“Oh Ducky, I really wish you’d move back to the Manor.”
He rolled his eyes as he fought to contain the groan welling in his throat. “Mother, I’ve been over this. The farther away I am from Lucius, the better we get along. And I’m…I’m not-” He paused and fidgeted in a very un-Malfoy way, “-I’m not comfortable being surrounded by Wizarding society anymore. I like my new flat and I’m close enough to the Ministry to walk. Please, just drop it. And don’t call me Ducky!”
Narcissa sighed in resignation and stepped forward to wrap Draco in a slightly awkward hug. “Alright, Draco. I expect you at the Manor Sunday night for dinner. And before you extend an invitation for your father to visit, please acquire some furnishing. And possibly some art. There are a number of interesting exhibitions in the area. These blank walls are unpleasant.” She paused a moment before settling her dark eyes on him. “I hear there’s a charming little Muggle gallery near here. Maybe start there.”
With a resounding crack, he was alone. His steel grey eyes glared at the empty space around him and he huffed an inelegant sigh.
“What the fuck do I know about art?!”
x . x . x . x . x
One of the greatest things the Muggles had ever invented was the internet. Draco was sure of it. He’d charmed a college girl on the local campus to help him find the art gallery his mother had mentioned. The kiss he’d planted lightly on her cheek in return left the poor girl stuttering in astonishment.
He smirked as he carefully selected what to wear; casual button up shirt under his signature green sweater and his favorite black trousers. He ran his eyes over the Malfoy family ring and sneered. The Malfoy name was worthless now.
He grumbled as he tugged on his boots, ruminating on his fall from grace. Lucius, he’d long since refused to acknowledge his father in familial terms, had royally fucked them all. His mother had done all she could to pull them out of the pit of misery they’d been hurled into and he appreciated her efforts. But he had lost patience with the whispers and glares that followed him wherever he went in his world long ago.
Without another thought to the disaster his life had become, he slipped his wand and pocketwatch into his pocket as he grabbed his wallet. Funny things, these wallets. But then again, Muggles had more than enough to fill one, with all the cards and paper money they seem to love so much.
The door slammed behind him as he pocketed his keys and moments later he was outside. The night air was cool as he strolled down the street, skirting around the crowds and dodging people in a hurry. Friday nights in late August reminded him of childhood; dreams and innocence and the desire to be free.
He approached the building and stared up at the sign before him. ‘Rowling Fine Arts’. His eyes wandered to the poster for tonight’s exhibition.
The Dark Arts. Maybe this wasn’t such a brilliant idea. After all, he’d had more than enough of the Dark Arts in this lifetime. Moments had passed, or maybe an hour, as he stood on the sidewalk debating whether or not to enter. His trance was broken as an older couple tried to scoot around him, managing to nudge him further toward the entrance. Gods, he really must be out of his mind.
The door swung inward and he stepped inside, taking a moment for his eyes to adjust to the low light of the lobby.
“Welcome, Sir. I’m so pleased that you’ve come to our exhibition tonight! Here,” she passed him a folded pamphlet, “is a listing of all Mia’s work on display tonight. Please help yourself to the food and drinks and if you need anything, please ask for me. My name is Maryanne and I’d be happy to assist you in any way that I could.”
Draco nodded silently, thankful that the woman seemed genuine and not flirtatious, and slid gracefully further into the gallery. Without any real interest he shoved the pamphlet in his pocket as he came upon the first painting.
‘A World Within a World’. Lovely, he thought, some chit in love with that Lewis Carroll arse. This was proving to be a horrendously awful idea. He shook his head and turned left, as the small sign indicated, hands in his pockets as he approached the first painting in the room.
The train, it…no, it couldn’t be-and yet…Draco leaned closer to the canvas. Abruptly he recoiled in horror. That fucking says Hogwarts Express! It had to be a fluke. Surely no Muggle could possibly know the name of his former school. Maybe this bitch was involved with a wizard who’d failed to obliviate her memories completely. Amateurs.
Slightly shaken, he moved on. His molten gray eyes rounded almost comically as he came to a beautiful watercolor of what appeared to be a badger. His jaw dropped as he read the tiny sign below- ‘Hufflepuff’.
This, this couldn’t be! He began to move faster, shoving people out of his way as he read each painting’s name. Ravenclaw, Knight Bus, Slytherin…GRYFFINDOR?! It simply wasn’t possible. His hands shook as he continued.
He passed another watercolor, a tribute to those damn Marauders Potter’s father belonged to, and a beautifully drawn owl carrying the name of his enemy’s familiar.
Draco gasped in a breath as he leaned against the wall, ignoring the concerned looks he drew from the people mingling around him.
His head swung around as a woman’s voice carried from two paintings over. “Darling, this is incredible! Where do you think she gets these ideas?”
“No idea, love. A golden winged ball? I’m afraid it’s a bit over my head.”
No. No, this just…this couldn’t be happening. This was a violation of the Statute of Secrecy at the very least and outright flaunting of his world. He wouldn’t stand for this.
He passed the grayscale image of Hogwarts as he stomped furiously toward the back wall, determined to figure out how this travesty had happened.
The Forbidden Forest was depicted in an eerily beautiful way that could only have been achieved if someone had been there. And the reaper beside it, well, that he’d seen in his father’s Pensieve.
No one besides a handful of Death Eaters and Potter himself had seen it. He grabbed the pamphlet roughly from his pocket and scanned the front. Mia Gryffin? He’d never heard that name in his world. And there was no picture to give him any clues.
His panic escalated to the point where he seriously considered trying to get in touch with his mother as he passed the paintings ‘Fenrir’, ‘Nymphadora’ and ‘Splinched’.
He paused to marvel at another depiction of the Hogwarts Express, this one done in a myriad of blue tones to highlight the mass of dementors swarming toward the train. He’d never forget that trip to school and he shuddered at the remembrance.
As he passed a few more canvases, he paused to eavesdrop on another couples conversation.
“Sec-Sectum…semp-era? What’s that mean?”
“It’s pronounced sectumsempra.” Draco ignored the man’s thanks as he stared. Splashes of bright red cut across the canvas and he identified greatly with the blank look on the subject’s face. He’d worn that mask for many years.
As he reached the corner, his eyes swept over the last two paintings in the row and once again, he froze unwillingly. His mother. ‘Cissa Overtaken’ was the title given to the eery sight before him. It was a gorgeous likeness of the Malfoy matriarch overtaken by the ghastly skulls dripping from above as if to suffocate the very life from her.
His breath hitched in his throat as his eyes swung to the last painting in the row and he trembled as he recognized the same pitch he’d played on for six years. The Quidditch pitch at Hogwarts glowed with fire in the background and he could almost hear the sounds of battle surround him as he sank into his memories.
As he turned down the last stretch of wallspace, he noticed these seemed rather darker than what he’d seen so far.
A beautiful shining Patronus shone on the first canvas followed by a truly horrid image of a faceless girl clawing herself to ribbons. He shivered violently as he gazed at a glaringly obvious portrait of The Dark Lord entitled ‘Riddles Hubris’. People milled around him as he moved on, coming to stand before the next piece of art in the lineup. ‘Coping’. It seems this girl, and he was sure that this was a more of a self portrait than anything, coped with what seemed to be alcohol. And nudity, which made him grin for the first time that night. Draco was quite sure that if he wasn’t experiencing the horror of sifting through his past, he’d be aroused at the sight of such a deliciously well formed female.
He moved on quickly past a cluster of three grey hued paintings; ‘Horror Incarnate’, ‘Inferi’ and ‘Thestral Within’. He’d had enough horror to last a lifetime and felt no need to give the emotion purchase within him.
The phoenix that followed was gorgeous, though he gulped audibly as he read ‘Fawkes’ Grief’. Dumbledore’s beloved creature, immortalized here in brilliant colors for all the world to see, was not something a Muggle artist could possibly know about. He wondered if he’d perhaps thought of this in the wrong way. Maybe this girl, this Mia Gryffin, had stolen the paintings. There were exceptionally talented artists in the Wizarding world, though he’d heard nothing about any recent thefts.
The next two paintings he skipped over without much thought, but his body seized as he jolted to a stop in front of the last two paintings.
Draco’s eyes widened even further as he took in the vision of a figure shooting a beautifully captured Dark Mark into the air, and he choked when his eyes dropped to read ‘Morsmordre’ on the placard underneath. He swallowed convulsively as his eyes slid to the last canvas. Fear shot through his veins and everything around him faded into the background of his mind.
The painting was indeed chillingly beautiful. ‘The Dark Lord Comes’, how appropriately terrifying. Haunting and horrible mixed into absolute perfection, despite the subject. The most feared wizard in all of British Wizarding history stood immortalized forever on the canvas. He stared, longer than he probably should have, as he tried to overcome the crushing sense of drowning in his own past.
No. He refused to remember, refused to turn into that helpless, pathetic little boy again. Even as the thought raced through his head, Draco’s stomach lurched. One of the few waiters circulating caught sight of him and pointed him quickly toward a small hallway beside him. Thankfully, he made it inside the loo before he emptied what little he had in his stomach. Bile burned in his throat as he laid his head against the cool tile wall, dry sobs wracking his body as he fought to regain his ever present control.
He cursed softly, furious at himself for his sudden dive into weakness. He’d promised himself he’d never give into his cowardice again and now he was hiding in the loo of a Muggle art gallery, dry heaving into the toilet.
His mind raced as he stood shakily and stumbled toward the sink. The cold water he threw on his face startled him into alertness. He unlocked the door and yanked it open, scaring the man waiting in the hall. Draco smirked; even inspiring mild terror in useless Muggles still amused him.
“Excuse me?” He cringed as his voice wavered. The woman who greeted him, what was her name again?, spun quickly and beamed a smile at him. “The artist, Mia? Where can I find her? I want to…commend her on such…wonderful paintings.”
If she noticed his unease, she said nothing, just smiled and pointed toward a slightly hidden staircase. “She’s upstairs mingling with guests.”
He nodded his thanks and crossed the polished hardwood to the staircase. The spiral design caused his head to swim as he ascended and he fought another wave of nausea. Unseeing, he stepped onto the landing and skirted around the Muggles clustered around the railing directly to his left.
Draco’s heart launched into his throat as he raised his eyes to the paintings directly in front of him.
‘Always’ she’d named it. Staring out at him, eyes shining with frozen emotion was his godfather. Severus. Tears welled in his eyes as he marveled at the canvas, so desolate and yet so incredibly beautiful. The one beside it was obviously another nod to the late Potions master and the Muggleborn he’d loved so much. Potter’s mother was beautiful from what few pictures he’d seen and the desperate feelings between them were almost palpable as he stared in awe.
The small cocktail tables dotting the upper floor were easy enough to dodge, though the noise level left something to be desired. He wound his way through the patrons to the next set of paintings, nearly afraid of what he’d see.
As it turned out, he’d been right to be afraid. His jaw went slack as he stared at the expertly rendered scenes in front of him. Again he came face to face with a desolate depiction of Snape. Draco recognized where he stood as one of Snape’s favorite spots in all of Hogwarts. At least until that fateful night when he’d followed Dumbledore’s order and shattered another part of his soul. A crushing sense of dread swallowed the young wizard as he swung his eyes toward the next painting.
That-that was…him! Equally beautiful and no less melancholic, he stood in one of the arches in the Astronomy tower. ‘Unbearable Task’. Again, this artist, whoever she was, had chosen the most perfect descriptor for the scene. Only a select few knew of his task and there were even fewer who knew the true heartache and agony that came with trying to follow The Dark Lord’s orders.
Draco’s ears perked up as a voice caught his attention, carrying slightly over the noise of the crowd.
“She’s so talented! I just knew I had to help her get this exhibition set up.”
His eyes swung around to see the women who spoke. Her blonde hair fell to her shoulders and she was impeccably dressed in tailored slacks and a silk shirt.
“Excuse me. Did I hear that you were the one responsible for this collection?”
The middle aged woman spun toward him, a smile highlighting her attractive face as she laughed lightly. “Well, I’m at least responsible for Mia ‘letting’ me set this up. She’s fairly reclusive and bloody stubborn as hell.”
In spite of himself, Draco found himself smiling at the Muggle. She was energetic in an understated way and her air of excitement permeated his mind, setting him slightly more at ease.
“I’m sorry, I haven’t introduced myself. Malfoy, Drake Malfoy.” He inclined his head, unwilling to willingly shake a Muggle’s hand, even a delightful one such as her.
“Jo Rowling. I own the gallery. Wait, Malfoy? You wouldn’t happen to be related to Luke and Cissa, would you?”
He smirked at the Muggle monikers his parents used. “I would actually. They’re my parents.”
“Oh, delightful! Please pass on my gratitude for their generous donation. With the exhibition, I hadn’t had time to pen a proper letter of thanks.”
What? His parents donated money to a Muggle art gallery? Well, that was unexpectedly random, especially considering it happened to be the one gallery he’d chosen out of all of London to visit.
“I shall. Now, if I could trouble you, I’m looking for Mia. I’d like to pass on my compliments.”
Jo’s head swung around as her eyes raked over the crowd. A small groan left her as she settled on something somewhere behind him.
“That girl…” Her eyes rolled as she gently turned Draco toward the last wall of paintings. “That’s her right there. The one in the inappropriate clothing, flashing her garters and knickers our way. Please excuse her less than stellar manners. She’s…unpolished and can be quite a handful.”
Draco nodded silently as he began to make his way toward the girl bent over a table as she spoke to some guests. The absurdly male reaction he’d had to those slim legs and perfectly rounded arse died a quick death as he caught a quick glimpse of the paintings behind her.
A strangled sound escaped his throat as his nails dug into his now fisted hands. “What the bloody fucking hell?!”
The girl spun wildly, her brown eyes wide as they darted around before they landed on him in disbelief. Her already pale skin lost what little color it had as she swayed on the spot. Draco’s rage filled eyes landed on her and he stepped forward, his hands gripping her arms tightly.
“Who are you?! How do you know…I mean, how did you paint these?!”
Her body flopped loosely as he shook her shoulders, uncaring of the spectacle he’d made of himself. A moment passed before her eyes focused and swept over his face, a light of recognition sparking in the chocolate depths.
The girl’s voice was clear and articulate, though it still held a tremor of fear and he recoiled in shock.
The young woman before him wasn’t someone he’d ever seen before or would have chosen to associate with if he had. Her hair was a bright mix of pink and purple and her makeup was heavy, her clothes tight and minimal despite the occasion. But…he squinted as he tried to figure out why she looked familiar.
It was only when she cocked a hip and crossed her arms over her quite lovely breasts that it finally dawned on him.
x . x . x . x . x
Well, this was fun. Draco wiggled again as he tried to break the invisible bonds that kept him trapped in the extremely uncomfortable chair she’d tossed him in.
It’d been a few hours since Granger had thrown him in this small closet just off the main floor and the gallery had finally fallen silent.
“Malfoy! How the bloody fuck did you find me?!” Hermione’s eyes widened in horror as she stared at him.
Draco’s face screwed up in horror as he caught sight of the images behind her again. “Are those ME?!”
“Brilliant, aren’t you?! Bloody buggering fuck!” She glanced around at the guests milling curiously around them before she reached forward and locked his hand into a particularly tight grip. She dragged him behind her as she flew down the stairs, uncaring that he could barely keep from falling on his face.
“It’s Gryffin, you arse! And I go by Mia now!” Her boots clomped loudly as she shoved him bodily into the utility closet.
He watched in wide eyed surprise as she whipped her wand out of…somewhere…and shot a few spells at him. As soon as he was silent and secure, she quickly left the room. He caught a quick glimpse of her shoving his wand down the back of her skirt and he let out a silent shout of indignation.
The turning of the doorknob broke him out of his memories as he glared at the girl silhouetted in the doorway.
“Okay, this is how this is going to work.” She stepped inside and pulled the door shut behind her. Hermione lit her wand with a quiet ‘Lumos’ and leaned back against the door. She propped her knee up, yet again flashing her knickers at him. “I will lift the silencing spell and you will calmly and quietly answer my questions. If I don’t like your answers…well, just hope that I like your answers. Deal?”
Draco nodded slowly and flinches as she flicked her wand his way.
“How did you find me?”
He raised an eyebrow and scoffed. “I wasn’t looking for you. I was actually coming to buy some art for my new flat.”
He couldn’t blame her for the skepticism etched across her features. “Really? You were going to a Muggle art gallery?”
“Well, it’s actually been fairly difficult to function in our world the last few years. No one wants a Death Eater walking free among them.” He snarled the words, though she seemed completely unaffected by his anger. “What I don’t understand is why you disappeared. You were part of the Golden Trio, beloved heroes of the Wizarding world. And a couple months after the war you just…vanished.”
His eyes raked over her again as she stared at him. Dear Salazar, what had happened to her? Besides her oddly colored hair and ridiculous Muggle clothes, she looked haggard under the glamour charms beginning to wear off; she had various pieces of metal shoved through her body and she was covered in ink, not to mention the bruise like circles under her almost lifeless eyes .
Silence persisted for another moment, then two and they stared at each other.
“I’m hungry.” She pushed herself off the wall and tugged the door open. “You hungry?”
Suddenly his bindings were gone and he stared after her for a moment before he leapt up to follow.
Draco, baffled and confused, followed her like a puppy as she sauntered out of the gallery and down the street, her head bopping to something only she could hear. Hermione snarled at a younger man who had the nerve to catcall her way and Draco burst into laughter as he caught her reaching for her the back of her skirt where he knew she’d stowed their wands. A moment later, her silent spell took effect and the youth squawked loudly as a slug slithered out of his open mouth.
A quick glance over her shoulder and a wink sent his way just confused him even more. This couldn’t be Granger. Swotty, prude, uptight, perfect Granger? Her hips swung with a fuck-off confidence, her skirt flying up to show the cheeks of her nicely rounded arse. The stretch of bare skin around her midriff and the almost nonexistent shirt coupled with her ratty stockings and boots gave her an allure he’d never quite seen before.
He almost plowed into her back as she came to a halt in the middle of the sidewalk, her head swinging right to left as if searching for something.
“Oh!” Without explanation, Hermione skipped down a small side street to their left and Draco rolled his eyes as he followed, unsure exactly why he felt compelled to do so.
“Care to tell me what exactly we’re doing, Mudblood?”
Shite! She’d frozen in her tracks and he could nearly see the waves of anger emanating from her. Her muscles stood in rigid relief as she slowly pivoted to face him, her face screwed into a mask of rage.
“Don’t you ever fucking say that word to me again!” He actually shrank back in fear as she stepped toward him, her wand appearing in her hand. “You have no idea what I’ve been through or why I left.”
She paced in front of the young man, seething with anger and hate and a toxic combination of emotions she usually fought so hard to repress.
Breathe in…breathe out. Breathe in…breathe out. She chanted the mantra in her head as she fought to calm herself . She swore she’d left it all behind, promised herself that it wouldn’t affect her. No one would find her, hidden as she was in the Muggle world. Hermione laughed darkly at her own naivete.
What did she expect from him anyway? She knew he’d always looked down on her, no matter that her grades were always better and her personality far surpassed his. She shook out the tension in her shoulders and breathed deeply one more time before she turned to face her unexpected companion.
“Waffles.” Draco’s mouth fell open inelegantly as he gaped at the woman in front of him. “I need waffles.”
x . x . x . x . x
The night had been surreal. Draco leaned back in the booth of the grotty Muggle diner she’d lead him to. Hermione had ordered their food since most of it was unfamiliar to him and she giggled when he poked at his waffles as if they might explode.
“I toooooold you!” Her sing song voice grabbed his attention some time later as he mopped up the last vestiges of syrup on his empty plate. His face flushed in embarrassment at his undignified behavior.
“That you did, Granger. That you did. Now,” He pushed the plate away from him leaned forward on his elbows. “-are you ready to have a talk?”
She visibly deflated, seeming to shrink into herself with whatever memories haunted her. His heart clenched painfully. Whatever troubles the war had brought him, it was obvious that Hermione had much more baggage than him. Uncharacteristically, he lifted himself out of the booth and rounded the table to scoot in beside her.
His arm wrapped around her shoulder and she surprisingly allowed the comfort as she leaned against him. Her small body trembled and she began to snuffle as she fought back tears. “Tell me about you. I need to work up to this.”
Draco sighed heavily as he debated what to say. So much had happened and yet, looking back, it seemed like a very boring existence. “After…after the Dark Lord-”
“Voldemort, you mean.”
He scowled at her interruption and rolled his eyes. “Yes, him. After he fell, the war ended pretty swiftly. Death Eaters, as a rule, tend to be cowards, as you well know.” He gestured mockingly to himself and she slapped his shoulder lightly, a smile beginning to creep across her face. “The Ministry rounded up most of them-us-and the trials started.”
“Yeah, I was there for that. I…I mean, I actually testified.”
Draco nodded. He had heard that tidbit as he sat awaiting trial. “Well, the Dar-I mean, his inner circle were all sent to Azkaban, of course. There was no rehabilitation for them. Most of them had been driven mad long before the war ended. Somehow Lucius dodged Azkaban; I’m fairly sure massive amounts of gold had more to do with it than anything else.”
Hermione nodded silently, her brow furrowed as she listened. Noticing the lull in their conversation, their waitress bustled toward them quickly. “Can I get you kids anything else?”
“Uh, yeah please. Do you have an Jack?” At the waitresses nod, Hermione pulled some Muggle money out of her shirt. Draco’s eyes widened comically as she passed over the money. “Can you bring me the bottle? Thank you.”
Her eyes heavy with sad understanding, the older woman shuffled away to retrieve the liquor.
“Uh, Granger? Why did you just order a man? Is this some mystery about Muggle diners I’m not aware of?”
Her tinkling laugh echoed around the small restaurant and Draco found himself strangely elated at the sound. “No!” She paused as the waitress deposited a glass bottle on their table and patted him on the shoulder. “It’s the name of a Muggle liquor. Do you want some?”
His nose wrinkled skeptically as he watched her twist the lid off and take a swig straight from the bottle. Well, if Granger can do it…
He grabbed the bottle and threw it back, letting the amber liquid flow down his throat-gagging as the taste registered on his tongue. He sputtered indignantly as Hermione doubled over with laughter, yanking the bottle away from him before he dropped it.
“What the bloody fuck is that?” He watched her take another drink, her face as impassive as if she were drinking water. “How the fuck do you do that?!”
The merriment leached out of their small space and her mouth dropped into a frown. “Lots of practice. Lots and lots of practice. Had to work my way up from Butterbeer.” They both paused, the air between them charged. “But-uh…you were saying?”
Draco ran over their conversation in his head and turned slightly to face her. “All of the younger generation of Death Eaters, marked or not, were pardoned. Sins of the father and all that shite.” She noticed his right hand rubbing over the sleeve of his sweater, directly above where she knew the mark to be.
Hermione bit her lip and gently reached a hand out. “May I-may I see it?”
Draco recoiled in horror, suddenly acutely aware of where he was and who he was with. How had he forgotten himself? How had he allowed himself to be lead this far away from his comfort zone?
“No, please.” He was halfway off the bench before he realized he’d moved, but her small hand clutching his fingers stopped him. “Please?”
What the fuck am I doing? Clearly on edge, he lowered himself slowly back onto the vinyl seat, his body angled toward her. Hermione took another large drink of the vile shite in front of her, then reached her hand out again. Slowly, she raised the sleeve of his sweater and he flinched violently as the ugly brand came into view.
Her warm fingers traced the intricate design as the shame, his ever present and unwanted companion, welled up in him.
The magical duo sat in silence, Draco’s eyes raking over her skin as Hermione traced the patterned burned into his skin. Abruptly Hermione broke their contemplative bubble and bounced up on her knees as she pulled another piece of Muggle paper money out of her bra and threw it on the tabletop.
“Come on. We’re going to fix this.”
She shoved him roughly out of the booth and he stumbled backward gracelessly.
“Shut your mouth. You’re catching flies.” Hermione leaned back over the table to grab the now half empty liquor bottle and flashed him yet another view of her backside. “Come on. I know just what we need.”
He followed placidly in her wake, as if she’d somehow confunded him without his notice, her fingers linked in his as she dragged him back out onto the darkened London streets.