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Bad Birthday

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On her lunch hour, Hermione reluctantly Flooed into the Leaky Cauldron to meet with Ginny Potter on what had better turn out to be a life and death matter. She had a pile of work to do at the office and didn't have time for Ginny's usual nonsense. Ginny had a habit of butting in where she didn't belong, particularly in Hermione's love life, or lack there of to be more specific. For this and other reasons, Hermione tried to avoid ever being alone with Ginny. Harry and Ron were her buffers of choice. They were usually pretty good at reining in Ginny's enthusiasm. Ron was especially helpful as he often turned an alarming shade of red, and sometimes green, anytime Hermione's love life was brought up.

Unfortunately, Harry and Ron were both unavailable today, which she had found odd considering Ron was always available when food was involved. Hermione had tried to postpone the lunch date, but Ginny was insistent that they meet today. So, here she was. And she wasn't happy about it. With a grim, yet resolved expression on her face, she looked around for an open table. However, before she could find one, she caught a glimpse of red hair near the back of the room. She was surprised to see that it was indeed Ginny already waiting for her. Making her way through the lunchtime crowd, Hermione slipped into the seat across from her friend and said somewhat suspiciously, “You're here early. Why are you here early?”

“Well, hello to you too,” huffed Ginny, slightly put off by Hermione's rude greeting. “And I'm not that early. It's only been five minutes. And I could ask the same of you. Why are you here so early?”

“I am always early. You, however, are always fashionably late. Always.”

“I'm a married woman now, Hermione,” Ginny replied offhandedly. “I can't always be fashionable.”

“For as long as I've known you, you have never been anywhere on time.”

“Well, I'm not on time, am I? We've already established that I am five minutes early.” Ginny smirked at her.

Hermione glared. “Why did you ask to meet me here?”

“Yes, I'm fine. So is Harry. And the kids? So nice of you to ask. They're fine as well. Really, Hermione. Where are your manners these days? You're always in a bad mood lately.”

“I'm sorry, Ginny.” Hermione said with a sigh. “It's just that I usually have a working lunch. I'm very busy at the office right now, and I don't see why this was so urgent that it couldn't wait until the weekend. You know how I hate to be away from work this long.”

“Can't you stop torturing the house-elves long enough to have lunch with your best friend?”

“I am not torturing them!” exclaimed Hermione, offended at the thought. “I am trying to save them. House-elves are...”

“Oh, spare me the lecture, Hermione,” said Ginny, rolling her eyes. “I was just kidding. Well, sort of. Anyway, this couldn't wait until the weekend. Your birthday is Saturday.”

“No. No, no and no.”

“But why not?” Ginny whined. “You haven't even heard what I'm planning yet.”

“I don't want a party. I don't like parties.”

“You can't spend your birthday alone. Especially this one.”

“I have purposely not said anything about my birthday because I wanted to let it pass by uneventfully. I don't like big parties. Why shouldn't I get to spend my birthday the way I want to?”

“This isn't any ordinary birthday, Hermione. You are turning thirty. You should at least spend it with your friends. We would be hurt if you didn't.” Ginny gave her sad puppy dog eyes.

“I don't know,” said Hermione, starting to feel a little guilty. “It's awfully last minute. No one would probably be able to come anyway.”

“Your close friends who really care about you will make the time to come,” Ginny insisted.

“Well, I suppose if it's just you and Harry and Ron, it would be alright.”

“Oh, come on, Hermione. It's hardly festive with just us. You can see us any old time.”

“As long as it's just a few close friends...”

“Yes, that is exactly what I was thinking,” agreed Ginny enthusiastically. “Just a few people. Something intimate. ”

“Well, I suppose...”

“Wonderful! I've already started the invitation list!” Ginny exclaimed, shoving it in Hermione's face.

Scowling at being tricked into consenting to a party, Hermione snatched the invitation list out of Ginny's hands. She smoothed out the paper and as she looked over the list, her eyes began to narrow. “Ginny, why are all of the names on this list male?”

“Because you're turning thirty,” Ginny replied as though it were obvious.

“So?”

“So you're not married.”

Hermione didn't like where this was going. At all. “You are not using my birthday as an excuse to set me up,” she said adamantly. Ginny was always trying to play matchmaker, and it always ended badly. Always.

Ginny smiled patronizingly at her. “Think of it as my birthday present to you. You can thank me for it later.”

“Can't you just give me some slutty outfit that I'll never wear like you do every other year?” Hermione grumbled sulkily. Ginny was notorious for giving her gifts she didn't like. They were usually quite inappropriate. In fact, Ginny would have topped her list as the worst gift giver ever if it hadn't been for that time Ron had given her that Household Spells for Dummies book.

“I got you an outfit too,” Ginny replied tartly. “And you're wearing it to the party. It's quite fetching.” One could only hope it didn't involve a dog collar.

Hermione sighed and looked at the list again. It wasn't very promising. “All of the men on this list are either divorcees, confirmed bachelors or really old. I think this one is dead,” she said, pointing to a name on the list.

“Damn.” Ginny leaned over and scratched him off the list. “Well, you can't really afford to be too choosy at your age. All of the good ones are already taken. Or dead apparently.”

“I am not settling for some loser just because you think I need a man,” huffed Hermione.

“They're not all losers. What about Neville? He's nice, smart, and he has a really good job researching rare plants and their magical uses. I'm sure you two would have all kinds of boring things to talk about.”

“I don't know,” Hermione hedged. “I can't really picture myself with Neville.” Meaning, of course, that she couldn't picture herself being intimate with Neville.

“There is nothing wrong with nice boys, Hermione. Trust me, I married one. Sure bad boys are good for a fling or two, but when you're ready to settle down, you want someone nice, not some lying, cheating asshole that never comes home at night. And besides, just because they're nice doesn't mean they can't be naughty in the bedroom. Harry enjoys spanking me from time to time and...”

Hermione held up her hand. “Too much information.” She really didn't need to have that image stuck in her head. Although she couldn't blame Harry. She often thought Ginny really could use a good spanking.

“Besides,” Ginny went on, “I hear Neville's desperate too.”

“I am not desperate,” said Hermione, offended. Sure it may have been a little while since her last romantic encounter, but she wasn't some randy teenager who always needed to get some. She was a mature woman with many different pursuits that kept her intellectually stimulated, which was way more important than anything physical ever could be. She didn't need a man to make her feel whole. She barely missed the kissing or the way her stomach flip flopped in excitement over a certain look or light touch. Or the way her body quivered and tingled when eager fingers or other appendages accidentally managed to find just the right spot. Or... Oh bugger, it had been a long time.

“Of course you're not desperate,” said Ginny in that annoying placating tone that married women use on their single friends.

Hermione gritted her teeth and tried to reason with her very unreasonable friend. “I'm not married because I choose to not be married. I do not not need a man in my life to make me happy. I am an independent woman, and I am focusing on my career right now.”

“Pftt. That's what all the old maids say,” replied Ginny dismissively.

“My work is important,” Hermione insisted, glaring at her friend. “The house-elves need me.”

“It's time to face the cold hard facts, Hermione. House-elves hate you. They refer to you as the Crazy Hat Lady Who Must Not Be Named. You're in a thankless, dead end job. You have no husband, no children. You live with your frigging cat, for goodness sake. You probably haven't been laid since you let my brother get away five years ago...”

“I didn't let him get away,” interrupted Hermione indignantly. “We weren't right for each other. We would have been miserable together.”

“'Together' being the key word. Now you're miserable all by yourself. And not only that, I'm miserable too. If you would have just sucked it up and married Ron like you were supposed to, I wouldn't be stuck with Lavender. Do you have any idea what it's like to have such an annoying sister-in-law?”

“No. Thankfully, I escaped that cruel fate,” Hermione couldn't help pointing out.

Ginny glowered at her. “Just for that, I'm inviting Cormac McLaggen to your party. Harry and Ron wouldn't let me put him on the list because he irritates you so much, but he's an easy score, and you need a good fuck. You're turning into a real bitch lately.”

“I am not. Wait minute. Harry and Ron are in on this!”

“Of course. Although they were too cowardly to come here today, the big wusses. We're all worried about you, Hermione. We're afraid you're going to turn into a lonely, old cat lady. It's comfortable, practical shoes now, but pretty soon you'll be wearing your slippers everywhere just like Mrs. Figg.”

“I will not!”

“You're turning into an old spinster right before our very eyes. It's so sad, Hermione. Your vagina is probably shriveling up as we speak.”

“My... vagina... is just fine!” Hermione hissed under her breath, her face turning pink.

“Do you touch yourself?” asked Ginny, catching Hermione quite off guard. “You know... masturbate.”

“THAT is none of your business!” exclaimed Hermione, looking quickly around to see if anyone was listening.

“Because I was just reading this article in Witch Weekly...”

“Fine! You can invite him. Invite whoever you want. Just stop talking about... that.”

Ginny smirked. “Don't worry. If Cormac gets too bothersome, you can always Confund him.”

Hermione glared.

“Of course, then he might end up poking you in the wrong place. Not that you would probably mind,” said Ginny slyly.

“I let Ron do that one time! I told him I didn't enjoy it!”

Ginny started giggling.

“Oh,” said Hermione awkwardly. “Ron didn't mention that to you?”

“Contrary to what you might think, Ron and I do not share our sexual experiences with one another. We are a close family, but we're not creepy. He probably bragged about it to Harry though.”

Hermione let her head bang on the table. “Kill me now. I need a drink. Did you order us drinks yet? You know how long it takes here. And I really need a drink.”

“Already taken care of,” said Ginny, her eyes on two handsome men walking back from the bar. Purposely dropping a tube of lipstick on the floor she bent over just as the men were about to pass by their table. Coming up slowly, allowing them to get a good look down her blouse, Ginny gave them a flirtatious smile.

The one man smiled back at her and said, “Mind if we buy you two ladies a drink?”

“We don't mind at all,” Ginny said, quickly relieving the two men of their drinks.

“Mind if we join you?” asked the other man.

“Well, I suppose my husband would,” said Ginny, flashing him her ring. “My friend here is single though. She's abstaining from sex at the moment but is always looking for some stimulating conversation.”

“Oh, well, maybe some other time. I think our friends are calling us from way over there.” The two men disappeared so quickly they may as well have Apparated.

“That's too bad,” Ginny called after them. “Thanks for the drinks though.”

“Ginny, you are a horrible person,” said Hermione, taking a sip from her pilfered drink. She was breaking her rule about not drinking during working hours, but she really needed a stiff drink about now.

“Trust me,” Ginny said confidently, as though their conversation hadn't been interrupted. “You're going to be thanking me for this. You need a man. Any man at this point. And Lavender says Cormac's pretty good in the sack if you can get over him calling out his own name during sex.”

“Lavender told you he did that?”

“What can I say? She's a wealth of information.”

“Do you seriously think I would sleep with a man that would call out his own name during sex?”

“Please. You slept with my brother. I hardly think your standards are all that high,” said Ginny, rolling her eyes.

“If I was interested in having sex with an arrogant asshole that called out his own name when he orgasmed, I would have it with Draco bloody Malfoy,” Hermione said sarcastically.

Ginny's eyes lit up. “Draco Malfoy. What a good idea.”

“No,” said Hermione, starting to panic. Why did she have to open up her big mouth?

“He's perfect!”

“No, he's most definitely not perfect.”

“Why not?” Ginny demanded.

“Because he's Draco bloody Malfoy!”

“He's sexy,” said Ginny, getting excited about the idea. “Totally shaggable. I would do him if I wasn't married. Don't tell Harry that though.”

“I don't think I could say that out loud even if I wanted to,” said Hermione, making a face.

“And he's rich. Think of all the causes you could support!”

“Even I don't love house-elves that much,” said Hermione dryly, sitting back in her chair with her drink clutched in her hand.

“And best of all,” continued Ginny, completely ignoring her, “he's single!”

“He is single for a reason, Ginny. He's a prat.”

“You know,” said Ginny, her eyes twinkling with amusement, “everyone in school thought you two would end up doing it.”

“Doing what?” asked Hermione, feigning interest. Doing him in was the only thing she could think of at the moment. In fact, whenever she thought of him (which wasn't all that often!), she couldn't help fantasizing about hexing him into oblivion. Sometimes, just for fun, she would start mentally running through the list of hexes she knew trying to find the one that would inflict the most damage should she ever come across him in a dark alley. Not that she ever planned on coming across him in a dark alley, mind you. And she definitely did not fantasize about it either.

Ginny waved her hand in front of her face. “Doing... the deed,” she said dramatically. When Hermione still didn't respond, Ginny exclaimed rather exasperatedly, “Sex! Everyone thought you two would have sex!”

“What! They did not!” exclaimed Hermione in shock.

“Oh, come on,” said Ginny skeptically. “Don't tell me that you've never thought about it before.”

“No, of course I haven't!” Well, alright maybe she had, but it was something she was very much in denial about, and as far as she was concerned, that was pretty much the same thing as never having thought it at all.

“There was even a bet going around at one point,” Ginny said in amusement.

“I hope Fred and George lost their shirts,” mumbled Hermione bitterly.

“Mmm, they did. Like that visual, do you?”

“Shut up, Ginny.”

“Most people weren't very original and thought you two would shag in the Restricted Section after curfew.”

“I was a prefect!” exclaimed Hermione, outraged.

“I know,” said Ginny in agreement. “That's why I went with the Prefects' Bathroom.”

“You don't know me at all, do you?” Hermione pouted, finishing off her drink in one gulp.

“Apparently, Zacharias Smith is the only one who really does. That prick really raked it in. He bet you'd stay a virgin all through Hogwarts because you were too busy getting off on the stick you already had up your ass to bother with Malfoy or any other dick for that matter.”

“Zacharias Smith is an asshole. Please tell me he's married,” said Hermione, taking a drink off a tray of an annoyed waitress passing by.

“He is, Ginny assured her, “but even I wouldn't be that cruel. Besides, now that I think about it, you and Malfoy would make the perfect couple. Just like Romeo and Juliet in that Muggle book you gave me for Christmas.”

Hermione gave Ginny an exasperated look that said she knew Ginny hadn't read it. “You do know they die at the end, don't you?”

“They do? Shit. Why the fuck would you give me a book like that? You know how sensitive I am.”

Hermione rolled her eyes. “You're one of the most insensitive people I know. You're worse than Ron.”

“I'm sensitive about my reading material,” argued Ginny. “You know I only read romance novels.”

Romeo and Juliet is one of the most romantic plays ever written.”

“Death is not romantic, Hermione. No wonder your love life is so fucked up. Real romances end in bodice ripping and sex. You know, like what you're lacking in your life right now.”

“Well, if you don't think death is romantic then I don't know why you would want to set me up with Malfoy. We would only end up killing each other.”

“Or end up having mind blowing sex,” said Ginny, raising her eyebrows up and down suggestively. “I think the risk is worth it, don't you? Think of all the unresolved sexual tension that has built up over the years.”

“We couldn't stand each other in school. Whenever we were in hexing distance from one another, we were either cursing each other, or I was punching him in his pointy face.”

“Foreplay.” Ginny shrugged.

“He called me a Mudblood. He hoped I would die.”

“Oh, Hermione. That was years ago. Times have changed. He was just a stupid kid then. I'm sure he's matured since Hogwarts.”

“I doubt that,” Hermione muttered. “I'm sure he is just as annoying as he always was.”

“Well, I guess we'll find out, won't we? I'm inviting him to the party.”

“If he's coming, I'm not,” huffed Hermione defiantly, crossing her arms across her chest.

“Don't be such a party pooper,” said Ginny, adding him to the list and giving Hermione a smirk to rival Malfoy's. “You are coming, but whether or not it's Malfoy that makes you, is entirely up to you.”