"You can't just leave like that!" Hermione exclaimed, her voice almost strangled by tears as she ran around the counter to stop Malfoy from leaving the shop. "Wait! Stop!"
Malfoy's hand closed around the doorknob and he pulled, and then pushed, and then pulled again. "Damn it." he muttered, looking out into the whiteness of the wild outdoors. "The wind is blocking it."
Hermione let out a breath of relief, just as a wave of discomfit overcame her. She was trapped inside a small, dusty bookshop together with Draco Malfoy, a boy who might or might not exist but in any case had a wand and lacked a conscience.
Draco turned to her and crossed his arms over his chest, his gaze stabbing her as though she was the one who had lured him into the shop and trapped him there. "What do you say we just don't talk?"
Hermione bit her lip. "I-"
"Great." Malfoy said, and he pushed her aside rather rudely, walked over to the counter, grabbed 'the Grimoire' and sat down on a chair between the tall shelves to read in peace and quiet.
Hermione was left standing in the middle of the shop, hugging herself as she fought against the tears threatening to well up in her eyes as her thoughts were free to reign over her.
Ron was married.
To another woman.
"Do you know where I might find him?" Hermione asked Malfoy.
She had approached him silently from behind, and it became clear quite suddenly that he did not appreciate the surprise of finding a girl standing less than a foot behind him, quite capable of reading over his shoulder and seeing into his world.
"I thought we weren't talking.", he snapped, shutting the book angrily.
"I never agreed to that." Hermione said angrily, before shaking off the annoyance. "Ron Weasley. Do you know where I can find him?"
"No." Malfoy said, just as fiercely. "Now, if you don't mind, I would like to continue reading the book that I just bought."
"You didn't buy it." Hermione pointed out after the shortest pause.
"You didn't buy it." Hermione repeated. "The book cost sixteen pounds. You only paid me fourteen pounds and one galleon. Ergo, the book is not yours."
Malfoy fumed as he ransacked the pockets of his frock. He usually didn't carry Muggle money; the only reason he had the fourteen pounds he had given Hermione earlier was that he had used Muggle money to retrieve a Dark Object that had fallen into Muggle hands earlier that week. "A galleon is worth more than two pounds." he said sourly, once he was certain that he did not have as much as a cent on him.
"Then I'm sorry." Hermione said, snagging the book out of his hands. "We don't accept Wizard currency." She knew she was acting like a child, it was obvious that Malfoy shared her view from the disgusted way he stared at her. Nevertheless she did not feel stupid or guilty; she only did what she needed to find the truth.
"Do you want me to hex you?" Malfoy snarled.
"Sorry." Hermione pulled a sarcastic grimace as she raised the wand she had stolen from his pocket when she had snuck up on him moments ago. "I don't think you can."
Malfoy looked exasperated, as though he was dealing with an impossible five-year old. For a second he looked as though he had called a truce, but a moment later he struck, snagging for the wand and missing it by inches. "Fine!" he said angrily, looking down into Hermione's triumphantly shining eyes. "What do you want me to say? I don't know where he lives! I don't know anything, except for that he married that Mudblood. And I only know that because his ugly face was all over the newspapers for months!"
"Don't call him ugly!" Hermione shrieked, pointing the wand at its owner; a gesture which made Malfoy snicker.
"What are you going to do, Muggle-girl? Hex me? Why don't you give it a shot?"
Hermione swallowed and looked at Malfoy through narrow eyes filled with hatred. "Levicorpus!" she shouted, waving the wand wildly, but nothing happened to Malfoy except for that he blurted out in blatant laughter as though she had struck him with a tickling-charm.
"That's great!" he laughed, rudely, before the laughter came to an abrupt stop. "Give me back the wand. You can't use it anyway." He held out his hand, but Hermione stepped back and kept a vice grip on his wand.
"No." she said. "I can't. But I'm not giving it back to you, either."
"Because it's the only thing keeping you here. That, and this book." she added, holding up the book in her other hand.
"And don't forget the raging snow-storm outside."
"And that." Hermione admitted, looking out the window. She could see no further than to the other side of the glass, where deep green letters spelling 'Newman's Bookstore' were glued, meaning that the blizzard showed no signs of calming.
There was a pause, in which the two strangers or enemies, whichever they were, stared at each other. Then Malfoy broke into a nasty smile. "You know what's causing this chill, right?" he said, motioning to the windows.
For every second that Hermione looked clueless Malfoy looked more triumphant.
"I knew it." he said, grinning broadly. "You're just a clueless Mugg-"
"Dementors, right?" Hermione said, not even trying to hide her smugness when she recalled how the Dementors had caused an unseasonable mist during summer a few years ago. Why it had taken her so long to recall it, she did not know.
"You could have read that in a book." Malfoy said, obviously annoyed. "Or no, wait! I bet you have a brother or sister that's a witch or wizard, and that you've just been jealous for all these years. Or perhaps you're the only squib in your family; one of my fellow students' dirty little secret."
Hermione snorted, shaking her head.
"So who is it?" Draco said, and his eyes sparkled maliciously.
"Who is who?"
"Your brother or sister." Malfoy said. He had closed the book completely now, and all his focus fell on Hermione. "The one you've been living through all these years?"
"That would be myself." Hermione said, and lifted an eyebrow. "Ask me anything about our time at Hogwarts. I'm sure I can answer it."
"Okay..." Malfoy said slowly, obviously thinking hard on something to ask her. "The Hogwarts groundkeeper?"
"Rubeus Hagrid." Hermione answered immediately, feeling a stab of longing when she thought of Hagrid, and how she had sought his friendship whenever Harry or Ron cut her off. How he had patted her back with his dustbin-lid sized hands, how he had looked down at her and smiled, and told her in a gruff voice that everything would work out in the end. "Next."
"Who won the Quidditch championship in 1994?"
"Ireland, but Victor Krum of Bulgaria caught the snitch."
Malfoy frowned, and slight wrinkles formed on his previously flawless forehead. "Who did I go to the Yule Ball with in fourth grade?"
"Pansy Parkinson." Hermione answered, flushing slightly for blurting it out, for even noticing while she was walking arm and arm with an international Quidditch player. She bit down on her tongue, telling herself that she had only remembered because the sight of Pansy pressed into candyfloss colored dressrobes three sizes too small for her was unforgettable; and not in a good way.
Malfoy nodded slowly. "Very impressive.", though he did not look impressed at all. If anything he looked scared, like a little boy just realizing that death is reality. Then he lowered his voice several notches, so Hermione almost had to lean in to hear what he was saying. "Who attended the Yule Ball with Victor Krum?"
"I did.", Hermione answered immediately.
"Who either tied with or beat me on every exam, all six years we attended school together?"
"And what girl hit me towards the end of my third year at Hogwarts?" Malfoy was actually blushing, but his sharp eyes warned Hermione against mocking him for the pinkish tinge on his cheeks.
Hermione was too preoccupied to taunt her former enemy. She looked him into the eyes, scared, as she saw her own reflection looking back at her in confusion and despair. "Me." she whispered. "I hit you."
The silence was thick, as though someone had cast Muffliato over all of London. The windows were white, and the rest of the world did not exist; the only real things were Malfoy, Hermione, and the thousands of books providing them their soundproof shelter.
"Wrong." Malfoy breathed. He looked Hermione into the eyes, and now there was no doubt about it; fear and insecurity were written all across his face. "The girl that did those things... her name is Meredith Weasley."