Chapter 1 : Passing ships
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The night was warm but there was a sense of an incoming storm in the air, low rumblings could be heard in the distance and the sky was darker than it should have been considering the time of day.
Hermione Granger did not care about the storm. She had just survived her own personal tempest, the evidence of which came in the form of a slightly crumpled piece of parchment which was held tightly in her hand; she had not loosened her grip since a black owl had delivered it an hour ago.
She wasn't sure why she had chosen to come to Hogsmeade; she didn't want to shop. She just wanted to walk and to forget, the picturesque village had seemed like a good idea but it held too many memories.
She walked on a little further down the street and as she did the first few drops of rain fell. They quickly became larger, more frequent drops and within moments the heavens had opened and the rain poured. Hermione looked around and rushed to the nearest faint orange glow that indicated a building which was open for business.
It wasn't until she stepped inside that she realised it was the Hog's Head pub. The light inside was just as dim, presumably to hide it's filthy state. Customers were scarce and none of the few so much as looked up when Hermione entered. Not wanting to return outside into the thunderstorm and unable to apparate directly from inside the pub (the current landlord was very untrusting and set wards in place to stop thieves), she decided to order a drink, maybe it would help.
She crossed the bar, her footsteps muffled by the dusty floor, and sat on a rather wobbly wooden barstool. The landlord, a man scruffier than the bar he owned, wiped his face on a raggy cloth before approaching Hermione. He leant so close to her that she could see bits of food stuck in his tangled brown beard. He opened his mouth to reveal several gaps between yellowing teeth and spoke
"Rare sight this is, pretty young girl like yourself. What can an old man do for someone like you?" he wheezed.
"Something strong please," Hermione replied quickly, not wanting the man's face near hers any longer.
He turned his back and busied himself with a glass and a dusty crystal bottle on the back shelf. Hermione found herself wondering how he possibly knew what contents each bottle held; their labels worn way or covered in years of grime. He quickly returned with a glass of burnt orange coloured liquid and set it down in front of her, ironically on a small square mat. She handed him some coins from her bag and thanked him when he shuffled back with her change.
The liquid burnt her throat in an almost pleasant way and Hermione drained the glass before turning her attentions once more to the parchment which was now sitting in front of her on the bar. It held the details of her now finalised divorce.
It had been coming for a long time. In the early days of her relationship with Ron, their arguing was endearing. Hermione almost enjoyed it, he challenged her and she always gave as good as she got. They had married quickly, probably too quickly, after the war and then the honeymoon period had ended. Their arguing was no longer the quirky aspect of their relationship, but an annoyance. It was endless and they only ever intensified. At first they argued about the wedding, then it was when they would have children; Ron wanted them soon after they married as his parents had done, Hermione wanted to focus on her career. As the years passed Hermione's job caused more problems than they could handle; she adored her job and threw herself into it. She worked any extra hours that were available, stayed late and arrived early. She never saw it as neglecting her relationship with Ron, it was simply her ambition to change the wizarding world. She thought he understood that but it soon became too much for him and he left her, requesting a divorce mere days later. This of course led to more arguing and Hermione finally realised that they were just not going to work out, though she was heartbroken nonetheless. Her boss had insisted she take a few weeks off work when the papers were signed, having been through a divorce himself recently, and Hermione had very very reluctantly agreed. The following day, this day, the papers arrived and the divorce was official.
The second and third glasses of the unknown drink provided Hermione with a little comfort, they warmed her from the inside and made her head feel fuzzy so that she was unable to organise her thoughts of her failed marriage.
The fourth and fifth were drank by the time the storm ended and the sixth was given to her for free by the scruffy landlord.
"One for the road," he grunted as Hermione stood to leave, "one the house."
She accepted and drained the glass before turning to leave, her steps a little more deliberated than they had been on her arrival. Something bright to her right hand side, tucked away in one of the booths momentarily distracted Hermione. She saw it out of the corner of her eye and turned in it's direction. It wasn't a light as she suspected, it was hair. Bright blonde hair, on a head that she immediately recognised.
Draco Malfoy looked up to see Hermione staring at him. It had been four years since they had seen one another and Hermione had no desire to see him for a moment longer. She left the bar without looking back but had an odd feeling that she was being watched.
Hermione retuned to the bar the following night. She had busied herself during the day, cleaning and tidying the house; trying to fill the gaps left behind by Ron. When the night came she tried to distract herself, turning to books for comfort and companionship. When they offered neither she apparated to Hogsmeade once more, directly outside of the bar.
She couldn't explain her attraction to it, the bar was dark and dreary; the epitome of misery, and yet it offered her the solace she was unable to find elsewhere. She pushed open the heavy wooden door and welcomed the dull atmosphere that greeted her. Her eyes scanned the bar, more thoroughly than the night before. Again, it was quiet; less than half a dozen customers, Draco Malfoy included. He sat alone in the same seat as the previous night, head down seemingly staring at the glass in front of him, a small amount of black liquid in the bottom and a bottle containing the same drink stood next to it.
Hermione walked past Malfoy and headed to the same seat at the bar that she had occupied the night before. The landlord poured her a glass of the familiar amber drink and left the bottle with her, winking before he returned to the opposite end and began reading the Evening Prophet.
Thus began a new routine for Hermione over the next few days. She would busy herself during the day, entertaining unwanted and unannounced visitors who came to check up on her but always avoided talking about Ron. After days full of polite small talk she would then apparate to the same spot in Hogsmeade and head straight to the same seat at the bar. Each night she would share a moment of eye contact with Draco Malfoy who, like her, would always be in the same seat drinking the same drink.
On the seventh night Malfoy was looking at the doorway when Hermione walked through it, almost as though he was expecting her. This time, he gave a small nod of his head, as though he was acknowledging her.
"Like ships in the night, you keep passing me by," she swore she could have heard him mumble as she walked past him and into her usual seat at the dusty bar. She whipped her head round to look at him; to search for some sign that indicated he had indeed spoken but his head was bowed once more. He was silent still as she walked past him a few hours later on her way out of the pub.
"Granger, wait!" a voice from behind shouted as the door closed behind her. She turned to see the door open once more and Malfoy stepped out into the street.
"Why do you come here?" he asked her bluntly.
"Every night for the past week, you've come here. Why?"
"What does that have to do with you? And why do you care?" Hermione stared at him incredulously.
"I'm curious," he replied simply.
"I could ask you the same thing," she raised an eyebrow.
"The same reason as you, I presume."
"I don't have time for this," Hermione began to walk down the street, wanting to gain some distance before disapparating.
"You and Weasel. You split up," Malfoy had jogged to catch up.
Hermione faced him, fury evident on her face. "I don't know how you know that but it is nothing to do with you. Leave me alone Malfoy."
"My fiancée," he started, "ex-fiancée; Astoria. She reads all of those idle gossip magazines. She told me. That's why you come isn't it? The silence in that bar, the anonymity and the alcohol, it helps doesn't it?"
Hermione sighed. "Yes. It helps. Are you happy? Now you know. Please, just leave me alone."
"I only know because I do the same. Astoria, she left me. Ran off with my best friend. Two weeks I've been going to that bar, for the exact same reasons as you."
Hermione had never seen him look so vulnerable; human. He was staring at the ground beneath his feet. It did not matter though, he was still Draco Malfoy and she still had her own problems.
"Goodbye, Malfoy." she turned on the spot and disapparated, ignoring the gnawing feelings of unease in the pit of her stomach.
The following night Hermione tried to avoid the bar; to avoid Malfoy. She liked going because no-one knew her as a divorcee, she was just another person seeking comfort in a glass. Everything had changed now, Malfoy knew why she went there and worse, he understood; sympathised.
She paced the floor in her empty house, opened a bottle of wine but did not drink it, flicked through channels on the television but did not watch it. Her mind was elsewhere; in a dirty quiet bar in a wizarding village. The pull was impossible to resist and so she didn't, she went to the bar once more.
On arrival, she immediately knew something was different. Malfoy was not sitting at his usual booth in the corner, Hermione wondered if he had decided not to come after their encounter last night and her cold attitude towards him. She almost felt guilty until she saw him, he was sitting in her seat with two glasses in front of him. She crossed the bar quickly, furious at his audacity.
"What are you doing?" she hissed quietly.
"I'm enjoying a drink, thank you." there was an echo of his former smugness in his voice. "Care to join me?"
He pushed one of the glasses towards Hermione but she ignored it.
"Eight days. Eight days I've been coming here and sitting in this seat. You are always there," she pointed at the booth. "Why are you here?" she gestured to the stool he was perched on.
"Because I can be. Now sit down, be quiet and drink."
Hermione glared at him but then sat on the seat next to him. She knew he was trying to annoy her and she would not let him do it. Instead, she picked up the glass and drained the contents, ignoring Malfoy's bemused expression.
The following night she found Malfoy in her seat once again. This time, she sat down wordlessly and accepted the drink that was already waiting for her. The two sat in silence and even when Hermione left the bar, she did not speak to say goodbye to him.
Unaware that she had been followed out of the bar, Hermione let out a gasp when a hand grabbed her wrist. She turned and found herself inches away from Draco, his grey eyes staring so deep into hers that she felt vulnerable; exposed, but she did not pull away.
"What...?" she breathed, he voice barely above a whisper.
His grip on her wrist tightened for a friction of a second and then his mouth was on hers. He was kissing her with a furious passion such as Hermione had never felt before. He released his hold on her arm and pushed his hand in the small of her back bringing her body up against his. She finally responded to his kiss having recovered from the initial shock. She didn't care that it was Draco Malfoy kissing her, she didn't care that her heart was still broken from her split with Ron and she didn't care that she would likely regret it. All that mattered was that every fibre of her being was screaming for more, his hands were everywhere and yet it wasn't enough, the force with which he was kissing her wasn't strong enough; she needed more. As though responding to her unvoiced thought, he nipped her bottom lip with his teeth and she whimpered involuntarily before parting her lips and revelling in the feeling of his tongue meeting hers. She grabbed a handful of the fair hair she once dreaded the sight of, touched the pale skin on the face she once hated and relished every second. He pushed her against the wall, though the surface was cool it had no effect on the fire that was coursing through her, especially since one of her legs was now being pulled up and wrapped around him.
All too soon their pace slowed and with a gentle kiss on the corner of her mouth, their embrace ended and Hermione came crashing back to reality.
"What on earth do you think you are doing?!" she hissed at him.
She smoothed down her skirt which had been hitched up during their moment of passion, her thigh still tingling where his hand had ran up it. Her face was flushed with a mix of embarrassment and heat that remained from their kiss.
"Well?" she prompted when he did not reply.
"Well what?" he replied, his voice quiet, his expression intense.
"That! That kiss! How dare you think you can-"
"You didn't stop me," he said simply.
"Well, I was in shock. You shouldn't have done it in the first place, what makes you think I would be happy about you kissing me?!"
"You kissed me back,"
His short replies were infuriating Hermione to the point of incoherency. "I did no...You were the one who...I couldn't...This was all you!"
"We're just wasting time, trying to prove who's right," he said, taking a step closer, his intentions clear.
"True. And I won't be wasting any more," she replied as curtly as one could when in such a flustered state.
"We both know that's not true, Hermione," he said her name for the first time and it sounded completely sensual.
Hermione shivered as a result of the tingles that shot down her spine as he ran a pale finger up and down her bare arm.
"You enjoyed that as much as I did. You'll be back tomorrow, and I'll be waiting," he said with great confidence. His arrogance from his school days was not completely lost and Hermione was not disappointed.
He leant towards her once more and placed a kiss on her neck, just below her ear. It was small and yet the effect on Hermione was astounding. Her breathing hiked as he stepped back and with one last intense stare he disapparated.
Draco Malfoy haunted her dreams that night. They were incoherent and confusing, flashes of their school days mixed with flashes of the kiss and Hermione woke up sweating. She could not take her mind off him that day, she left the house during the day for the first time since her divorce, only to avoid whichever inevitable visitors she would have. She went to the local Muggle library and wandered amongst rows upon rows of books, she sat in a coffee shop and stared out of the window until her untouched drink went cold but nothing could stop her from thinking of him.
When the evening arrived, habit caused her to apparate to Hogsmeade but her usual certainty of going into the bar was gone. She walked up and down the street several times, feeling as though the grey cobbles were wearing down the soles of her shoes. She deliberated for a long time, the crisp autumn air outside began to feel cooler and so she eventually decided to enter the pub. She told herself it was simply to warm up but knew that it had nothing to do with body temperature and everything to do with the man who was sitting in what was once her usual bar stool. She walked over to him and sat down wordlessly, picking up the glass full of amber liquid that was already waiting for her. He had told her she would return and she had proved him right.