To the untrained eye, Diagon Alley looks the same as it did before the war. Eager Hogwarts students flit from Eeylops to Madam Malkins to Quality Quidditch Supplies, chatting excitedly with old friends. They don’t know that right where the giant chocolate frog sits outside of the new Honeydukes is the exact spot where Florean Fortescue served his customers. They don’t care that Ollivander no longer runs the store under his name, because post-traumatic stress has left him suitable only for country life. They don’t remember when Knockturn Alley housed crooks and worse, because a popular beauty product shop has popped up where Borgin and Burkes used to be. But I remember, I know, and I care. There’s no place in this world of magic where the past doesn’t haunt me. Fourteen years has done nothing to erase the pain
The first years, the muggle ones, are easy to spot. I watch them lead their parents, timidly and curiously through streets, remembering the sense of wonder I felt. I try to feel it again, but it is futile. All that is left are ghosts, and feeling is too painful.
It’s around four on a summer afternoon, but the London skies refuse me even a glimpse of sun. I left the Ministry early today in hopes of seeing daylight, but it was all for naught. That seems to happen a lot these days. Nothing ever seems to go the way it’s planned. On the plus side, I successfully manage to reach Flourish and Blotts before closing. I haven’t been in a bookstore forever, and, as soon as I smell fresh parchment and leather, I am lost. Two hours later and several galleons lighter, I stumble out of the store carrying a mountain of books. I am so focused on not dropping them that I don’t watch where I’m going, and immediately run headfirst into someone. My books scatter across the street.
“Shit,” I swear a little too loudly, and a gaggle of young girls turn and stare. I duck my head to hide from their stares, and reach for a fallen book, only to find another hand in my way. I follow the arm back up to a face. It’s a man around my age. His skin is the whitest I’ve ever seen, but a healthy, creamy white flushed with pink. His hair is bleach-blonde and he’s wearing rimless glasses. But I barely register any of this, because behind those glasses are soft grey eyes rimmed with yellow gold, and I can’t make myself turn away.
“I’m so sorry, that was all my fault. I wasn’t watching where I was going.”
His lips move, but I keep staring into those eyes. Out of the corner of my own, I spot the young girls who had stopped at my swear, giggling and staring at him. No wonder. The man is gorgeous.
“Here’s your book,” he lifts it from the ground and presents it to my paralyzed body, “Ancient Practises: The Wizarding Culture of Ancient Rome. Is this for work or something?”
His question knocks me out of my stupor.
“Ah, no. It’s actually just something I’ve been meaning to read.” I answer succinctly, thank god. Questions about books tend to make my speech more reasonable than my usual rambling. He reaches around to pick up the other books I dropped and answers, surprised.
“Really? I read it. It was okay, not the best I’ve ever read. Are these all for fun?” he says, gesturing at the remnants of my stack.
“Yeah, just some light reading.”
“Light reading?” He asks, raising an eyebrow at my thick volume of Mesopotamian Runes. His playful smirk gives way to a confused frown as he stands. He offers me his hand and pulls me up, books in hand.
“Say, don’t I know you? Were you at Hogwarts or something?” I try to repress my Hogwarts memories. Too many dead.
“Yeah. I left in ‘97. It’s Hermione, by the way. Hermione Granger.” I smile up at him and reach out my hand, but his frown has only deepened and he makes no effort to reach out. I drop my hand awkwardly.
“And you are?” I ask tentatively, staring back into those grey eyes.
“It’s good to see you,” He says carefully, “Very good. But I’m not sure you want to see me. Imagine the chances, me running into you this soon...”
He trails off.
“I’m sure that’s not true,” I say, but by the look on his face, I think otherwise, “Who are you? Were you in my year?”
“Yeah, Hermione, I was. It’s..” He takes a breath, studying my face for my reaction, “It’s... I’m Draco. Draco Malfoy.”