Chapter 1 : Rumours and a chance meeting
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“Gin, I don’t see why we have to go out at all,” a pretty brunette complained to an equally pretty redhead.
“It’s your birthday, Hermione! You can’t just sit at home by yourself.”
“Yes I can,” Hermione muttered mutinously, but allowed herself to be guided into one of Ginny’s favourite watering holes anyway.
It was far too loud inside by Hermione’s standards and just right by Ginny’s. They found a table where they could talk without having to shout and dumped their purses unceremoniously on it.
“Wait here. I’ll be right back,” Ginny told her sternly. She returned as promised a minute later with two drinks, setting them both before her friend.
“I expect both of those to be finished by the time Harry gets here,” Ginny informed her.
Hermione rolled her eyes. “If you wanted me to down them that quickly, you could have just got us shots, you know that, right?”
All the same, she knew that Ginny was just trying to make sure she had a good time, and she slipped some money into the other girl’s purse when she turned around to see if Harry was there yet to pay for the drinks she was sure she would inevitably consume. Ginny turned back around and looked pointedly at the beverages, and Hermione chuckled and began sipping the closer one. It was laced with enough of something sweet that she couldn’t taste the alcohol in it, which was something she was very grateful for. Alcohol was a taste she had never really acquired, despite her friends’ insistence that it wasn’t supposed to taste nice and that she just needed to drink more.
She was just beginning on the second drink when Harry arrived.
“It’s good to see you again, Hermione,” he said, smiling and reaching out to pass her a small envelope. “Happy birthday.”
She took the envelope and stowed it in her purse. She’d open it later- Harry’s gifts, whilst often thoughtful (she suspected that Ginny probably helped him, but she didn’t mind) were just as often booby-trapped and thus definitely not fit to open in the middle of a muggle pub.
“Thanks, Harry,” she said gratefully, “How’s work been?”
He shrugged. “You know how it is. We’re still cleaning up after the war. I just wish there were more people willing to help out. Though we did get some new people in just today and it’s done the department a world of good.”
“Anyone we know?” Ginny asked.
Harry snorted. “Oh yeah. You’ll never guess who.”
Hermione whacked him gently on the shoulder. “Well tell us then!”
“Well, all the usual sort of people, Ernie Macmillan, Terry Boot, Hannah Abbott… oh, and Draco Malfoy.”
Hermione choked on her drink at that last name. “You’re kidding me, right? Is he on some kind of, I dunno, community service that he has to do or something?”
Harry shook his head. “Nope. Apparently it’s completely voluntary. Wonders will never cease.”
Ginny frowned. “I’m surprised he was allowed, actually. I mean, they don’t let just anyone become an Auror.”
“Well,” Harry said as quietly as the raucous noise of the pub would allow, “if you believe the rumours, then he was probably forced to take veritaserum to prove his trustworthiness. Another rumour is that he had to take an unbreakable vow, but I don’t think they can do that legally.”
The trio sat in silence for a moment before Ginny realised that her friend had finished her second drink.
“Be right back, Hermione!”
Harry chuckled lightly. “I see she’s trying her hardest to get you drunk.”
“Yeah. She’s just trying to help me have some fun, I can’t blame her for that.”
“Me neither. How’ve things been, really? Are you alright?”
Hermione sighed. “I’m coping, you know? Ron still knocks on my door every now and again to try to convince me to give it another shot. Making the decision to just be friends wasn’t easy in the first place, but let’s be honest, Harry, he just doesn’t try! I’m constantly trying to better myself and he’s just so… complacent, I guess. I-”
Harry cut her off gently. “I know, Hermione. Everyone but Ron can see that you make the right choice. Besides, it’s been almost a year now. He’s got to move on some time.”
Hermione smiled and hugged him across the table. “Thanks, Harry.”
Someone poked her in the arm from behind. “It might be your birthday, but he’s my date,” Ginny joked. “Harry, did you want to go dancing? Hermione, you can come and join us once you’ve finished those drinks. Don’t look at me like that, I’m intent on getting you drunk enough to have some fun and you can thank me for it later. We’ll be over near that weird fluorescent mural, okay?”
She winked, grabbed her purse and took Harry’s hand, leading him in the direction she had previously indicated. Hermione smiled and surveyed the collection of shots Ginny had placed on the table before she departed.
She had downed three of them before someone fell into the chair Ginny had been occupying. His platinum blond hair, though more unkempt than she was used to, was unmistakeable.
“Malfoy?” she asked incredulously.
The dishevelled man before her raised his head and winced.
“I suppose you’re going to gloat as well,” he slurred. “Can’t I do what I like with my last night of freedom?”
His head dropped back against the table with a bang and it was Hermione’s turn to wince. He had clearly drunk a bit too much.
She was just about to enquire what on Earth he was talking about when one of the bouncers walked over.
“Do you know this man?” he asked politely.
“I, er- well, I guess, yes,” she replied hesitantly, unsure of where this was going.
“Then I have to ask you to escort him safely off of the premises. He’s had far too much.”
She looked doubtfully between the two men but the bouncer was stern and resolved.
“I’m sorry, miss, but rules are rules.”
Harry and Ginny were nowhere to be seen, so she sighed heavily and decided to comply. It’d only take her a couple of minutes to apparate him to wherever he lived now and then she could come back to her friends.
She downed the last of the four shots and grabbed her purse from the table. Malfoy, fortunately, was quite suggestible in his drunken state and she managed to convince him to go outside with her so she could get him home. Unfortunately, they only made it to the parking lot before he passed out without telling Hermione where he lived.
“And this is why I wanted to spend my birthday at home,” she muttered before turning on the spot and apparating them both to her apartment.
In the first draft of this I accidentally wrote that Malfoy was very suggestive when drunk instead of suggestible. Oops, haha.
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