Draco Malfoy watched Hermione Granger pour her third drink down her throat. Her shoulders slumped and her hair seemed far more troubled than usual. He considered his own drink and tossed it back. Drinking alone was an act of desperation. Sharing a drink with an old adversary was practically cliche.
He slid down two stools and sat himself next to her. She watched him from the corner of her eye, but she didn't reach for her wand. He took a deep breath and signaled the barkeep for another round for both of them. Granger's eyebrow shot up.
"I hate to drink alone." Draco shrugged his shoulders. "It reeks of desperation."
"That suits me." Granger sighed.
Draco watched as she dragged her fingers along the rim of her glass. She was delicately built, but he knew she packed a punch. Well, in for a knut in for a galleon.
"What brings you here?" He tilted his head.
"Harry." Hermione snarled. "Harry brings me here."
"What did the savior of us all do?" Draco sat back and sipped his drink.
"He wants me to attend the wedding, says it's the right bloody thing to do." She shook her head sending her curls out in a rampant dance.
"What wedding?" Draco smiled as her eyes narrowed.
"Mine." Hermione tossed back her drink and spun on her stool bringing them face to face. "I planned it. I organized it. I did everything, but he did Lavender Brown. Now, it's her wedding. They just changed a few names on the invitations."
"What?" Draco set his glass down.
"They decided to use the wedding for which I planned and paid. Ron's to pay me back. Over time of course." Hermione stared at her empty glass. "Lavender's in the family way, so I'm sloughed off and replaced. My beautiful day is stolen. My dreams dashed. Life goes bloody on."
"When did all this happen?"
"Last week." Hermione set her empty glass on the bar. "Well, Harry turned up today, and I understand. He wants to keep his family together. He wants it to be a blip and not a bloody bomb."
"What do you want?" Draco watched her shoulders stiffen and the fingers of her wand hand twitch.
"I want to rip into them all. I want to make them hurt." Hermione sniffled. "I want to show up at the wedding that was supposed to be mine with a man on my arm and a killer dress. I want to shove their sad, pitying glances down their throats sideways."
Draco nodded. He understood her perfectly. Revenge was an old friend.
"Why are you here?" Hermione swung her arm wide to include the whole bar in her gesture.
"My father is trying to force me to marry. My mother negotiated a codicil in their marriage contract that provided me a brief period to find my own bride. It runs out tomorrow." Draco sighed. "So, I'll be engaged soon."
"Why?" Hermione patted his knee. "Why didn't you find someone?"
"I've found plenty, but the ring won't accept them." Draco pulled a ring from his pocket. "It's spelled to reject any person that doesn't suit. I've asked everyone, but no luck."
"You haven't asked me." Hermione giggled. "Wouldn't that stick in your father's craw."
Draco nodded and found himself smiling. Lucius Malfoy would spit toads for weeks if his perfect pure blooded heir brought home the muggle born Gryffindor princess. Hell, it would be funny just to tell him about asking her.
"Well, Granger, would you do me the honor of marrying me?" He held out the ring. "Go ahead. Try the bloody thing on. It will just reappear in my pocket."
"I believe you should do the honors." Hermione smirked at him and held her hand out. He slid the ring on her finger. She held up her hand to admire it. "It's lovely."
"And it's still on your finger." Draco stared at the ring. It hadn't disappeared.
"So?" Hermione shifted her gaze from the ring to him.
"So, let's get married tonight." Draco smiled. "According to the ring, we suit each other. You'd have a date to your should have been wedding and I won't be forced into some mockery of a life by my father."
"So, a marriage of convenience and a comedy of errors all rolled into one." Hermione tilted her head and looked at him with grin. "It's crazy."
"It is." Draco nodded. "But, would you rather go to that wedding and endure all their pity or do something crazy and leave them shocked?"
"Marrying you is beyond my usual crazy." Hermione blushed. "We're so different."
"The ring says we suit. Magic says we could make this work." Draco touched the ring. "I'm willing to trust in the magic."
"You're mental." Hermione grabbed his hand with hers. "Look at me. I'm nothing like the women you date. I've seen your perfect, purebred prisses in the paper."
"You've seen my mistakes and I've seen yours. Weasley?Really?" Draco smirked. "We've both made a hash of it. Let's trust in the one thing we both know."
"Magic." Hermione sighed. "Fine. Reach out with your power and let me feel you."
"Just do it." Hermione rolled her eyes. "If our magical cores recognize each other, we should be able to tell."
He spun his magic out and wrapped it gently around her before tightening the circle around her. The warmth of her magic soothed him. Touching her magic was better than drinking a draught of peace. He closed his eyes and stroked against her magic with his own. The soft gasp from her lips forced his eyes open. She grabbed for his other hand with hers. The physical connection enhanced their magical one, and he had to fight the urge to yank her into his arms.
"Okay." Hermione gasped. "If we're doing this, we have to plan."
"So, you will marry me." Draco smiled and pulled his magic back gently.
"I will, but how do we accomplish it before your deadline?" Hermione's teeth settled into her lush lower lip.
"All we need is a member of the Wizengamot. They're empowered to perform binding rituals."
"Augusta Longbottom." Hermione grinned. "She's perfect. I'm staying there right now, so she won't kill us when we get there."
He felt her hands tighten on his and then felt the tug of apparation yank him from behind his navel. This was planning? How the hell did Gryffindors survive anything?
He felt the hard floor under his feet and shook the ringing out of his ears as Hermione patted his back.
"Merlin and Morgana in a tree, Hermione." Neville Longbottom's deep voice filled the air. "You want to die? Bringing a Malfoy here?"
Draco spun around to find a wand pointed in his face. Great, he'd better get used to her pride. Bloody lions were going to be a permanent fixture in his life soon enough.
"Put your wand down, Neville." Augusta Longbottom strode into the room. "I've been wondering when some excitement would take hold. Never imagined this though, girl."
Draco watched Hermione grin at the old woman. Her smile was wide and happy. He'd never seen a woman smile with such obvious joy.
"Oh, Augusta, he's proposed, but we have to get it in under the wire. Tomorrow Lucius gets to play match maker if he's not tied up in a neat little bow." Hermione shrugged.
"She's legless." Neville shook his head and waved his wand between the two of them. "And this is madness."
"Then it's time she learned her lesson." Augusta grinned. "I've a set of stones, young Malfoy. Are you willing to chance them?"
"Gran, they could wind up bound for eternity." Neville paled.
"Only if the stones find truth in them. More likely, they'll be sobered up when the stones reject them. Your father tried it at least twice before he found his Alice." Augusta smiled. "He was such a scamp."
"And if it works, Gran?" Neville followed along as she towed them from the room.
"I've been wanting to poke Lucius Malfoy in the eye for more years than you've been alive." Augusta Longbottom cackled. "This is just perfect."