Warm rays of sunshine were peeking through the curtains, warming her face. It was late in the morning, and she could hear the sounds of birds chirping happily outside the window. On any other day, Hermione Granger would’ve leapt to her feet and gone about her usual morning routine. She was a morning person, after all. However, on this particular morning, all she wanted was to find her wand, which she was convinced had rolled under the bed, and blast those damn birds into oblivion.
Her head was pounding as if a Hippogriff was running loose inside her brain. Her stomach was turning somersaults, and every sound she heard was magnified by a thousand. To put it plainly, she had the hangover from hell.
“Too bright,” she groaned, as her eyes strained to focus in the morning light. When she finally managed to peel her eyelids open, she glanced carefully around the room—only to discover that she had no idea where she was.
She also realized, much to her horror, that she was clad in nothing but a pair of silk boxer shorts and a man’s neck tie. “What in Merlin’s name?”
She was still trying to piece together some sort of mental picture from the night before when a door to her right flung open and out stalked the one and only Draco Malfoy, wearing nothing but a fluffy white towel around his waist. “Morning, Granger.”
Hermione shrieked and dove under the sheets for cover. “Bloody hell! Malfoy?! What are you doing here?!”
Draco chuckled as he watched Hermione bury herself in the sheets. “I live here…and no need to cover up, sweetheart. Not like I haven’t seen it.” He laughed again when the only audible response was a long drawn out groan from the lump under the covers.
“Did we…” she whispered, afraid to know the answer.
“Afraid so. Quite a few times.”
His response elicited another loud groan from under the covers.
“You don’t have to sound so depressed, love. From what I could tell last night, you quite enjoyed yourself.”
Hermione could feel her cheeks growing hot with embarrassment. “Oh God…” She groaned for the third time and tried to bury herself even farther under the covers. “How did this happen?”
“Well, you see, when a man and a woman come together on the grounds of mutual sexual attraction…”
“Oh SHUT UP, Malfoy! That’s not what I meant!”
His deep laughter filled the room.
Hermione rubbed her eyes and tried to force her brain to remember what had happened. She had gone out on the town with several girlfriends to celebrate Lavender Brown’s birthday. That much she knew. She also remembered running into Malfoy and being pleasantly surprised to see him…but that’s where her recollections stopped.
Finally, after a few moments of awkward silence, Hermione poked her head out from under the sheets. “So… what exactly happened last night? I remember going to the pub after work with the girls, but the details are a bit fuzzy.”
Draco laughed and sat down on the edge of windowsill across from her. “You really don’t remember?”
Hermione glared at him. “Please don’t make me ask twice.”
“Okay, fine. You got completely shit-faced and professed your undying love for me.”
“WHAT?!” Hermione exclaimed. “I did not!”
“Oh, but you did. And, in fact, you told every single person in the pub just how much you fancy me.”
Hermione once again felt the flush of embarrassment burn her cheeks. “I don’t understand. I remember seeing you at the pub, but I wasn’t completely sloshed! How did I go from being slightly tipsy to… this!?”
Draco smiled sheepishly. “Well, that part might have been my fault…”
Hermione’s eyes narrowed. “What. Do. You. Mean?”
“Don’t give me that look, Granger. It was for your own good!”
“Bloody hell, Malfoy! You better tell me what happened right now or so help me… when I find my wand, I’m going to hex you into next year!”
“All right, all right! Keep your shirt on! Oh, wait…” Draco smirked. “Have I ever mentioned you have a nice rack, Granger?
He ducked just in time to avoid being hit in the face with a pillow.
“Tell me, Malfoy!”
“Okay, fine!” He laughed. “Have you ever heard the story of Atalanta?”
“You mean the Greek Myth?”
“That’s the one.”
“I vaguely remember the story from my Greek Studies class a few years ago. Something about a race and some guy with a golden apple?”
Draco nodded. “Exactly. You see it had come time for Atalanta to get married, but thinking she was too good for any suitor that had come calling, she challenged them all to a foot race. The winner would receive her hand in marriage. The only problem was, Atalanta was an extremely talented runner.”
Hermione groaned. “What’s with the history lesson, Malfoy? What does this have to do with…with our… um… situation?”
“I’m getting to that.”
Hermione huffed, gave Draco a very pointed stare, and retreated back underneath the sheets.
“Hippomenes, one of Atalanta’s suitors, knew that in order to win her hand, he had to outsmart her. So, he did the one thing he knew would ensure him a victory.”
“He distracted her with the golden apple, right?”
“Three of them, actually. He dropped them along the trail, and Atalanta was so fascinated by the apples, it allowed Hippomenes to win the race. Ah, women, they’re all the same. Give them something bright and shiny and you can practically get away with murder.”
“Okay, I’m going to completely ignore that last bit, but only because I lack the energy to get up and punch you.” She sighed. “Now comes the part when you tell me how this story somehow relates to last night.”
“Wow, Granger. For someone so smart, you’re incredibly dumb.”
“Let’s just say that you’re the Atalanta and I’m the Hippomenes in our story.” He paused, letting his words sink in.
Underneath the covers, Hermione struggled to make sense of Draco’s explanation. The pounding of her head made it difficult to think, and she was pretty sure she didn’t really want to know all the horrific details, but there was something about the smirk on Draco face that forced her to concentrate.
Slowly, a parade of foggy memories began to glide in front of her eyes—drinking martinis with the girls, singing bad karaoke with Lavender, seeing the familiar stare of charcoal grey eyes from across the room…
She closed her eyes in concentration.
More disjointed memories flooded back to her: the feel of a warm hand against the small of her back; a kiss that tasted of peppermint and cigarette smoke; a voice of velvet whispering in her ear, “Here, Granger. Try this...”; the harsh warmth of Firewhisky coursing down her throat…
In that moment, Hermione prayed that the floor would somehow open up and swallow the bed whole. She was mortified. If there was one thing in the world that could make her completely forget her standards and act like a complete and utter fool, it was most definitely Ogden’s Firewhisky.
She had learned years ago that she and Firewhisky did not mix. And after a particularly bad night, the night Ron had broken up with her in fact, she had sworn off the stuff for good. But yet, no matter how hard she tried to avoid it, that damn Firewhisky always managed to find a way to get her into trouble.
“Merlin’s beard!” she exclaimed, as she wriggled to free herself from the cocoon of sheets. “Firewhisky?! How did you know?” she sputtered, staring at Draco with wide eyes.
Draco laughed. “Since the Ministry Christmas party two years ago. Face it, Granger. It’s pretty much common knowledge that you can’t hold your liquor.”
Hermione gulped. The Ministry Christmas Party. It hadn’t exactly been her finest hour.
“But why?” she whispered, after a few moments of silence.
“Isn’t it obvious, Granger?” Draco leaned forward. “I saw it as an opportunity to finally get you to open up about how you feel about me.”
“How I… I mean… I don’t…” Hermione stammered.
Rolling his eyes, Draco crossed the length of the floor and sat on the corner of the bed. “Oh, please. We’ve been dancing around each other ever since your break-up with Weasley over a year ago.”
Hermione blushed. She had been entertaining a crush on Draco for quite some time now, but she never expected it go anywhere. Sure, she had noticed the long stares from across the room, the way he always managed to brush against her or touch her hand in passing, but she never thought…
“You mean… you…”
“That’s what I’ve been trying to tell you, Granger.” Draco leaned closer and tucked a stray curl behind her ear. “I knew you’d never open up without a little… encouragement, so I gave you a shot or two to loosen you up.”
Hermione stifled a laugh; she was quite certain it had been more than two shots. “Draco… I… I don’t know what to say.”
“You don’t have to say anything. You said more than enough last night.”
She groaned. “I know… but I can barely remember what I did last night, much less what I said.”
Draco smirked. “Well, here. Maybe this will help refresh your memory.”
Hermione felt the breath catch in her throat as Draco slowly closed the distance between them and captured her lips with his. All at once, she felt as if her skin was on fire. Every fiber of her being was electrified by Draco’s kiss. As their lips moved together in a slow, but passionate rhythm, she could feel warm shivers cascading up and down her back. She couldn’t stop herself from reaching up and tangling her fingers in his pale blond hair. All she could think about was how much she wanted him. Draco responded by gripping her even tighter and deepening the kiss. When he dipped his tongue seductively into her mouth, Hermione almost lost it. The heat between them burned her skin, and the feel of Draco’s strong hands on her back, neck, and cheeks was enough to make her fear her heart might beat out of her chest. It was unlike anything she had ever experienced. And she didn’t want the moment to end.
When they finally broke apart, they were both gasping for air.
A wide grin broke across Draco’s face and Hermione couldn’t help but mirror him with one of her own.
“Did that help?”
All she could do was nod.
Draco laughed, and pulled her even closer. “Good. Now, since you’re still a little fuzzy on the details, the only fair thing to do is to completely re-enact the events of last night.”
Hermione smirked. “Oh is that so?”
“Well, of course. We Slytherins are known for our sense of fairness, after all.”
“Ah, I see. Well, I wouldn’t want to compromise your values...” She laughed. “But I have two questions first.”
She held up one finger. “Can we leave out the Firewhisky this time? I’m not a huge fan of feeling like I got stuck on the nasty end of a fight with the Whomping Willow.”
A deep laugh rumbled in Draco’s chest. “As you wish. And the second question?”
Hermione looked down at her scantily clad body, laughed, and then held up the tie around her neck. “Where’d the tie come from?”
Draco burst into laughter. “Oh, Granger… some stories are better left untold.”
And before she could ask any more questions, Draco silenced her with a kiss.