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Title: "Ineffable"
Author: the_woods_
Summary: Hermione needs something even she can’t explain.
Rating: PG-13
Author's Note: A special thank to my beta, T. This was created for the "Reverse Challenge" over at H&V, in which I was inspired by ningloreth's art (link). To read this at FanFiction.net, follow this link. You can also read it on H&V here. Or, just click the LJ-cut : )

Chapter 1


The late spring air was full of electricity. Hermione Granger had missed it, what ever it was, that intangible quality she couldn't quite name. She wanted to call it magic, but as a practical witch she knew better than to associate any natural mysteries or instincts with spells and charms. Placing her bag over her shoulder, she inhaled deeply before grinning to herself, glad for the walk to work.


The Floo Network had been jammed for the past three days. The Department of Magical Transportation was backed up and malfunctioning with numerous relinking issues. At first, Hermione despised the longer commute times and the disruption of her perfectly crafted schedule. Now, with a new-found energy around her, she was thankful for the interruption. She often forgot about the world outside of her office and beyond her bubble of literature. There wasn't much time for walking in the Wizarding World, anymore—not when countless public places were starting to invest in new fireplaces for the readjusted Floo Network. In fact, hardly anyone stepped outside of their designated lives, anymore—be it office or home, bar or school. With the huge economic burst upward for the past few years, the commercialism of the Wizarding World seemed to be headed in the right place.


Hermione looked both ways before crossing the street, her black pumps hitting the gravel with a modest click. Reaching into her over-sized purse, she grabbed the Blackberry her mother had recently given to her as a gift. It was always strange, using Muggle technology within her magical society. Somewhere along the way, Muggle electronics made their way into the Wizarding world and Hermione, as a pragmatist, had never looked back.


She quickly scanned through her emails and overlooked her missed calls. There were a few personal messages from Ron and Harry which had mistakenly been forwarded to her business email, but other than that, it was business as usual. She placed the cell phone back in her bag, pushing open the two large, impressive glass doors of an equally impressive building: Vicis Verto Publishing.


Hermione released a content sigh when she read the name of her company in the lobby. Usually, she'd use the Floo from her flat and emerge on the other side of the lobby, out of reach from the ground-floor secretary and other staff, unable to read the wand-crafted company name in large, script font.


"Morning, Ms. Granger," an employee said, headed in her direction.


"Good morning, Tony," she responded, a smile on her face. "How's Alice?"


"She's doing well, thanks," the wizard replied with a bounce in his step. Hermione wanted to laugh, but no sooner did she smile when he said they were expecting a baby in April.


Her eyebrows raised in surprise. "Tony! Wow, that's fantastic. Congratulations!"


She embraced Tony with a squeal and he hugged her tightly. "The good news doesn't stop there," he said as they released each other. "Roswell's—the one in Diagon Alley—is looking to stock their shelves with all of our books."


Hermione's jaw dropped. "I've been pounding their door for months, how did this happen?"


"It's all of our best sellers," Tony responded. "They've been topping the charts for the past few weeks, and there's a lot of good press going around about us. The Daily Prophet is even set to release that interview sometime this week."


She laughed and brought a hand to her forehead. "I completely forgot about that!"


"I'm not surprised. Your schedule's been pretty busy."


The two said their goodbyes and Hermione made her way to the lift. With a wave to Martin, the first-floor receptionist, she stepped inside and headed to her office.


Hermione headed to her office, wordlessly unlocking her door with a spell. When she arrived at her desk, she noticed a small stack of what looked like commission contracts set right by her quill and computer. She didn't feel like negotiating over the phone just yet—not since last Friday's talk with the loss of Theodore Nott as one of their authors.


Hermione sat in her plush leather chair and woke her computer from sleep. The first of countless emails to greet her was a recent book deal—the new author wanted to haggle royalty rates, again. Hermione personally hated the book, but understood the audience it was aimed at and what profit it could make for the company. Grudgingly, she forwarded the email to her research department with a note asking them what they thought of the higher percentage demand.


Thinking about advanced payments and potential sales, markets and revenue, production and value…it tired her out. Rolling her neck back, Hermione mentally kicked herself and picked up her quill. As with all Mondays, she felt it was going to be a long day of paperwork, notices of rewrites, and arguing with freelance designers over typography and book covers.


Hermione didn't look away from her desk until after lunch. It wasn't until she heard a knock on her door that she noticed she was hungry.


Her secretary peaked inside timidly. "Ms. Granger," she squeaked. "Sorry to disturb you, but there's a couple here to see you."


Hermione waved nonchalantly. "Take a message. I'm busy, and we're overstocked on couples' paperback advice or revelations."


The witch hesitated. "Mr. Weasley seems quite angry—"


"Ron?" Hermione asked herself, momentarily lost. Realization hit her suddenly. "Oh, blast! Lunch!"


She stood up and hurried as best she could to the door. Before she could reach it, Ron strode inside with Pansy behind him. They both looked angry.


"I'm really, terribly sorry," Hermione started. "I lost track of time—didn't even remember it was time for a break—"


"Oh, shove it, Hermione," Pansy snapped. "You know I hate getting stood up."


"It's technically not getting stood up if you're seeing me now, right?"


Ron laughed. "We brought Ethiopian food from across the way. Thought our lunch meeting might of slipped your mind."


Hermione grinned. "Delicious. Thanks, you two." She went back to her desk and shut the monitor off, then wandlessly lifted three chairs to seat around her coffee table.


"New shade, Pans?" Hermione asked, trying to soothe the former Slytherin.


She raised a manicured hand to her hair, and Hermione couldn't help but notice the light shade of pink—the same pink Pansy had worn since Hogwarts. "I got it done this past weekend. Ran into Theo and Draco as well."


Hermione slowed her movement. A glance from Ron told her to tread lightly. "Oh?"


Pansy nodded. "Draco said he had a couple things to say to that reporter who kept knocking on his flat. You know, the one from the Daily Prophet? Something about a story on you."


"I briefly recall," Hermione said.


"Theo's relatively upset about the whole ordeal, you know."


Ron ripped a piece of his injera off and dipped it in the chili sauce. "Fresh wound. The bloke will heal."


"I referred him to a number of other publishers," Hermione responded, immediately entering business mode. "He shouldn't have a problem finding a respectable—"


"Oh, please," Pansy said flippantly. "Everyone knows you can be a real corporate bitch when you want to, Granger."


Hermione frowned. "I wasn't trying to—"


"You did the right thing," she continued. "Very capitalistic, take-no-prisoners. Didn't know you had it in you, is all."


Ron coughed and took a sip of his drink. "So are you throwing any parties soon, 'Mione?"


"You know what would be great?" Pansy said. "A party in the lobby for the front page article—and that new book you're releasing. What was it called, Ron?"


"The one about loveless magical marriages, I think."


"I wouldn't be surprised if that's a hit," Pansy muttered. "To think I almost followed tradition and the rest of that rubbish."


Hermione looked out the window as the two continued talking. The relaxing, calm spring wind she experienced earlier had been replaced by the magically enhanced air conditioner running through the building. She thought suddenly and unexpectedly of Theodore and wondered how, after the past several months, he was able to maintain a relationship with Draco. She could never understand his calm exterior when she finally told him about her drunken romp with Draco in her office at last year's Christmas party. His lack of a reaction forced her to repeat herself…and just like that, it was over.


Hermione was feeling restless by the end of the week. The only good was the release of the Daily Prophet with the Vicis Verto article.


Hermione entered the lobby with smile and headed straight for the front desk. She could hear Martin's good-natured laugh as she approached.


"Morning Martin," she said. "Do you have the Daily—"


He handed it to her before she could finish. "Morning, Ms. Granger. And congratulations—you made front page."


Hermione allowed herself the pleasure of squealing in excitement. Her hair bounced wildly with her as she headed for the lift. Head down, her eyes took in every word off the page. As she ascended to the third floor of the building, her smile began to falter. Her eyes narrowed as she flipped through the pages, following the story.


She stopped in the middle of her office when she saw it. A large photograph, right in the middle of the layout, taken candidly of last year's Christmas party. She had rented out a hall for employees, authors, friends and family to gather in celebration of the season and Vicis Verto's success.


The photo was of her and Harry. Their glasses clinked together in a toast of some kind. As the two sipped on their drinks, Theodore entered the frame with Draco behind him.


The moment had been snapped before the Weasley twins spiked the drinks, Hermione reasoned. She watched the picture in disbelief: angry that it was there, confused about its purpose, and reminded of her failed attempt at spontaneity through inebriation. In the photograph, Harry extended his arm to Theodore in a congratulatory handshake. Theodore placed his free hand at the small of Hermione's back as he smiled and conversed with the Gryffindor. Draco used the opportunity to say something to Hermione. She was no good at reading lips, but she remembered their conversation extremely well.


"Quite a streak of luck you've got going for you, Granger," he had noted, his smile still present for the cameras. He took a sip from his wineglass rather delicately. Hermione had to fight the urge to call out at his brazen attempt at snide subtlety.


"I don't believe in luck, Malfoy," she answered coyly. "Luck that isn't brewed, anyway."


He had smirked and raised his glass. Hermione watched herself reluctantly raise hers in response.


She slammed the paper down on her desk, fuming. Underneath the photograph, a caption read: Hermione Granger pictured with former beau and author, Theodore Nott, alongside friends Harry Potter and Draco Malfoy.


"I can't believe this, Harry," Hermione said, her voice strained.


"Hermione—"


"The picture," she said shakily, "should not be here. It's not appropriate at all—"


"What's wrong with it?"


"Harry, you know what's wrong with it," Hermione exclaimed. "That's the night I lost all sanity and slept with Draco Malfoy!"


Harry took a bite of his noodles. "No one else knows that, Hermione," he said. "Certainly not the readers. It's not like the caption even mentions it."


"But that's the thing," Hermione countered. "The caption, it's completely suggesting the wrong thing with this ridiculous picture—Draco and I? Friends? And the article—"


"Hermione," Harry stressed. She paused her ranting for a moment to let him speak. "I think you might be…overreacting."


She crossed her arms and leaned forward, away from the comfort of her chair. "Overreacting?"


Harry sighed, placing his plate of take-out Chinese food down on her desk. "I can't understand why this is such a bad thing. Draco's a good guy; I never knew why you hated him. It's not like he's trying to ease his way into your life and somehow destroy what you've built."


"Of course not," she responded. "That's rubbish reasoning, anyhow. What I'm trying to say is that he's finding ways to sneak into my life and manipulate everything."


"Paranoid, much?" Harry said as he readjusted his glasses. "Just how is he doing that? By being my friend? Going with me to functions?"


She rolled her eyes. "You're not taking me seriously."


"Just trying to understand your angle."


Hermione reached across her desk and picked up Harry's chopsticks. "You read the article, right?"


"Of course."


"So you noticed how they took quotes from my friends, my employees, some of the authors, a few literary institutions—"


"Right."


Taking a clump of noodles into her mouth, she chewed before speaking. "Then why in Merlin's name would Draco Malfoy be quoted, even pictured, in that article? We're not friends. We're not really acquaintances, for that matter. He must have had some connection."


Harry sighed, again, and took his chopsticks back. "Maybe you should just walk to his flat and ask him."


"What?"


"Well, you can't very well use the Floo, and I certainly can't picture you flying there—"


Hermione stammered. "I can't—well, I can't just…go to his flat," she finished lamely. "That would be strange."


"I have no idea why this is bothering you," he answered. "I mean, he said good things about you."


Hermione grabbed the paper off her desk and pointed to a highlighted section. "Here," she said. "Read this."


Harry sighed for the third time. She chose to ignore his restlessness and handed the paper over.


"'She was a know it all in school,' Malfoy recalls with a laugh. 'Bookworm type. I'm not surprised in the least bit at her choice of venture. The success does seem a bit overwhelming, though.'"


She jumped up in her seat, pointing an accusatory finger at the inanimate object. "See? See!"


"What's so bad about it?" Harry asked. "You were a bookworm. It's not something to be ashamed about."


"I'm talking about the last part," Hermione said, snatching the paper back. "He's being sarcastic. I know he is."


"You should know better than anyone that text is very different from speech," Harry cautioned. "The other day, I sent Pansy an email…and Merlin forbid I say anything remotely serious without a smiley face. When I came home, Ron was ready to tear my—"


"Harry!" Hermione snapped. "This isn't about your problems. Or Ron's love life, for that matter."


"I already told you what I think, and I told you what I think you should do about it."


It was Hermione's turn to sigh as she leaned back into her chair. After lunch, Hermione piled up approved manuscripts on her desk and stared at it with a contempt she never knew she could muster.




Chapter 2


On her way to work one morning, she spotted Luna underneath a cherry blossom tree. It appeared as though the strange witch was playing solitaire. Against her better judgment, Hermione wandered off the sidewalk and crossed the park's lawn.


"Hmm," Luna sighed dreamily. She looked up at Hermione as if she were expecting her. "Would you care for a reading?"


Hermione managed to get a good look at the cards and realized she meant a tarot reading. She smoothed down unseen wrinkles on her skirt before responding.


"I'm sorry Luna, but I can't stay long. I planned on picking up a bagel before work."


Luna gently shuffled the deck anyway, and Hermione huffed as she stood in the quiet morning dew among the grass.


"I never took you as a Trelawney follower," she muttered.


"I don't really follow anyone," Luna responded. "Ah."


Hermione looked around, then crouched low enough as to not dirty her skirt. "What?"


She scanned the card the blond was intently staring at. An illustration was face up: two people entwined with each other amongst high vines and flowers.


"The Lovers," Luna answered.


Hermione snorted. "Bollocks. Don't think I'm in the mood for any kind of romance any time soon."


Luna finally looked up. "It's not romance, Hermione. You're the Fool."


Hermione was taken aback. "A fool?"


"Not a," Luna said. "The Fool." She tapped the card twice with her index finger, causing her bracelets and rings to jingle quietly. "You need to start searching for ways to cultivate intimacy."


"I don't want to cultivate anything," Hermione replied, rather uncomfortable with the metaphor.


"You need that release," Luna continued. "The ability to free your own imagination, gather your emotional well-being, tune into your intuition again. These are elements that have been forsaken in your life, in favor of more rational, conscious, everyday matters."


Hermione shifted in her pumps. "I suppose I have been putting a few things on hold."


Luna turned another card over. Hermione didn't want to ask what it meant.


"You let Nott go," Luna stated.


"He wanted more artistic freedom than we were willing to provide," Hermione explained. "The publishing house—"


"I see," she interrupted, and Hermione wanted to believe that the witch clearly didn't. She stood up and flipped her hair back. Readjusting her purse, Hermione said goodbye and went back to the sidewalk.


She headed to the café down block to pick up a breakfast snack. The strange incident with Luna weighed heavily on her mind…though it could be argued every incident with the woman would always be strange.


After paying for her sandwich and tea, Hermione wandered back outside and cut across the street. She found herself back at the park when out of nowhere, someone fell into step with her.


Hermione turned her head to find one Draco Malfoy walking beside her. She rolled her eyes and walked faster.


Draco laughed and called her name. "A bit too late for a jog around the park. Especially with that in your hands and those on your feet."


"I'm not talking to you," she responded.


"You never want to talk to me," Draco countered cheerfully. "Not after last Christmas, anyway."


Hermione glared at him, instantly suspicious. It was never a good thing when a Malfoy was chipper. "Did Harry tell you?"


He put on his best innocent look and raised his eyebrows. "Did Harry tell me what?"


"About the paper, you bloody prat," Hermione growled.


Draco put a hand on her shoulder to stop her movement. She shrugged it off.


"I'm mad at you," she said.


"You're mad that I snarked it up."


"'Snarked' isn't a verb."


"It is now," Draco replied. He leaned back on his heels and put his hands in his pockets. "Tell me what you thought of the picture."


Hermione smiled sweetly, but anyone who knew Hermione knew there must be venom beneath its simple exterior. "Did you give the reporter a copy?"


"A friend did," he answered carefully.


That answer calmed her. She walked toward nothing in particular with Draco keeping pace beside her. Jasmine was in the air. Hermione yearned to stop, bend down, and take a whiff of one of the many flowers resting on the ground. She never did.


The continued their walk in silence. Rounding a corner, Draco pointed out a bench. They sat and a fair amount of space remained between them. Hermione felt no need to close it.


"Theo found a new publisher, you know," Draco stated rather stoically. "Some independent art house."


Hermione bristled. "We're an independent. We just…cater to a different crowd."


"Come off it," Draco snorted. "You care more about making money than literary value."


"That's absurd."


Draco chuckled. "It's a compliment to some. We have to work if we want to make a profit. Vicis Verto is like any other successful publishing house—galleons before art."


Hermione wanted to be upset. She wanted an excuse to scream at him, needed a reason to unleash whatever hang-ups she still carried. In the end, she could come up with nothing. Did that mean he was right? Partly, if only because he spoke of a truth Hermione herself had realized long before.


She let out a breath she didn't know she was holding. Her shoulders slumped and suddenly, she felt exhausted. The breeze around them had stopped and she became very aware of the bright sun streaming down on the park.


"You need a break, Granger."


His voice made her straighten. She had momentarily forgot Draco's presence. "A holiday's more like it."


"Maybe even something permanent."


She opened her mouth to respond, only to have her Blackberry interrupt her.


Glancing up, she caught Draco's stare and was tempted to thrown the damn phone into the polluted lake several feet away. She reached into her bag and gripped the device tightly, as if commanding it to silence. Instead, it vibrated in her hand and she took it out unenthusiastically.


"I have to take this," she muttered. Draco shrugged and looked away. She was surprised he didn't insult her Muggle technology.


It was Roger from the design agency on the other line. He wanted to follow up on the spat between his designer and her author. He began apologizing profusely, and Hermione tried very politely to get him to cut to the chase, but he would not stop babbling. The recent article on her and the business must have found its way into his hands, because she hadn't heard from him in days and that argument between author and designer happened sometime last month.


Draco stood up. Hermione tried signaling with her hands for him to wait, to stay, but he only looked at her with an amused expression, albeit on the sorrowful side.


"Roger, someone's on the other end," Hermione butted in as Draco walked away. "We can discuss the artwork commission and new layout spread tomorrow. Call the office and remind one of the secretaries to make a note for me."


She hung up and Draco laughed. Hermione huffed. "What?"


He shook his head. "You've changed, Granger."


"We all do," she said.


Draco stared at something just beyond the top of her head, a place she couldn't see. "Maybe," he answered, and the two walked out of the solace of the park.

x.x.x


"A toast," Harry yelled over the crowd with a lopsided grin plastered to his face, "to the brightest witch—no, the brightest person—in this age!"


"Or any other," roared Ron, equally wasted.


Hermione shook her head and walked to the front of the crowd. Cheers erupted and she briefly wondered where all these people and alcohol came from.


"Thank you all for coming on such short and unexpected notice," she said to the familiar faces in the lobby. "I'm happy to announce that Roswell's Books has consented to shelving all of Vicis Verto's titles."


Clapping sounded across the marble tiles and washed over Hermione. She smiled and tried to look as proud as she could: chin up, elegant smile, wine glass (without wine) in hand. Hermione rambled to the crowd about books and literature before ending her very brief speech with an attempt to get the guests to buy books and merchandise on their way out.


She came back to her friends and almost fell over when Harry slung his arm around her. "C'mon, Hermione," Harry slurred, his glasses askew. "You haven't drank anything all evening."


"Harry darling," she said in all seriousness while removing his arm from her shoulder, "you're positively pissed."


He grinned. "No one's driving!"


"Or taking the Floo, for that matter," Hermione laughed.


Classical music rang through the lobby. Hermione looked to Ron and Pansy, who were too busy chugging a shot of Firewhisky off a waiter's tray. Pansy shuddered and yelped as Ron tightly closed his eyes. She heard a crash in the corner and saw Neville Longbottom spinning in a seat—did he steal that from one of the offices?—before promptly toppling to the ground. Luna was singing, quite awfully, to an unfamiliar tune. Hermione was sure she saw Martin making out with someone in the lift. Ginny even made an appearance earlier to give her congratulations.


Hermione left the group and headed for the cheese. She glided past the guests with careful precision, eyeing everyone in their stupidity as if it were threatening. She stepped over someone's jacket and skillfully dodged anyone who might spill their drinks on her gown.


The distinct call of male hoots and hollered filled one corner of the lobby. Hermione struggled to find the action, only to have a distinctly familiar voice hold her still.


"Has Pansy started stripping, yet?"


Hermione craned her neck back to Draco. "Last I saw, she was still doing shots with her boyfriend."


"Well," Draco drawled, swirling his wine, "you know how those things go."


Hermione felt her face flush. "Malfoy," she gritted through clenched teeth, "no way am I going to discuss any of that here—or anywhere, for that matter."


She turned to walk away when he called after her.


"You're not Weasley-ing out of this, are you?"


Her eyes rolled without warning as she caught his smirk. "Ha, ha."


He neared her and she started to feel it—the tingle down her spine that was in no way associated with the party happening around her.


Draco bent down. She could feel his breath against her neck. "I have something for you," he whispered. "Can we talk—in private?"


She licked her lips nervously. With a nod, he followed her to the lift where she kicked Martin and his hook-up out.


They entered her office and it all came crashing back down on her. Leave it up to gravity to find its way back to Hermione: she remembered that raw desire between them during that Christmas party, and even she herself couldn't tell if it had faded.


Draco stood beneath the doorway and reached into coat. "You know…Theo told me you used to write."


She looked at him closely. "What?"


"Said you kept a journal," Draco said, taking a few steps toward her. He took out a folded parchment. "Remember? It was back when you two were actually in love. Before you pimped him out to the literary world."


"I was never in—" Hermione paused and thought better of it. She settled for folding her arms across her chest.

Draco held his hands up in mock surrender and clarified: "Metaphorically, of course."


Suddenly she was annoyed at his deliberate attempt to misunderstand. "What do you want, Malfoy? The party's still downstairs, if you recall."


He offered her the parchment. She lifted it from his grasp cautiously before opening it. She frowned. "Directions?"


"To my Portkey." He took in a ragged breath and ran a hand through his short blond hair. His uncharacteristic nervousness forced Hermione to pay attention. "I don't know what's going on between us, Granger," he said. "And to be quite honest, I'd like to find out."


"Find out?" she echoed dumbly.


"This—" he motioned between them, "this, whatever it is, has been between us for a very, very long time."


Hermione felt the air leap out of her throat. "I suppose," she said softly.


"I'm going to Prague for a year."


"A year?"


"True mark of a businessman," he said. "Doing things you don't necessarily want to do."


"I can relate to that."


"That Portkey gets you straight to the flat I'll be renting in the Muggle part of town."


Hermione's eyes widened and she stared down at his refined, handwritten scroll. When she looked up again, her eyes held a question—a question she wasn't sure she wanted the answer to.


"Where—" she cleared her throat, started again. "Why are you giving this to me?"


"I want you to visit me," he said. "It could be for an hour, or a day. Maybe a weekend or a month. Make time for yourself, get away from this city."


"But, I—"


"Don't say you can't," Draco said, his voice just above a whisper. "Just...trust something other than that thick skull of yours." He took her hand in his, the parchment between them. She was too shocked to move, or to speak. The moment became fragile, as if even breathing could destroy whatever nonsense had surrounded them. It made her feel something other than tired, or worn down, or uninspired.


"This—everything you're saying—what you're asking," Hermione stammered. She closed her eyes and took a deep breath; even squeezed his hand lightly. "It's ludicrous. It's impractical."


"Then damn impracticalities," Draco growled. His grey eyes burned with an intensity Hermione could almost touch. There was a curious passion hanging there between them; hidden beneath their history were moments of truth masked by day-to-day facades.


She thought then of the spring air and jasmine, of Luna's tarot reading and the Lovers. It was then she knew what he was really asking—what he was really hoping for. It wasn't about work, or making time for herself. The unasked question strained between the pair was simply about them.


"You can risk it all," he all but begged. "I know you want this, too—I felt whatever bloody thing that took hold of me take over you, as well."


He reached up to cup her face. She found herself unable to look away from him…and it scared her. It scared her that she had the potential to need someone this much.


"Malfoy—" She stopped to correct herself. "Draco. I've got responsibilities here, a business to run—"


"Screw the business, Hermione," he exclaimed. "You don't even love it. Come with me. Stay with me for just one month. A weekend, even."


She bit her lip and stared hard at the man before her. In the silence she let go of his hand.


"I can't." The words came out in a broken whisper. She watched him take a step back and witnessed a world inside him come tumbling down. He covered it quickly, retreating behind that stoic cover of off-handed arrogance.


"Well then, Granger," he said, his voice an octave lower than usual. "I'll see you in a year."




Epilogue


Hermione sat in the back of the dimly-lit restaurant with Luna and Harry. The trio had their eyes on the open floor before them.


Theodore was reading an excerpt from his soon-to-be-published novel. It was prose—he had a tendency to lean toward the poetic, she remembered—and it was probably a passage she had marked to death with red as his editor.


His narrator spoke of dancing, of life's tapestry and the fine line between this existence and whatever came after. It was morbid, to be sure—but Hermione caught it in a different light. She stopped listening and simply watched as Theodore occasionally glanced in Blaise Zabini's direction. He must have found something in those light hazel eyes that he couldn't find in her. Instead of being bitter, she was happy—happy he had found someone who offered him what he desperately craved: that buoyant energy of love, or of Luna's Lovers. It was that ineffable spark that, if you were lucky, managed to shake you from the paralysis of monotony.


She reached into her bag and let her fingers roam. Grazing the edge of her Blackberry, she moved on and bumped into a rough surface. Taking hold of it, she lifted the parchment out of her bag and unfolded it, rereading its contents.


Theodore's voice ceased and soon the room was filled with applause. Hermione glanced up at him as he stood, and he saw her in that instant and smiled so slightly she wasn't sure if he meant to. Luna's bracelets and rings jingled next to Hermione as the blond clapped and whistled and cheered, reacting without fear to the world around her.


Hermione gripped the parchment tightly in her hand. She would go to him, tonight, if only to spend a few hours alone and see what she had been missing. The universe, after all, seemed to be issuing her a challenge—and who was Hermione Granger to turn away from such a thing?