Chapter 1: Chapter 1
Hermione Granger peeled her eyes away from the swan ice sculptures perched on either side of the ballroom entrance to meet the expectant gaze of her date, David Smith. She’d been deep in thought about the charms placed on the ice to prevent melting, wondering if Pansy had taken the idea from the stories told by the students of Beauxbatons during their fourth year.
“I’m sorry, I’m a bit distracted tonight,” she sighed, brushing a rogue curl that had fallen in her line of sight back behind her ear. She’d spent close to an hour trying to smooth and pin her signature curls into something acceptable for high society and they were already disappointingly loose. “What did you ask?”
He frowned, looking put out, and repeated himself with less enthusiasm than she’d heard in his voice the first time. “I said, tonight is even more stunning than I thought it’d be. As soon as I saw the announcement in the paper, I knew the Parkinson-Potter match would be the wedding of the year, but being here at the actual engagement party is beyond my imagination. How lucky are we?”
“So lucky,” she mumbled under her breath, shuffling her feet and wincing at the tenderness of her arches from the heels that Pansy had convinced her to wear.
“Isn’t this just the best night of your life?”
Her lips twisted to the side in distaste. “Honestly? I’ve had more fun at a funeral before.” Tilting her head back, she drained the rest of her champagne flute, the sweet drink light and fruity on her tongue. At least she could say Pansy had great taste in champagne; a bottle was probably the same price as the monthly rent for her flat.
David gasped, bringing his hand up to his chest as if personally offended. “Hermione Granger, what is wrong with you?”
“I suppose it was a Death Day party, not a funeral,” she clarified with a cock of her head, “but the sentiment still stands. Harry knows I hate these sort of parties; he hasn’t been able to drag me to a Ministry event in years. I assure you, he’s just happy that I’m here at all.”
In a bout of luck, David’s attention was immediately pulled away when the string quartet in the corner of the room played an introductory note. “Oh sweet Circe!” he exclaimed, rocking backwards onto his heels and peering over his shoulder. “Celestial is incredibly exclusive―the Parkinsons must have booked their appearance at this engagement party the day Lady Parkinson had a positive pregnancy charm!”
Hermione didn’t respond, biting the inside of her cheek to hold back a sigh.
He continued anyway. “I shouldn’t be surprised; I expected nothing less from the Pansy Parkinson. This entire event looks straight out of an edition of Bouquet!”
“Makes sense, as she owns that Bridal magazine,” Hermione grumbled under her breath, lamenting that she was already out of alcohol and still having this conversation.
A floating silver platter with several flutes of sparkling champagne drifted past the pair and she leaned over to snag another glass, only for the tray to shift just out of reach.
She gasped and repeated the motion, watching as it moved away from her hand each time, as if taunting her. “How rude! I’m wearing her dress and her heels, the least she could do is let me get drunk.”
“Pureblood social customs say no more than two drinks at an event,” David interjected with a raised finger, breaking her thoughts. “Unless there’s a formal meal in which case a dessert wine is allowed.”
Tossing him a sidelong glare, for the twelfth time in the last hour she regretted inviting him as her escort tonight. In hindsight, it was her fault for her procrastination in finding a date, but it had been years since she found a genuine connection with anyone, and she hadn’t been interested in suffering through another bad first date. David seemed an optimal choice, given the circumstances. He loved Pureblood society and knew enough about it to blend in at the engagement party, he was available and not unattractive, and best of all, he wouldn’t expect anything from Hermione at the end of the night because he was into blokes.
Being single and closer to thirty than twenty hadn’t been part of Hermione’s plan.
After her fling with Ron fizzled out shortly after the war, she dove head first into her career, moving up through the ranks at the Ministry and following the path that she knew would one day lead to the Minister’s office. It happened so subtly that she nearly missed it. Days passed one at a time, failed relationships and horrible first dates piling up until finally she looked around herself and realised that she was the only single one left in her small group of friends.
If it were up to her, she wouldn’t have to listen to David’s ramblings at all, but she reminded herself that she was doing this for Harry. According to her best friend, it was her duty as Best Woman to help him keep his bride happy, and what made Pansy happy was achieving her vision of a perfect wedding. Unfortunately for Hermione, that vision included having everyone paired up and smiling for pictures and events. She had caved the minute Harry asked this favour for his fiancée.
They’d been through a war together; the least she could do was squeeze into an uncomfortable dress with a pair of matching heels and give her best smile to the camera.
Pansy had been the catalyst to bringing together the previously warring houses from their Hogwarts years. The rivalries and grudges they’d held as children quickly melted away with her strategic interference. Hermione had watched with a morbid fascination as Pansy moved them around like chess pieces, connecting friends with common interests.
It began with Draco and Harry, pushing them to bond over Quidditch by providing them with box seats to a game for their favourite team and several bottles of fine whisky. Next, she invited the entire group out to a new restaurant on opening night, where Blaise and Ron found a common ground in their love of interesting and innovative foods. A few pulled strings later and Daphne started a job in Hermione’s department at the Ministry. Though initially skeptical of the heiress, Hermione had been pleasantly surprised at Daphne’s wit and intuition when rallying support from the older members of the Wizengamot to support their proposed bills.
Pansy had been good for Harry, bringing out a side of him that Hermione hadn’t seen since before the weight of the war landed on his shoulders.
“I’ll be right back,” David muttered, pressing his lips into a thin line.
Humming in acknowledgement, she gave him an apologetic half-smile. She had a sneaking suspicion that she’d missed yet another droning monologue on the history of the Parkinson Manor or some dull factoid about Pureblood society.
The low chatter around her faded as she focused in on the melody playing on the harp. It really was quite pleasant. She glanced around the room, taking in several familiar faces. Harry and Pansy were busy greeting guests, Blaise appeared to be charming and flirting with a woman old enough to be his mother, and Ron was with Daphne, their hands intertwined as they conversed with her father.
Hermione wished Pansy hadn’t banned her from bringing a book to read.
A flash of platinum blond caught her attention and she rolled her eyes on instinct. “What do you want, Malfoy? Here to pester me about how painfully out of place I am tonight?” Hermione huffed, tugging at the uncomfortable lace of her dress where it irritated her collarbone. “Because if so, you can move along. I’m already well aware.”
Malfoy’s brows lifted towards his fringe and he settled into the space next to her, taking a long pull from his glass. “You’ll never believe it; I was across the room, minding my own business when suddenly I saw you and thought to myself, Granger sure looks as miserable as I feel.”
“Wow,” she drawled, “you sure know how to flatter a witch.”
The corner of his lips twitched and he leaned in closer until she could smell a hint of his cologne. “I have a lifetime of experience surviving these courtship events with my sanity in check, figured I could pass along some tips in the spirit of our truce.”
“Is the tip a Portkey home?” she quipped.
“First rite of passage at a stuffy Pureblood party―you have to exchange rumours with an air of indifference, as if you’re above the gossip, whilst simultaneously throwing in false stories with enough confidence to feed the rumour mill.” He waved his free hand in the air in front of him, his nose turned slightly upward. “Speaking of, rumour has it that Rowle has a Muggle girlfriend that he’s hiding from his family; his public dates with Rose Wallis are all for show to maintain the cover.”
“A Muggle girlfriend? The scandal! He’ll be blasted off the family tree for that!” she gasped in faux shock, her eyes skating across the crowd as she selected her victim. Her gaze settled on Gregory Goyle, standing by a cocktail table with his parents near the edge of the room. She inspected her nails with a feigned indifference. “Rumour has it that Goyle wasted his entire inheritance keeping up with his addiction to Pygmy Puffs; apparently he owns a three storey home in the middle of London where a hundred of them live in a chaotic miniature society with him acting as king.”
“The orange ones, obviously, he’s not a monster.”
Malfoy tutted under his breath, shaking his head slowly. “Addiction gets the best of us. He always did have an inferiority complex that manifested in self-destructive ways.” He picked at a non-existent strand of hair on his sleeve. “Did you hear about Thomas Greengrass? Rumour has it, he had an affair with a mermaid who lived in their family lake on the estate.”
Fighting back a laugh, she turned to Malfoy with the first genuine smile she’d had all night. “If you’re going to fabricate rumours, at least go for something more realistic. The logistics of wizard to mermaid intercourse would be near impossible—” She paused for a moment, contemplating her words further. “Actually, now that I think about it, if Thomas doesn’t mind the teeth, she could always use her mouth. I suppose that's ideal anyway, considering Purebloods fear spawning illegitimate children and sullying the line.”
Malfoy inhaled part of his drink and began to cough, his eyes watering as he tried to catch his breath with a series of wheezes. “Granger, are you seriously discussing the mechanics of intercourse with a mermaid in the middle of Potter and Pansy’s engagement party?”
“Rumour has it,” she emphasised with a cheeky grin, “David is not really boring David who audits paperwork at the Ministry and obsesses over Pureblood society in his free time, but is in fact an international spy named Daniel. Being boring is his cover.”
“Is it now?”
“It is. Daniel is extremely dedicated to his craft.”
“Tell me, does Daniel the international spy kill people?”
She tapped her index finger against her chin thoughtfully. “Great question―only on Tuesdays.”
“Then we should all be grateful that today is Saturday.” If Hermione didn’t know any better, she might have thought he was teasing her. “Dare I even ask why Tuesdays?”
“Because rubbish pickup is Wednesday, of course.”
He lifted his glass of whisky up to her. “Well, international spywork would certainly explain his current absence, but unless Alexandra is also a spy, I’d say they’ve been gone a suspiciously long time together.”
His jaw worked as he gritted out, “My date. They left for the loo at the same time and it's been over twenty minutes since. I have a difficult time believing there would ever be a queue at anything hosted by Pansy.”
“Oh, you don’t have to worry about David pursuing a woman, he’s—” she frowned, her brow creasing as she noticed a look of amusement cross Malfoy’s face “—isn’t he?”
His eyes flicked over to meet hers, the silver piercing through her. “You’re honestly asking me if your date, Daniel the international spy who murders only on Tuesdays, prefers Quaffles or Beater Bats?”
“What? No, that would be ridiculous. I just thought...” She felt her cheeks heat with embarrassment and her voice lowered. “Well, I suppose that’s what I get for assuming.”
“It’s a common enough question; not always a definitive answer, either. You see, Granger, some people play different positions depending on the day and the available players.”
The blush spread down her neck and she huffed. “I really need another drink.”
“If only we were surrounded by a magical catering service designed to tend to your every whim,” Malfoy mused, drumming his fingertips against the drink in his hand. The motion caused the ice cube inside to clink against the glass. “I know you spent years trying to free the house elves but do you also have a campaign against charmed serving dishes?”
She crossed her arms across her chest and huffed. “No, it’s more that they have a campaign against me. I’ve already exceeded my two-drink limit and the trays are conspiring to keep me sober and dreadfully bored.”
“They aren’t sentient platters.” He snapped his fingers and a nearby tray drifted over to them. Malfoy lifted a flute from it and handed it to Hermione.
“Oh. Thanks, Malfoy.” Hermione stared at the flute in her hands. “How did you—” At that moment, she realised Malfoy was drinking whisky when everyone around them had champagne. “Where did you get the whisky from?”
“Brought it myself.”
She almost dropped the glass in her hand as she whipped around to look up at him. “You’re telling me you brought your own alcohol tonight? Pansy would Avada you if she knew.”
“Then she’d be down a Man of Honour and it would ruin her entire wedding aesthetic. Bringing a flask for myself was the only way to circumvent the two drink rule, and to get through the date that I have waiting for me, I need more than two measly glasses of champagne.”
It took an entire second of deliberation before Hermione decided to set aside her principles and ask, “Would you be willing to share?”
“Share?” He said the word as if it tasted rancid on his tongue.
“Your… hair looks soft and I like the style.”
Malfoy blinked. “Did someone Imperius you when I wasn’t looking? Or perhaps spike your drink with Veritaserum?”
“And your suit… fits you well,” she added, her hand reaching out to smooth the front of his dress robes and resting on his chest for a fraction of a second. She felt him tense under her touch before she pulled her hand away. “The lapels bring out the silver in your eyes.”
“What are you going on about?” His jaw tightened and she could see a small vein protrude at his temple.
With a grimace, she pressed the glass to her lips and tipped her head back, draining the flute in one gulp.
His eyes widened and she placed the empty glass on the table behind them. “Don’t give me that look, I’m not even remotely tipsy. I’ve already been here for hours.”
“Pansy lied about the time on my invitation,” she grumbled, reaching up to secure a loose hair pin. “She thought I’d be late otherwise.”
“And?” he prompted, the corner of his lip curving upward.
“And, I was only half an hour late for the fake start time and half an hour early for the real start time.” She took the glass from his hand and sipped at the whisky, feeling the amber liquid warm her chest on the way down before handing it back to him.
Malfoy stared at the glass in his hand and gave her a look of incredulity. “You do realise this is three hundred year old whisky, right? The payment for which you’ve given me is two compliments?”
“They are the highest form of currency; do you disagree?”
His eyes narrowed as he inspected her for a brief moment, lips parting as if he were going to retort.
Out of her periphery, she noticed David scanning the room, presumably looking for her. “Guess that’s my cue. Thanks for the drink, Malfoy.”
He muttered something she couldn’t quite hear as she turned to rejoin her date, much to her dismay. As odd as it was to admit, the conversation with Malfoy had been the least boring part of her night.
Draco watched as Granger walked away from him, the subtle swing of her hips drawing his eyesight down. She’d grown into herself over the years; no longer the bushy-haired know-it-all he went to school with, but instead someone who was maybe considered attractive. She was still Granger though, and for that reason alone, he tore his eyes away from her retreating form and scanned the room for his date.
He’d brought Alexandra Orpington, mostly because Pansy had threatened to have him by the bollocks if he came alone, and also because his own mother had been pressuring him to find a proper wife and settle down. Alexandra was conventionally beautiful, with symmetrical features and hair that never had a piece out of place. It was too bad that spending any amount of time with her was like conversing with drying paint.
Was it too much to ask that a witch be both attractive and witty?
“Draco,” she greeted, placing her hand on his arm, “I’m so sorry that took so long. I do hope you were alright without me.”
“No problem at all.” He looked around the room, catching sight of Looney Lovegood dancing off-beat to the music. Her date, Rolf Scamander, appeared to be keeping up to her wild movements, and Draco wondered what on earth it was like to be with someone so well matched.
Glancing down at Alexandra, he smirked to himself. “Rumour has it Lovegood and her husband got married naked in the Forest of Dean under a new moon.”
“A new moon. They got married naked in the woods. Surrounded by little woodland creatures that placed a flower crown on her head. It was—” His words lodged in his throat when he realised that Alexandra had no idea what he was talking about.
Granger would have understood. She would have said something clever and then found a new couple to start a heinous rumour about.
It would have been fun, something this party was severely lacking.
“Would you like to dance?” Alexandra asked him politely, as if he hadn’t spoken a word since she returned.
Biting back a sarcastic remark about how he would actually like to get piss drunk and black out until the entire blasted party was over, he set his glass down and pulled her onto the dance floor. He held her small frame in his hands, leading her around the room with perfected movements that took years of training to match.
“Thank you for bringing me as your date, Draco.”
He hummed a positive response, keeping his eyes trained on the room beyond her head, wondering how much longer he’d need to tolerate the party before he could make his escape. Pansy would tear him a new one over it, but at least he’d be free of Alexandra’s lack of personality.
“I still can’t believe that Harry Potter and Pansy Parkinson are getting married,” she added, her voice full of awe. “When they started dating, did you ever imagine that we’d be at their engagement party?”
No, Draco thought, and certainly not with you.
“I’d always imagined her running off with a Parisian fashion designer and living in an illustrious flat that overlooked the Seine. Not living in my dead relative’s hidden mansion in the middle of London.”
“What’s the Seine?”
“It’s the—” He glanced down at his date, who was staring up at him with wide eyes, riddled with confusion. “Have you never left Great Britain?”
Alexandra scoffed. “I went to Hogwarts, Draco. Obviously I’ve left Great Britain.”
How was it possible that someone so dull was also so dumb? Who didn’t know what the Seine was?
“Are you close with Harry Potter now that he’s marrying your best friend? I heard about what you were both like in school, so I can’t imagine that it would have been easy to suddenly trust him with someone you care so deeply about.”
Draco spun Alexandra around, dipping her low and scowling to himself. Memories of Pansy leading Potter from the pub one night surfaced in his mind. The two groups hadn’t mixed much after the war, but they had all found themselves at the Leaky one night. Wealsey had nearly knocked Pansy arse-over-tits on his way back from the bar, and Potter had been there to rescue her like the true hero he thought he was.
Unfortunately, his saviour complex led to one date, then another, then a weekend away. Suddenly Draco found himself sharing a box with Potter and not hating it. He tolerated Weasley’s antics, mostly because it kept Blaise in line, and he treated Daphne right.
The best part of Pansy’s engagement was by far the fact that Granger was suddenly in his life again.
Except of course he couldn’t say this to Alexandra, who appeared to have less substance than a baby mandrake. At least with a mandrake he could wear earmuffs and ignore it.
The music shifted and Draco dropped his hold on his date, leading them off the floor so he could resume his drinking. He pulled out the flask from his jacket and took a hearty swig, thankful that Alexandra hadn’t asked for some. She seemed content with her two glasses of champagne and whatever shitty hors d'oevres floated by.
“There you are,” Blaise said, approaching the pair of them. His eyes ghosted over Alexandra in her acromantula silk gown. “Miss Orpington, lovely to see you again. Are you enjoying your evening?”
“Oh, yes, I am. I’m so lucky that Lady Malfoy introduced me to Draco and that I get to—”
“That’s great, lovely,” he interrupted. Shifting his attention back to Draco he rolled his eyes. “Where’s your drink?”
With a huff, Draco handed over the silver container, averting his eyes and looking for Pansy. Blaise tipped the amber liquid into his glass and handed the flask back.
“Alexandra, I overheard Pansy commenting on your dress and asking where you found such a lovely material. I believe she wanted to feature you in the article about the engagement party.” Blaise waved his hand behind him, signalling that Pansy was somewhere in that direction. “You should go find her before the photographer leaves.”
With a squeal of delight, Alexandra took off to find the bride.
“Did Pansy really say that?” Draco asked, pouring some whisky into an empty glass he found on a nearby table.
“No, but I couldn’t stomach watching her stare at you any longer. Are you even aware of how in love with you she is?”
“She’s in love with my last name. I’m sure Father could walk in the room and she’d fawn all over him, too. Well, until Mother saw.”
“It seems you and Granger have that in common then,” Blaise added. “I just spent the last ten minutes with her date while he taught me all about pureblood culture.”
Draco lifted an eyebrow. “But you’re—”
“I know that, and you know that, and half of bloody England knows that. Somehow Granger managed to snag herself a bloke that knows everything about pureblood customs except which families are actually purebloods.” He tossed back the remainder of his drink and let out an exasperated huff. “She’s pretty, but she has a horrible choice of dates.”
“Riveting, Blaise, truly.” Draco tried to ignore the jealous pull in his gut when Blaise called Granger pretty. It wasn’t that he was wrong, it was more the fact that Granger deserved better than someone like Blaise. She deserved—
Both men turned at the sound of an irate Pansy. She approached them with her arms crossed over her chest, her nostrils flared. Potter followed close behind, muttering something that appeared to be an attempt at calming her down.
Pity the fool hadn’t realised that it was useless trying to calm her down when she was on a warpath.
“Hello Pansy,” Draco greeted smoothly. “Lovely party you’ve thrown. The alcohol is particularly enjoyable. Is it from your family’s vineyard?”
“Did you really just send your date over to have her photo taken for the article in my magazine about my wedding?”
“Technically that was Blaise.”
Pansy let out an exaggerated sigh. “Merlin, Draco, you’re worse than Granger.”
“He’s worse than me about what?”
Granger joined their small group, her fingers holding the stem of a nearly empty champagne flute. She glanced up at Draco and dipped her chin, brown eyes wandering to the amber liquid in his glass expectantly.
“You two―” Pansy gestured between Draco and Granger, “―can’t pick a date to save yourself.”
“I absolutely can!”
“Save it, Granger. Don’t act like you even tried to follow my instructions. You couldn’t be less interested in your date. He’d better not be coming to the rest of the events.”
Draco snickered, glad the attention had been diverted from him.
“I’ll have you know that I’m having a wonderful time with Daniel—”
“David,” he corrected quietly.
“—with David.” Granger continued as if nothing had happened, and it seemed that none of their friends were the wiser about her nearly blowing her date’s cover. “In fact, I see him dancing with Malfoy’s date right now, and they both look extremely pleased to be here.”
Blaise choked on his drink, sputtering to catch his breath. “That’s because they’re shagging when you aren’t looking.”
“I knew it,” Pansy muttered. She narrowed her eyes at Draco and Granger. “I want you both to have dates for all the events. And perhaps ones that don’t prefer each other’s company.”
Potter’s hand fell to her back and he leaned in, dropping a kiss to her temple. “Come dance with me.”
A faint blush crept over Pansy’s face and she nodded, allowing her fiancé to lead her away.
“I see a pretty bridesmaid that looks like she could use a distraction,” Blaise said, downing the rest of his drink.
Granger placed her hand on his arm and spoke slowly. “Blaise, that’s Daphne, and Ron is her date. You remember Ron, right? Daphne’s long-term boyfriend and your friend?”
He looked at her with wide eyes and gasped dramatically, his hand flying to his chest. “They’re dating? And here I was thinking that I could run off with Ronald Weasley and live happily ever after in our matching knit sweaters. Pity you had to break my heart like this, Granger.”
“Someone had to do it.”
Finally alone with Granger, Draco emptied his flask into her glass. He winced as the last drop fell, knowing that Pansy would never let him have more champagne and it was too early for him to justify leaving alone. Merlin knew he wasn’t taking Alexandra with him.
If he could even find her.
“I don’t know where Pansy gets off telling us to bring dates,” Granger mumbled, tugging on the hem of her dress. “It’s not like being single is some disease. Does she think that it’s contagious and if we’re alone we’ll convince everyone else to be single too?”
“Blaise is single and I’ve spent an awful lot of time with him as of late. Perhaps you’re on to something.”
She scoffed and looked up at him, her eyes searching his face. “Blaise is single because it’s far better for everyone if he doesn’t bring a date. You do remember what happened when he brought someone to Harry’s birthday last year, don’t you? They were caught in the library with a long—”
“Stop, please. I beg of you, do not remind me of that night.” A shudder rocked through Draco’s body at the memory. Finishing the remainder of his drink, he looked down at her, taking in her tight dress and long legs and the way her fallen curls framed her face. Daniel—David—didn’t deserve her company.
“Gods, I wish I could just rent a date for the evening,” Granger said, almost to herself. “They’d do exactly what I’d like them to, so there’d be no awkward conversations or fears of them running off to snog someone else while I got drunk. In fact, they’d sneak in alcohol for me.”
Draco turned to face her, his eyebrow lifted. He stuffed a hand in his pocket and smirked at her. “You do realise you just described prostitution, right?”
“Wha—I didn’t—I mean—”
“It’s fine,” he laughed. “I wouldn’t mind doing the same thing. Honestly, I should have just asked you to come with me and saved us both the trouble.”
“You’re a genius! Oh my gods, I don’t know why I didn’t think of that sooner.” Granger squeezed his arm, her face lit up with excitement. “We have all of these events over the next year and we’re both already going to be there. Why not make it official and be each other’s date?”
“Do you think Pansy would really let us do that? Show up as just friends to all these events?”
Granger thought for a moment, her lips twisting to the side. “What if we weren’t just friends?”
“You...you want to be more than friends?” Draco asked, his voice uneasy. Never in all the years since he’d known her did he think that she would ever want to date him.
“I mean, just for the events,” she said quickly. “You’re free to do what—and who—you’d like outside of them. That’s not my business. But perhaps, for the next year, we could pretend we’re dating. No one would need to know it’s all a ruse.”
Ah, there it was. Granger didn’t want to be with him. She just wanted to keep Pansy off their case for the next twelve months.
Shifting his weight from one foot to the other, he thought over the pros and cons of her suggestion. While he’d love nothing more than to have the beautiful witch on his arm for every dreadful event over the next year, he wasn’t sure if he would be able to keep his cool through them all. Not to mention, if he was going to bring her as his date, he didn’t love the idea of it being linked to some form of Granger-created prostitution.
He would regret this. He knew he would. But still, one look at her face, so full of hope and optimism, like he was the goddamn saviour of the wizarding world, and he just couldn’t help it.
“Alright, let’s do this.”
Chapter 2: Chapter 2
Draco’s fingertips grazed longingly across the rich fabrics—silks, cashmeres, and wools from all over the world. He could pinpoint the exact material just by touch, having been raised to know which fabric was best suited for which occasion. For Pansy’s wedding, he should have been wearing silk, preferably an expensive kind too.
But for some reason Potter insisted on forcing them all into cotton neckwear.
“You do want to get married, don’t you?” Draco asked. “Because if she finds out you’re wearing a cotton tie, she’ll end your marriage before it even begins.”
Potter shoved his hands in his pockets and winced. “What do you suggest then?”
“The Mulberry silk, absolutely.” He pointed to the sample material in front of the other wizard.
Flipping over the price tag, Potter gaped, his fingers shaking slightly. “Have you seen how much this costs? Why is it so expensive? It looks exactly like that satin one I showed you earlier.”
“Okay first, your marriage is doomed if you think satin and Mulberry silk look anything alike. And second, I guarantee you Pansy will want her—” He stopped, trying to remember the made-up title she had given him when she asked him to stand next to her at the wedding.
“Maid of honour?” Weasley supplied with a stupid grin.
Ignoring him altogether and walking away, Draco located a piece of parchment and a self-inking quill. He jotted down a note and handed it to Madam Malkin’s assistant, who was watching while they found robes for the wedding. Thankfully Madam Malkin herself was helping to navigate this potential trainwreck.
“Please deliver this to La Couturière in Paris, as quickly as possible. And I’m expecting a response,” he ordered.
The assistant scurried away with the note, heading towards the fireplace in the back. She was gone for only a few minutes before she returned with a folded card. Snatching it from the silver tray she brought it back on, Draco read the note, a smile tugging at his lips.
Pansy had some choice words about linen ties and has demanded that you all wear silk. Not satin. She said she would know the difference. I believe she also asked that you wear a dress.
- Hermione J Granger
Draco scoffed and took out another piece of parchment.
I know you just want to stare at my arse in a tight dress, but I have to tell you that it’s not nearly as attractive on me as you’d think. And don’t ask how I know this. Thank you for clearing up the tie debacle. Potter’s knowledge of fabrics is almost as pitiful as Pansy’s taste in men.
He passed the note over to Madam Malkin’s assistant who sighed heavily but took it nonetheless.
“What are you doing?” Potter asked, nodding towards Granger’s note. “Who did you just write to?”
“As expected, Pansy wants us all in silk. Mulberry silk, specifically.”
Of course Granger hadn’t specified which type of silk they were to wear, but Draco thought everyone would benefit from having the best kind. Besides, he was sure this would give Potter a few bonus points in his marriage.
“Fine,” Potter sighed. He turned around to face Weasley. “Can you go try that first set of robes on again, except with the fancy tie?”
Weasley opened his mouth to protest but one glance from Draco and he stopped. “Pansy asked for this?”
“Of course it was Pansy, who else would I ask? Granger?”
“She is the—Harry, what’s Hermione’s title?”
Potter scratched the back of his neck. “My best man? Best woman? Wouldn’t that be Pansy though?”
“You two had to go and mix things up by having people of the opposite gender stand up for you? Really?” Draco groaned. Weasley was still standing there, showing no signs of moving to the fitting room. “Just go try the damn robes on already.”
He made his way over to one of the sofas outside the fitting rooms, thankful that Potter was making Weasley try everything on. If it looked good on him, it would look good on anyone.
The assistant handed another note to Draco before Weasley finished changing with the same familiar script on the front. He opened the card and bit back a grin.
I will absolutely be finding out about this story, if not from you, then I’m sure Blaise would be more than happy to tell me. Perhaps I’ll ask him tomorrow. Are you aware that Pansy is throwing yet another wedding event we need to attend?
Were you serious about wanting to be dates for all of this?
- Hermione J Granger
Neither Potter nor Pansy had mentioned anything to Draco, though he wasn’t surprised that there would be another event. He knew from all the weddings he’d been to in the past just how many parties and gatherings there were leading up to the big day.
Pansy’s parties would be twice as extravagant, twice as stuffy, and twice as likely to make him an alcoholic. But the thought of having Granger on his arm for each of them?
He couldn’t pass that up.
Was I serious? Do you need a letter of intent sent to your parents first? Or is there another Muggle custom I should be aware of first?
Weasley emerged from the fitting room in a black set of robes that had taken inspiration from Muggle formal wear. As much as it pained him to admit, Draco thought it was a nice way to blend Pansy and Potter’s background.
The bright pink bowtie was a bit of a bold choice, especially with how it clashed against Weasley’s red hair.
“Is this really the colour you’re having for your wedding?” Draco drawled, glancing over to Potter incredulously.
“No, Pansy is still deciding on that. But we know that the colour can be charmed later to match whatever she chooses.”
Potter looked entirely out of his element as he flipped through a book of different designs for his own suit. Apparently Pansy had told him she wanted her groom in something ‘similar but different’, which Draco understood completely, but was clearly too much for Potter to handle.
“Mr Malfoy,” said the assistant. She offered forward a silver platter with another note on it. “This just arrived for you.”
Taking the card from the tray, Draco opened it, reading the message quickly.
I’d much prefer a pureblood offering of intent. Your customs are so much better than Muggles. Is it a rare pearl collected from the depths of the Black Sea or perhaps a necklace created in a small Tibetan village? Are those too serious for a match made in heaven such as ours?
- Hermione J Granger
PS: Pansy says to tell you that our dresses are a lovely smaragdine and the ties should match.
Did you just sneeze? What the fuck is smaragdine?
I would never gift you a pearl from the Black Sea and I’m insulted you would even think that. You’re not my mother. Instead, I’ll be sending your parents the scale of an Antipodean Opaleye dragon that was polished using moss from the Haute-Loire forest and wrapped in the finest of unicorn hair. It’s the only way to show you how serious I am about this.
“Who do you keep sending letters to?” Potter asked, eyeing the small stack of cards in Draco’s lap. “Is that Pansy? I told her she didn’t need to check up on us.”
“It’s a Peruvian princess I’m courting. We’re going to be married in Italy next week.”
For a moment, Potter looked as if he believed him. “It’s Pansy, isn’t it?”
“Alright, but if it was, would you tell me?”
“Absolutely not.” Draco smirked and pushed himself to standing. He looked over Weasley standing on the pedestal while Madam Malkin measured and pinned the robes. “I don’t hate this.”
Weasley grumbled something unintelligible and tried to flip him off, but the pins on the robes held him in place, much to Draco’s delight.
The shop assistant returned again, her cheeks flushed. Clearly all the back and forth delivering Draco’s notes was getting to her. “You got another one.”
He opened the card and a slip of emerald green fabric fell into his hand.
I’ve included a swatch of our dress so Harry can match it. That is smaragdine. Please refrain from sending my parents magical dragon scales. My father will think you’re trying to marry my mother and will surely challenge you to a duel. I promise you, it won’t end well.
I do like flowers though.
- Hermione J Granger
Running the piece of silk between his fingers, Draco closed his eyes and imagined Granger wearing a gown of this. He’d always wanted to see her in Slytherin green, and it seemed as if his best friend was delivering him his fantasy without having to ask.
She would be radiant, glowing, a goddamn masterpiece.
Pulling out his wand, he conjured a single orange chrysanthemum.
This is the best I can do without Potter thinking I really am marrying a Peruvian princess next week, but I hope the sentiment remains.
As the note and flower were taken to the fireplace by an irate assistant whose name Draco thought he should learn, what with the way she’d been running back and forth, he wondered if Granger would smile at the flower, if a soft pink blush would form on her cheeks. Would her fingers dance across each petal as she thought of him?
Gods, he hoped she did.
The moment Hermione stepped through the fireplace and into the receiving room at Parkinson Manor, she began to have doubts about continuing her arrangement with Malfoy. Though she’d originally found the prospect of exploiting a loophole in Pansy’s obscene demands wholly satisfying, she didn’t want to face the wrath of an enraged bride.
Especially when that bride was Pansy Parkinson.
Even a few years ago, Hermione never would’ve believed that she would be cordial with Pansy, let alone friends. They had hardly interacted at all before Harry brought her, and the rest of the Slytherins, back into their lives. Hermione had been wary of the relationship at first and distrusting of Pansy’s intentions, but over time it comforted her to see all the ways that Pansy and Harry complemented the other, each bringing out the best in their partner.
The turning point for Hermione happened about six weeks into the budding relationship.
Harry had been injured at work by a black market dealer who resisted arrest. As she’d done every time he needed her, Hermione had rushed over to his flat with her extendable bag which was filled with ointments and creams that she’d taken to carrying around since the war. As soon as she stepped out of the fireplace, she’d heard Pansy’s low murmuring voice coming from the room down the hall. A peep around the corner later and she could see Pansy at Harry's bedside, his bandages already replaced and his hand in hers. She didn’t leave his side for days until he was fully healed.
Though Pansy and Hermione had many differences, one thing they shared was their love for Harry.
Hermione followed the now familiar path through the manor towards the smaller of the two dining rooms where dinner would be held, inspecting each portrait and painting that lined the wall along her way. One benefit to making friends with ancient Pureblood families was that she had access to their art and libraries, and she never tired of either.
Picking at her nails—a nervous habit she’d never been able to break herself of despite her best efforts—she paused right in front of a particularly stunning piece of art depicting the night sky. The painting had been created with the same type of magic used to bring portraits to life, and the stars twinkled like they did on a clear night.
“See, this is exactly why I give you an earlier arrival time than everyone else. I don’t understand how Harry hasn’t figured this out yet after sixteen years.” Pansy let out a heavy exhale, seeming to have materialised out of thin air behind her. With steps as quiet and practiced as Pansy’s, she could’ve snuck up on Mad-Eye Moody.
“Harry sees the best in people,” Hermione answered, not breaking her gaze from the painting. “Always has.”
There was a softness to Pansy’s voice that only came out for her fiancé. “Honestly, I’m amazed he’s lived this long. Who in their right mind holds a celebration with a bunch of former school rivals in a discreet location where murder can so easily be covered up?”
“He survived Voldemort a half dozen times, I don’t think he was afraid of you lot and a lake. Plus, I have a sneaking suspicion he just wanted to see you in a swimming costume.”
Pansy let out a laugh, shifting closer to inspect the painting with her.
Hermione’s eyes caught on the dragon constellation in the upper right hand corner near the gold frame. “If you’ll recall, it worked rather well; I still had fun, even though you told everyone I was a Grindylow.”
Pansy looked like she was fighting back a smile. “I don’t know what to tell you, Granger. If you didn’t want to be compared to a water demon then you shouldn’t have acted like a water demon.”
“It was a ridiculous claim; I don’t even have green eyes.”
“That is the attribute you’d like to dispute? Not the horns or the tentacles?”
Before she could reply, Malfoy appeared in the doorway to the dining room just down the hall from them. She turned to face him and couldn’t stop the smile that bloomed across her cheeks at the sight.
“Ah, Granger, I thought I heard your lovely voice.” The corner of her lips ticked upward as he approached them with confident strides. “You’re late for dinner; I thought Pansy had scared you off with dress shopping yesterday.”
“Harry simply told me the truth about the time the meal was served,” Hermione informed him with a grin and a shrug. “In my defence, I’m hardly late.”
“I didn’t realise there were degrees of lateness. What’s hardly late?” Malfoy asked with a hint of mirth in his voice, his gaze fixed on Hermione.
She cocked her head to the side, as if contemplating. “Somewhere between only just and really, not to be mistaken for barely, which is more moderate than scarcely.”
Pansy looked altogether unamused as she levelled them with a stare. “What I’d like to know is why our Best Woman and Man of Honour are here without dates, when they were specifically instructed to bring them.”
“My date is already here,” Hermione informed her with a bat of her lashes, relishing in the confusion that flashed across Pansy’s face.
“Is he hiding in the loo shagging Draco’s date already?” Her lips twisted to the side in distaste.
“No. He’s right here in this very hall.”
With a huff, Pansy placed her hands on her hips. “I know my great uncle Alfred makes for a handsome portrait but you really shouldn’t be swayed by his flattery. You can’t date a painting—Merlin knows Millicient tried with Barnabas the Barmy in sixth year. It never works.”
Malfoy slid into place beside Hermione, his hand settling on the small of her back with a featherlight touch. She stilled under his hand, feeling the heat radiate through the back of her dress. In all the years she’d known him, he’d never touched her so intimately before.
The weight of the gesture was not lost on Pansy, whose eyes flicked down to his hold and widened just a fraction.
“Is this one of those horrid Weasley pranks?” Pansy finally said, breaking the silence after several moments.
“I can assure you it’s not,” Hermione replied, subconsciously leaning into his touch to steady herself.
“Well, that’s a relief, otherwise I would have the misfortune of informing you that it’s not a very good one.”
Hermione tilted her chin upward and bit the inside of her cheek to hold in a snarky retort. “In fact, Malfoy is my date for the evening and for all future wedding activities.”
“I know I’ve been a little tense with the wedding but I don’t deserve this,” Pansy sniffed. “You’re just doing this to punish me.”
“We did exactly as you asked, Pans,” Malfoy added, and Hermione could hear the smirk in his tone without even having to look up at him. “You can’t tell me you’re displeased that I didn’t bring Alexandra back for another night of captivating conversation and what I can only assume was a rather bland seduction of Granger’s date.”
The toe of Pansy’s shoe clicked against the floor as she tapped her foot, as if contemplating whether or not to object. She pressed her lips into a thin line. “For the record, you can both do better.”
“You’ve missed the hors d’oeuvres but lucky for you there are still seven more courses to go,” he informed Hermione, extending his arm. “Shall I escort you to the table?”
“I’d be delighted, Malfoy.”
“Sherlock, please clear two places,” Pansy instructed her house elf, who was poised at the entrance of the room, before taking her place at the head of the table opposite Harry. “There has been a change of plans in our seating arrangement; two members of our wedding party have decided to circumvent my instructions and take each other as a date to spite me.”
“What are you talking about?” Harry’s brows knitted together and he followed Pansy’s gaze over to Hermione and Malfoy, who had entered the room just after her. “You don’t even like each other.”
If anything, Harry and Pansy’s immediate dismissal that they’d even consider a date with the other made Hermione want to double down on their plan. It was insulting that they’d find the mere idea of Malfoy and Hermione dating nonsensical. Sure, they had their childhood rivalry in school but―as Blaise loved to bring up while pissed drunk―at one point Pansy had tried to convince the entire student body to hand over her now-fiancé to Voldemort.
In short, people could change.
From Malfoy’s clenched jaw and heated glare directed at Harry, she could tell that he was thinking the same.
Ignoring Harry’s comment, Hermione paused just in front of her spot and Malfoy stepped forward to pull out her chair for her, as if it were second nature and they’d done this a dozen times before. She took the seat with a gracious smile. “Thank you, Malfoy. See, Harry? He’s a perfect gentleman.”
The sound that left Harry was something between a bark of laughter and an incredulous exhale. “I don’t believe you’ll last an hour without a duel breaking out, let alone eight more months of wedding-related events.”
Malfoy settled into the seat next to her just as she smoothed out her skirt and straightened her posture. “For the record, Malfoy and I are friends.”
“Which is why you referred to him as ‘Malfoy’. Nothing says ‘friends’ like still using his surname,” Ron added from several chairs away, ducking behind Blaise to avoid the scowl that Hermione shot him.
Malfoy dropped his serviette into his lap and scoffed in that refined way that made it sound almost posh. “I’m in Potter’s wedding and his name is still Potter.”
“You’re not in Harry’s wedding, you’re in Pansy’s wedding,” Ron corrected, grinning when Daphne hushed him. “Hermione’s still calling you ‘Malfoy’ for a reason, mate.”
A rush of frustration chased through her veins and suddenly she blurted out, “I just don’t want to embarrass him, Ronald. He doesn’t like it when I use my nickname for him in public.”
All at once, the dishes around the table filled with food prepared by the Parkinson house elves, the magic reminiscent of the feasts in the Great Hall. Hermione glided her spoon through the bowl of clear broth and brought it up to her lips, sipping at it carefully.
“I, for one, am curious to hear these nicknames,” Blaise prompted, a smile toying at his lips. “Do tell me more, Granger. You two are friends, you have nicknames, there are so many secrets. Do you call our dear Draco your dragon?”
“My dragon?” She sputtered out an undignified laugh at the idea of calling him that as a term of endearment in any reality and clutched her hand to her chest. “No, Malfoy would never allow for such a cliché. He’s just my little puffskein.”
Blaise’s forehead crinkled and she watched him look to Malfoy for confirmation. “Your… puffskein? Now I know you’re shitting me; Draco doesn’t even like puffskeins.”
“A poffle,” Hermione corrected. “The plural of puffskeins is called a poffle. Tell him, Malfoy.”
Sounding almost strained, Malfoy gave a half hearted shrug to his mate. “She’s telling the truth.”
“So, you’re her puffskein?” Harry reiterated in a tone of disbelief.
“I had a daring escape from Goyle’s London home not six months ago,” Malfoy muttered under his breath, quiet enough that only Hermione could hear him. “You wouldn’t believe the horrors I’ve seen.”
Taken aback, Hermione snorted, bringing her hand up to cover her mouth as she stifled a second bout of laughter. She caught Malfoy fighting a grin.
“I’m beyond curious now,” Daphne leaned forward to get a better view of Malfoy. “Then what do you call Hermione?”
“She’s my…” He hesitated, and his face took on that look he used to have when he was deciphering a problem in Arithmancy. “My fwooper.”
Hermione swung around to face him, barely holding back the bubble of laughter threatening to escape. “A fwooper?”
His smile had grown so wide that she could see the corners of his eyes crinkle, and it caused a flurry in her chest.
Whirling back around to Daphne she nodded curtly. “A fwooper. He thinks he’s clever, nicknaming me after an African bird whose song drives listeners to insanity, but really it’s because he thinks they’re cute. I much prefer it to being called a Grindylow.”
“They’re also, you know”—Malfoy gestured to her wild curls with a wave of his hand—“rather poofy.”
“I think it’s awfully romantic; fwoopers mate for life,” Daphne sighed into the words, her chin resting on her palm. “We had a pair back at the estate growing up and they were always bickering but inseparable, just like the two of you.”
A wheezing sound came from the other side of the table as Ron accidently inhaled some of his soup.
“That means Malfoy must’ve heard Hermione sing,” Harry quipped. “Maybe they are friends.”
Hermione stuck her tongue out and tossed her bread roll across the table at him, immediately regretting her decision to sacrifice the delicious ball of carbs in her pursuit of revenge. The attack was futile; Harry simply caught the roll with ease and took a victory bite out of it.
Damn Seeker reflexes.
Malfoy must have noticed the sad look she gave to the empty bread plate next to her bowl of soup, because he leaned over and subtly dropped his roll onto her plate. “More ammunition.” He winked.
“Honestly though, you wouldn’t believe how fwoopers―”
“Enough!” Pansy stood up abruptly, the legs of her chair scraping against the floor. “If you all give me grey hair before my wedding, I will personally Avada each and every one of you!”
The soup vanished beneath Hermione’s spoon and another course appeared, a miniscule serving of black pudding in the centre of a gold lined plate.
Pansy let out a heavy exhale, steeling herself. “There will be no more throwing food and no more talk of fwoopers! We brought you together to enjoy the food of the most renowned chef in the Wizarding World so you could bond as a wedding party over the wedding.”
“I did have a lovely time selecting our dresses yesterday.” Daphne sliced her knife through the pudding with effortless grace. “I’m excited for our next fitting.”
Hermione turned her attention to Malfoy and prompted, “Speaking of, how was shopping for dress robes?”
“It was enlightening, to say the least. Poor Madam Malkin had to help Weasley into a dozen robe options before we found the right one. That being said, I was quite impressed with the promptness of their letter delivery to Paris.”
She took a large swig from her glass of water to avoid addressing the curious look Harry gave her at Malfoy’s words.
Pansy set down her fork and clasped her hands in front of her, looking pleased. “I’m so relieved that you were able to find something suitable at Malkin’s! I tried to convince Harry to pick something out at this lovely shop in Italy that was featured in Bouquet last season but he insisted on shopping local.”
“They had just what we were looking for,” Malfoy assured her. “We even managed to secure an exact shade of smaragdine.”
Blaise looked up from his pudding and waved his knife at Malfoy. “Gesundheit.”
“Why am I still starving?” Hermione lamented, tilting her head back with a groan. Following dinner, everyone filed into the receiving room to take the fireplace back to their homes. “We just had a full meal and I could still go for a pizza.”
A smile pulled at Malfoy’s lips. “You sound like Weasley.”
She looked up at him with wide eyes. “Oh god, is this what it’s like to be Ronald? You’ll tell me if I sport freckles, start to chew with my mouth open, or develop a sudden but intense passion for the Chudley Cannons, right?”
“I think you’re missing several key features to being a Weasley.” He snagged a single curl from her shoulder and twisted the lock gently around his finger before releasing it. Most of the guests had already left, and the remaining ones were immersed in conversation, yet he was still acting as he had when they’d put on a show for their friends. “And as far as I’m aware, it’s not a contagious affliction, thank Merlin.”
“But I just ate eight dishes of food and I’m still hungry.”
“No, you only had seven dishes on account of your perpetual tardiness,” Malfoy reminded her, retrieving her coat and slipping it over her shoulders.
She frowned, buttoning up the front with careful precision. “Fine, seven dishes. Let me tell you, when I was helping Harry narrow down the catering options, I saw the prices from that chef. It’s absurd that I’m hungrier after that meal than I am after a plate of Chinese that’s one-hundredth of the cost. How are you not ravenous?”
Malfoy ran a hand through his already perfectly tousled hair and glanced over at Pansy, who was mid-farewell with Ron and Daphne, before lowering his voice and responding, “I had an unfashionably late lunch. It’s the only real way to prepare for an eight course meal where the portions are the size of your thumb.”
She gasped. “The betrayal. And all this time I thought I had an ally in my misery.”
“Don’t tell me I actually knew something the Brightest Witch of our Age didn’t,” he teased, shrugging on his overcoat. “I’d have thought you would’ve prepared for the meal by reading a half dozen books on Pureblood dining etiquette.”
“I hurled a roll at Harry’s head; what do you think?”
“I think that it’s dreadfully obvious you didn’t, otherwise you’d know that you should’ve extracted your vengeance through a series of coordinated attacks on everything Potter holds dear. Preferably during semi-public events during which you’d have a suspiciously tight alibi.”
Cocking her head, she inspected him carefully. “It sounds like you’ve really thought this plan through, Malfoy. I wasn’t aware my plan of attack would receive a mark, otherwise I might’ve devised a better strategy.”
“Nothing against you, it was more the lack of planning; your method of execution was just so painfully Gryffindor.”
“Normally, I’d argue with you about holding my house against me but I’d be lying if I said I could think of anything right now that wasn’t food.”
His head dipped down closer to her and he murmured, “We can’t have that. I wouldn’t be a proper date if I let you go hungry, now would I?”
“I suppose not,” she agreed, her pulse skipping as she met his stormy grey eyes. “Do you have any ideas on how to remedy this travesty?”
She nodded, feeling a bit dazed by his proximity, and he took her hand in his, lacing their fingers together. There was a tug at her navel, leaving her breathless as Parkinson Manor disappeared around them and they reappeared in the middle of a dark street that she didn’t recognise. Malfoy released his hold on her hand and she scanned the area around them, looking for landmarks or anything familiar.
“Are we in Muggle London?”
“We are.” He walked with confident strides as they continued down the pavement and turned a corner. “That Apparition point is right next to my favourite restaurant. I thought you’d appreciate a bite to eat without having to accost the Parkinson house elves. I do know how fond you are of them.” He came to a halt in front of a shop with classic red brick and pulled open the door for her. “After you.”
As soon as she stepped over the threshold, an older man came bustling in from the back room—presumably where the kitchen was. He looked maybe a decade older than her parents, with a large belly and bright red cheeks.
“Apologies, Miss, but we’re clos—oh!” He stopped in his tracks, his eyes fixed just behind her. “Mr Malfoy, come in, come in.” The man waved his hand, beckoning them into the restaurant.
“Boris, it’s great to see you.” Malfoy stepped forward to shake his hand and Boris gave him a massive grin in return. “How’s Mary?”
“Home with the kids, I’m here just finishing up. What can I get for you? The usual?”
Hermione watched the conversation with growing confusion. She glanced around the restaurant, taking in the freshly cleaned tables and empty dining area. “We don’t need anything; you don’t need to open back up just for us.”
“I insist, anything for Mr Malfoy. I’ll get you two baskets of the usual.”
“Thanks, Boris, and for the last time you really should call me Draco.” The two shared a smile and she could tell this was a recurring conversation for them.
Malfoy crossed over to a small table for two seated next to the window, and he pulled out her chair for her.
“No one is here but us, Malfoy, you don’t have to do that.”
He scoffed as if offended, but his smile gave him away. “My mother would have my head if she found out I didn’t.”
She took her seat and mumbled a quiet thanks. “How did you find this place? It’s rather out of the way.”
The question seemed to take him off guard and his shoulders tensed under her stare. “After the war, it was difficult to go to any of my usual establishments. I… I didn’t like the looks or the whispers that followed me, and I found that I didn’t have any of that here. I could just sit by the window with a good book, a delicious meal, and just be. I spent most of my time in Muggle London, actually.”
“Well, it’s a lovely little place. It might be my growling stomach but it smells divine in here.”
She liked the way he relaxed when she didn’t probe anymore about the war. From the stories she’d heard from Harry about Pansy’s experiences, Malfoy must’ve been ostracised for years after the war ended.
“I truly can’t believe it. After years of denying its existence, I’m finally experiencing the glory that is Midnight Meal,” she mused, toying with the wrapped cutlery in front of her.
A single brow arched and he repeated, “Midnight Meal?”
“It’s a thing that Ron used to do in school. He’d sneak out of the Gryffindor common room for a fourth meal of the day. He called it ‘Midnight Meal’.”
Boris returned carrying a tray with two baskets of fish and chips, and two glasses of water with lemon wedges.
“Oh my god, that looks amazing!” She felt her mouth water as she broke open the newspaper.
“They have the best fish and chips in all of London,” Malfoy informed her, mimicking her action and ripping into the paper to release the heat trapped within.
“All thanks to you and your generosity!” Boris tucked the empty tray under his arm and beamed. “Like I always say, you come in any time you wish, on the house.”
Malfoy looked sheepish and slightly embarrassed under the praise, avoiding Hermione’s eye contact. “Thanks Boris, we’ll be out of your hair soon.”
“Take your time.” He disappeared through the door, leaving them alone in the restaurant.
“I never thought I’d see you interacting with Muggles of your own volition,” Hermione added, selecting a chip and blowing on it to cool it down. “Exactly how much time did you spend in this shop?”
His eyes caught on her lips before falling down to his meal. “I used to take most lunches here and would sometimes talk with the owners; they’re nice people.” He nodded at her meal, urging her. “Go on, try a bite before it cools.”
Wafting the chip under her nose, she groaned and bit into it, savouring the taste. “This is delicious . You’re not allowed to tell Ron that he was right.”
“Granger, there is a very long list of things I’d rather do than tell Weasley any such thing, including taking a Bludger to the family jewels. So how’d he get away with an extra meal during school? The house elves don’t exactly take personal calls to the dorms.”
“You know that because you tried, didn’t you?”
His sullen silence spoke volumes, and he chewed a chip, waiting for her to continue.
“He made a strategic alliance with the Hufflepuffs around third year to get access to the kitchens, tickle the pear and whatnot.”
Malfoy’s mouth dropped open at the same time his eyes popped. “You mean to tell me that Weasley… to the Hufflepuffs for food?”
“The Weasleys must be worse off than I thought if he resorted to… what was your phrasing? ‘Tickle the pear ’ in exchange for food.” He sounded horrified and his voice dropped to a whisper. “I wonder if Daphne is aware of his sordid past of propositioning himself.”
“No!” Hermione nearly dropped a half eaten chip when she started waving her hands in front of her. “Oh my god, that wasn’t a euphemism!” She choked out the words, laughing hysterically. “There was a literal pear, I mean not literal, it was a painting and just—oh god.”
Twenty minutes later, she couldn’t remember the last time she’d had so much fun talking to anyone.
Her basket was chipless and she reached across the table to snag one of his. He gasped but made no move to take it back. “Perhaps I spoke too soon and Weasley actually is contagious.”
“Oh hush, you already had your unfashionably late lunch and you’ve been pecking at this the entire time.” She took another without remorse. “I never knew you were so funny, Malfoy. I think my face actually hurts from laughing.”
“You know that you can’t just compliment me whenever you want something and expect to get away with it?”
“I can’t?” she asked, a slight challenge to her voice as her hand hovered over the remainder of his chips.
His smile took her by surprise and he laughed freely, pushing the basket across the table towards her. “Better men have lost their hands for less.”
“Pansy would never forgive you if you cut off my hand before the wedding. You’re more scared of her than I am of you.”
“She has turned into a bit of a terror with this whole event, hasn’t she?”
Hermione pursed her lips and nodded slowly, thinking back to Pansy’s panic in the shop the day before when she thought the men would purchase the wrong fabric for their neckties. She and Daphne had to stop the bride from storming through the fireplace. “At least I have someone to suffer through it with, that is… unless you’ve changed your mind about our little ruse?”
Malfoy reached into his pocket and retrieved a pale pink rose with a long stem. She wasn’t sure if his pockets extended or if he had performed a bit of wandless magic. Twirling it in his hands, he offered it to her and she couldn’t quell the flip of her stomach as she accepted the rose. “I haven’t changed my mind. Are you still willing to be my lovely date, Granger?”
“Oh my little puffskein—” she tried not to laugh at the way his face scrunched at the term of endearment. She brought the rose up to her nose and inhaled; it smelled just like the fresh flowers in her mum’s garden “—I’d like nothing more.”
Chapter 3: Chapter 3
Draco landed on the hard ground outside of Granger's flat. He knew from the last time he'd walked her home that there was an Apparition point not far away and he much preferred that method to Floo travel, especially for something like this. The robes he wore were far too old to risk being damaged by a faulty fireplace.
Rapping on the door a few times, he waited patiently for her to open it.
"You're early," she gasped, stepping back to let him enter. "I didn't think you would be here for twenty more minutes! I still have to get dressed and do my hair."
"I'm not early, you're just running late... again."
Granger fisted her hands at her hips and glared at him. "What do you mean 'again'? When have I been late?"
Biting back a laugh, he said, "You mean besides the dress shopping—yes, Pansy told me you were late for that—and the dinner the following night, there was also the Valentine's Day dinner Pansy hosted, and the night we all agreed to meet at the pub for drinks after work, which I'm told counted as a wedding event."
"In my defence, Pansy and Harry should know me better by now. And so should you, actually. If you didn't want us to be late, you should have arrived early. I'm blaming this entirely on you, Malfoy."
"Me? You're a grown woman, Granger. Surely you know how to tell time?"
"Of course I do! I'll have you know I was never late to a single thing in school."
"Merlin forbid you're late to a class," Draco muttered, throwing his hands up to block her hand as she attempted to smack him for his remarks.
"There are just far too many gatherings involved in this damn wedding," she sighed. "If I'd have known this ahead of time, I never would have agreed to be Harry's Best Woman."
He smirked at her and shook his head. "You really should hurry or we'll be late, and trust me, this is not an event you want to be late for."
Worrying her lip between her teeth, her brows puckered. "I have no idea what I'm doing, Malfoy."
"Where are your familial robes?" She avoided eye contact with him and he groaned. "The dress you need to wear today? Granger, please tell me Potter sent over his familial robes."
She gestured to her sitting room, where the white garment was draped over the side of the sofa. Her monstrous cat had wound himself into a tight ball in the middle of it, looking extremely pleased with himself.
"You—you—" Draco stared at the scene speechless. "Do you realise how much magic is in those robes? How old they are? And you're letting your cat sleep on them?!"
"It's just a white dress, Malfoy. Ron's robes to the Yule Ball were nicer than these," she retorted, her hands on her hips. "I don't understand all the fuss."
"The fuss is because these robes were worn by Potter's grandmother, and his great-grandmother, and his great-great-grandmother and his—"
"I get it, they're old." She hurried forward and shooed the large ball of fur off of the robes. Pulling out her wand, she cast a charm and all the orange hair vanished, leaving the dress perfectly white once more. "Better?"
"Yes. Now, go get dressed."
He waited patiently for her to return, taking the time to look at the various things she had scattered around the room. The first time he'd been there, it was only for a few moments while she dropped off her work things, and he'd been put off by all the clutter. It was the complete opposite of his perfectly tidy flat with its simple decor. Every item had its place and when he wasn't using it, it was put away.
But Granger... her flat seemed to mimic her personality unlike anything he'd ever seen before. At first glance, it was unbridled chaos—there were towers of books on every flat surface, with circular stains from her teacups on the small tables that perched at either end of her sofa. There was a stray jumper discarded on the back of the armchair and he was certain he saw a tumbleweed of cat fur collecting in the corner of the room. It wasn't until he had these few minutes to himself when he could really look past it all and see that he was getting a glimpse into what made her tick.
Between the mountains of books and tea stains were photos of her and the people that meant the most to her. A still photo of her and her parents was centred on the mantel above the fireplace, and a moving one of her, Potter, and Weasley sat next to it. There was a photo of Luna and Rolf from their honeymoon stuck to the side of a bookshelf. The jumper was in the bright green colour of the Holyhead Harpies, which he knew the youngest Weasley played for.
It was still chaos, and Draco was itching to right the room, but it was Granger's chaos.
"Malfoy, can you tie this? The ribbons are too long for me to do it properly."
He turned around and faced her, taking in the long white dress she was wearing. There was no pattern to it and it held no shape, just as it was intended. Shimmering along the seams of the wrists and collar was the rune that represented House Potter. It was faint, and Draco was certain she hadn't even noticed it, but it was there.
"Are you alright?"
"Fine," he choked, shaking his head to clear his mind. "Sure, yes... uh, turn around?"
She gave him a strange look but spun slowly so her back was to him. Reaching up, she pulled her curls over one shoulder, exposing the ties at the back of the dress.
There were no sounds in the room save for the stammering of his heart and his heavy breathing. Why did something as simple as tying the bow at the nape of her neck feel so intimate? Why did it feel like after months of spending time with her he wanted to be un tying the dress rather than tying it?
But that would be wholly inappropriate, right? They weren't really dating, they were just doing this to get Pansy off their backs. The wedding was in six months and after that, he would have no reason to see Granger any more. They would slip quietly back into a friendship, their fake relationship disappearing into nothingness without so much as a passing glance. Pansy surely wouldn't question it.
Perhaps that was why he took his time in helping her. He was careful not to linger or scare her off, but he wanted to savour this moment while she had given it to him.
Finally, he pulled the ribbons tightly, securing the dress in place.
"Done?" she murmured, her voice barely above a whisper.
Swallowing the lump in his throat, he nodded. "Yes."
She turned back to face him, her lips parted, and stared up at him through her lashes. Neither of them spoke.
"We should go," she said finally, though her face seemed to be screaming that she'd rather stay right where they were.
Or perhaps that was just how he read it.
"Pansy will throw a fit if we're late," he agreed.
The bright bluish-white glow of a Patronus appeared in the room and a brilliant stag stood before them. Potter's voice came out in a panicked, hurried rush. "Hermione, please don't be late. Pansy is already freaking out that neither you nor Malfoy are here and I'm worried she'll follow through on her threats to hex you both if you aren't here in the next ten minutes."
The stag vanished, taking with it any tension that had been in the room prior. Granger stepped back and cool air rushed in to take her place.
"Seems as if we're a bit late on Pansy throwing a fit," she said awkwardly. "Ready?"
"One more thing." Draco pulled his wand out of the holster he had strapped to his arm and summoned a single white lily. "For your hair. It's customary to wear only white for these types of things, and lilies are a good blessing to bring forward. I think Pansy will appreciate the sentiment enough to forgive you for your tardiness."
A soft blush bloomed on her cheeks as he reached out to settle the flower amongst her curls, tapping his wand against it to keep it in place.
He wanted to say so much more, but they really were running late. "Shall we?"
"I just need to find my shoes. Do you think Pansy will notice if they aren't perfectly white?"
"Oh, Granger, you don't need your shoes." He lifted his own robes and wiggled his toes slightly.
Her brown eyes widened at him comically. "N-no shoes? At all?"
"Nope. In fact, you're lucky Pansy opted for the clothed ceremony." He winked at her and offered his elbow. "Truly, we need to leave."
She looked more than uncomfortable as she wrapped her fingers around the crook of his arm and let him lead her out of the flat and to the Apparition point.
The sun had already dipped below the horizon, casting the grounds behind Parkinson Manor in deep purples and blues. Soft white balls of light formed a circle in the middle of the open space. A handful of people had already begun to enter the circle, though he knew none of them would be Pansy or Potter. There was a process to all of these, and Draco knew it well.
"Seems like we got here just in time," Granger mused, looking around.
Everyone was dressed in plain white robes, most with their family runes stitched into them like the ones he and Granger were wearing. Under the rising moon, it almost looked like everyone was glowing.
"Where are Harry and Pansy?" she asked, looking up at him. "Is this like a wedding, where the bride and groom can't see each other before the ceremony starts?"
He shook his head. "No, nothing like that. The guests all enter the circle first, leaving only one opening. You and I will enter next and stand beside each other. Then Potter will enter, followed by Pansy and they'll stand in front of us. Then the ceremony will begin."
"Is it normal for friends to be in the circle like this?"
"I wouldn't say it's abnormal, but typically the mother of the groom and the father of the bride do this. Seeing as Potter's parents are no longer with us and Pansy's family is in Azkaban, they're using surrogate family members. So, you and I."
Granger reached up and traced the runes on the collar of his robes with a featherlight touch. "Are these for the Malfoy or Parkinson family?"
"Parkinson. Just as you're wearing Potter robes to represent his family, I'm doing the same for Pansy."
"And this is all...normal?"
"Of course it is."
She gave him a strange look at his words, almost like they didn't make sense to her. There were very few books written about this type of ceremony, and most of them were kept in the Malfoy family library under a protection charm, so it was unlikely she would have been able to study up on the event beforehand. Still, there was a small part of him that enjoyed knowing something she didn't.
Feeling a bit sorry for her and the confusion he knew she must be feeling, he explained, "Think of this like a proper engagement. Most couples don't even consider themselves betrothed before this happens. People try to line them up with big celestial events, like the spring equinox" —he gestured around them— "or an eclipse. My parents had theirs when a large number of shooting stars were passing through."
"But Pansy and Harry have been engaged for months already. We've had the parties to prove it," Granger said flatly. "Are you really telling me we could have avoided all of them?"
Draco laughed. "Not exactly. They were absolutely engaged, but this is Pansy we're talking about. You know she would need more than six months to plan something as extravagant as her wedding. Especially if it's being featured in her own magazine."
That seemed to appease Granger, though she still looked unsettled by it all.
"Come on, the sooner we go over there, the sooner this whole thing will be done."
She sighed but nodded her head. The cold March ground was firm under their toes as they walked towards the rest of the group. Draco spotted some of Pansy's distant relatives, but mostly, it was their friends from school. Theo was there with the woman his father had arranged for him to marry, Ron and Daphne, Tracey and Millicent, Luna and Rolf, and Neville and Hannah. Only Blaise stood alone, though he seemed to be eyeing Astoria who was standing behind her sister.
The Weasley parents stood by the opening of the circle, Mrs Weasley smiling brightly as Draco and Granger approached. Under any other circumstances, he was certain they would have scowled at him, but a betrothal ceremony such as this was no place for animosity between houses.
Draco nudged Granger's side so she went to the proper location. When they were in place, he stole a glance down at her, taking in the way the moonlight washed over her. She was rocking forward onto the balls of her feet, looking around the circle and radiating nervous energy.
"It's alright. You don't have to do much. Just follow my lead," he whispered, soft enough that only she could hear.
Glancing up at him, she nodded and rolled her shoulders, seeming less tense already. He gave her a pointed look and wiggled his fingers and toes, pleased when she followed suit.
"Thanks," she mouthed before looking away again.
Any noise in the circle ceased as Pansy and Potter approached. He entered first, wearing white robes similar to the ones Draco wore, and stood directly across from Granger. Pansy entered next, completely bare of any makeup or jewels. Even in school, waking up at the crack of dawn for breakfast, Draco had never seen Pansy look as she did now.
Though she was absolutely not his type, he could see why men thought her beautiful.
"We shall begin," said Kingsley, stepping into the middle of the circle and assuming the position as officiant.
Five minutes into the betrothal ceremony, Hermione felt more out of place than she’d felt since the first time she stepped foot in Diagon Alley.
The day she found out she was a witch—when she received her letter to Hogwarts and a visit from Professor McGonagall—she was ecstatic. That simple sentence ‘ you are a witch ’ changed everything.
It was the answer to a question she’d never known to ask.
Then there was the day she went to Diagon Alley to pick up her school supplies. She wandered through an unfamiliar set of shops, surrounded by people in funny clothing using words she didn’t understand, while looking for items she couldn’t easily identify, and paying for them with a currency that had a baffling conversion rate. She’d left Diagon Alley with a stack of books as high as she could carry, determined to learn everything she could about this new world so she could feel like she finally belonged.
She did not belong in this circle of Purebloods.
It was eerie to see Harry and Pansy barefoot and dressed in ceremonial robes, standing in the centre of a circle of friends during the equinox. It reminded Hermione of those books on cults that she had consumed by the dozen during a phase she went through the summer after fifth year.
Kingsley recited ancient words from a book that looked older than anything she’d seen in the Hogwarts library and his deep voice filled the air around them. The magic of the ceremony felt almost tangible. She tried to push down the uncomfortable feeling in the pit of her stomach and instead focus on the beauty of the moonlight that shone down upon them, and the promises and vows that Harry and Pansy whispered to each other with their hands clasped together.
Standing next to Harry, Hermione felt a burst of pride that she could stand in for him as a representative of the house of Potter. Being Muggleborn, she’d never considered the possibility that she would participate in a ritual designated for the Sacred Twenty-Eight families. In all the books she had read on the topic, she hadn’t found any that went into detail about the content of these ceremonies. As far as she could tell, the secrets of Pureblood rituals were not formally documented but instead passed down from generation to generation.
Then Kingsley handed a silver blade with a white handle to Malfoy, who took it without pause and pressed the sharp edge to his palm. Squeezing his hand into a fist, a single drop of blood fell onto the betrothal contract settled on top of the open book and faded into the parchment. He scribbled his name with a quill before handing the blade to Hermione.
Her pulse thrummed wildly in her chest as she accepted the blade with trembling hands. It felt heavy and cold, and she tried to swallow the growing lump in her throat. Mimicking his motion, she watched with morbid fascination as the blade glided through her flesh. Blood seeped from the shallow cut and a bead dripped down her palm and fell onto the book below. She quickly scribbled her name as witness on the betrothal contract under Harry’s name and returned the quill and blade to Kingsley.
There was a tingling sensation on her hand and she stared at the spot where there had been a wound not twenty seconds before with a sense of numbness. It had been close to a decade since the Battle of Hogwarts but she still occasionally felt the aftershocks. She had seen blood many times since the battle but she never could tell what would trigger a memory.
A buzzing noise sounded in her ears and she couldn’t look away from her hand. Black spots began to form in the corners of her vision.
It was so subtle that she nearly missed Malfoy shifting closer to her while still watching Kingsley. The tip of his pinky brushed against hers, slow and deliberate, pulling her back into the moment. Her breath caught and she began to count her heartbeats, grounding herself. She returned the gesture, her pinky curling just slightly around his.
Harry reached into the pocket of his robes and pulled out a large sapphire ring surrounded by diamonds. He slipped it onto Pansy’s finger, the two sharing a giddy sort of smile over the jewellery which seemed to signify the end of the ceremony.
The circle broke and everyone stepped inward to congratulate the happy couple, but Hermione’s feet couldn’t move. She felt Malfoy take her hand in his, and she let him guide her away from the group. When his hand fell, she felt a sense of loss.
“Are you okay?” His voice was barely above a whisper, and she looked up to see him lean in closer, inspecting her. “You’re nearly the colour of your robes.”
She brought her hands up to her chest and took in a shaky breath, exhaling through her nose. “I’m fine, I just—it’s just—”
“You don’t have to explain anything to me,” he murmured.
“It’s been so long since…” Her voice trailed away, unable to say the words.
He nodded, swallowing thickly. “It comes back to us when we least expect it. I saw an apple sitting on a wooden cart last summer and spiraled for hours.”
“I’ll be fine,” she insisted, smoothing her palms on her robes and slipping her right hand into the pocket. “I just need a moment to breathe, and maybe something to settle my stomach.”
“Of course, I’ll go fetch—” He paused, cocking his head at her. “Granger.”
“Did you honestly fill the pockets of the Potter ceremonial robes with macarons ?”
She bit into the raspberry macaron that she had retrieved from her robes and chewed thoughtfully. “Of course I did. It’s the entire function of a pocket, I’m simply allowing it to fulfill its purpose in life. It would be cruel otherwise.”
He blinked. “Its life purpose… of being filled with macarons?”
“Very similar to my own, you’ll see.” She obtained a second macaron from the pocket, pleased to find that it was vanilla. Malfoy’s laugh took her by surprise and she grinned in response. “Would you like one?”
There was a flash over by Harry and Pansy, who were in the process of being bombarded by the photographers that stalked every event of the wedding so far.
After handing Malfoy a lemon macaron, they watched the flurry of lights off in the distance. Hermione couldn’t resist leaning in closer and whispering, “Rumour has it, Parkinson Manor is haunted by the ghost of her great-great-great aunt who demanded to be buried in a crystal casket and was slighted when it was only made of glass. She extracts her revenge by making all wine served in crystal taste bitter.”
He choked back a laugh, swallowing the last of his sweet. “I knew you didn’t like the red wine Pansy served last week, I could see it all over your face. Also, I have it on good authority that it was her great-great-great- great aunt, not her great-great-great aunt. It’s a common mistake as they were both blondes.”
“The wine had an odd aftertaste; the only reasonable explanation is a filthy rich society woman who is petty enough to spend her afterlife causing minor inconveniences.”
“Don’t tell Pansy that it tasted off, she might have a Hippogriff. She thinks of herself as quite the sommelier.” Malfoy extended his hand towards her, palm up with an expectant grin.
Scoffing, she dug into her pocket and retrieved two more macarons, handing him the raspberry while keeping the chocolate for herself.
“Rumour has it,” he began with his signature drawl, “that when he was at Hogwarts, Arthur Weasley was out on the Quidditch pitch practicing one night. When he was walking back up to the castle, he saw a beautiful girl behind the stands and began to flirt with her, only to cast lumos and see that she was really an Inflate-A-Troll. He was so heartbroken that he broke into the kitchens for Midnight Meal and ran headfirst into a girl carrying three tubs of chocolate chip ice cream. It was love at first sight and that’s the story of how he met Molly.”
“You know, Malfoy, that story is so elaborate, I almost believe it. It was the Midnight Meal that really sold it.”
He wiggled his eyebrows and she giggled behind her hand. She wasn’t sure how she’d gone from near tears to laughing in such a short amount of time.
“I suppose we should get back to the rest of the group before they notice we’ve gone,” he said, but made no move to leave.
“I suppose we should.”
His gaze caught on her hair and he straightened the lily before leaning back to inspect his work. The corner of his lip quirked up. “Perfect.”
Before she could talk herself out of it, she raised on her tiptoes and pressed her lips to his cheek. “Thanks, Malfoy, turns out you were just what I needed tonight.”
“Anything for my little fwooper,” he insisted, his tone so serious that she couldn’t help but laugh.
“We really need to talk about your taste in nicknames because that one is atrocious.”
He gave her a long look before muttering, “Says the witch who nicknamed me puffskein !”
“Excuse you, at least puffskeins are cute!” She crossed her arms in front of herself and stared up at him defiantly.
His lips twitched before curving upwards. “Are you saying I’m cute, Granger?”
She felt her cheeks flush and his smirk grew the longer she didn’t deny it. “I didn’t know you were one to fish for compliments, Malfoy,” she finally replied.
“Compliments are the highest form of currency,” he repeated her words from the engagement party back to her in a teasing tone.
They slowly crossed the yard back to the rest of the group, walking across the cold ground. Hermione was grateful for their warming charms.
“Hey Granger?” Malfoy broke the silence just before they were back in earshot of their friends.
“For what it’s worth, I think fwoopers are pretty adorable, too.”
Chapter 4: Chapter 4
“Come on, Granger, let’s dance!” Pansy yelled directly into Hermione’s ear, though the bass of the club’s music drowned out most of her words.
Hermione shook her head no, pointing to her feet with a grimace. “These shoes are killing me! I’m going to go grab another drink!”
Pansy stuck her tongue out in response and pulled Daphne by the hand farther into the centre of the dance floor.
When Hermione had received the invitation to Pansy’s hen do and saw that the venue was a popular magical night club hidden amongst the shops of Muggle London, she thought it had been an error in printing. The mere idea of Pansy Parkinson dancing in the middle of a loud, sweaty crowd of people on a sticky dance floor was laughable. But, as always, Pansy found a way to surprise her.
Thankfully, the club was the cleanest Hermione had ever seen—not that she spent many nights frequenting them to begin with—and Pansy had secured an exclusive roped-off area for the night which provided a bit of a reprieve from the noise. Two hours into the hen do and Hermione was ready to curl up in her favourite oversized jumper on her seat under the window with a warm cup of tea and a good book. Instead, she had to settle for a vodka cranberry and a plush seating area overlooking the dance floor.
Still, she had been having a fun night drinking and dancing, and it beat every pureblood event she’d attended to date.
She made her way across the club over to the bar, weaving through the crowd and trying to touch as few people as possible on the journey. After squeezing her way to the front to order, she gave a small wave, trying to catch the attention of the bartender who was currently preparing several drinks with an elaborate show.
“Dress!” the man directly to her left half-shouted at her.
“What?” She looked down at herself, bewildered, as if expecting to see her dress aflame.
It looked exactly as it had when she put it on hours before; it was the only dress she owned that Pansy approved of, and it had been purchased for her by Ginny after Hermione’s last breakup. The little black dress was held up by two thin straps and it cinched in at her waist, falling just below her upper thigh. Ginny had to convince her to try it on in the shop, and she’d been skeptical of the plunging neckline at first—but she couldn’t deny that she felt great in it.
“I said, I like your dress!” he repeated, his gaze settling lower into the deep v of her dress in a way that made her squirm. She had a sneaking suspicion that he wasn’t staring at the silvery scar left from Dolohov’s curse in her fifth year.
“Oh,” she mumbled, “thanks.” She shifted her body away from him and towards the bartender, who was using magic to change the colour of a drink before handing it to the woman in front of him.
“Hello?” Then the man’s hand was on her bare shoulder, and she instinctively pulled away from the touch, shrinking back into herself and knocking into the woman to her right.
“I’m so sorry,” Hermione apologised and decided to forego the cocktail. Even though it had been years since the war, crowds still put her on edge. She didn’t need the cocktail; Pansy had ordered bottle service to their table with champagne Hermione hadn’t loved, but it was better than her current discomfort.
Much to her dismay, the man followed her away from the bar, matching her pace. “I’m Philip. You’re Hermione Granger, aren’t you?”
She stopped abruptly in her stride and turned to inspect him. The man had sandy blond hair, hazel eyes, and was only a few inches taller than her. They looked about the same age, and although he was objectively attractive, there was a glazed look in his eyes that made her think he’d had more than a few drinks already. Even so, he didn’t look particularly intimidating, but she wasn’t in the mood to have forced small talk with a stranger.
Was he a stranger? She couldn’t place him but it’d been nearly a decade since she left Hogwarts.
“Yes,” she answered, still guarded. “Do I know you?”
A slow smirk crossed his face as he took another step closer, ignoring her question. “Never thought I’d get to see the Golden Girl again; that’s what they called you, right?”
“Golden trio—it was the Golden Trio.” If he had truly known her at school, he would’ve known how much she hated the nickname Skeeter had given them.
“Oh yeah, speaking of, where are Harry and Ron?” he asked with a tilt of his head, and she couldn’t help but notice that his words were partially slurred.
Glancing over her shoulder, she looked for Pansy, Daphne, or anyone she recognised but it was futile. There were knots in her stomach when he leaned even closer. “They’re in the loo,” she lied, gnawing on the inside of her cheek. “I really should be getting back to them; they’ll be worried.”
Her intuition was screaming and she slowly reached for her wand in the extended pocket of her dress for reassurance. Surrounded by a crowd of strangers, she couldn’t shake the feeling that his intentions were anything but innocent.
“I read about you three,” he continued with an eerie smile, seemingly oblivious to her increasing discomfort. “I’m sure you were lonely, living in that tent together so long. Were you a naughty girl with the two of them?”
“I really have to go.” Her throat tightened and she tried to turn to leave only for him to grasp her forearm with a punishing grip, holding her in place.
His eyes darkened and his head dipped lower to her ear. She could smell alcohol on his breath when he admonished, “Don’t be rude, I’m trying to talk to you.”
Ripping her arm away from him, she felt her magic crackle in anger, chasing through her veins. Before she could retrieve her wand and hex him into impotence, his eyes narrowed at something just behind her and she froze.
“Granger, there you are.” Malfoy’s voice washed over her like a wave of comfort and he shifted into view. His hand settled firmly on her waist with a claiming touch, and her ribcage fell as she exhaled in relief.
“Malfoy,” she breathed, looking up at him with wide eyes. “What are you doing here?”
He had a sharp edge to his jawline as he clenched his teeth, watching the man with a murderous glare. “Blaise brought us here after the last club. Is this bloke giving you trouble?”
The way he asked the question told her that he must’ve seen at least part of their interaction.
“It doesn’t matter, I was just leaving, actually.”
Malfoy still hadn’t looked away from Philip, as if appraising him.
“Who would’ve thought Hermione Granger would be fucking a Death Eater!” Philip exclaimed, throwing his hands out and gesturing to Malfoy, swaying slightly in place. Malfoy’s fingers dug into her waist with a bruise-tight grip, and his nostrils flared—the only indication that he was on edge. “Thought you’d have more dignity than that, but I guess you really are a dirty little slag—”
It was impossible to tell who moved first, but the flash of light from Hermione’s curse hit Philip at the same moment that Malfoy’s swinging fist collided with his jaw. Nearby dancers looked over at the commotion but no one reacted to the fallen man. The next thing she knew, they were rushing out of the club, stepping over Philip who was on his hands and knees, retching.
“Granger, what the fuck?” Malfoy hissed, pulling her hand until they had passed the crowd waiting to go inside. “You shouldn’t have done that! I was handling it.”
The loud music of the club was muffled through the closed doors, and she could see the shimmer of disillusionment over the front of it, making it appear as a regular shop to any Muggle passersby. Her legs felt wobbly beneath her—something that had nothing to do with the drinks she’d had that night—and she tried to settle the rush of adrenaline pumping through her. “What are you talking about? You’re the one who shouldn’t have punched him, you—”
“—He called you a slag.” His lips twisted in disgust, looking as if he might be ill. “He’s lucky you got to him first; you did less to him than I would’ve, that—”
“I don’t care about the slag comment, he called you a Death Eater!”
There was a tic in Malfoy’s jaw and he stilled as his eyes fell to the pavement.
“You’re not a Death Eater; you never were. You were a child,” Hermione continued, her voice soft.
Then she reached for his hand, and his silver eyes flew up to meet hers. “I just don’t know how someone so brilliant can be so thick. I mean, fuck, Hermione, what if you lose your job? You work at the Ministry! It’s not as if they condone their employees cursing arseholes on the weekends and—” He paused, his brow furrowing as he watched the smile on her face grow. “What?”
“You called me Hermione,” she teased, pillowing her bottom lip between her teeth.
His eyes darted to her lips and he swallowed thickly. “Well, I can’t very well keep calling you a damn fwooper, now can I?”
“I don’t know, it’s rather grown on me.”
“Has it now?”
She nodded, feeling a flutter in her chest when his smile reached his eyes. “How’d you even find me in there?”
He brushed his thumb across the back of her hand and murmured, “You’ve always stood out in a crowd.”
With a quick look back to the entrance of the club, she whispered, “I don’t want to ruin Pansy’s night, but honestly, my feet hurt, and after that, I just want to go home. By now there have to be loads of slugs on the floor anyway.”
“You used Weasley’s old charm?” Malfoy sounded like he was barely holding in a laugh.
“I doubt he’ll even notice a change.” She shrugged unapologetically. “He was spewing slime even before I got to him.”
With a flick of his wand, Malfoy conjured a wisp of silver and sent a quick message to Pansy that Hermione wasn’t feeling well and he was taking her home.
“I didn’t know you had a Patronus,” Hermione mused, watching the silvery pine marten drift through the wall into the club. “You don’t have to escort me home, I know the way.”
“I wouldn’t be able to sleep tonight if I didn’t know you arrived home safely,” he admitted softly, extending his arm to her. “Humour me?”
She accepted his arm and felt a tightening of her chest as the club disappeared from view.
They landed at the Apparition point just around the corner from Hermione's flat, forcing them to walk the short distance. It gave Draco time to calm down. He didn't want her to know that he was still furious at the wanker back at the club who deserved a lot more than to just puke up some slugs.
When he’d arrived at the club and scanned the room for Granger—a habit leftover from school—he saw what looked like intimate whispering from another man in her ear. He couldn't breathe, jealousy taking over. It wasn’t until he saw her face, and how uncomfortable she was, that he realised it wasn’t something to be jealous over. Even though he felt his reaction was completely warranted, he never wanted her to see him like that, as if he were still the impulsive child that couldn’t control his emotions.
She kept her fingers wrapped around his arm as they walked, giving him the chance to assess the throbbing in his other hand. He knew his knuckles were beginning to swell and they'd be bruised by morning if he wasn't able to get something on them soon.
Hermione unlocked her flat and took down the wards, letting the door swing open. "Since you're here," she said, looking up at him with wide, nervous eyes, "do you want me to get something for your hand?"
Heart hammering in his chest, he nodded. "Please."
She smiled slightly, tilting her head towards the hall behind her, and held her palm up to him. "Come on then."
Draco slid his uninjured fingers into hers and followed her through her flat to the loo. He slid off his sports jacket and folded it, placing it neatly on the counter next to him. Releasing the buttons at his cuffs, he rolled up each sleeve, thankful that he had thought to glamour his Dark Mark earlier that day. He waited, leaning casually against the counter, for her to find the bruise paste.
With a sigh of relief, she pulled out the small tub, unscrewed the lid, and dipped her fingers into the thick paste.
"This might sting," she warned just before the salve hit his raw skin. Though her touch was gentle, he still needed to clench his teeth to stop himself from wincing. Her eyes darted up to meet his, full of concern. "Are you alright?"
"I should be asking you that," he bit back. "I'm not the one that was being hit on by some fucking wanker."
"No, but you are the one that punched him." She lowered her hand, glancing down at his knuckles as they turned from an angry red to a pale pink. "How does your hand feel now?"
Flexing and clenching his fingers, Draco assessed their movements, finding that the tenderness and pain was all but gone. "Better, thank you."
Hermione nodded and returned the tub of paste back to its proper place. After closing the cabinet, she leaned against the counter and looked at the floor. "You really didn't have to do that, Malfoy."
"Was I just supposed to stand back and watch him try and take advantage of you? Do you have any idea what he would have done or said if I hadn't stepped in?"
"I'm fine, really,” she insisted. “Do you want a sober-up or hangover potion? I can’t imagine you’ll want to deal with that on top of your hand.”
He shook his head. “I barely had anything to drink. It was Potter’s night out and I didn’t exactly trust Blaise to plan a fully legal evening. Someone had to be sober to keep us all safe.”
“Who knew my puffskein was such a gentleman?” Hermione asked, raising her hand to her chest and batting her eyelashes.
“Do you need one? A sober-up potion, I mean.” The words felt awkward on his tongue and he wasn’t sure why. It wasn’t the first time he’d been alone with her, though he’d never had to punch someone on one of their dates before.
For the first time that night, he took in her appearance. He kept his eyes firmly on the parts of her that were above her collarbone, not wanting to be caught staring at her tits, even though he absolutely wanted to look. Her curls were wild from the heat of the club and her cheeks still flushed, though he wondered how much of that had to do with the close encounter with the prick harassing her.
With a strange jolt of courage, he tucked a stray curl behind her ear, blood rushing in his ears. Hermione closed her eyes and leaned into his touch. After months of pretending, of having to lie to everyone about the reality of his relationship with Hermione, he had a moment to show her how he really felt. Moving towards her, nervousness coursing through his veins, he spared one last moment to look at her. Something above her head in the room across the hall—something brightly coloured—caught his attention and he stopped.
Her eyes flickered open, something that looked oddly close to disappointment flashing through them. "Malfoy?"
"What..." His hand fell from her face and he walked past her, moving towards the colours that were sitting atop a chest of drawers in her bedroom.
Flowers. Flowers in every colour and style. All in perfect condition.
All from him.
The chrysanthemum he had sent while shopping with Potter and Weasley was nestled amongst all of the other flowers he'd given her over the last ten months; the rose from their Midnight Meal, the peony from a late night walk they took through Hyde Park, the lily she wore for the betrothal ceremony, as well as a camellia, dahlia, carnation, anemone...
His fingers brushed against the petals of the rose. In a low voice, he asked, "Hermione, what is this?"
"They're under a stasis charm," she said quickly, her voice growing closer as she moved into the bedroom with him. "They were just too beautiful to let die and they really help brighten the room and they smell lovely and—"
Draco spun on his heel, sliding his fingers into her mess of curls, and pressed his lips to hers.
For a single moment he wondered if he'd misread things. He was a heartbeat away from breaking the kiss and escaping before she could hex him.
But then her mouth moved, matching his pace and then some. Her hands gripped the side of his shirt, pulling his body close to hers.
He broke the kiss, grinning. "You kept them?"
Pupils blown wide, she nodded. "Of course I did."
"I would have given you ones that at least looked coordinated if I'd known—"
"Draco?" she interrupted.
"Kiss me again."
Crushing his lips to hers, she stumbled backwards into the wall, pulling him with her. Their mouths moved with a hurried passion and he was caught breathless by the way she met his desperation with her own. The fear he’d felt only moments ago about being rejected by her was gone, washed away by the feel of her fingers latching behind his neck and tugging roughly on his hair.
Moving his hands down her torso to her thighs, he lifted her, pressing the apex of her legs against his abdomen. She gasped, her lips parting. Taking full advantage, he slid his tongue into her mouth, meeting hers and tangling instantly.
Draco brought one hand out from under her arse, keeping her pressed between his hips and the wall, and moved it to brush against the lace that covered her cunt. The fabric was soaked and Hermione was keening. He peppered kisses down her jaw and neck, across her collarbones and chest. Small red marks dotted her skin where his lips had been.
"Please, Draco," she moaned, her hips bucking into his hand. Blood rushed to his cock at the sound of her pleading—of his name falling from her lips—and he could feel the bulge in his trousers grow. Briefly, he wondered how many times he could get her to say it that night.
He smirked against the fullness of her breast. Using his fingers, he pulled her knickers to the side, his thumb drawing slow circles over her swollen clit. Sliding a finger between her wet folds, he curled up and stroked her walls, loving the way she gasped and shifted in his arms, clearly as affected by this as he was.
His mouth moved back to hers, his tongue sliding between her full lips. She matched him—his pace, his intensity—movement for movement. She rocked into him, her hands grasping his shoulder. Watching as her eyes fluttered closed and she succumbed to it all, he was breathless. Hermione knew what she wanted and she was ensuring that she got it.
"That's it. Such a good girl," he praised, adding a second finger. He quickened his speed, his torturous assault on her clit increasing.
She cried out, a breathless sob. "Fuck."
After a few more thrusts, drawing out her orgasm until she was practically a puddle in his arms, he removed his hand from under her dress. Her eyes fluttered open to look at him, pupils blown wide. Watching her climax in his arms was more powerful than any fantasy of her he’d ever had and he was certain he’d be replaying the scene over in his mind for years to come.
Slowly, he raised his hand to his lips, sucking on each finger, his eyes locked on hers. She tasted better than he’d imagined. With each pop, her eyes darkened, filling with fire.
Hermione's lips crashed into his, her desperation urging him back towards the bed. His knees hit the mattress and he fell onto his back, her knees coming to bracket his torso. She broke the kiss and kneeled tall, sliding her fingers along the collar of his shirt. Her movements were slow and deliberate, taking her time to open each button and expose more of his skin.
It felt as if his skin was lit aflame. Her fingers traced the outlines of his Sectumsempra scars, following the lines from his shoulder to hip and causing a chill to run down his spine. He never imagined someone touching his scars like this—he’d never let anyone try—and he couldn’t believe how good it felt when they finally did.
Draco's breathing quickened when she reached his trousers and made to remove them and his pants. There was something about watching her undress him that had his heart slamming against his ribs. This felt better—more important—than even the first time he’d shagged someone.
He slipped out of his shirt and propped himself up on one elbow to watch her divest him of the barriers between them. His muscles coiled, waiting to see what her next move would be. Not that he cared either way—the simple fact that he had gotten this far with Hermione would have been more than enough.
His cock sprang free, standing tall and proud, a small bead of come perched on the tip. He knew he was well-endowed, that a witch never left his bed unsatisfied, but it didn't diminish the pleasure he felt when he saw her reaction.
Running her tongue over her lips, her intention was clear on her face.
Desire. Need. Hunger.
She leaned forward, tentatively wrapping her hand around the base of his cock and stroking upwards. Watching her movements, his breathing turned into a shallow pant as her pace increased. Slowly, she moved her head closer to him, her tongue darting out to lick the weeping bead off his head.
"Fuck," he groaned. One of his hands reached down and twisted into her curls, guiding her motions as she took him deeper.
Her tongue ran along the length of him, from base to tip and swirling around the top, while her hand continued to pump him. Speed increasing, she kept her mouth at his head, sucking on him until her cheeks hollowed, and releasing him with a satisfying pop. The muscles in his abdomen tightened and clenched, a deep pressure building in his groin.
Thrusting his hips up, he tested her reaction, not wanting to push too far. She moaned deep in her throat and the vibrations rumbled through him, making him harder for her. He bucked again, and again, surprised when she was able to keep up with it.
Dropping his head to the mattress, he squeezed his eyes shut and focused on her movements. She continued her pattern of stroking and sucking and twisting, each motion bringing him closer to the edge.
If she kept it up, he'd be finishing too soon and he wasn't ready for that.
"Hermione, Hermione," he groaned, tugging on her hair. "Fuck, come here."
Climbing back onto the bed, their lips met once more, frantic and hurried. Draco slid his hands up the sides of her thighs, bunching her dress around her waist. She pulled back, settling back on his hips, and pulled the dress over her head, discarding it somewhere out of sight.
Left in just her knickers, which he'd thoroughly ruined, she looked fucking perfect.
In all his fantasies, he'd never pictured her like this. So carefree and bold and empowered.
He couldn't help but reach up and cup her tits, feeling the weight of them in his hands. His thumbs stroked her pebbled nipples, causing her to gasp and sigh at the touch, her back arching into him.
"Draco," she sighed, sliding her hand between the scrap of fabric and her cunt.
Watching her rub circles over the sensitive bud, showing him how she liked to be touched, he committed each movement to memory. He wanted to know what brought her to the edge, what would make her come again and again and again.
Taking advantage of her distraction, he rolled her onto her back and sat over her thighs. His fingers hooked into her knickers and slid them from her hips so he could watch her better. Reaching down, he held his cock in his hand and pumped firmly. Left bare, he could see how she circled her fingers over her clit before sliding them deep inside, then repeated the motions.
His eyes flickered up to her face, finding that she was looking at him intently. A deep crimson blush coloured her cheeks—either from embarrassment or arousal, he wasn't sure, but it was the most glorious thing he'd ever seen.
Hermione's back arched, her hips pressing up and exposing her wet cunt to him, presenting herself in the most desirable way possible.
Moving further down, Draco fell to his knees on the floor between her legs. Wrapping his arms around her thighs, he pulled her down so her knees were resting on his shoulders, leaving her fully displayed to him. His breath fanned over her and she reached down to grab his hair.
"God, yes, please," she begged, navigating his face closer to her core.
One taste, one single stroke of his tongue over her folds and he knew she would be the death of him. She gasped at his touch, her hold on his hair tightening. Her breathing was heavy and loud, practically a sob as he thrust two fingers deep into her. Moving deep and quick, he worked her to another climax. He wanted to hear her call out his name when his face was buried in her cunt.
"Good girl," he praised, "you’re so good."
The walls of her cunt fluttered and clenched around him and he moved his mouth back to her clit, sucking hard and letting his teeth graze over the bundle of nerves. She cried out again, her hips pushing into his face and crying out again.
"Draco, Draco, Draco," she chanted as she fell into another climax, her toes curling behind his back.
Dragging his tongue along her entrance, he let her climax settle on his tongue, savouring the taste he knew he'd never be able to forget. Her legs fell from his shoulders and she tugged on his hair, pulling him back up onto the bed.
She met him halfway, her tongue delving between his lips without waiting for him to clean his face off. It was single-handedly the sexiest thing anyone had ever done. Curling his hands in her hair, he held her close, his cock pressing against her bare stomach.
Positioning himself between her legs, he guided her back down on the bed with one hand, while the other stroked his cock again. Her knees fell to the sides, leaving her open and wet and exposed. Lining himself up to her, he watched her face.
"Hermione," he asked seriously, "are you sure?"
She nodded furiously. "More than anything. Yes, yes."
Sliding into her, he buried himself. Nothing could have prepared him for how tight she was.
Her eyes clenched shut as she adjusted to his length and girth, and then she nodded. "Okay, I'm good."
Setting a slow pace at first, Draco rocked into her, pulling out so only the tip was still in her before pressing forward again. Her hips met his, thrust for thrust, and her legs wound around his waist to hold him close. Sharp nails dragged down his back and he knew he would be left with marks, though that was the last thing he cared about. He would wear them proudly.
Their speed increased until they were both covered with sweat, their naked bodies sticking with each movement. Draco nestled his face in her hair, whispering words of admiration and praise.
"Good girl, such a good girl. So beautiful and perfect and so, so good."
He could feel her tighten around him and her breathing stall. Pulling back so he could look at her, he watched as she came. Her whole body shook, digging her nails deeper into his back as she screamed out his name.
All of his attention and energy shifted to where they were joined, the need for release growing more and more urgent. He fucked her with a wild abandon, taking a moment of selfishness for this as he chased his own release.
It would be cliche to say it felt like magic, but that's exactly what it was. He collapsed over her, holding her panting body close to his.
Draco slid from her and rolled onto his side, taking her with him. She waved her hand over them, casting wandless contraception and cleaning charms, and then nestled into his side.
Once wouldn't be enough. He wanted, needed, to know what she looked like riding him, how her screams would sound inside a shower, if she was as daring and adventurous as he was.
But they had time to learn all of that about each other.
Sweat glistened on their bodies as they lay twisted in her sheets. The first few rays of light were beginning to break through her window, making Draco realise exactly how little sleep they'd gotten and how very little he cared about that. He would spend all day in bed with Hermione if she let him.
Her head was nestled against his shoulder, her thigh draped over his torso. She gently traced the outline of his Dark Mark, the glamour having worn off during at some point in the night.
"Doesn't it bother you?" he asked quietly.
She kept her eyes trained on his arm and shook her head. "I know you're not the same person now that you were then. None of us are."
Gods, he never thought that he'd be deserving of something like that. If someone had asked him ten months ago if he saw himself lying in bed with Hermione post-fuck he'd have laughed. But there he was, curled up with the witch that he loved—
"You're going to make someone very happy one day."
His heart stopped, lodging itself in his throat. "What?"
"When you find a proper wife to settle down with... she's going to be really happy with you, Draco.” Her voice was quiet, barely above a whisper.
Blood pounded in his ears and he hoped he’d misheard her. Removing his arm from her hold, he shifted so he was sitting. She looked up at him, her brows pulled tight and her bottom lip protruding slightly.
"Is that what you think?" he asked, his voice hardening. "That I'm going to go off and look for a proper wife to continue the family line with? That I've been single for so long waiting for that?"
Hermione sat up, pulling the sheet up with her to cover her exposed breasts. She pushed her curls back from her face, keeping her eyes down, focused on the space between them. Even though they were practically touching, the distance suddenly felt insurmountable.
"Yes," she whispered. "That's what I think."
"So then what was going to happen after the wedding?" he snapped.
Opening and closing her mouth a few times, she sat silently, running the sheet between her fingers. Finally, she said, "We never talked about what would come next."
Draco ground his teeth together. He didn't know what to say, how to respond. He had spent countless hours in the past ten months thinking of what life would be like after the wedding. There would be a proper first date, he would walk her home, kiss her goodnight on her front step. They would take it slow, make it real.
Clearly, she had other intentions.
It would be a clean break. He would merely be a part of her past, a story she told at parties about the time she pretended to date someone for a whole year. She wouldn't even realise that she'd broken his heart.
Because they were just friends. That's what she had said in the beginning, ' No one would need to know it's all a ruse.'
"Well," he said, sliding out of the bed to retrieve his pants and trousers from the floor, struggling to put them on, "if that's how you see it then I suppose we can just end this now."
"What? What are you talking about?" She hurried from the bed, the sheet still clutched firmly to her chest. "Why end it now? What about the wedding?"
He slipped into his shirt, fumbling to do up the buttons with shaky hands. Fully dressed, he finally looked up at her. "You said it yourself, I'm going to find some proper wife and settle down; might as well start now, right? No need to waste each other's time any further."
"That's not what I meant—"
"Save it, Granger, " he snapped. His body was shaking with anger and heartache, fighting against his instinct to run. "I think it's best we find our own dates to the wedding."
Draco headed towards the door, stopping when he reached the corridor. "Pansy was right," he said, his back to her, "I can do better."
He bolted from her flat as fast as he could, unable to stay in the same room as her for a second more.
It wasn't until he was safely back home that he realised he was crying.
Chapter 5: Chapter 5
Draco flipped the page of his book, grumbling to himself about how idiotic the two leads were. They were clearly in love and were too thick to admit it to the other, thus throwing them into a three chapter arc of ignoring the other. The entire conflict could have been resolved if the male lead had just talked to his lover.
It was so much easier for them. They were guaranteed a happily ever after, no matter how much they hurt each other in the process.
Tossing the book onto the sofa beside him, he leaned forward and ran his hands through his hair. He shouldn't have let his mother talk him into reading this book, especially not now when his emotions were still so fresh and raw. Thoughts of that night—so perfect and so disastrous—flooded his mind, her words echoing on a loop.
You're going to make someone very happy one day.
Daft bint, thinking that she wasn't going to be that person! He had a plan and she ruined it.
"My, my," Pansy said, tapping her toe and standing with her arms cross over her chest. "You look like a mess."
"Bugger off. I'm not in the mood." He stood up and looked at Pansy who was blocking him from leaving the study. "You're in my way."
"Too bad, I'm not done talking to you." Striding into the room, she plucked his book off the cushion and then sat down, crossing her ankles and ensuring her back was perfectly straight. She examined the book he'd been reading with an unamused glance. "Romance has never been a preferred genre for me. I didn't think it was yours either, unless this is something that Granger has convinced you to read?"
He winced, feeling an ache in his chest at the sound of her name. It had been weeks since he'd stormed out of Granger's flat and the pain of their fight was still fresh.
"Well that answers my first question," Pansy said, gesturing to his face. "Care to tell me why your precious little fwooper is asking me to pass messages along to you? Having a lover's spat?"
"We are not—you can't—it's not—" The words kept catching on his tongue. Nothing felt right or appropriate. There was no 'lover's spat' to be had because there were no 'lovers' to begin with.
"Draco, if you don't sit down and tell me what's going on, I will hex you. You're giving me a migraine," she snapped, pointing firmly at the vacant spot next to her. "The wedding is in a little over twelve hours and if I don't get the right amount of sleep tonight, I'll look like a hag. Do you want to take the blame for that? Because I have no problem telling the magazine that it's all your fault I have bags under my eyes darker than the bottom of the Black Lake."
Rolling his eyes, he sat next to her and crossed his arms over his chest like a petulant child. "I don't know why anyone would ever call you a bridezilla. You're positively delightful."
She scoffed and re-crossed her legs, her lips pursed as she scrutinised him. "What happened between you and Granger? No one seems to know and she's not talking about it except to say that you're ignoring her. Why are you ignoring your girlfriend?"
He wasn't exactly ignoring her, but rather making himself wholly unavailable to read her letters and answer her calls. Any time something arrived from her he would add it to the pile to read later. When she called him through the Floo, he didn't answer, choosing to pretend that he hadn't heard. There hadn't been any more shared wedding events and he had no reason to see her. Honestly, until Pansy stormed in, he had been certain no one even knew they'd been fighting.
But now that Pansy was asking about it, there was no getting around it. Draco launched into the story, keeping his eyes trained on his desk across from them. "The night of your hen do, Blaise encouraged us to go to the club you were at. Some wanker was being an arse to Granger and she was shaken up by it. I took her back to her flat to make sure that she was alright, and then one thing led to another, and then she said something awful and then I stormed out."
"What did she say? I can't possibly help you if you won't tell me what she said."
"It was… after… and we were laying in bed together. She said some other witch would make me really happy one day, basically insinuating that when the wedding was over, we would go back to being nothing more than friends."
He looked up, meeting Pansy's wide, anger filled eyes. "What?"
"Haven't you and Granger been dating for a while now?" she said with an edge to her voice. "Why on earth would she tell you that you'll make some other witch happy?"
"Right, about that..." he mumbled, scratching the back of his neck and trying to figure out how he was supposed to explain the situation to Pansy without pissing her off.
"Draco Malfoy, explain to me what is going on right this instant!"
An irate Pansy was a force to be reckoned with, bringing about the strength of three Ironbelly dragons and ten merpeople protecting their young. If she knew that he and Granger had been lying to her for months, there was no guarantee that either of them would walk away unscathed.
"I swear to Salazar if you don't tell me what's going on this instant I will be telling Narcissa what you and Blaise did in eighth year during that night of veritaserum or dare. You wouldn't want that, would you?" she threatened.
His heart stopped, the air pulled from his lungs at the thought of his mother finding out what happened while he was in school. "You wouldn't dare."
"I absolutely would and you know that. Now, tell me."
Groaning, he leaned forward, resting his elbows on his knees and his head in his hands. "You were freaking out about having a perfect wedding for the magazine and telling us we needed proper dates. Granger suggested we be each other's dates, and along with it, pretend we're dating. No one would harass us about who we brought and you'd have the perfect wedding you'd always dreamed of."
Pansy sucked on her teeth and levelled an icy glare at him. "So it's the night before my wedding—an event that will be seen by thousands of witches and wizards across Europe—and you're just now telling me that my Man of Honour and the Best Woman have been conspiring against me? Do you hate me? Have I been that awful of a person?"
"No, I just..." Draco thought for a moment, trying to figure out how best to explain this to her. When he finally settled on something, he sat up and turned to face her, twisted fully on the sofa. She looked both angry and hurt, and he wasn't sure which was worse. "You're my best friend, Pans. I have put up with your utter shite for the better part of my life, and vice versa, so I knew that it wouldn't matter who I brought to the wedding, you would hate them."
"That's true," she said, her voice softening and emotion coming through. "You have horrible taste in dates."
"Granger's idea, while maybe not flawless, meant that you could have the picture perfect wedding you wanted, and I would get to spend more time with a certain Gryffindor. It felt like a win-win for all of us."
She smoothed her hands over the skirt of her dress and then laced her fingers together. "I appreciate the sentiment, but you're forgetting how well I know you. You've been in love with her for years; it would hardly take a push to convince you to go along with her plan, even if I weren't involved. Which begs the question, why did you walk away?"
"It was like she didn't even want to talk about a potential future with me. She saved all of the flowers I gave her and then told me I would be better off with someone else. And now she's going to bring a date tomorrow and I'm going to have to watch."
Reaching over, Pansy took one of his hands in hers. "How many people have you seen Granger date in the last few years we've been friends with her?"
"Exactly. If she slept with you and kept the things you gave her, I'd say you mean more to her than you think. She's not bringing a date and you need to fix this."
"She should be the one apologising," he grumbled. "She's the one who—"
Pansy waved the comment aside. "He said, she said. Are you really going to let her take all the blame when you weren't honest with her? If you'd told her right from the start how you felt, you could have avoided all of this and I wouldn't be playing matchmaker at half past eleven the night before—"
"—Before your wedding, I know." He pulled his hand free from hers and ran it through his hair. Standing up, he began to pace. "How do I fix this?"
She approached him, placing a hand gently on his arm. "You're Draco Malfoy, you'll figure it out."
"You're far calmer about all of this than I expected. I was expecting a full duel."
With a drowsy smile, she stepped back towards the door. "I took a calming draft twenty minutes ago. I think it took effect partway through our conversation. Don't worry though, when all of this is over and I can confidently say that my wedding was a huge success, I'm sure I'll come yell at you both. I hope she's ready to protect her puffskein."
Left alone, Draco started to form a plan on how to fix things.
“Hermione, you have to stop pacing. I’m getting secondhand anxiety just watching you,” Harry grumbled, adjusting his tie in the mirror before turning back to her with a sigh. “It’s still crooked. Help?”
Hermione shuffled back across the ornate dressing room—which was larger than her entire flat—to her best friend. “I’m sorry, I’m just full of nerves. I don’t think I’m prepared for what’s coming after the ceremony.”
Draco’s silence over the past few weeks had spoken volumes, but she still held onto a glimmer of hope that her apology tonight could change his mind.
“You’re a great friend,” Harry assured her with a glint in his eye, “and I appreciate that you’re so protective of me, but I feel obligated to inform you that your fears are for nothing.”
Cocking her head to the side, she looked over at Harry, wondering if he somehow knew about her fight with Draco. “What? What do you mean?”
He shrugged and gave her a cheeky grin. “It was quite the scandal but Pansy corrupted my innocence long before the wedding night, so there’s no need to worry.”
With a scrunch of her nose, she shuddered. “Please stop, I’d like to be able to sleep eventually.” Her nimble fingers pulled at his soft silk tie and straightened it until it was presentable.
His expression fell and his eyes searched hers. “What’s happening after the ceremony?”
“I have to see Draco,” she whispered, her head ducked against her chest.
“I’m aware, but you’ve been dating Malfoy for a while and he’s always been—” He stopped mid-sentence the moment he noticed tears building in her eyes that she couldn’t stop. He muttered something under his breath before pulling her in for a hug. “What happened?”
“I did something really idiotic, just monumentally bad.” Her throat tightened and it was hard to choke out the words. After spending the last few weeks trying to pretend everything was fine, she was falling apart. “He won’t even talk to me.”
Tutting softly, Harry pulled back from their embrace. “It can’t be as bad as you think.”
“It’s really over.” Her gaze dropped to the floor. “He told me he was going to bring a date today,” she whispered, her stomach turning at the thought.
After their argument the night of the hen do, Hermione had sent no fewer than a dozen letters to Draco and received none in return. Either he was purposefully ignoring her attempts to reach him, or he read her rambling apologies and just didn’t care enough to reply.
She wasn’t sure which was worse.
“He said he’d bring another witch with him? What the fuck is he thinking?” A flash of anger crossed Harry’s green eyes. “That doesn’t make any sense. Pansy said that he fancied you for years even before you two started dating. Why would he throw away a year-long relationship after one argument?”
It was like the air was sucked out of the room and she could hardly breathe. “He what?”
The door to the dressing room swung open and Ron stepped across the threshold carrying the fattest chicken Hermione had ever seen in his hands.
Lifting the chicken up over his head, Ron exclaimed, “I have Henrietta and we’re ready for the ceremony!”
“Harry—what are you going to do to that chicken?” she asked with a sharp edge of panic in her voice.
“It’s fine,” he assured her. “We aren’t going to hurt it or anything; we’re turning its feathers funny colours and setting it loose in the halls for prosperity or gold or something like that—I didn’t quite pay attention when Pansy was explaining it because her top was off.”
Hermione smacked Harry in the chest and he deflected her hand with a laugh. “These pureblood traditions are ridiculous.”
“I’ve stopped questioning it, honestly. Now, what colour should we pick? Henrietta looks like a winter to me. What do you think about purple?”
As Harry’s best woman, Hermione’s primary role was to help the day run smoothly. Though the various tasks given to her by Pansy helped distract her from thinking of a certain blond, no matter what she did, Harry’s words kept coming back to her.
Had Draco truly been interested in her for years?
How could she have missed that?
Her thoughts were interrupted by one of Pansy’s dozen wedding assistants coming to retrieve the trio. Hermione was disappointed that it was only twenty minutes to the ceremony and she still hadn’t caught a glimpse of Draco. Over the past few weeks, she’d considered a dozen different ways to apologise to him, but with this new information she felt completely thrown off guard.
“Pansy’s aware that she’s not actually a queen, right?” Ron asked as they followed behind the assistant.
Harry grinned. “I’m pretty sure she would leave me if I had the audacity to suggest otherwise.”
The wedding was to be held in an opulent castle that looked as if it had been fitted for royalty. Even the marble flooring was so extravagant that Hermione felt bad walking on it. A second wedding planner appeared and whispered something to the first, who rushed away in a flurry back in the direction they’d come, her heels clicking with each step.
“If you’ll follow me, Mr Potter.” The new planner smiled widely and gestured down the hall. “We have a back entrance for you and Ms Parkinson will be passing through shortly.”
Harry’s shoulders tensed and the corners of his eyes tightened; Hermione could feel his nerves rolling off him in waves.
“I know that you and Pansy have been looking forward to today for years, Harry. It’s going to be perfect.” She rushed to console him by giving his arm a gentle squeeze. “You faced Voldemort at seventeen—what’s a wedding?”
“Speaking from personal experience, Pansy’s much scarier,” Ron muttered under his breath. “You can still run if you want to, mate.”
Hermione tossed Ron a glare and swatted at him.
The planner covered her ear with her hand and nodded to herself. “Ms Granger and Mr Weasley, you will wait here for your cues and the bridesmaids will join you shortly,” she instructed, glancing down at her notepad and making a check with her quill. “Mr Potter?”
Harry let out a heavy exhale as if steeling himself, and nodded once. “Ready.”
From the other side of the grand arches, which were draped with a luxurious lightweight fabric, Hermione could hear the soft strum of a harp playing and a low murmur from the waiting crowd.
She’d hoped that she and Draco could find a moment to talk before the ceremony, but as the minutes ticked by, she began to lose hope. A laugh echoed down the hall that Hermione recognised as Daphne’s and her heart leapt into her throat, knowing that Draco would be there too.
A third wedding planner appeared, wearing a similar pantsuit to the first two, and trailing just behind her was Daphne and Draco.
Blood rushed into Hermione’s ears and she just about forgot every word in the English language but—
“Draco,” she whispered, staring at him wide-eyed.
It had only been a few weeks since she last saw him, but she was wholly unprepared for how much she’d missed him until he was standing in front of her again.
It felt like she could finally exhale.
And despite everything that had happened between them, when he saw her the first thing he did was smile and that made her heart ache.
“Perfect. Now, Mr Malfoy, please stand here and Ms Greengrass to the left of Mr Weasley,” the planner directed, gesturing to each position. “Mr Potter is in place and they’re ready for you.”
Draco slipped into the open space next to her and suddenly she blurted out, “I’m sorry—please don’t hate me, I know I was wrong and I—”
“I could never hate you, Granger,” he murmured, his silver eyes piercing her.
Something fluttered in her chest and before she could respond, the doors opened and she turned her attention forward once more. With a cue from the planner—who was strategically hidden from the view of the crowd—Draco led her down the aisle with practiced steps.
The ballroom was a beautiful blend of old world elegance and contemporary style. It was a perfect representation of Harry and Pansy’s relationship and their balance between tradition and modernity.
They made their way to an arch of flowers—which was as over the top as Hermione would expect from Pansy—and she took her place next to Harry, looking at Draco, who was standing to the right of where Pansy would be. It was impossible to read his expression, but when they locked eyes, he gave her a small smile and a sense of relief flooded through her.
It felt like torture, having to wait through the ceremony to talk to Draco, but her only consolation was seeing the pure joy on her best friend’s face as his bride walked down the aisle towards him.
If Hermione were honest, she spent most of the ceremony sneaking glances over at Draco, who honestly had no right looking as good in his suit as he did. It was a wonder anyone could pay attention to the officiant with him standing so close.
Each second felt like an hour until finally, Draco stepped forward to offer her his arm and they followed the procession behind the newly married couple. Just when they stepped over the threshold back into the main entryway, he pulled her aside before she could do the same to him.
He carded a hand through his hair, looking as nervous as she felt. She thought of everything she wanted to say, of the thousands of words of apology she’d written to him over the past few weeks and how more than anything, she wanted a Time-Turner so she could go back and stop herself from ruining everything.
“You didn’t bring a date,” she said, feeling tears prick at her eyes.
Maybe there was still hope that whatever they’d had together wasn’t damaged beyond repair.
“No.” He shook his head, fidgeting with the cufflinks of his suit. “No, I didn’t bring anyone else. I don’t want—”
She cut him off before he could continue and asked, “Did you know that copper is one of the seven metals of alchemy?”
His brow furrowed but there was a slight uptick to his lips as if he were amused. “Yes, Granger, I’m well aware.”
Rocking backward onto her heels nervously, she continued, “And did you know that it represents Venus, not only the planet but the Roman goddess of love?”
“I didn’t but I have a feeling that no matter what my answer is, you’ll continue anyway.”
She felt a blush spread across her cheeks. “I mean, she has other functions like beauty, prosperity, desire…” She cleared her throat. “And it also helps with healing, you know, copper.”
“As fascinating as this lesson is, Granger, I find I’m a bit lost on your timing here,” Draco drawled, and she thought for a moment that his eyes caught on her lips.
“What I mean is, that morning that we were together, I woke up and I couldn’t remember the last time I felt so happy and that scared me.” She lowered her voice to a whisper. “I kept thinking about how it wasn’t real, how it was only a matter of time before you saw what Pansy had and wanted it for yourself. And I thought about her—” the word lodged in her throat but she couldn’t stop “—about some nameless, faceless pureblood witch who would be the one to wake up next to you every morning and how she would know how to handle heirloom ceremonial robes, and to eat before a fancy supper, and how to speak at a party—”
“And for the first time ever, I wanted to be that—I wanted to be her, because if I was then that would mean that maybe I could keep you.”
“Granger—” He looked increasingly flustered but she knew if she didn’t finish then she would regret it forever.
“And I know that being pureblood is important to your family, and I know what tradition means to you, and I know I’m not that—not her—and that I have no clue what I’m doing in the world of pureblood courtship but I just thought that maybe if I could show you that I was trying, it would be enough.” Fumbling for a moment, she reached into the magicked pocket of her dress and pulled out a small copper dragon scale, offering it to Draco with trembling hands.
He stared down at the scale in her palm with an almost curious expression, and she felt her heart drop.
“You forgot the unicorn hair. How am I expected to know that you’re serious about me if there’s no unicorn hair?” he teased.
“I looked everywhere!” she exclaimed with a huff, thinking back to her trip to Diagon Alley the week prior. “You wouldn’t believe how expensive—”
“Hermione, will you let me get a single word in?” His hand caught hers and he brushed his thumb across the back of her hand. “I don’t want that kind of witch you’re talking about, not when I could have you. I’m sorry I didn’t stay and fight. I really fucked up by leaving.”
She felt her lips quiver. “I’m Hermione again?”
He nodded, his smile growing as he slowly closed the gap between them. His arm wound around her waist and pulled her flush against him. “I can’t believe you went and found a dragon scale for me.”
“It’s from a Peruvian Vipertooth at the reserve where Charlie Weasley works. I couldn’t find any Antipodean Opaleye scales in time and I thought the symbolism of the copper Vipertooth was more fitting. They do have a pesky habit of eating humans though, which isn’t the most romantic but I do hope that you’re willing to overlook it.”
His free hand slipped into her curls to cradle the back of her head and she held her breath, afraid to break the spell.
“For real this time?” he asked, just a heartbeat away from her now.
“It’s always been real. I shouldn’t have said that it wasn’t,” she whispered the moment before his lips swallowed her last word.
He broke the kiss just long enough to counter, “I shouldn’t have left—shouldn’t have ignored your letters. I thought after everything between us you still didn’t want me and it was fucked up but I was hurt and felt like I finally had everything I’d ever wanted just for it to be ripped out from under me.”
She fisted the lapels of his suit and her lips crashed against his, wanting to show him just how much she did want him. After a while, she lost track of time in his arms and it seemed that he felt the same because neither wanted to be the one to step away first.
Just then, a loud squawk came from around the corner and a brightly coloured chicken appeared, running on its little legs at full speed past them.
“Was that a chicken?” Draco asked incredulously. “Why are its feathers all wonky?”
Fighting back a laugh, she nodded. “Some sort of pureblood tradition that Pansy had him do this morning.”
“Either Potter wildly misunderstood her instructions or Pansy lied to him because that’s not a pureblood tradition.”
The pair burst into laughter as the purple, green, and blue chicken paused to peck at the running water at the base of a gold statue in the centre of the entryway.
“We should probably get to the reception,” she finally said. It felt completely second nature when his hand slid down to rest on the small of her back. His thumb drew slow circles against her and she leaned into the touch.
“Only if you insist.”
“I don’t but Pansy does, and according to Ron she’s scarier than Voldemort.”
He choked out a laugh. “He lived in my home for a year and I’m not disagreeing. Speaking of, you willingly talked to a Weasley to get this,” he mused, flipping the scale over in his hand. “You must really like me.”
She scoffed and rolled her eyes but couldn’t stop smiling. “You’re incorrigible. And yes, as a matter of fact, I really do.”
“If you spin me again, I might vomit,” Hermione warned, only partially teasing. “My stomach is ninety-percent cake right now.”
Following the eight course meal of miniscule proportions and the Best Woman and Man of Honour speeches, Draco had snuck them both extra servings of dessert.
“What kind of boyfriend would I be if you weren’t ninety-percent full of cake at all times?” he quipped, gently guiding her as they navigated the dance floor.
Her stomach flipped at the title and she nearly missed a step. “Who let you in on the secret to keeping me happy? I know my coven didn’t betray my secrets.”
“No betrayals necessary, I just know you,” he replied, dropping a quick kiss to her temple.
A flash of white brushed past them. Out of the corner of her eye she saw Harry and Pansy dancing, looking deliriously happy. “Oh! I almost forgot, did you remember to pay the musician this morning?” Pansy asked.
Harry’s eyes popped open and he stuttered, “P-pay the musician? I thought you said paint the chicken.”
“What? Why would I ask you to—”
Before Hermione could hear anything else, she was swept away by Draco in another set of carefully executed steps. His head dipped to the shell of her ear and he murmured, “In fact, rumour has it that it was not Pansy behind the merging of our friend groups after all. Rumours say that I’m the one who sent Weasley the free drinks that night in the pub years ago and that was why he was intoxicated to the point where he knocked Pansy into Potter.”
Hermione gasped, playing along with the story, knowing that Draco had been adamantly against Harry and Pansy’s relationship at first. “And, tell me Draco Malfoy, whatever would be your motivation to do such a thing?”
“It’s all been an intricate plan crafted through the years. The first step was to orchestrate Potter and Pansy’s meeting and encourage their relationship; next I persuaded Pansy into believing that smaragdine is her colour when it’s clearly olive, and finally—the most important moment of all—I convinced Hermione Granger to dance with me while she’s wearing Slytherin green.”
“It’s not Slytherin green, it’s—” she looked down at herself and her eyes widened in shock. “Holy shit, it’s Slytherin green!”
He snorted and his grip on her waist tightened slightly.
Despite her earlier objections, she let him guide her into a twirl and his fingertips grazed the back of her dress. “And? Do the rumours say it was worth it?”
He smirked. “Worth every second.”
A small group of people began to form at the front of the dance floor and Ginny appeared to pull Hermione away from Draco. “Come on, Hermione! It’s time for the bouquet toss!”
She lost sight of Draco as Ginny dragged her through the crowd until they settled at the front, and Pansy marched up to the front and turned her back on the cluster of people before tossing her wildly expensive set of flowers behind her. Hannah Abbott broke through the group, victoriously clutching the bouquet and smiling over at Neville, her date.
Hermione turned to face Draco, who was standing behind her and holding a single peony in his hand. “I’m back to Granger again?”
“You’ll always be Granger,” he said, pressing the flower into her hands. “For your bouquet.”
“But I didn’t catch the bouquet.”
“Not that bouquet. This is for the bouquet I’ve been giving you all year. According to tradition, a proper courtship bouquet must contain no fewer than a dozen flowers to demonstrate intent.”
She held the flower securely in her hand and Draco smiled when her fingertips brushed along the petals.
His lips lowered to her ear. “By my estimate, you’re short one flower and that certainly won’t do for my witch. What do you say after this, we go out for some fish and chips? I think I know of a place you might like.”
“Yes please, I need something to balance out all this cake.” She paused, pursing her lips before meeting his eyes. “And then maybe after, we could go back to my flat and see how this peony looks with the rest of the bouquet?”
“I’d love nothing more.”
One Month Later
Hermione looked up from her bowl of oatmeal and berries just in time to see Allston—Draco’s owl—drop a package onto the dining table in front of them.
With a curious expression, Draco pulled at the strings of the package and unwrapped the brown paper. “Looks like Pansy sent us a copy of the latest edition of Bouquet.”
Humming under her breath, she pushed aside her bowl and reached for the magazine. After flipping through the first few pages, she opened to a wide spread on Pansy’s wedding with a centrefold of Harry and Pansy kissing at the altar. Flipping further back, she saw that each major event Pansy held leading up to the big day—minus the bachelorette—had its own dedicated page.
Several pages covered the initial engagement party held at Parkinson Manor. Hermione was surprised to see that the camera had caught Draco looking across the room at her several times throughout the night and she couldn’t help but wonder how she had ever missed it.
A photograph of Harry and Pansy at their betrothal was the first one to truly catch her eye. To the observant reader, just over Pansy’s shoulder, there was a clear image of Draco and Hermione tucked away from the rest of the group. She recognised the moment and knew that their hands were full of macarons at the time the photograph was taken. It might’ve been the moonlight, but Hermione could’ve sworn they looked like they were glowing as they shared a laugh.
She turned the page to the reception, skimming past the articles which described every aspect of the decor with painstaking detail. She had been reading so quickly, in fact, that she nearly missed the half page covered with a single image of her and Draco dancing at the reception just before the bouquet toss.
Seeing everything printed and displayed back to back, Hermione suddenly understood how everyone had believed that they were dating long before they actually were.
They’d already looked in love.
“Don’t keep me in suspense, Granger. What do you think?” Draco asked as he buttered his toast. “Did Pansy get what she wanted? Does Bouquet document the love story of the century?”
Hermione looked back down at the image of them on loop, watching herself stare up at him as he twirled her before pulling her close and whispering in her ear. Her fingers brushed along the image and her pulse skipped before she glanced up at him with a smile and replied, “Yes, love, I think it does.”