: A Match, For A ChangeAuthor
: #2A Match, For A Change
The invitation had given a time, a date, and an assigned costume - flapper. She'd protested, of course, disliking the idea of someone telling her what to wear as much as the idea of attending a party, but Harry and Ginny had jollied her into it. Bullied, really. "C'mon, Hermione," Harry told her. "You haven't gone out with us since--"
"Since the divorce. I know
, Harry. I've been busy at work. You and Ginny go on. You got matching costumes assigned to you, even. Lion and lioness, seems appropriate. Go on and have fun."
Ginny made puttering noises and 'flew' a spoon into her son's mouth. "You're going. You need to get out for a change. If you don't, I'm going on holiday and leaving the baby with you. For a month."
Hermione stared in wide-eyed horror at her friend, whose blouse was covered in strained beets and whose hair was orange with mushed carrots. James had taken after his grandfather from birth. She loved her friends, loved her near-nephew, but her world would go topsy-turvy and nutters if she had to watch the child for a week, much less a month. Her daughter was enough of a handful. "You're an evil woman, Ginevra Molly Weasley Potter."
Ginny smiled. Harry laughed. James flicked beets down Ginny's blouse. Hermione groaned.
Hermione stood at the back of the room, watching her officemates bob for apples, play pin the wart on the hag, and carve jack o'lanterns. She'd given up on that quickly when her pumpkin screamed and tried to eat her long, beaded necklace. Halloween parties were a little more nerve-wracking when the 'touch the bowl of eyeballs' gag might not
be peeled grapes.
She'd fulfilled her promise to Harry and Ginny, even though it had been yanked from her. She'd come to the party, she'd worn a flapper costume, and she'd managed not to throw her drink on her ex-husband when he took his new girlfriend into the coat closet, their matching skeleton costumes rattling even through the door. She'd handled it all. Now she was done.
She edged for the door, snagging a bottle of Pepo's Pumpkin Porter as she passed the refreshment table. If she was lucky, the night wouldn't be a total loss. She could get good and toasted since Molly had Rose for the weekend.
Hermione made her way to the atrium, intent on getting into a Floo and out of the Ministry, but a tall, slender form near the fountain caught her attention. The white blond hair was longer than it had been in school, but still recognizable. He was wearing a white fedora, white spats, and a pin-striped suit, and he was carrying a silver-headed walking stick.
He was alone, though that wasn't unusual. Since his wife's death, he'd always been alone. Of course, he'd been alone long before that, when one got right down to it. He worked in the Ministry archives, kept to himself, and avoided anyone who might care to remind him of what he'd done during the war. That was just about everyone.
She didn't know why she walked over to the fountain to stand beside him, didn't know why she laid a hand on his arm and said "I'm sorry, Draco." It wasn't as though he'd want her apology or her touch, or appreciate her anywhere near him, and it wasn't as though she even knew why she was apologizing. She waited for the sneer, the glare, or the insults.
Instead, he looked at her hand on his arm, then exhaled slowly and returned his attention to the fountain. "What was it all for?" He took a long sip from a glass full of something so strong that she could smell the alcohol. "What did we do everything for? What was the purpose of it?"
She looked at the fountain and took Draco's glass from him, then drained it. The alcohol burned down her throat and made her eyes water. Her voice creaked when she spoke. "For the future? For difference and change. For our children. For Rose and Scorpius and all the others. Loads of reasons, I suppose. We all had our own. Even you did."
"Yeah. I had my reasons." He turned to face her, one brow raised as he looked over her costume. "What are you?"
She let him change the subject. Even after this long, some things were too painful to discuss. She twirled her bead necklace and cocked her head, the feathers in her hair dancing. "Flapper."
To her surprise, he laughed. "Well, someone has a twisted sense of humor. My invitation said 'gangster'. I had to look it up. Choices were this or a big puffy coat and gold chains."
She grinned, amused that he'd actually researched it. "Picked the right one, then. You look good." It was true. Even in fancy dress, he looked elegant. "So you're supposed to be my match. Wonder whose idea that was? And when we find them, do you want the first punch?"
He chuckled and sat on the edge of the fountain, both hands folded on top of the walking stick. "So what exactly is
a flapper, Granger? Why are you my match?"
She twirled her necklace again and explained the history to him as she opened the bottle of pumpkin porter and poured him a glass. She drank straight from the bottle. The alcohol made her chatty, she realized, and she let it. Turned out that when he wasn't sneering, Draco was a decent conversationalist, and after they'd worked through half the bottle, it turned out he was a more than decent dancer. She taught him the Charleston, and they stumbled into each other as they practiced.
He caught her around the waist, laughing. Hermione reached up and tucked a bit of hair behind his ear. "Soft. Why'd you start wearing it long?"
"Astoria liked it that way." Draco flashed his brows at her. "Gave her something to grip."
Hermione stared up at him, chewing on her lip as she thought. He hadn't let go of her, he was attractive when he wasn't being a prick, she was well on her way to drunk, and it had been a long while for her. A long, long, lonely while. It was a bad decision, she was sure of that, but sometimes a woman needed to make a bad decision for a change. She could always blame it on the porter.
She wrapped her fingers in Draco's hair, got a good grip, and pulled his head down. She kissed him.
He kissed her.
It was a bad decision, but it was a very good
It wasn't quite a hangover. No one who woke up in a room that posh could ever be said to be suffering something so plebian as a hangover. An indelicate feeling, perhaps, or a case of being under the weather. Never a hangover.
Too bad it felt like one. Hermione pulled the pillow over her head and moaned.
"Morning. Tea and toast if you want it. I recommend the tea at the least. You'll need to replenish those fluids. You're definitely going to want to rinse that taste out of your mouth."
Hermione shrieked, sat bolt upright, shrieked again and snatched the sheet up to her neck, then
realized she was fully dressed and alone in the huge bed. Fully dressed in a warm silk nightie with far too much room in the bodice area. She plucked at it before looking across the room to where Draco lounged in an armchair, reading a newspaper.
"It was my wife's," he said, without looking up from the article he was reading. "She was a little, er. Bigger than you, I'm afraid. I apologize for changing your clothes, by the way, but I didn't think you'd sleep very well in your costume. I looked as little as possible."
Hermione slipped out of the bed, biting her lip in restrained pleasure as her feet sank into the plush carpet. She joined Draco by the windows and settled into a chair facing him. "You looked as little
"Correct." He picked up his tea and took a ship behind his paper.
"So you didn't--"
"So we didn't--"
"You got it."
"But I offered--"
." Draco sighed and snapped the paper down. There were deep circles under his eyes that looked like the evidence of a night without sleep. She wondered if he'd sat up all night watching her, then noticed the rubbish bin sitting next to the bed. Sat up all night watching over her, then. She never did handle porter very well.
"You offered, Granger," he was saying, and she paid attention. "You offered me a few things that my wife
wouldn't let me do. I won't lie and say I wasn't tempted to take you up on a couple of those, but you were drunk. Sober enough to know what you were saying, I'll admit, but drunk enough that it put all the advantage at my hoops. Not my style, despite any rumor you might have heard. Never been all that good a bloke, but I'm not that bad a man."
Hermione had taken a cup of tea while Draco spoke, and she cradled it in both hands while he finished. "I don't listen to rumors, just facts. A little surprised by these facts, though. Thought you were precisely the sort to take opportunity when it fell in your lap." She groaned and covered her eyes, a bit of the previous night coming back to her. "Or crawls into your lap and sucks on your earlobe, as the case may be."
"Entertaining of you, I have to say." Draco set the paper aside with his tea and folded his hands together over his stomach. "I do like to take advantage of opportunity, but not women. However, if a certain woman would care to give me the opportunity to try again when she's sober, I don't think I'd object."
Hermione froze with the cup halfway to her lips. She had to run that through her mind a couple of times to be certain she'd heard it right. "Er. That's.... Sorry, sounded like you'd just--"
"We had a good talk last night. Had a good dance. Had a very
good kiss." He watched her, with a little wariness in his eyes. She didn't know if he knew it was there. "You gave me a chance to treat you quite poorly last night, Hermione. I didn't take it. Thought maybe, if you're feeling brave, you might give me a chance to treat you well. For a change."
It was probably a bad decision. She knew that. But as she looked at him, at his guarded eyes, she chewed on her lip and gave a mental nod. Time for a change.