Chapter 1 : The Riders Pub
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May 2, 2003
I can’t believe it’s been five years since Harry defeated Lord Voldemort. Five years since that last horrible battle took place on the grounds of the one place I use to take refuge. Hogwarts was the one place I could be myself with the expansive library that housed knowledge on almost every topic in the wizarding world. Though I love my parents and the first eleven years of my life, things fell into place when I finally knew the truth − the explanation for the peculiar things that had been happening to me. Hogwarts had been the place that let me grow, learn, read, make friends, and find love.
It’s been five years since I have stepped foot on the grounds of that school. I was asked shortly after the school reopened if I wished to return to Hogwarts and finish my NEWTs, but I had to decline the offer. Hogwarts may have held a great deal of good memories, but it would have been too hard to look past all the horrible things that happened there and see the place I once called home. I lost more than anyone even realized on that day five years ago. I lost the future I’d dreamed of. I lost the light that helped me get through the dark times during the war. I can still remember the feeling I had when Hagrid came into view holding the lifeless form of my best friend and all seemed hopeless. I was surrounded by loved ones we lost during the battle. Facing all that, the place where so much was destroyed, would have been too painful. I couldn’t have been around everyone who was able to forget and move on with their lives.
I am not the strong person that the world believes me to be. I couldn’t face Hogwarts alone. I knew Harry, Ron, and Ginny would have been there for me as much as they could, but they were not who I really needed or wanted. Ron would have been over the moon if I had turned to him for support, but from the moment he kissed me during the final battle, I knew he want more than I would, or could, ever give him. At first he tried to pursue a relationship, but once he realized it wasn’t what I wanted he backed off and our friendship endured the grief he held over my decision. He would come over for tea and try to talk about meaningless things. Really, he’d been great. I mistook his patience, though. I thought his feelings had shifted and he’d gotten over me.
Then, three months ago he started pushing me to go on a “real” date with him. I refused, thinking I’d already made it clear that I couldn’t handle a relationship, and he got angry with me. I don’t understand how he can be mad at me; I’m not the one who changed the rules. But he still hasn’t stopped trying to change my mind, and I’ve finally taken to avoiding him. He’s been by three times today, but luckily I’ve managed to make myself scarce for each one. I just can’t handle seeing the hurt in his eyes, the pain I’ve caused him.
He’s one of the reasons that I’m not attending the memorial that the Ministry is holding in our honor. But he’s absolutely not the only reason. I know Harry and Ginny have both taken the day off to go, but I just can’t do it. I can’t go and let everyone see that I haven’t gotten over what happened. Ginny has her blazing career as a Chaser and Harry’s been promoted countless times in his Auror job. They’re both moving on. They’re giving me space, unlike Ron, and continuing their lives. But I can’t. The war happened and it is a part of me and I can’t let it go.
I know some people may think I have a pitiful life. However, I’m fine with how things are going for me at the moment. I have my own column in the Daily Prophet and I doesn’t matter what I write because the readers will love it because of who I am. I know that may sound a little conceited but it’s the truth. I’ve chosen to have no love life because I just don’t see the point when it could all be ripped away in a matter of seconds. I see the sideways looks I get and some people may believe I drink to much but I really don’t think it is their business. Though there are days that I wish to disappear from this life and go to a place where people don’t know who I am and I don’t have to hear people say,“Hey, you’re Hermione Granger! Is it true you helped Harry Potter defeat the Dark Lord?”
Hermione’s writing was interrupted by a sudden knock on the door that startled her into looking up from the journal laying across her lap. She knew who was on the other side of the door but then she heard his voice ring out that confirmed her suspicions.
“Hermione, open up!” The pounding continued. “I know you’re in there,” came Ron’s voice came from behind the wooden door.
She knew he would come barging through her front door at any second. She grabbed her wand that was sitting on the cushions of her window seat and tapped her head with the tip of it, quickly casting a Disillusionment Charm on herself as Ron came in to her apartment. As luck would have it, she was writing by the light from the window which gave the appearance to Ron that no one was home. She saw his blue eyes scan the room looking for any sign which might indicate that she was at home. Ron moved toward her bedroom in search of her. Hermione was sure he knew that his search was not going to bring him to Hermione and he let out a long sigh as sat on her unmade bed and picked up the picture on her nightstand. It was a picture of her, Ron, Harry, Ginny, George and Fred and was taken at Bill’s wedding before Harry had taken the polyjuice potion. They had been happy and smiling in the picture. If only he knew the real reason it held that special place. Ron sat and stared at the picture and she could have sworn she saw a tear fall down his cheek but then he quickly stood up and left the apartment as swiftly as he came, this time he had managed to avoid the rug.
After Ron had left she looked around her small but comfortable apartment. She wished she still had Crookshanks. He had been the perfect companion for her. The thought of getting a kitten to replace him popped into her head every once in a while, but she wasn’t sure she wanted to commit to that. She wasn’t home enough to spend time with a kitten. She finally stood up from her window seat and padded barefoot into her small kitchen. Her first instinct was to reach for the teakettle and turn it on, but quickly realized that wasn’t exactly want she needed at the moment. She changed her course and headed to the opposite counter and reached for the glass bottle of Fire Whiskey. She didn’t realize until she went to pour the glass that the bottle was empty; she’d have to go out for a drink.
“I need a shower,” she said aloud to herself as she ran her fingers through her dirty hair.
About twenty minutes later, she stepped out of her bedroom in a pair of comfortable jeans and brown sweater; today was about comfort. She grabbed her oversized purse, which held a book or two, and was about to head out her front door before she remembered Ron. He would more than likely be waiting for her in the street café below her apartment. He’d see her the moment she left the building. She muttered a curse under her breath before twisting on the spot. When she opened her eyes she was standing right inside the Leaky Caldron and before anyone could recognize her, she ducked out the door and stepped on to the streets of downtown Muggle London. She didn’t want to run in to anyone she knew today. In her mind the final battle was the worst day of her life and she hated that the general public loved to remind her of that horrible day and all the “good” things she did. If that had been true less people would had died. The tears stung her eyes but she quickly brushed them away and vowed to not think about it today.
She was so lost in her own head that she barely paid attention to where she was going. Luckily, her feet knew the way and automatically directed her to her favorite place. It was Muggle establishment, so she didn’t have to worry about being recognized. After just a short walk, she came upon the entrance to an old Irish pub that hosted a quiet group of drinkers. She did a quick scan of the bar for familiar faces; the only one she recognized was the bartender. She stepped up to the grand oak bar and sat momentarily at a barstool that had been arranged around the counter. She greeted the bartender warmly before ordering a double shot of whiskey. With a gentle nod of his head he acknowledged she would be here for the reminder of the night. Hermione thought he was kind man and was decent at his job. He didn’t pry, and would leave well enough alone. He kept her drink full and didn’t chatter on and try to make small talk. He had asked her about herself once when she first started coming to the pub, and she had responded with, “My wounds were inflicted a long time ago and there is really no way to heal them, but the alcohol keeps them clean.” She had already knocked back a few by that point and she knew what she had said was a bit mellow dramatic but it was the truth.
She wrapped her fingers around the glass as it was set in front of her and in one swift motion she brought it to her lips and swallowed the liquid. She felt the burn slide down her throat and settle in a warm pit in her stomach. It wasn’t fire whiskey, but it would do the job. She picked up her second glass and headed to the back booth that was shielded from public view and always had a “Reserved” sign on it. The booth wasn’t reserved for her but whoever it was reserved for never came in, so the bartender didn’t mind. Finally, she relaxed into her booth and pulled a book from her purse, opening its worn pages and leaning back into the seat.
Draco slammed his fists down on the desk in front of him. The man who sat across from him was looking a tad bit too smug for Draco’s liking. Richard Pearson was an attorney for the law firm that had handled his Uncle Augustine’s estate. Augustine Malfoy was a man he had met once when he was seven. His grandfather Abraxus Malfoy, Augustine’s brother, spoke of him briefly at one point, but Draco hadn’t known more than he was very wealthy and refused to take sides in the war. He had gone into hiding to avoid both sides’ advances. His wife was a Muggleborn witch that he had met in America and fallen for. He chose to give up his pureblood family for a Muggleborn witch, forever marking him as a blood traitor. Draco had no thoughts what-so-ever on the man; he chose his life and Draco wished he could be so brave should the moment ever arise for him. Draco was under the impression that his Great Uncle barely knew his name as Draco had met the man a scant handful of times. The will in question had barely been a thought in the beginning but as the time passed since Draco had heard the news he figured there wasn’t one.
“Why is this the first I am hearing of it?” Draco questioned the smug looking man. It took all of his will power to not remove his wand from his pocket and hex the smirk off the attorney’s blotchy red face.
“Well, Mr. Malfoy. The arranging of an estate after a man of your uncle’s stature passes away is time consuming. His will was quite extensive.” The paunchy, balding wizard in front of him was trying his patience.
“Well, Mr. Pearson, If you would have told me in a timely manner I would have had a month and a half to find suitable woman. Now I have two weeks to accomplish this feat,” Draco seethed.
“I don’t think it should be too hard for you. If I am to believe what I read in the papers, you are well connected with the female population of Britain.” Draco took a long breath and counted in his head to ten before he could respond. This wasn’t true but this man didn’t need to know that.
“You should not believe everything you read. IF I were to fail, who will benefit from my failure?” Draco asked as he pressed his hands to the surface of the desk to keep them from strangling the man.
“Seth,” the man answered, a little too quickly and with an air of amusement. Draco knew at once that he was being set up to fail and he didn’t like to lose.
“The devil from Bulgaria. I should have guessed. How much is he paying you?” Draco asked.
“What are you implying, Mr. Malfoy?” Mr. Pearson cocked his head to the side.
“I would appreciate if you would not insult my intelligence,” Draco stated as he went to pull his wand out of his pocket and laid it on the desk between the two men. It was enough to loosen the attorney’s demeanor slightly.
“There is no exchange of services between the firm and Mr. Black,” Mr. Pearson stated with an incline of his head.
“I see. How much will it take to make his mess go away?” Draco asked.
“Unfortunately, this isn’t one of those situations. As your uncle’s last will and testament, you will not be able to buy your way out of this. You will have to follow through with the marriage. She must be of muggle descent and a witch. On top of these stipulations, there cannot be any exchange of money between you and your wife in exchange for this marriage. Should you follow through with this marriage and manage to stay loyal to her and only her you will receive the entire estate of Augustine Malfoy, which includes all businesses and property and bank accounts which total up to a little over $80.4 million galleons,” Mr. Andrews finished and Draco nearly choked. This long lost Uncle whom he had been told was worth some money was actually worth about four times as much as his father had been when he passed away three years ago. Draco was comfortable but if he were to take on this challenge he would be close the wealthiest pureblood in Europe.
“How long will I need to remain married?
“One year.” It was a simply statement. Draco pondered the implications for a moment.
“You stated earlier that I now have two weeks to find a wife,” Draco clarified.
“The will was very specific. You have to marry within six weeks of his death.”
“Very well. You are dismissed.”
“I will need to be present at the wedding.”
“Done. Now leave,” Draco growled at the man. He watched the attorney walk from his office and to the hall, then let out a sigh of relief. He was finally alone. He normally loved his study but today it was suffocating him and the need to escape consumed him. When his father had passed on he had left Draco with a variety of businesses and one of them included a muggle bar in downtown London. It was not Draco’s normal haunt but seeing as he wasn’t particularly looking for company this seemed to be the perfect location to get away from his obligations for the evening. This way he wouldn’t risk running into anyone. Today was the day that most wizarding citizens forgot he had been acquitted of his war crimes and he was back to being the no good Death Eater who walked free.
He grabbed his jacket but doubted he would need it as the day had been fair. As he stepped out to the Apparition spot location on the path outside the front door, he did a quick half step and turned. Draco felt the familiar tug on his navel as his body transported through space. When he felt the world solidify under his feet and opened his eyes, the view of the back alley of the pub greeted him. He strode around the building to the front door and he focused on his intent for the night. He had come here to forget his uncle and his impending marriage and his past. Tomorrow he would worry about his life but tonight he was going to forget.
The first thing he noticed about the bar was that his table wasn’t empty. In fact, and woman sat in the booth by herself. Her head was bent into a book that she had up to her nose. She had a drink clutched in the other hand. She didn’t look half bad from where he stood but her face was partially covered. He decided to investigate, curious as to whom this attractive brunette might be. As he walked toward the table he couldn’t help but be reminded of Granger The Bookworm. Though, this woman was similar, her main difference was her hair; the girl in the booth had soft, smooth curls. And of course the fact that Granger would never be drinking alone. He figured she was off with Potter and Weasley in celebration seeing as she had played a key part in the demise of the Dark Lord. Draco waltzed right up to the table and was about to engage the stranger when she looked up and he noticed the gleam of fear in her eyes, which quickly turned to anger. Draco would recognize that glare anywhere. The woman was indeed Granger. Interesting, he thought to himself.
“Malfoy,” Hermione spat. Draco could tell she was drunk or very close to it. Then a light bulb clicked on in his head.
“Mr. Malfoy, I apologize sir; I did not realize you would be in tonight,” the bartender began, running up to the table. “Hermione, this is the owner of the bar and this booth happens to be reserved for him. I’m so sorry but I have to ask you to move to a different table tonight.”
Draco glanced from Granger to the man he’d hired to run the bar, making a quick decision. “Richard, please leave us. We are old acquaintances. And I’ll take a double shot of whiskey,” he said, ushering the bartender away. He thought to himself, maybe this was the answer to his problem that he wasn’t supposed to be thinking about.
“I wasss sure I wass going to avoid acquaintances today. I have been coming here for almost three years and I have never seen you in here. Why here? Why tonight?” Hermione mumbled as she was gathering her things to leave. He could tell she was indeed drunk but at least she was coherent enough to know who he was.
“Granger, please stay for a few minutes. I did not come here to bother you. I am having family issue and I came here to get away.” Draco spoke honestly. He was hoping if he could be truthful with her it might make her listen to him. He hung the jacket in his hand on the corner of the booth and slid into it. As he sat across from her he noticed her skeptical gaze. He let it linger for a moment or two.
“So, will you stay?” he asked simply.
“Why? I’m sure that sharing your evening with a mud-blood is the last thing you would want to do,” Hermione spat. Draco flinched at the language she had used to describe herself. He had sworn to remove that word from his vocabulary when she had helped win the acquittal with both his parents. Draco did not think his father deserved a second chance but Hermione had seen something and resembled remorse during her review.
“Hermione, I have to apologize about my past. The words I used to harm you were pressed on me at birth. It was how I was raised and not how I really thought of you. It didn’t help that my father was always throwing your talent in my face. He would ask me how I could let a Muggleborn beat me in all my studies. It fueled my hurt and anger. I am sorry that you had to take the brunt of that frustration,” Draco told her. It had been true. He didn’t really hate Hermione in school but she was a great outlet for his anger because at the time he felt she was below him.
-- so I just wanted to warn you that I’m going to rearrange/rewrite most of the things below here to get them all into Draco’s perspective, because this conversation jumps around between both character’s heads and we want it to stay in one or the others. --
The look on Hermione’s face made it clear that she was truly taken aback by his honesty. The fact that he had used her first name was probably even more of a shock to her. He knew it was completely unexpected, but he hoped she could hear the sincerity of his voice.
“What wass your problem Malfoy?” Hermione muttered, and Draco decided instead of answering, to let the first thing that popped into his mind come out.
“Hermione Granger, Will you marry me?” he asked, staring her straight in her eyes. He knew he should have asked in a more polite and convincing manner but he wished to see her reaction.
“Malfoy, I’m drunk. I'm a little immmpaired at the mmoment. I don't think I heard you correctly,” she answered. He couldn’t blame her for her response. It was a little absurd, considering they’d been far from friends during their Hogwarts days/
“Hermione, I know it sounds crazy but I have my reasons. If will let me explain you might benefit from this arrangement also,” Draco pleaded with her.
"Malfoy, I doubt there is every going to be a good enough reason for me to marry you. But I’m intrigued by your offer because it is so outlandish that you would consider marrying me,” Hermione tried stated in her matter-of-fact voice but failed horribly as her words slurred slightly.
“I must marry a muggle born witch to receive my great uncle’s estate. I know being married to me for one year would be torture, but I will be completely faithful and treat you with respect while you live in my house,” Draco told her.
“I might consider your offer if you tell me what I can gain from this...” she paused for a moment.
“Partnership?” Draco offered. When Hermione nodded, he continued. “I will give you anything you want.” He cut straight to the point.
“If you can promise to make me disappear from this world and never worry about money after the marriage is over, I will marry you. I don’t want anyone to ever be able to find me. I want to be out of this life I live. Maybe if I leave everything behind I will also leave the pain.” Hermione glanced into her drink as she answered, and Draco couldn’t help but think that she hadn’t meant to reveal so much. The sadness in her eyes made it clear though just how serious she was about her request.
“It is a deal. Now, I think it is time for you to go home now. Where shall I take you?” Draco inquired.
“I can take care of myself. I do it all the time,” she told to Draco as she laid her head down on the table.
“Unfortunately, I’m not going to leave until I know you are safe.” Hermione looked up at him and rolled her eyes.
“Anywhere you want to take me, just don’t take me home. He is looking for me,” She mumbled miserably.
“Granger, are you married?” Draco suddenly began to wonder who she was married to but then noticed she did not have a ring on her hand.
“NO! I’m not married. Today… last battle… Ron iss looking for me. I am hiding here.” She said as she laid her head on the table. It was clear she was done with the conversation.
Draco knew where he could take her. Draco stood and made his way to the bar to pay the tab, though it did not take much time to tie up the loose ends, by the time he reached the table again it was clear she had fallen asleep. He couldn’t help but sigh as her gathered her belongings and carried her from the pub.
AN: Thank you to all my readers and reviewers. I'm going to try and get all of my chapters edited and thanks to my awesome beta JChrissy, hopefully that will be a bit faster now. Please be patient.
Chapter 1 edited 3/20/2013.