Hermione Granger wasn’t meant to be attached to the bar at midnight on a Friday. She wasn’t supposed to be toasting strangers and knocking back shots of vodka in a Muggle club. She didn’t even taste the alcohol anymore. The burn down her throat was comforting. What number was this? The sharp clink of the glass hitting the counter rang in her ears even though the bass from whatever the DJ had chosen to play reverberated through her body. She wanted to keep her eyes shut and feel the alcohol make its slow journey to muddle up her brain. It was good. Great even, when she could no longer remember who or where she was. That was always the goal. She could feel her face tingle as she brushed her hair away from her forehead. The tall bronzed woman with dreads that was mixing drinks caught Hermione’s attention as a small sliver of flesh peeked out from her top as she stretched to pour a colourful cocktail. Georgia, the bartender, caught Hermione’s stare and gave her a small wink before turning away. She was cheeky. Hermione liked that.
She’d met Georgia six months ago when she’d drunkenly made a comment about how pretty her hazel eyes were. Hermione was too pissed to actually stand before she’d been cut off that night. She couldn’t apparate back to her flat and somehow she’d been able to tell Georgia her address before she passed out in a taxi. Not one of her finest moments. It was an absolute miracle that she hadn’t thrown up on anything. Or anyone. Georgia had been there to help Hermione change out of her clothes into something more comfortable before guiding Hermione to her bed.
‘I don’t usually get this sloshed,’ Hermione slurred as she tried to stop the room from spinning.
‘It’s none of my business, love.’
Georgia helped Hermione pull the light blue duvet back as Hermione flopped down onto the mattress.
‘Your face is all blurry,’ she giggled as she tried to focus on the random woman who’d helped her home. ‘You’re still pretty and I look like shite.’
The woman laughed. ‘You need to sleep this off.’
‘You remind me of him.’
And she’d passed out.
Somehow they’d become friends and Hermione still hadn’t told Georgia who exactly she reminded her of. Their features were vastly different – it didn’t have anything to do with their physical attributes. The confidence and the way it was so hard to read their faces like they were such an enigma. Granted, Georgia was nicer at times, but she could still be arrogant. She knew she was beautiful and smarter than the average person. Everything about that attitude had Draco written all over it which had to be part of the reason why Hermione was so drawn to her. It was like a double edged sword. To be reminded of him constantly, but to be comforted by feeling like his presence was still around her. It didn’t make sense which was why she’d taken up drinking and let her nights pass by in a blur. It was easier to have the room spin and wake up with a hangover the next day than to think of his shirts buried in one of her drawers or his favourite brand of whiskey hidden in a kitchen cabinet. She wasn’t supposed to be this girl. She was reasonable and she understood what it meant to be realistic until she’d fallen in love with Draco Malfoy. It wasn’t supposed to mean anything. It didn’t have to mean anything.
She could vividly remember the moment she’d known he had become a problem. She’d woken up one morning with his fingertips against her cheek. His grey eyes were soft as he watched her eyes flutter open and the corner of his mouth tilted in a small smile. It wasn’t a smile she’d ever been privy to. She didn’t even know he could smile like that. She could feel her heart beating in her chest, the sound pumping in her eardrums.
‘Morning,’ he said quietly as he tucked a curl behind her ear.
And she’d just stared as though she’d never seen this man in her bed before.
‘G’morning,’ she whispered, her voice cracking. ‘Have you been up for long?’
‘Does it matter?’
No, it hadn’t mattered. There wasn’t anything else she could think of saying. She’d held his gaze as he shuffled himself a bit closer and that scent of his, a slight cedar, made its way to wrap itself around her. His hand was warm against her cheek and she never understood how someone who looked so cold could emanate as much warmth as he did. It was a stupid thought to always have in the back of her mind because it wasn’t as though he was a vampire. Although, his skin almost seemed translucent enough for him to pass as one. Draco Malfoy was hard in all of the places she was soft and very obviously cared more about his appearance than she ever did. She could feel the hair at her nape starting to frizz. Why was it so hot?
‘Is there a reason you’ve turned so red?’ he murmured, his breath dancing across her face.
‘I…not particularly,’ she stammered, trying to quickly turn onto her back. He’d stopped her by moving his hand away from her face to grasp her waist.
‘Really, Granger. Since when do you shy away from answering a question?’
And she’d kissed him to make him shut up because she hadn’t wanted to go down that road of questioning. Nothing made sense when it came to him and it wasn’t a topic that she wanted to explore. It still wasn’t a topic that she wanted to explore as she downed another shot that someone had pushed her way. The lights were starting to blur, but she didn’t think this was a night where she had to worry about being sick in the bathroom. She made her way to the dancefloor because she didn’t want to talk to anyone at the bar. She knew that she seemed like the perfect target to pursue. She saw it every night. People were like magnets at the club. This was the last place she should’ve wanted to be as she caught another couple snogging in one of the VIP booths. She could feel the envy that rushed through her veins as she stared and tried to dance to the rhythm of the music pounding in her ears. Maybe they weren’t even in love, maybe it was a fling. Maybe someone was cheating. Maybe --.
Someone bumped into her. Or rather, she bumped into them because she didn’t know how to mind her own business. Why was she staring at strangers anyway? She turned and made eye contact with a fairly tall man. Then the strobe lights hit and she recognised him immediately. She assumed he was just as stunned as she was going by the way his deep set almond eyes widened. He was handsome with plush lips, dark walnut skin and high cheekbones.
She needed to leave. She tried to push her way through the wall of sweaty gyrating bodies. It felt like she was suffocating and the nice buzz that she had going suddenly disappeared. Where was the exit? Why were strobe lights so incredibly annoying? She felt a hand wrap around her wrist and suddenly she was being pulled in the opposite direction. She tried tugging her arm away to no avail as she continued being dragged across the club to what she assumed was the exit. The warm summer air hit her immediately.
‘Let go of me,’ she grunted out, finally tugging her wrist out of his grasp. She stumbled backwards before steadying herself.
‘You’re absolutely pissed,’ he muttered under his breath.
‘I’m at a club on a Friday evening, Zabini,’ she hissed, glaring at him. ‘Why the hell are you at a Muggle club? Or have you gone through the catalogue of witches at Knockturn Alley?’
‘So this is what you do now, Granger? Get pissed alone at night clubs?’
‘How do you know I’m alone? I could have friends in there. Maybe I’m with some bloke. Why does it matter to you? I’m having fun. I do what I want to do and I don’t have to answer to anyone,’ she said, turning to walk away. ‘It was really nice catching up, Zabini.’
‘Draco wants to see you.’
She stopped. She felt like she was about to sick on the sidewalk.
‘He’d made it quite clear that he never wanted to see me again.’
‘Look, Draco says a lot of things. He doesn’t always mean it.’
Hermione narrowed her eyes. ‘How do you know about us?’
‘Draco is good at keeping secrets, but he isn’t as mysterious as he thinks he is.’
‘Gods, you’re not even here per his request.’
‘I know my friend.’
‘Well, your friend is a bastard and I don’t want to see him,’ she spat. ‘And I can guarantee you that if I showed up at his flat his wards would absolutely ensure that I wouldn’t be able to get in.’
‘Not if you came with me.’
‘Are you mad?’ Hermione cried out, ignoring the attention that she was starting to attract. She could feel the bile rising in the back of her throat. ‘Just get away from me.’
She had to sit down. Blaise Zabini’s face was starting to blur and she could feel her head start to spin as she lost her balance. She felt herself land into something soft as her eyes shut and she blacked out.
Her head was pounding and her mouth tasted sour. She could barely remember last night which meant Georgia had probably gotten her another taxi. Her bed felt wrong and her blankets were not this light or soft. Why did it smell like tea? Did Georgia take her home instead? She couldn’t bear to sit up as she opened her eyes and groaned.
‘Clubs really aren’t for you, Granger.’
Her eyes caught Blaise sitting back in a suede loveseat perpendicular from the sofa she found herself lying in. This had to be a sick joke. Immediately she felt for her wand that was tucked into her side. It was still there.
‘Don’t try to get up otherwise you’ll get sick all over the fairy cotton.’
‘Why am I here?’
‘You don’t remember embarrassing yourself in Muggle London?’
She had a very vague memory of trying to get out of the club. The night had blurred and blended together after the last shot she’d had.
‘Just answer the damn question,’ she breathed, pressing her fingers against her temples. ‘Don’t you have a Pepper-Up potion?’
‘When you can assure me that you aren’t going to sick all over yourself and my property again there’s tea on the coffee table.’
Hermione sighed and shut her eyes. Out of all the people to have passed out on why did it have to be Blaise Zabini? She should’ve stayed at the bar like she usually did. The universe really hated her. She focused on her breathing for a few minutes before forcing herself to sit up on the couch properly. She stared at the white teacup before picking it up.
‘Merlin, if I was going to poison you I would’ve done it hours ago,’ Blaise scowled.
Hermione still sniffed the tea before she drank it. There was mandrake root mixed in somewhere and it didn’t smell entirely nefarious. It was like night and day once the potion hit and her head stopped throbbing. She took in her surroundings and wasn’t surprised by the luxury that Blaise surrounded himself with. There was an ornate Victorian fireplace directly across from where she was sitting. The walls were cream coloured and there were floor to ceiling windows that had curtains that matched his couches.
‘I’m sure you’ve deduced that you passed out sometime after I spotted you. Although, I’m not sure you’ll remember seeing me as you could barely stand by the time I’d gotten close enough to talk to you. For the brightest witch of our age you have poor decision making skills.’
Hermione rolled her eyes. ‘I was drunk. I like to go out.’
‘Alone, mind you.’
‘I wasn’t alone!’ she snapped, setting the teacup down and causing it to clatter on the saucer.
‘Someone would’ve come outside looking for you.’
‘I’m very independent.’
Blaise scoffed. ‘Right.’
‘I’m going to go now,’ she said, standing up and smoothing her dark floral patterned skirt down.
‘I have anti-disapparition wards up.’
Of course he did. Why did it have to be Blaise Zabini? She flopped back down into the sofa unceremoniously and sighed loudly. She thought Muggle London was fairly safe as she knew the people Malfoy associated with most likely wouldn’t be caught there. Blaise Zabini had never outright said he supported Lord Voldemort at Hogwarts, but he was a pureblood who seemingly cared about blood purity. Hermione had ignored him for the majority of the time when they went to school with one another. She never asked questions about him after they’d graduated from Hogwarts. She didn’t care. She’d seen him every now and then at a fundraiser for St. Mungo’s which meant he had a connection to the hospital in some way. She didn’t know what field he ended up in or if he even ended up working anywhere. He seemed to have done well for himself, but he’d been wealthy when they were younger anyway. Malfoy mentioned him here and there because they were friends. Again, she never asked questions. It was strange to be sat here with him staring right at her when they’d barely uttered a word to each other in years. She wondered if Malfoy had ever mentioned her. Probably not. Maybe he did though? Maybe he’d spoken about his conquest. Perhaps he’d made a joke about getting into her knickers the way blokes sometimes did. Especially because she was supposed to hate him. They were supposed to hate each other. Or Malfoy never mentioned her at all. Granted, if that had been the case she wouldn’t be here in Blaise Zabini’s sitting room.
‘What do you want, Zabini?’ she sighed for what felt like the thousandth time.
‘You’re drinking because of him,’ he stated. ‘Why is that?’
‘I don’t know how many times I’m going to have to tell you that I like to go out,’ she said, getting increasingly annoyed by the second. ‘I’m sorry. Am I not allowed to have fun? Does this ruin the idea that you’ve formed in your head about who you think I am?’
‘A person doesn’t drink as much as you have just to have fun. Have you given that a thought or are you delusional?’
‘You don’t know me,’ she remarked.
‘It was an observation.’
There was something about Slytherins that still got under her skin. It felt immature to box people into their houses, but there were so many similarities between the majority of them that it was hard not to. Blaise still hadn’t answered anything and most likely wouldn’t. The only thing he seemed to care about was calling her out on her binge drinking because he wouldn’t shut up about what he thought of her being a light weight. He was bang on about why she was drinking, but she didn’t know how or why he knew that. Why did he know about her? To the general public Malfoy should’ve been busy making eyes at Astoria Greengrass.
‘Malfoy told you about me,’ she started. ‘Why?
‘He didn’t have to tell me very much after I’d seen the way he looked at you in that dress at the Minister for Magic’s birthday a couple of months ago.’
Hermione blinked. ‘I didn’t see you there.’
‘You were distracted,’ he said, pointedly staring at her. ‘Pretending not to be aware that he was there until he’d dragged you off somewhere.’
Hermione refused to blush, but she knew that her face had to have turned a touch pink. She remembered Kingsley’s birthday and she hadn’t known he’d been invited initially until Harry had mentioned it in passing when they’d gotten to the venue. She’d been stupid not to expect him to be there when he worked to aid in potion’s antidotes at the Ministry of Magic. Malfoy was cordial with everyone inside and outside of his department. Why wouldn’t Kingsley Shacklebolt invite one of the shining stars in that department? She really was a moron. She’d been sipping her champagne when Malfoy had interrupted a conversation she was having with Alice Tolipan.
‘He’s called off the engagement, Granger.’
‘He’s…what?’ Hermione frowned. ‘His inheritance depends on that marriage.’
‘It’s been off for the past few months.’
Malfoy had already been engaged when they’d become friendly at work. He barely mentioned Astoria Greengrass, but it was very obvious to everyone who read any of the papers that they were followed regularly by the tabloids. At first there had been the formal announcement from Lucius and Narcissa Malfoy and then the snapshots of them on dates followed quickly. The ring was a beautiful Malfoy heirloom – a silver band set with an orange pink diamond in the centre with small glittery diamonds surrounding it. Every time it glittered in a picture it felt like Hermione was being taunted by what she could never have with a man who was relatively unavailable. And it wasn’t as though marriage was in her future anyway, so what did it matter?
‘Zabini, I should really go,’ she began. ‘I’m not entirely sure what this has to do with me, but the last time I’d seen Malfoy it was clear to the both of us that he never wanted to see me again.’
‘Draco ends his relationship with you and then he ends the engagement with Astoria. You really think his decision is unrelated to you?’ Blaise questioned.
‘That’s Malfoy’s problem,’ she said quietly. ‘He made his choice.’
‘Draco chose you and now you aren’t speaking to him.’
‘He didn’t choose me. He would never choose me. And from what I recall the ignoring is mutual.’
And it was. She barely saw him at the Ministry anymore and she’d made it a point to eat her lunch in her office because she refused to find herself in a situation where they could run into each other. Hermione always got to work half an hour earlier than the rest of her colleagues. Malfoy and Hermione worked in different departments which meant they were on different levels. She wasn’t the head of the department so she had no reason to talk to Malfoy. The project that he initially approached her for had been completed months ago. It was very easy to avoid seeing him, but it wasn’t as easy to avoid thinking of him when it felt like she was reminded of him everywhere she went. The café across her flat? Tainted. The pub by St. James’s Park Station? Tainted. Her flat? Tainted. Her office? Ruined. Peace and solitude didn’t exist in the recesses of her mind anymore. And it was all because she couldn’t seem to keep her emotions detached when it came to sex. That was a lie – she could have casual sex, but apparently not with Draco Malfoy. She’d slept with Charlie Weasley a couple of times whenever he was back from Romania for the holidays and she spent time at the Burrow or Shell Cottage. It had been innocent enough when they’d cuddled one time after Hermione had had an argument with Ron. Things had never really progressed with Ron after she’d made the move to kiss him in the Chamber of Secrets. It didn’t feel the way she’d expected it to and he’d agreed after they tried to date. After all the time they’d spent together he became a brother to her in the same way as Harry. Charlie had been different. He was calmer, a bit rough around the edges, but he knew how to be enticing. And that was how Charlie’s hand ended up in her shirt and the other down her pants on Christmas Eve.
Malfoy wasn’t calm. He was hard to read. He never gave away too much and kept to himself. He was charming, but he was such an arsehole. Every time he touched her all she felt was heat, it was like a flame trying to lick her from a bonfire. The worst part was that he actually listened to her whenever she would go off on a tangent during his project and then humour her with a response. He could keep up with her when she spoke of the advantages and disadvantages regarding Moonseed to effectively stop Spattergroit from spreading. He even had notes on whether Moonseed and Moondew combined together could potentially cure the symptoms of Spattergroit full stop. She never doubted his intelligence, but looking through his notes had given her an entirely different picture of who Draco Malfoy was. She assumed that Snape had had a hand in how proficient he was in potions. His notebooks were reminiscent of what Snape’s notes looked like in his copy of Advanced Potion-Making. Malfoy had her respect in that regard. It was hard to argue with someone who had concrete evidence from studies and experiments that he was in control of.
‘So that’s it then. You’ll drink yourself into a stupor every night until you vomit on the next unsuspecting stranger.’
‘At the end of the day what I do isn’t any of your business,’ she said, crossing her arms. ‘I don’t know where you get off kidnapping me and then entrapping me in your flat.’
Blaise Zabini’s face broke out into a toothy grin and then a laugh escaped his mouth. This wasn’t funny. All she wanted was to go home. Not even Luna had subjected to her to such questioning and she somehow knew things she shouldn’t have known. She knew that Hermione had been entangled with Malfoy and how ‘fond’, that was the word Luna had used, she was of him. Hermione knew Luna hadn’t dared use the word love because she cared about her friendship with Hermione, but most importantly Luna valued her life. Hermione would’ve hexed her into Hell.
‘This isn’t my ideal Saturday morning either, Granger,’ he replied composing himself. ‘If you hadn’t been drunk off your arse this could’ve been dealt with last night. I wasn’t going to leave you on the sidewalk passed out in your own vomit. Even I have boundaries.’
‘Fine, you have a point. Thank you for helping me last night,’ she replied. ‘What I won’t thank you for is keeping me here when I want to leave.’
‘All you have to do is talk to Draco.’
‘And I’ve already told you, he doesn’t want to see or talk to me.’
‘What did he say to you that has you so fucked up, Granger?’
Hermione cleared her throat. ‘That isn’t up for discussion.’
Hermione hadn’t talked to anyone about the conversation. She barely wanted to think about it. Luna had found her wiping tears away in her flat all those months ago. It felt humiliating to sit there as Luna rubbed her back. Luna didn’t ask and she didn’t pry, she was just there for Hermione. Her sparkling blue eyes had been so soft and understanding that Hermione ended up sobbing once more into her hands. She knew she had blubbered on unintelligibly for far too long when Luna had brought her over to her bed to tuck her in smoothing her hair back until Hermione had fallen asleep. Unsurprisingly, Luna had spent the night curled beside her.
‘He feels bad, you know,’ Blaise said with a levelled stare. ‘He goes to work, goes home. He won’t speak to Theo and he’s barely speaking to me. I’m assuming he hasn’t communicated with his parents.’
‘Oh, that’s rich. He feels bad. He feels bad?’ she retorted. ‘Malfoy made his choice when he told me that he was just using me as his little whore because he couldn’t fuck Astoria until their wedding night. A little pureblood stipulation her lovely parents were adamant about. I was stupid enough to think that he respected me just a tad from all the time we’d spent together. It was a bloody mistake. He was engaged and I knew better, but I still fucked him and let him infect every waking moment. And I want to hate him, but I can’t. I could never claim him because he was betrothed to another woman and I was weak enough to fall in love with him. And he knew it.’
‘Granger, you --’
‘No,’ Hermione spat. ‘I don’t know what I expected, but I didn’t expect to have feelings for Draco Malfoy of all people. It was supposed to just be sex. All those stupid stolen kisses in my office and bringing takeaways for dinner in the evening. It didn’t mean anything. And I wondered whether or not Astoria knew something was going on because he would go home late or he wouldn’t go home at all. He probably lied and said he was working on a project at work. Which, for the record, that’s how this all started. Late nights in the office talking about Moondew and Moonseed or was it Moonstone? Gods, it doesn’t even matter. None of this matters.’
She could feel her throat getting drier by the second as it tightened. Zabini wasn’t even looking at her anymore. She bit the inside of her cheek as she shut her eyes and rested her head on the back of the couch to try to calm herself down. She couldn’t cry in front of him. She needed to pull it together so that she could leave with some of her dignity intact.
‘You’re wrong,’ a voice said softly somewhere in the room.