Hermione rubbed a hand across her forehead. She'd managed to fight her hair into a bun that would make the strictest ballet mistress happy but she'd lost her contacts somewhere, probably France. She assumed they were with the rest of her luggage having a grand time without her.
She blamed Draco.
She'd really meant to somehow make herself look good for this torturous dinner. Once a year, she chanted to herself. Just see your rotten, bigoted, miserable cousins once a year. It would make your parents happy, assuming they still remembered any of these people.
It had occurred to her that a total memory charm that wiped your recollection of this particular branch of the Granger family might be a bit of a blessing but she'd squelched that thought as too cruel. She could manage to be kind to these people. She could be kind to Narcissa Malfoy. She could be kind – or at least civil - to Dolores Umbridge. She could be kind to her cousins.
At least she had her glasses and she'd found a single dress wadded in the bottom of her bag that she'd done her best to iron and freshen but, as she slipped the frames over her nose and looked at herself in the mirror of her hotel room, she had to admit she looked like nothing so much as a housekeeper out for a spree. A very nearsighted housekeeper.
Bloody random curses. Who knew you could curse someone into lousy eyesight?
She wished she could blame Draco for that one, but, whatever the tosser's flaws were, he hadn't done that.
She looked at Theo who was perched on the counter in the hotel bathroom using a paw to clean his whiskers with utter, adorable, seriousness. "This is all Draco's fault, you know," she told him. "If he hadn't insisted we could trust the hotel's floo service I'd have all my things and look like a princess instead of this." She waved her hand to indicate her frumpy appearance and Theo looked at her through his little beady eyes.
"Boo-ti-ful," he pronounced.
She sighed and bent down to kiss his tiny head. "And you are the cutest mouse I've ever seen," she said. "And we'll figure out how to get you unstuck one of these days."
He ran up her arm and perched on her shoulder.
"I don't think they'll let you in the restaurant," she said with a frown and transfigured her giant, sloppy bag to a much smaller square handbag and settled him carefully within it. "Not that I'd leave you up here alone. Who knows what you'd get into?"
He squeaked in protest.
"I promise I'll slip you cheese." There was a mousy 'harrumph' so she added, "and whiskey."
She gave her appearance one last, irritated, glance before heading down to the restaurant. This really was all Draco's fault. Not only was her stuff missing, he was off tracking it down instead of helping her cope with her horrible, horrible cousins. Every year he managed to find some way to not be at this dinner. A work problem. His mother had some vague but serious 24-hour illness that required him to dance attendance upon her. Harry Potter's stag night. Always something.
Her horrible, horrible cousins were waiting for her at the entrance to the restaurant.
"Hermione," one of them cooed. "You look… tired. Have you been feeling all right?"
"Drizella," Hermione said, leaning forward to kiss the woman on first one cheek and then the other. "What a lovely dress."
There, Hermione thought to herself. I have been honest. Mostly. It was a lovely dress. It just looked dreadful on Drizzy. Of course, almost everything did. Still, bless her heart, she tried and she'd squeezed herself into an outfit that suited neither her colouring nor her figure but that was the hot item from this year's collections.
Narcissa had it, Hermione recalled. It looked good on Narcissa.
"Thank you," Drizzy said, spinning in place. "It's a bit beyond your reach, I'm sure, but you do read fashion magazines, right? Even if you can't – "
"Driz!" Anastasia exclaimed, "I thought we agreed not to talk about poor Hermione's situation."
"Right," Drizzy flashed Hermione a patently insincere smile. "I'm sorry. I always forget you just dropped out of school and did that hippy thing for a while. I'm sure it's hard to get back into the work force after taking time off like that. But we're really proud of you for, uh –"
"It's good to see you," Ana said, interrupting her sister.
"It's good to see you too," Hermione said. "Should be get our table?"
'Oh yes," Ana said. "This place is just impossible to get reservations at, you know. I had to have my boss made them for me. This is just the place to eat right now."
"Don't worry," Drizzy said, patting Hermione's hand. "We'll get the check. You just get whatever you want."
"Thanks," Hermione said.
She glanced over at the bar and smiled a bit wanly at Blaise. He'd promised – absolutely promised – to not bother her. She could see he hadn't been able to resist positioning himself to watch the show, however. Theo was trying to wave at the man from her bag and she could see Blaise snicker at the sight of the tiny black mouse hanging onto the edge of her bag. She wondered how long it would take Blaise to send the dratted rodent a shot of his favorite booze.
She'd barely taken her seat when the waiter brought over a round of shots. "Courtesy of the owner," the man said.
Drizzy and Ana cooed and made a noise Hermione could only describe as gurgling. "Is he here?" they squealed in unison.
Drizzy turned to Hermione. "Not that you'd know this, but the son of this continental beauty opened this place. She's a celebrity, mostly just for her looks, but if the pictures do him any justice at all he's stunning. Just dark skin and wide eyes and this smile that would make a lesbian melt."
Hermione blinked her eyes a few times. Oh yes, she'd forgotten about their knack for saying jarringly inappropriate things.
"He's at the bar, ladies," the waiter said, waving a hand toward Blaise.
While Drizzy and Ana were distracted waving to Blaise and trying to get him to come over Hermione took her shot glass, poured most of it out into the flower vase at the table, and placed what little was left inside her bag. "You be careful," she hissed.
"Tank oo!" floated up to her.
When she straightened in her seat she saw to her horror that Blaise was bowing over Drizzy's hand. Hermione tried not to glare at him. So much for his promises. Great. Now she was at this restaurant with Blaise, who for some unknowable reason of his own was flirting with her cousins, an ugly dress, no contacts, no Draco, and a mouse who was, she assumed, quietly getting drunk in her purse.
"Sit," Ana chirped. "Don't mind 'Mione. She's, um, a bit of a free spirit."
"She lived in a tent for a year," Drizzy said in a stage whisper.
"I'm sitting right here," Hermione pointed out. "And I do remember my year of camping."
"I imagine that would be difficult to forget," Blaise said, smirking at her – actually smirking, the bastard. She was going to kick his arse later.
"It was an adventure," she said. "Should we order?"
"No, no," Ana said, glaring at Hermione. "Let's have another round." She looked at the table. "What happened to yours?" she asked Hermione.
"Gave it to a mouse," Hermione said blandly.
"'Mione," Drizzy hissed as Blaise struggled not to laugh.
"Why don't I have the sommelier send over a bottle?" he suggested and, with a few whispers to the man, it was done, along with a request for the cheese platter.
Hermione sat and gritted her teeth as Blaise, flawlessly pretending not to know her, flirted with Drizzy and Ana. He complimented their clothing with only a faint mocking glint in his eye. He admired their shoes. He asked how they'd heard of his little establishment. He, at long last, as Hermione was dropping a slice of brie into her purse for Theo, asked how they knew Hermione.
"We're cousins," Ana said. "So tragic, her parents just disappeared when she was in school – some weird boarding school up in Scotland for arty kids or something – and she dropped out and did that camping thing."
"She's the plain Jane of the family but we love her anyway," Drizzy said, her tone filled with syrup. "You know what they say about family."
"They're the people most likely to lock you in a cupboard?" Blaise asked.
Hermione almost choked on her cheese.
"Umm, no," Drizzy said, exchanging a puzzled glance with Ana. "They're where you go for people who have to take you in."
"And why does the lovely Hermione need taking in?" Blaise asked.
"Well," Drizzy said, "I mean, we haven't taken her in. She… what do you do, Hermione?"
"Nothing," Hermione said.
"Oh my god," Ana said. "Are you on the dole?" She sounded horrified. "What would your parents say? Can't you get an honest job? I know we're looking for custodians at work and I'm sure I could get you a position. I didn't know it had gotten this bad." She was looking at Blaise, however, not Hermione, and her face was filled with embarrassment rather than concern.
"I thought family were the people who had to take you in," Blaise said, sounding amused now. "Sounds more like family are the people who get you low level scullery-type jobs." He took a sip from his glass of wine. "I think I'll stay with my definition that family are the people most likely to offer you a cupboard to sleep in."
"Well, family are the most important thing," Hermione said, holding onto her glass. "I'm sure I'd prefer to be in one that would do anything for one another."
"I'd do anything for you, 'Mione," Drizzy protested. "I mean, it's not your fault you're poor and plain and a failure."
Blaise was suddenly taken by a fit of coughing. "Excuse me," he said. "I think I swallowed something wrong."
Hermione dropped a slice of apple from the cheese plate into her purse and tried to focus on the sound of Theo munching on it to tune out her cousins flinging themselves at Blaise.
"So," Drizzy turned her attention to Hermione again. "Are you still a spinster, 'Mione?"
"I'm only 25," Hermione said, sipping at her wine and reminding herself that this was once a year, that it was too difficult to explain to these people that she lived in a world that was parallel to theirs and that she couldn't exactly explain what she'd been doing since she was eleven to a pair of difficult girls she didn't care about anyway. "I don't think that quite counts as 'spinster'."
"But you can't find anyone?" Ana asked. "I mean, I know you're not exactly a catch, not like Drizzy and I, but surely someone out there is interested in you."
"If you just tried a little harder with your appearance," Drizzy said, leaning toward Hermione. "Dressed a little better. I mean, you're practically in rags. Maybe did something with your hair. A good stylist can work magic, you know."
Blaise did that coughing thing again.
"I'm afraid all the magic in the world can't quite tame my hair," Hermione said, "But, as it happens, I do have a boyfriend."
"You do?" Drizzy sounded genuinely shocked. "Who?" she demanded.
"His name's Draco –"
"Draco?" Ana raised her eyebrows in polite dismay. "Is he one of your arty friends?"
"As a matter of fact we did meet at school," Hermione said, "though he wasn't one of my camping buddies." She looked at Blaise who was definitely nearly choking now. "Are you okay?" she asked. "Do you need to go walk it off or something?"
"Oh," he said, "I wouldn't miss this for the world. I just… arty. You have an 'arty' boyfriend."
"Do you have something against the arts?" Hermione asked.
"Oh no," Blaise said. "In fact, I spent some time studying the, uh, arts myself."
"Really?" Ana cooed, her attention focused on Blaise again. "Tell me all about it."
Blaise, however, had seen something at the door to the restaurant that had caught his eye. "I'm sorry, ladies," he said, "I really do have to go and check on something." He smirked at Hermione. "I hope to see you later."
"You will," she muttered. "Oh, you will."
"Why?" Drizzy asked as Blaise walked away. "What would a man like that want with you?"
"Very little, I suspect," Hermione said.
"That's right," Ana said. "You stay in your place with your little arty boyfriend and – oh my God."
"What," Drizzy asked.
Ana was pointing at the doorway where Blaise had, Hermione saw with a tired sigh, met Draco who had, it would seem, managed to make an appearance after all. "It's Drake Malfoy," she was making that squeaking, gurgling sound again. "The heir to Malfoy Enterprises."
Hermione turned and waited for the inevitable.
"What are you wearing?" Draco nearly shouted at her.
"The bags," she said. "This was all I had that was even close to suitable."
"So go shopping," he said. "Why won't you just... you know perfectly well we have accounts at any store you could want. When you told me the bags were missing and I said I'd track them down I didn't think that meant you'd go about in… isn't that the dress you wore last Halloween to Pansy's weird costume party?"
"Yes," Hermione said. "It was still in the bottom of my bag because I took it off when we all went swimming."
"And your hair," he said, yanking a pin out and releasing the entire bun so the curls cascaded down around her shoulders.
Hermione heard a tiny voice behind her say, "Is that Draco?"
She turned to Drizzy. "Anastasia, Drizella, meet my boyfriend – "
"Fiancé," he said with irritation.
"- boyfriend Draco Malfoy."
Draco looked first at Drizzy and then Ana, and put on his polite face. "Nice to meet you," he said. "You're… these are your cousins?" He gave Hermione an incredulous look. "You said they were pretty. That you'd always felt overshadowed as a kid. That they looked down on you."
"Draco," she hissed.
"You have the weirdest self-esteem issues," he said, shaking his head. "Anyway, the bags are up in our room if you want to go change out of that costume and put the drunk mouse in your purse in his cage –"
"We cannot keep Theo in a cage," she said. "That's not right!"
" – and I have a present for you." Draco handed her a box and Hermione took it and started to smile. He met her eye and smiled back and she looked over at Blaise who was leaning up against the bar and smirking at the whole scene. When she pried the lid off she yelped at the ropes – veritable ropes – of pearls interspersed with small diamond studded balls. He lifted it from the box and draped it over her neck; it was long enough to wrap twice.
"I love you," he said, stopping to drop a soft kiss on her mouth. "I'm sorry I was late."
"Y… you're engaged to… to… Drake Malfoy?" Ana seemed to still be processing this information. "You?"
Hermione laced her fingers through Draco's and squeezed. "The engagement is a bit of a disagreement," she said. "But we are very much together. Draco, be a love and chat up my cousins while I go get changed, would you?"
"It would be my pleasure," he said, settling down at the table. "So, ladies, tell me about yourselves."
As Hermione passed Blaise on her way out the door and up to her room she said, "Did you two have this cooked up between you?"
He shrugged and looked innocent the way only a guilty Slytherin could.
"Yeees – hic," came from her purse.
"Outed by a mouse," she said, pursing her lips at Blaise.
"Go on, you," he said. "Put on something pretty and come back down to gloat."
. . . . . . . . . .
A/N – Granger reunion trope. Done.