When he saw the guy slip something in her drink, he gave up. Despite the myriad things he's been willing to tolerate in his life, that one, he thought, crossed a line. He'd seen the woman at the table in this poorly lit, miserable pub endure too much already. It was selfish, of course. He didn't want to spend the night picturing her suffering one more trauma; he rather hated himself for being more worried about his own potential distress than hers. Self-awareness wasn't the greatest thing ever when what you were aware of was that you were an arse.
Still, he, was an arse with limits.
"Go away." He waved a hand at the lout, who was at least smart enough to know when to leave, and sank down into a seat next to her. It wobbled, and he asked himself, not for the first time, why he came to this dump. "Granger, what are you doing?"
She looked at her glass, looked back at him and said, "I realize you aren't the sharpest tool in the shed, Malfoy, but I'd think that would be obvious, even to you. I am getting stinking drunk. It is part of a journey I have mapped out for myself tonight, you see, starting with alcohol and ending with a good, long cry."
She stopped her overly personal ramble and took a long drink as he buried his face in his hands. Oh, this was just great. She's wasn't just oblivious to some idiot trying to drug her, she was already drunk, and depressed, and now he had to rescue her before some other idiot had the same clever idea as the guy he'd already chased away. Why couldn't anything ever be simple?
She'd started talking again. "I was contemplating adding a meaningless shag in the middle of all that but you appear to have chased away my partner so I suppose I'll just have to - "
He cut her off. "You can stop now. I don't need to hear this. Really." He pushed her drink – her drugged drink – away from her and tried to decide what to do. Since he had no idea where she lived, and therefore couldn't just dump her in her own bed to sober up, he finally decided to haul her back to his flat, luring her with the promise of champagne. "Good champagne," he said, and made a show of disdainfully sniffing. "Not whatever peasant swill you're drinking. Assuming you're even capable of tasting the difference."
Once back at his place he deposited her increasingly unsteady self on his couch. "Guest room through that door," he pointed. "It has it's own toilet." Then he sat on a chair and looked at her. She'd kicked off her shoes and curled her feet under her, tucking herself into a corner. She'd been pretty at school, by the end. Now she was stunning. She was captivatingly lovely, smart as hell, and presumably dating a man he still just despised. Weasley. What a waste.
She was, of course, also drunk and now that she was settled into his couch she had returned to babbling. "I always liked you: pretty, pretty Draco, with the crazy, crazy parents."
"No, you didn't." He stretched out in his chair and examined the top of his shoe so he wouldn't have to look at her any more and be reminded of the past. He tried to avoid thinking of the past. There was a scuff on the top of his right shoe. How annoying. He'd have to fix that. "You hated me," he said when the silence became too uncomfortable. "Broke my nose, called me a cockroach."
"Ah, that's true," she said. "You were an evil little bastard. But so pretty. Perhaps I should say I always liked to look at you."
That startled him into looking at her. She grinned back at him, obviously aware she was a flirt. Her eyes crinkled up and her nose wrinkled and he searched for something to say.
"Who knew you were so into objectifying people, Granger," he settled on. He didn't want to admit how gratified he was by even her offhand admiration; it felt a bit like absolution, not that he'd admit that either. "I take it your noble quest for equal rights for all magical beings doesn't extend to me?"
"Like you need my help," she said. She made a show of rolling her eyes and looking around the apartment. Draco squirmed as she catalogued the antique furniture, the original paintings, the oriental carpets. His mother called it his 'cute little flat' but he knew it reeked of wealth. He wanted to say it wasn't his fault, that standing between Narcissa Malfoy and a decorating scheme was asking to be run over, but he kept his mouth shut until she added, "You've done fine."
"Fine?" He gritted his teeth. A lifetime of visiting grubby Muggle pubs because at least he wouldn't get spit on there, nights he woke screaming, and the witch thought he was fine because he had nice rugs? He made a show of rolling up his sleeve and turning his arm so she could see the faded Mark. "Yeah, Granger, I did great. I've got it all together."
He expected her to throw the worst mistake of a thousand lifetimes back in his face the way everyone else did, but instead she nodded. "You're right. I'm sorry. That wasn't fair of me. Wasn't nice of me."
"What?" He couldn't believe he'd heard that correctly. "Did Hermione Granger just apologize to me?"
"You're right," she said, and that simple acknowledgement made something churn and clench in his gut. "You had a shitty go of it, there at the end. Your crazy, crazy parents, making you take that thing. Crazy as bedbugs." She tipped her head to the side. "Are bedbugs crazy?"
He pushed away all the feelings she'd churned up about his history and what sounded like her forgiveness with a quick, snapped, "Why would I know the mental health status of the vermin in your bed, Granger?"
"But I thought you had lots of opinions about Ronald."
He almost choked. "Oh Merlin. There are some things I don't need to picture, and Ronald Weasley in your bed in one of them."
Now that she'd mentioned it, of course, it was all he could think about. The idea was revolting and to clear his mind he got up, poured her a glass of water, and held it out. "Drink this."
She looked at it with decided lack of pleasure. "You told me champagne. I think I'd prefer champagne. Today is a day to celebrate."
"Yeah, well, and I'm giving you this. You'll thank me later. And I thought you were wallowing; tell me why you're celebrating. What's worth pickling your liver?" He shoved the glass into her unenthusiastic hand, and picked up a lock of her hair. "Finally decided to cut this hideous mop off?" He ran it through his fingers, twined it around one. It was softer than he'd expected.
"Didn't you know, Malfoy? Haven't you heard? I am a single woman." She was trying too hard to enunciate and everything was coming out with the careful clarity of the intoxicated. "Sing-ull. Alone. Unwanted. Rejected. I think the reasons were, as I recall, that I am a bossy know-it-all who thinks she's better than everyone else but who can't even cook."
"Yes. Cook. A real woman can make a shepherd's pie." Hermione pointed a finger at him where he stood. "And does. Often. Or so I have been informed."
Draco sat down next to her and rubbed his forehead, right between his eyes. Somehow they'd gone from his sins, to Weasley in bed, to cooking, and he was having trouble keeping up. "Are you telling me that the Weasel dumped you over cooking?"
She gave an emphatic nod and Draco tried to remember if he'd ever seen his mother cook. He didn't think he had. It seemed like a ridiculous reason to end a relationship. "I know Weasley's a moron with poor judgment and no class," he said, "but that seems extreme, even for him. Hasn't he heard of take-away?"
"Not everyone, Draco Malfoy, is rich." She poked him with one finger, and she poked hard. He had to keep himself from flinching.
"Some people," she went on, "cannot afford take-away every night. SOME people want their mother's meat loaf, and their mother's shepherd's pie, and their mother's something awful with sheep intestines that I refuse to even contemplate in my current state." She tipped her head to the side, laying it on the arm of the couch and looked at him through half-closed eyes. Draco wondered how it was she hadn't passed out yet. Just his luck that drugs seemed to make the witch talkative instead of unconscious. Still, picturing her in bed, even with Weasley, had been a bad idea; now, with her hair spread out and those eyes watching him, his brain has taken that idea and run with it. He wondered what she looked like naked. "Plus, of course, the babies issue."
The what issue? They were barely twenty-three. If someone handed him a baby right now, he'd probably drop it. Prudence told him to keep his mouth shut but Draco hadn't much listened to prudence in his life. He wasn't sure why the idea of her having babies with Ron Weasley outraged him so much, but it did. "He wanted you, what, barefoot and pregnant and in the kitchen? Just like his dumpy mother? He snagged the brightest witch of our age and wanted to turn you into a brood mare?"
Apparently it actually was possible that his opinion of Weasley could go down another notch. Who knew? No wonder she was drunk. And he really needed to stop thinking about the things one did to make babies but it was too late and that was not okay. He doesn't take advantage this way; there were lines you didn't cross, lines you shouldn't even think about crossing. Lines you shouldn't think about crossing in incredibly interesting and minute detail.
Oblivious to his increasingly inappropriate thoughts, she continued. "A cooking brood mare, to be precise."
"So why aren't you back at home with that git, learning to cook his precious mother's recipes and pushing out red-headed indigents?" The idea made him feel rather ill, and as if he could use a drink himself, but it seemed rude to start drinking if he was going to insist she had water.
"I don't want a gazillion children. Not now." She drank a sip of the water and squinted at the cup. "Why isn't this champagne." Another drink. "Not ever. Maybe one. Eventually. But right now I want, I don't know, to do shit like argue about Foucault. To go out to poncy bars that serve overpriced preserved meats on stupid plates and argue about things that don't matter at all. Our childhoods sucked, Draco. They sucked." She took a deep breath. "We spent all those years in orbit around that madman and I'd like to take a little time to have things not matter before it's all about nappies and maturity and cooking dinner every night.
"Plus," she was on a roll now, "boys don't like smart girls. 'All you ever want to do is read'," she mimiced Ron Weasley with horrifying, and, at least to Draco's mind, pretty hilarious, accuracy. "'God, 'Mione, no one cares about Proust but you. Leave it alone.' I'm so tired of fucking dumbing it down all the time. Did you know I did all his homework for six years."
Draco tried not to laugh at how utterly charming and adorable she was drunk and ranting. "You do know that not every man likes them dumb, right?"
"Could've fooled me," she muttered.
"I, for example," he continued, "vastly prefer smart women." That sounded too much like a hint so he immediately leered at her. "What are you supposed to talk about after sex with the dumb ones?"
"Apparently Quiddich scores. And I have one name for you, Mr. 'I like them smart.' Pansy Parkinson."
"Point to you, Granger." Though Pansy was much smarter than she let on. She'd been smart enough to leave him.
"Thank you." She drank. "Seriously, though, why couldn't I have fallen for someone like you. Sure, you were a stuck-up, prejudiced jerk who was an arsehole to my friends…"
"Which probably explains why you were never interested."
"…and you called me unspeakable names for years…"
"…I am sorry about the names…"
"…but at least you have a brain in your head." She exhaled. "You're sorry?"
"Very much so." He took her empty hand, turned it over, and began tracing her palm with his finger. "I won't pretend to like your friends; I didn't, I don't, I probably never will. Weasley is beneath you. You, Hermione Granger, are brilliant and courageous and not at all unpleasant to look at and I wish I'd been less of an arse when I had the chance."
"Oh." She slowly drew her hand away from him and he felt bereft at the lack of contact. "Why won't you give me champagne, Draco Malfoy? You bring me back here and then give me water? That is really unfair; you're a lying liar who lured me with lies." She set her water glass down and thrust her lip out at him and he tried not to let himself be coaxed into a smile by how petulant she looked.
"Granger." She was still pouting at him and he tried not to think about sucking on that lower lip, or kissing that sulky little frown off her face. She was drunk, and vulnerable, and he was a right shite and a Death Eater but he wasn't going to take advantage. "If you're still speaking to me tomorrow night, I'll buy you a bottle of champagne, okay? But tonight I'm cutting you off. You've had enough. You've had more than enough."
"Promise." It was, he thought, the easiest promise in the world. She wouldn't be speaking to him tomorrow. She wouldn't remember a damn thing from the time the drug went into her drink and she'd nearly drained the glass. He ran into her, played the gallant, and she was still so damned smart and alluring and funny and she wasn't going to remember any of this. Life was really unfair.
But when she leaned forward and pressed her lips to his, he raised his hands to lay them against the sides of her face and hold on to forgiveness and beauty and wit for just a moment, just a moment, because, if he's totally honest, he's wanted to for such a long time, and because, he tells himself, that just a tiny moment is okay, even if she's so very vulnerable right now. He let himself feel her mouth soften and open under his and then, cursing himself and ethics and lines you don't cross, he gently pushed her away. "No."
"You don't want me. No one wants me. Why don't you want me, Draco Malfoy?"
He sighed, and looked at the woman leaning back from him on his couch. "I don't want you because you're drunk and drugged and out of your mind, you infuriating and beautiful termagant. Go to the spare room and sleep it off, for Merlin's sake."
"But what if I weren't. What if I were stone cold sober. Would you want me then, pretty, pretty Draco?"
"If you were sober and really truly wanted me, Granger? I'd take you out, argue with you about your Foucault and Proust, and then bring you back here and do my damnedest to fuck your brains out. I'd find out if we work together as well as I think we might. Because, unlike your ridiculously pathetic ex, I'm not intimidated by you. Because you're fascinating and brilliant and I don't give a rat's ass about shepherd's pie. But you're not sober, and you don't really want me, and in the morning, when you wake up and remember not a word of this conversation, I just hope I can get you out of here before you hex me. Now, for the love of whatever crap you Muggles hold holy, would you please just go to bed and pass out?"
. . . . . . . . . .
When she woke up she was still fully dressed, sans shoes, in an unfamiliar bed, alone. Malfoy had left her a glass of water and what looked like a pain potion. It was sweet of him, really, especially given what a self-pitying wench she'd been all night. She can't believe she'd called him 'pretty'. Multiple times. There was a reason she didn't often drink to excess. She found a clean t-shirt, presumably one of his, sitting next to the water, and a hair tie in her purse, which he'd left neatly sitting by the table with the potion. Hair up, clean shirt on, she downed the water and the potion and opened the door of the guest room. Her head has felt better but at least she was up.
Draco Malfoy was sitting at the kitchen table, drinking something that might be coffee and which she contemplated stealing from him. "How do you feel?" he asked warily.
"Like I drank too much," she said. "Can I have some of that?"
"The pot's on the counter. Help yourself."
He was clearly waiting for her to demand an explanation for why she was in his flat. She opted, however, to forego the hysteria he expected and instead poured herself a cup; closing her eyes and leaning against the counter, she tried to drink some life back into her body.
"It was very sweet of you to rescue me," she finally said, eyes still closed. He made good coffee. "But you didn't have to."
"Granger, you may not have been my favorite person in school, but I'm not going to sit there…"
"…I charm my drinks against date rape drugs. I'm not an idiot you know. Didn't you wonder why I didn't just pass out but talked at you all night?"
When she opened her eyes and he was staring at her. "You little… so you… everything I said to you... You little sneak." He looked furious and embarrassed and like he might actually throttle her before she even finished the coffee, which would be just wrong. It was really good coffee.
"Did you mean it?"
"Mean what? That you're a sneak?" He glowered and held onto his coffee so tightly she wondered if the handle would break off the cup.
"That you'd take me out, talk about books, buy me a bottle of champagne." She looked down, afraid to watch his face close against the Muggle-born. It was one thing to promise things when you thought there was no chance of the other person remembering, another to have to carry through on dating someone you'd been raised to hate. There was a scratch in the table leg, a scuff-mark on the floor by his foot. Little dust motes settled through a beam of light from the window like dirty little stars. He wasn't saying anything and the longer the pause went on the more she felt like a fool. "You know what, never mi - "
"What?" She hadn't expected that after the long silence.
"Yes, I meant it. Books, champagne. All of it." He paused before he added with sly humor, "As long as you promise to never, ever try to cook any dish that involves sheep intestines."
"I expect it to be good champagne, you know. Not peasant swill." She sniffed dramatically while watching him from under her lashes. A slow smile crept across a face too angular to ever be properly handsome but, she thought, it was a clever face. It was an interesting face belonging to an interesting man.
"Like you can tell the difference," he said.
So he did. And, of course, she could.
. . . . . . . . . .
A/N - This is a rewrite of the original because the badness of the original hurt me to reread.