Hermione enjoyed Paul and Emma’s wedding ceremony on the hillside at dusk. They’d gone for a lighter floral touch and fairy lights, which Hermione herself was also partial to. Paul, being her cubicle mate at the Department of Magical Law Enforcement, had asked her advice on many an occasion while planning his wedding when stuck between two choices. She’d assumed their friendship was close enough that at the reception she’d be sat at a table with some of their coworkers, but she couldn’t have imagined just which other single coworker in particular she’d be sat next to.
Of all of their possible coworkers, why in Merlin’s name did Paul think she’d be able to have a good time at the reception sitting next to Draco Malfoy? Just because she didn’t have a date to the wedding didn’t mean that Paul had to make her suffer through the inevitable hell an evening in the close company of Draco fucking Malfoy would bring.
As the reception area opened up after the marriage ceremony, Hermione found her name on the list and went to the numbered table. She sat down next to one of their fun coworkers, Bill, and his wife, engaging them in conversation.
“How’s Alice doing, Bill?” Hermione asked, curious to hear more about Hogwarts from someone other than one of the many Potter and Weasley kids.
“Alice is doing great, almost ready to graduate! She’s actually thinking of taking that internship in the Magical Creatures department this summer. Professor Hidgens thinks she’d be a perfect fit for it, apparently,” Bill gushed about his daughter.
“That’s fantastic to hear, Bill! Is she studying for her N.E.W.T.s yet?”
Bill nodded and chuckled. “Oh, she knows she’d be in trouble with her mother if she wasn’t!”
Two more couples sat down at their table, leaving the last seat open next to Hermione. She greeted them and continued speaking with Bill about work and his family. Drinks were brought around and water glasses filled, signaling the entrance of the wedding party would be happening any minute.
Hermione took a sip of her wine. A person rushed into the empty seat next to her just as music began playing. She barely had the chance to look at her seatmate before her attention was torn to the bridesmaids and groomsmen dancing their way into the reception.
A magically-enhanced voice boomed. “Please welcome Mr. and Mrs. Matthews!”
Newlyweds Paul and Emma finally entered the hall to a swell of hollering, whistling, and cheering. A quick speech from Paul, and everyone re-seated themselves for the dinner meal to be served.
Almost on a cue, plates were brought out with steaming meat and vegetables. Bill’s wife caught Hermione’s attention, asking her about the garden she had started this spring. Hermione actually ignored her other seat neighbor through the entire meal, so wrapped up in conversation with Bill and his wife. There was a lull in the table conversation after the empty plates were taken away. Before she could even look over properly, a familiar voice spoke up.
“I’m surprised you’ve been able to ignore me this long, Granger. Usually you’re sighing and eye-rolling your way away from me,” Draco drawled, a shit-eating grin on his face.
Hermione couldn’t help herself and rolled her eyes. Of course it was Draco Fucking Malfoy.
“Well I’m not surprised you’re still the way you are, Malfoy,” Hermione snarked back.
Draco turned in his chair to more fully face Hermione, dropping any pretense of aloofness. “Alright, let’s just cut the shit Granger. We’re at our friends’ wedding for Merlin’s sake.”
Hermione couldn’t argue with that, and didn’t respond.
Paul and Emma chose then to cut the cake, and drew their attention to the beautiful, three tiered sugary creation at the back of the room. Being reasonable, Paul lightly dabbed a bit of frosting on Emma’s nose, but she gave him a full swipe across his face true to her character. Everyone laughed, whooped, and hollered as they kissed before eating their ceremonial bites. Cake was served through the room, and Hermione nearly forgot about her antagonistic neighbor while eating and chatting across the table with Melissa.
A tap on her knee had her shooting a glare at Draco. “What?” she asked.
Draco couldn’t say anything, though, as a microphone was tapped loudly to get the reception’s attention.
Emma’s dad, Greg, got up to announce the first dance of the evening for the newlyweds. Paul and Emma stepped out gracefully onto the dance floor as the opening notes to their chosen song, “A Thousand and One Nights.” Neither of them were strong dancers, so they mostly swayed in a circle in the center of the floor for the duration of the song. They talked quietly with each other, being the cutest couple ever until the song ended. Paul dipped her low and kissed her deeply to whoops and cheers from the partygoers.
Soon after that, the dance floor was opened up to everyone and more upbeat music was blasted through the speakers. Hermione returned her attention to the cake she hadn’t yet finished. Bill and his wife, Ted, and Charlotte had gone to the dance floor, so it was just Hermione, Draco, and Melissa with her date left at the table. Hermione was just about to ask Melissa a question when her date whisked her away from the table.
“What do you want, Malfoy?” Hermione asked, finishing the last bite of her cake.
Draco took the opportunity to turn fully towards Hermione and plaster a smirk on his face. “I was just going to ask you if we could start over with our conversation tonight. Reset the stage, if you will.”
At Hermione’s perplexed gaze, Draco dropped the smirk and sighed. “What I’m trying to say is I’d like to not be an arse to you tonight, and you not to be an arse to me. We’re at our coworker’s wedding and are both dateless so why can’t we play nice for one evening that’s supposed to be fun?”
His pleading expression, and admittedly, the two glasses of wine Hermione had already drank swayed her. “I suppose it can’t hurt. It’s not like you’re going to make me dance with you,” she replied.
Draco nearly choked on his firewhiskey. “Whoa there, Granger, no need to get ahead of yourself. We’re not even friends yet.”
Hermione chuckled and brazenly said, “Well, I want there to be that chance.” She raised her eyes to meet Draco’s inscrutable gaze.
He broke away first, looking out at the people on the dance floor. Ted and Charlotte were dancing like they were twenty again to the Weird Sisters track playing. Emma was dancing with her niece and nephew, and a small wave a sadness rushed through Hermione at the memory of Paul telling her about Emma’s sister’s passing a few years back. Paul joined the trio then, and the wave receded.
“So tell me, Granger,” Draco said, clearly oblivious to her moment, “you’ve been with the MLE now for almost ten years. Why haven’t you applied for a promotion or two?”
She shrugged and sipped her wine, liking the looseness in her limbs she hadn’t felt in months of a busy work schedule. “I guess I just don’t know what I want to do yet. There’s so many options.”
“I mean sure, Granger, but by Merlin, you’re one of the top lawyers the MLE has had in years and you haven’t even been offered a promotion?” Draco replied, indignant.
Hermione looked incredulous at that assumption. “Why do you assume I haven’t just turned them down?”
Draco’s eyes widened, and he held his hands up apologetically. “Okay, okay, sorry for assuming things. I just thought you’d be gunning for the top job as fast as you could, is all.”
Her gaze softened as she realized he wasn’t being rude to her. “Oh. Well I really like what I’m doing, making a real, actual difference for people. Why give that feeling up for a cushy office and pay raise with minimal tangible results?”
Downing the last of his firewhiskey, Draco set the glass firmly on the table and leaned in closer to Hermione so she could hear him as the music swelled and people cheered. “Why am I not surprised you’d rather stay fighting for the people and saving the world on your own?”
Hermione simply shrugged in response and smoothed the front of her dress down, feeling nerves begin to gather in her stomach. It’s not like she didn’t know Draco; she knew the man pretty damn well all things considered. Sure, he’d chosen to do more of the international side of things with the MLE, but she just couldn’t forget their shared history. The ten year anniversary of the Second Wizarding War had just passed last year, and the commemoration had nearly broken her, and Harry.
Shaking her head at the intrusive thoughts, she downed the rest of her wine, which ended up being more than she’d thought she had left. A bit dribbled down her chin and she hurriedly wiped it away with the back of her hand. Staring at Draco, she held out her hand and boldly said, “Let’s dance.”
Draco’s eyebrows furrowed for a second before they smoothed out. He stood and accepted her hand, leading her out onto the dance floor.
A drunk Hermione Granger wasn’t necessarily a new experience for him; a drunk and dancing Hermione Granger definitely was. He wasn’t sure if he should be excited or frightened.
Draco stood, rather still, next to a swaying Hermione on the edge of the dance floor. Even with the many dance lessons and parties and galas he’d been to over his younger years thanks to his mother, he still hated dancing in a semi-public forum. The situation at hand was, quite frankly, a bit hellish for him. Everyone around him was singing and dancing along to a song he didn’t know. What was most surprising to him though, was Hermione’s willingness to shed her cool, collected exterior from the office and let loose with their coworkers and friends.
“Come on Draco, just let it out!” Hermione practically shouted in his ear over the booming of the bass. “I know you know how to dance.”
“Just because I know how to doesn’t mean that I want to,” Draco replied as the bass-heavy song ended and he could speak in a normal voice.
Hermione rolled her eyes at him and reached down to adjust her heel. The next song that started playing was much, much slower than the previous few had been, something about tying up the singer’s heart, who, perhaps ironically, was Celestina Warbeck? As it was, Draco grumbled to himself, knowing exactly what he was going to have to do now that he was here, on the damn dance floor, with a specific person, instead of sitting down at a table, alone, to avoid this shit.
Ever the gentleman, though, he held out a hand to Hermione. She accepted and put her other hand on his shoulder, causing icy cold to rush through his arm and down through his chest. He settled his hand on her waist, very conscious of the thinness of the fabric between his hand and her skin. The formality of the position allowed him clarity and distance. It also made them stand out from the other couples on the floor with arms linked around necks and waists, heads close together.
He shouldn’t have cared that much about sticking out like a sore thumb, but he did. Sighing, Draco moved quickly to lift their joined hands to his shoulder before releasing his hold and putting his freed hand on her waist, bringing their bodies closer. They continued swaying and turning in a small circle on their little corner of the floor.
“Sorry, I just felt very exposed dancing like that,” he murmured, looking down at Hermione.
She smiled crookedly at him. “That’s okay, I knew I could get you to dance eventually.”
Heat rushed to Draco’s face. He cleared his throat and looked deeper into the dancing couples, seeing Paul and Emma in a tight embrace with her head on his chest. Watching them being so happy and basking in their love only made Draco more nervous. What the fuck was going on with him tonight?
Hermione felt his hands tense up and furrowed her brows. “What’s wrong, Draco?”
He inhaled sharply. She’d said his name. His actual name. “Oh, erm, nothing, I just can’t believe how happy Paul and Emma look.”
She turned to look at the happy couple, a grin appearing on her face. Draco resettled himself, shaking his head to clear it of the stupidness he’d just gone through. It had to have been that third glass of whiskey he drank earlier, messing with his perceptions. The final notes of the song strained through the speakers, pulling both of them from their musings and dancing position.
It was time for the bouquet toss, and Draco actually pushed Hermione to go up with the other single women just to get a laugh out of it and her discomfort at being so near to center of attention. She didn’t even try to catch the flowers, preferring to hold her hands over her head as protection. Her tactic didn’t work though because, as if it were magic, the bouquet fell directly into her hands. The shrieks of glee from her fellow women were a sharp contrast to her burning red face. She gave Emma a one-armed hug before hurrying off the dancefloor back to the table.
A high energy beat started playing from the speakers, as Emma sat down in a chair for Paul to retrieve the garter from her thigh, hands-free. Draco clapped and shouted along with the other guests, cheering triumphantly when Paul succeeded. Paul flung the garter into the crowd, hitting Ted with it and causing his face to drop at the intimation of what catching the garter meant for him.
Draco laughed as he saw Charlotte’s reaction to Ted holding the garter, shaking his head in fear. He went to the bar and got two glasses of wine before heading back to the table. Hermione was sitting in her chair, silently staring at the slightly crushed flowers in her hand. Draco cleared his throat to get her attention; she jumped, but accepted a glass from him and took a large gulp before setting it on the table. He cautiously sat down next to her, unsure of what to say.
“You know what’s crazy?” Hermione burst out. “I was the person who convinced Paul to actually talk to Emma in the first place.”
“Really?” Draco asked, genuinely curious.
Hermione nodded. “Mhmm, he was so nervous whenever he went to get coffee from that bistro down the street because she worked there every day. He kept telling me every day he was going to talk to her for nearly a year before I finally yelled at him to quit mucking about and just bloody ask her out already.”
Draco was taken aback by her use of language. “But how did you know she wouldn’t turn him down?”
“Because I had also taken the time to go down there myself, Malfoy,” Hermione rolled her eyes. “I can do some damn good reconnaissance when I want to, you know.”
“Okay, I believe you, Granger,” Draco jokingly held his hands up. “Do you play matchmaker often in our office, then?”
Hermione giggled. “No, I just got tired of hearing Paul talk about her all the time and not doing anything about it. It was honestly mostly unintentional, but I think these two were kind of inevitable to begin with.”
Draco hummed his agreement at that statement. He drank some of his wine, catching her gaze as he set it back down on the table.
“Why are you looking at me like that?”
She blinked. “I don’t know what you mean.”
“You’re looking at me like you can’t reconcile me with how I was in school or after the War ended.”
“Maybe I can’t.”
“So you don’t think people can change?”
“I do, but I’m having a hard time believing you’ve changed so much in fifteen years.”
“I was a naive, tortured boy back then. I’ve done my best to erase that version of me from my personal history. Perhaps it’s time for you to do the same.”
They paused their banter for healthy swigs of wine for each of them, a little flushed from their heated exchange.
The next song that came on was definitely one of The Weird Sisters’ latest hits, as neither Draco nor Hermione recognized it besides the familiarity of the singing voice. They’d clearly taken inspiration from something muggle as police sirens could be heard in the background of the song, but the lyrics were about dancing. The two thirty-somethings didn’t really care for it though and sipped more of their wine in silence.
After a moment, Draco leaned closer to Hermione so he wouldn’t have to shout. “Want to get some fresh air?” He inclined his head towards the double doors leading to a nice balcony on the far side of the room.
Hermione nodded and rose from her seat, following Draco outside to the cool evening air and relative quiet away from the party with their wine glasses in hand. The breeze was just brisk enough to make the hairs on her arms stick up and make her shiver. Draco noticed and took off his suit jacket, draping it lightly around her shoulders.
“Thanks,” she said, pulling it a bit tighter around her with one hand.
“No problem,” he replied, sticking his hands in his pockets and leaning against the railing, looking out across the grass and woods in the fading light.
Hermione took the opportunity to study the man more closely. She peered at his face, his eyes, his brows, searching for something she did not yet know she wanted to find, tipsy or not. His arms, his stance, all spoke of a conscious effort, but for what purpose did he do it? The careful grooming of his hair, the stiffness of his shirt collar and precision of his rolled sleeves, the creases in his slacks and impeccable shine to his shoes. None of it screamed wealth or pureblood high-mindedness to her, so her inability to think of him as anything more than the teenager on the wrong side of a war was confusing her.
She wanted to think of him differently now that they’d worked together for so many years, and their partnership was actually quite good on cases. He’d never once called her a rude name or belittled her work. In fact, in the last four or five years of working cases together, he’d been one of her nicest coworkers. Sometimes he was even nicer than Paul, which was really saying something as that man rarely spoke poorly of others. She just couldn’t puzzle him out in this setting. It felt like a piece was missing from her puzzle and her picture of him would be incomplete without it.
“How did you do it?” she asked.
The question caught him off guard. “How did I do what?”
“How did you deal with all of the shit and horror and torture we went through after all was said and done? How did you become...happy?”
Draco was quiet, collecting his thoughts.
“Before I got my assignment , I did what I was told to do by my parents. After Dumbledore, I didn’t know what to think anymore. You may have hated me, but I also hated myself, for far more than you could ever know,” Draco’s lip curled angrily. “My life was ruined at fifteen by a man who only cared about preserving his immortality and would stop at nothing to achieve it.”
Draco turned and bored a hole in Hermione’s face, swaying slightly on the spot. “You’re asking me how I dealt with it? I didn’t. I couldn’t. When I saw Potter limp in Hagrid’s arms, that was the moment I broke and decided I wouldn’t do anything anymore that would help him win.”
Hermione fiddled with the button on his jacket, realizing she’d cracked something in him, something that he hadn’t talked about in years, if ever. Perhaps they were both drunker than they thought and more willing to share secrets. She reached out a hand and grasped his tightly in her own.
He swallowed before continuing, squeezing her hand in thanks. “As soon as I could get away from it all, I did. I spent a year in France, alone, staying at one of our older family estates. I guess I just needed to figure out what I wanted, rather than what my family wanted, you know?”
She nodded in understanding, and he gave her a sheepish smile. “I’m sorry to dump this on you, I don’t really know where it all came from. I’m just a glutton for ridicule, obviously.”
“It’s fine, honestly, Draco. Sometimes it’s better to let things out, even if they’re unexpected,” she said, taking a step closer to him. “It also makes sense, knowing you the way I do now compared to back then. You have changed, and you clearly have no qualms about fraternizing with a muggleborn now.”
The distance between them was now halved, and the music drifting from inside was definitely a silly love song as cheers for Paul and Emma to dance again came in sharp cuts of sound. Hermione’s eyes were unreadable, and Draco felt his heart begin to race. They were still holding hands. As a distraction, he grabbed his wine and downed the rest of it.
“So what do you think then, Granger? Are you willing to fraternize with a reformed blood supremacist?” he spun her phrase back on her, and his eyes twinkled even as she looked a little blurry in his vision.
She laughed and finished her wine also. “Well, we have been coworkers for nearly ten years now, so I think we’re a little bit past the fraternizing stage, don’t you?”
Draco pulled Hermione closer to him, overcome with conflicting emotions. He heard her sharp intake of breath and felt all the more confused. Deflecting his emotions for one minute, he set his free hand on her waist and slowly began dancing along to the music, Hermione following as best she could. The music roared to a crescendo in his ears and he got lost in her golden-brown eyes. Before he knew it she had linked her arms around his neck, forcing him to hold her waist more securely as they moved in slow circles around the balcony.
Hermione looked up, into his eyes, searching. “What would you say to seeing a silent movie with me next weekend?”
He wasn’t entirely sure what a silent movie was, but the implications behind the invitation were clear enough, if he could bloody think straight. She wanted to go on a...date? Alone? With him? I’ll bloody kick myself for fucking something else up today, but damn if she doesn’t look beautiful in that dress.
“I would say that I don’t know what a silent movie is, and I would also say that I’m free all of next weekend,” Draco replied, the wine giving him a boost of confidence.
She beamed, and her eyes flicked down to his mouth and back again. His heart plummeted to his stomach. “In fact, I’m free later this evening,” the words fell out of his mouth and he didn’t even have the motor control to stop them.
Draco leaned down, their lips touching softly. A spark coursed through him, and he kissed her again, stronger this time, unable to pull away from this new thread in his life. Maybe, just maybe, their story didn’t have an ending yet.