dared to send her son away. God knows he wished that he could’ve been anywhere else but home at that point.
Adalric had been instrumental in helping them close on the house, providing them with IDs, addresses, bank statements, everything they would need to live as muggles did without having to worry about using confundus or obliviate charm. He also taught them both how to drive, and if nothing else had ever come out of their friendship, that gift was more than enough for Blaise.
Adalric had given something much bigger to Draco. News on Granger. But in the four years since they had been friends since he and Blaise had set down roots in Salem, Adalric had never mentioned that she was coming for a visit. He so wished he had. Draco would’ve been more prepared when he saw her on that gurney. Memories flooded his mind of another time of her unconscious, the guilt he had felt, the hopelessness at that moment. At least this time he had some control, he had been able to get her stable, help her. It was part of the reason he had been intrigued by the Firefighters in the PNW; almost all of them were also trained EMTs and slipped easily between each role depending on the day and the duty. Draco had liked knowing that if he had ever found himself in a life or death situation like that again, he could handle it. With his magic or without it.
Today had proven it.
“So, are you going to go to the hospital and see her?”
Draco stopped his pacing and looked at Blaise as if he had sprouted a third eye. “Are you outside of your mind? I can’t go see her.”
“Of course, you can! She’s your-“ Blaise’s voice cut off abruptly as Draco fired a wandless silencing spell at him. Growling out “Don’t you dare fucking say it,” as he did so.
Blaise rolled his eyes before pointing the finger at his hand, indicating where the ring was on Draco’s hand. Releasing the spell, Draco collapsed into the armchair nearest him. “I can’t. It’s been too fucking long.”
“It wasn’t that long ago,” began Blaise.
“It’s been five years, Blaise. FIVE. She no more wants to see me now then she wants to – to – to kiss Weasel!” he finally stammered the words tripping him along the way.
Blaise shuddered at the image of their old Ginger rival. “I’m just saying. Time is a great healer. She may be more interested in talking to you now.”
“Doubtful. Very, very doubtful.”
It had been a week since Draco had seen her and left her in the capable hands at one of Salem’s finest hospitals. He knew she was ok and discharged thanks to one of Blaise’s frequent companions, and Draco had spent every moment that he could busy in some way shape or form. Blaise had wisely stayed clear and said nothing. Just cleaning up the kitchen and delighting over the new recipes that were coming out of their kitchen and throwing up silencing charms when he heard the piano played so heavily that Beethoven could’ve heard it. After the third day of bringing food into the firehouse, Blaise had advised them not to question why there were no fewer than 17 different types of desserts in the fridge there currently. Nobody had ever seen him upset like this before; they had witnessed morose and sullen Draco after a few calls that had gone as bad as calls can go, but what they saw now. Even Blaise knew Draco was one snappish comment away from being called into the Chief’s office to get his ass chewed.
And then the unthinkable happened.
They were washing the rig when Draco had run back inside to answer a phone call. Beside him, Blaise felt Hank twitch and then stand a bit taller. Blaise had been about to ask what he was on about when he had caught sight of a pair of long legs clad in tight jeans and sandals with a cute top draped just so over an ample bosom and a body that curved in all the right ways. Her skin was the perfect shade of sunkissed caramel, and when he had made it to her face, a string of curse words had flown out of his mouth so quickly he was almost sure he would pass out from a lack of oxygen. Hank elbowed him hard and took a step towards her.
Blaise stood rooted to the spot, for a moment longer, before he forced himself to move next to his coworker as he flirtatiously greeted the woman that was approaching them.
“I’m sorry,” she giggled, her British accent at once familiar and foreign sounding to his ears, “while I appreciate the sentiment, I just wanted to drop off some lunch to say thank you to the guys that saved me the other day.”
Hank immediately stepped forward and began to take credit, along with the bags in her hands, but Blaise cut him off by clearing his throat. “You weren’t even here that day Hank. Knock it off.” Hank’s look of offense could wait as he smiled softly at the woman in front of him. “It’s me you’re looking for.”
Hermione’s eyes widened in surprise as she took in the dark-skinned man in front of her. She had truly not even recognized him as she had approached. “Blaise?”
“Hey, Hermione. It’s – uh - nice to see you again.”
“You two know each other?” asked Hank in disbelief. Blaise could only nod, his eyes focused solely on the chocolate ones in front of his. Draco had often joked that their brown eyes could be a matching set, so alike they were not just in color but in shape and size. The only difference was that hers were far too expressive always giving away everything, while he had learned long ago how to hide it all. He saw the questions in her eyes before she asked it, and he gave her one quick nod.
“We went to boarding school together back in Scotland,” Hermione replied finally seeming to catch her breath.
Hank nodded taking in the information. “So then you must know Draco-“
Only the last word sounded like an echo as she had said it too. Breathed it was more like it because the man in question had taken that very moment to step out of the firehouse and begin to walk towards them. Unaware of why the other two had stopped washing the rig, but trying not to chuckle as he spotted a smaller, decidedly more feminine body in front of them. But then Blaise had shifted slightly, his eyes trying to say something just as Hank said his name. Only the voice he heard wasn’t Hank’s, and the eyes he met weren’t Blaise’s.
The water bottles in Draco’s hands fell to the ground with a thud, and he found himself unable to speak nor move as she moved from between the two darker men to stand in front of him.
“You’ll always be Granger to me, love.”
He could’ve whooped at the blush that spread across her face and noticed that her eyes were distracted when she ducked her head. “Is that…” he followed her gaze and felt his face flush, but nodded, feeling as if his entire life was in slow motion even though he could hear his blood rushing through his ears. He couldn’t stop the ragged breath that escaped his lips as her hand brushed against his, and he was powerless to pull his hand out of hers as she lifted his hand a bit more so she could still see it — his wedding ring. The goblin forged band still looked as new as the day she had slipped it on his finger, and she absently ran her fingers along with the vine design carved within it. “You’re still wearing it.”
Draco’s eyes had moved from their joined hands back to hers. “Every day.”
“Why?” he felt his heart constrict at the simple question and closed his eyes for a moment. He could wax poetic about it if he wanted to, but the only thing he could think of at the moment, was simply a question of his own, “Why not?”
He couldn’t help the smirk that spread across his face as she giggled. “I never thought I’d ever get to hear that sound again.”
“I never thought I’d see that smirk again.”
“Did you miss it?”
“Yes,” she breathed. “Every day, but don’t let that go to your head.”
“Which one?” he replied waggling his eyebrows, eliciting another giggle from her lips. “Merlin, Mia. Do you know how much I missed that sound?”
She giggled again, “No, but I bet you could show me.”
His eyes darkened. “Don’t tempt me, Mia.”
“You look good,” she replied, her hands absently running up his arms to his shoulders and down his chest, stopping just at his heart. Draco’s eyes had fluttered shut the moment she had touched him, and as her hands had come to rest over his heart, he had reached up to cover her hands with his own. His thumb had grazed over it; his eyes snapped open, and he pulled her hand away from his. Thereupon her finger sat a ring. Her ring. His ring.
He opened and closed his mouth like a codfish. Struggling with what it could mean; meeting Hermione’s expressive chocolate orbs, he noticed the golden halo of yellow that surrounded her iris. He remembered the first time he had noticed that halo. It had called to him, like sunshine on a cloudy day, and when he had repeated the words to her, she had giggled just as she had now. He had no idea why it caused that reaction to her and asked her if it was a muggle thing; she had smiled so sweetly at him, his love, and she had begun to sing softly to him, her voice the tender caress of a lover, and he had smiled brightly in return. “My girl,” he had told her, thankful that someone in the Universe had been able to put into words just what he had felt in that moment.
Holding her ringed hand firmly against his chest, he slipped his other hand to her jawline, his thumb gently caressing her cheek.
“I’ve got sunshine on a cloudy day…” he felt her pulse quicken beneath his fingers as he had begun to sing to her softly.
Sliding his hand down her body to her hip he pressed her closer to him, just as he had that night in May. “When it’s cold outside, I’ve got the month of May.”
He smiled at the mistiness he saw gathering in her eyes; slowly Draco began to move their bodies to the rhythm of the song that she had sung to him the day he proposed; the song that he had requested be their first dance on the Wedding day. He leaned closer to her, holding her in his arms again for the first time in five years, he sang the words that he also felt had been written just to express his love for her.
“I don't need no money, fortune, or fame. I've got all the riches Mia one man can claim.” She giggled again, as she had the night of their wedding when he had said those words in their vows, commenting on how he was butchering the song by singing the verses out of order. His smile broadened.
“I guess you say, what could make me feel this way… my girl…”
He saw it then - the look she had given him the day of his trial. The day she had helped to have him pardoned. The day that she had saved him. The day he had apologized over and over again, and finally confessed that he had been in love with her - for years. He had begged her to believe him when he said that he didn’t deserve her, but that he’d spend a lifetime trying to. The look of forgiveness. The look of her love for him.
Faintly aware that the soulful sound of joy that was the Temptations playing around them, Draco nudged Hermione’s nose with his own. “I was, and will always be, yours, Hermione.”
“And I’m forever your girl, Draco.”
As his best friend whopped behind them, and the Temptations burst into their chorus, Draco leaned his head down and kissed his girl, determined to never let her out of his life again.