Summary: She's with Ron, he's with Astoria, and nothing a cheap psychic on the Venice Boardwalk says is going to change that. Or will it?
a/n: This muggle Dramione AU is based on an original story of mine called "Not a Fate Story" that is being adapted here for UnicornShenanigans, reader extraordinaire for whom I would do just about anything. The story is non-magical and takes place in California (mostly) with an entirely different backstory for the characters. They are being represented here independently from my previous works and may at times feel slightly out of character due to their altered circumstances. This story is meant to be fairly light-hearted and short (probably as little as 5 or so parts) and will be updated once a week. If you're following my longer Hogwarts AU, Marked, don't worry - the update schedule for that fic will not change.
I, of course, own nothing - these characters belong to the Great and Powerful JKR. Hope you enjoy!
Part I: Meet Cute
Hermione Granger frowned, impatient. She was loitering outside one of the public restrooms along the Venice Boardwalk, trying her best not to look homeless. It was an unusually hot day, even for Los Angeles, and she hadn't been expecting it. The oversized worn denim shirt that she'd thought had been so stylish was now tied frumpily around her waist, cutting her off oddly around her tissue thin A-line dress. Her white low top sneakers, which she wore without socks, felt damp with perspiration.
She looked down at the time on her phone screen and groaned. Ron's parents were taking forever, she thought with a grimace, growling to herself with irritation. She felt a bead of sweat drip perilously down her back and she shifted, uncomfortable.
She checked again, swearing under her breath.
She pushed her long, chemically straightened bangs out of her eyes – totally inadvisable next time around, she thought for the hundredth time – curling her long ponytail into a bun. After hunting through her camel-colored leather crossbody and finding herself without a hair tie, she settled for an old trick from college, snaking her fingers around a smooth ballpoint pen and using one hand to shove it roughly in and around her messy bun, locking it in place. She sighed, the damp mass at her neck finally dealt with.
Hermione Granger was carnivorous, a Virgo (not that she believed in such things), a mid-20's legal specialist for a global poverty awareness non-profit, and she was in no hurry, thank you, so please stop asking if she had any kids. She liked to think she was wild, and refused to admit that she'd long ago been tamed. She was perhaps just below average height for a girl, averagely tan, averagely hungry, considering she'd skipped lunch. Long hair. Short fuse. Boyfriend: Ron Weasley, 5 years. Best friend: Harry Potter, 20 years. Dog: imaginary. Damage related to parenting/upbringing: minimal. Nose: acceptable. Breasts: none of your damn business.
She checked her phone again. 1:35 pm. For heaven's sake.
Ron appeared around the corner and Hermione let out a swift, aggressive sigh.
"What – "
"Mom wanted to get a picture over there," he said, pointing and inclining his head. A former collegiate baseball player, Ron had maintained his wiry muscular physique nicely, and Hermione looked pointedly at the young bikini-clad teenagers gaping in his direction. His t-shirt clung appealingly to his chest, not immune to the unexpectedly punishing heat. His red hair, though, remained undisturbed by the salty ocean breeze. Hermione, who'd grown up under the sun and made a valiant effort to accomplish an aura that was pleasantly copper-toned, still struggled to understand how Ron managed a casual Southern California vibe despite his fair complexion. He was of paler stock, and yet it was likely she that was surely well on her way to owl-eyed under her matte wayfarer glasses.
"Well, are you ready, at least?" she asked impatiently, checking over his shoulder for Arthur and Molly. They had recently begun referring to themselves as "mom and dad" to her, at least by way of birthday, Valentine's Day, and Easter cards, but she found this a difficult practice to undertake.
"Yeah, they're coming," he assured her absentmindedly, running his fingers through his hair and putting a hand low on her back. She jumped as her sweat-sodden dress made contact with her skin.
"What?" he said, startled.
"It's just so hot," she complained, fanning herself.
Molly skipped up to them, her bright, round face glowing with pleasure.
"I just love these vendors!" she exclaimed. "But the smell . . . "
"Oh Christ, the smell," echoed Arthur, following glacially behind her and wrinkling his nose.
"Oh, that's just the weed," Hermione said gleefully.
Ron rolled his eyes. "Mione loves it here," he said with an eye roll, his tone skeptical.
She nodded solemnly. "It has a great buzz." She snapped her fingers quickly, tapping Ron's chest. "Buzz! That's perfect. I should write that down." She began digging in her purse, looking for a pen, groaning petulantly as she realized she'd already secured it in her hair.
Arthur's eyes darted around, following the herds of eccentrically dressed wanderers. "Not really my crowd," he admitted, though he appeared nearly enraptured.
Hermione looked up from her purse, letting her eyes sweep over Arthur's conservative khakis and his quintessentially middle-aged New Balance sneakers. "True," she said simply, trying not to scoff. "Should we continue?"
They walked in silence. Hermione smiled pleasantly as she surveyed her surroundings, from the "$1 for Free Advice" sign to the glass-encased floral panels. She deeply loved Venice, for all its weirdos. It was the flaws that gave her something to love, after all. Something about it felt vaguely . . . magical.
"Excuse me," a man said, suddenly stepping into her path. His voice was a low baritone, colored with a sophisticated British accent.
He was accompanied by a tall, slender brunette, who looked perfectly comfortable in the heat and whose gauzy top seemed dry and breezy - not that Hermione spent much time looking at her; no. It was him that caught her interest.
He was also tall, though not as tall as Ron, with fashionably slicked-back blond hair and an ivory complexion. Hermione could feel herself becoming slightly slack-jawed looking at him, for once in her life rendered insufficiently verbose. What was the word she was looking for – refined, perhaps? Sophisticated? That may have been due to the accent – or maybe not. The features of his face were sharp and elegant, and he looked as though he had a bit of broody nonchalance to him, like it might be enjoyable just to watch him contemplate life in the corner, just to eye the shadows on his face. He was – a word finally leaping to her mind – exquisite.
And slightly familiar, she thought, furrowing her brow.
"So sorry to bother you," he said, his pale grey eyes reticent as he lowered his sunglasses to look at her. "It's – " he stopped abruptly, turning to look quickly at the brunette at his side. " – Well, how do you even want me to say this?" He sighed, lifting his chin slightly. "Sorry, really. It's just - she's put me up to this."
"It's quite a funny situation," his companion interrupted, wrinkling her nose as though she found his reluctance trivial. She seemed lively and good-humored, and she was British too. "Draco and I were just – "
Draco. An alarm went off in Hermione's head. She did know him, she realized. Everybody in the world knew him.
This was Draco Malfoy. He'd starred in a series of blockbuster films that she'd loved as a child and then later a teenager – one of those angsty series where children discover magic and then subsequently have to save it. In the films, Draco – or Leo Alexander, as his character had been dubbed – had been clean cut, impeccably dressed, and rather snobbish; in real life, his hair spilled over into his eyes and he wore a thin v-neck t-shirt paired carelessly with a pair of chinos.
" – We were just visiting a fortune teller – "
" – Just for a laugh, of course," he interrupted quickly, his hands raised as though he wished to physically prevent her from getting the wrong idea. "You know, one of those – "
" – And – oh Draco, you tell them, would you? I feel so foolish, and they're looking at us like we're absolutely mad – "
This, Hermione realized, was Draco's longtime girlfriend, Astoria Greengrass. Hermione felt mildly ashamed of herself for knowing that, as she was fully aware she must have read it in some gossip rag at some point.
" – Right, right, fine – "
The two of them had been interrupting each other for several minutes when Draco finally laughed shakily and held out his hands in weary resignation, a cheeky, charming grin appearing for the first time on his handsome face as he regarded his companion.
"Okay, I'll get to the point," he said, sighing. "Astoria insisted we pay a visit to a psychic, who told me that I needed to meet someone today, and that she was wearing a blue dress precisely like yours, with, I don't know, shoes? And whatnot," he said vaguely, barely keeping it together. "Anyway, I thought to myself – what an oddly specific description? And yet – here you are," he said, as though he didn't particularly care for the way things had gone.
"Well hold on, Draco," Astoria interrupted affectionately, placing her hand on his arm. "There was far more to it than that – it's actually quite wild, she'd sketched it out for us – "
Astoria unfolded a piece of paper that had a light line drawing of a woman who did look very much like Hermione, hair in a bun with a shirt tied loosely around her waist, next to a barely legible scribble.
Ron tilted his head, straining to make out the letters. "Does that say H.J.G.?"
"Yes," Astoria said, "H.J.G. – does that mean anything to you?"
"Those are my initials," Hermione said hazily, speaking for the first time in this exchange. "Hermione Jean Granger."
At this, Astoria's eyes widened, her hand launching out to smack against Draco's abdomen. "No!" she exclaimed, delighted. "You really should go back and give that woman some more money, Draco, honestly – "
"My goodness," Draco replied, rolling his eyes. "The woman picks three random letters and draws me a little cartoon and suddenly you think we should pay her rent - "
Hermione was beginning to lose track of the situation.
"I'm sorry – what was it she told you about me?" she asked, shaking her head. "I mean – wait, can you just – start over, maybe?"
Draco put both hands up, an apologetic gesture. He was a surprisingly physical communicator, she thought. His hands and face and body were constantly in motion as he spoke, despite how aloof his expression had been at the start. Listening to him made her feel like she should lean in somehow to catch the subtext - as if he were inviting her on an adventure, but only he knew where they were going.
"Okay, I know, perhaps it's only funny to us – " he paused while he and Astoria shared a meaningful glance " – but we had a quick reading just about, maybe – what would you say, about half an hour ago? And anyway, the psychic drew this out for me and told me that this woman – " here he gestured to the drawing in Astoria's hands " – was my, well. My soulmate, I suppose."
Ron put his arm protectively around Hermione's shoulders, a gesture that did not go unmissed by Draco.
"Oh no, no no no," he rushed out hurriedly, "I'm so sorry – I should have been more clear – I'm not actually seeking a soulmate, we just saw you and this one here," he gestured fondly to the brunette beside him, who was grinning wickedly, "thought it'd be funny – this is my girlfriend Astoria, and I'm Draco – "
"I know who you are," Hermione said awkwardly, the words feeling heavy and cold on her tongue. She was humiliated to think that this is what she was like in the presence of a celebrity – star-struck into complete idiocy. What happened to the Hermione who was witty, enchanting, carefree? The Hermione who had paired this delightful oversized shirt with her whimsical blue dress?
Draco's mischievous smirk did not fade, even with her admission. Perhaps he was used to this happening, to women throwing themselves at him . . . Hermione nearly shuddered, embarrassed as she was by her own behavior. She was finding herself far too distracted by his painfully good looks, his stormy grey eyes.
Ron extended his hand. "Ron Weasley," he said politely, "And you've met Hermione, of course." Draco took his hand and shook, a perfectly gentlemanly exchange.
"I'm sorry," Molly said suddenly, leaning in, "do you know Ron and Hermione from school?"
Hermione winced at this; how had it possibly escaped Molly's notice that there was now a crowd forming around them, and had been since Draco had removed his dark sunglasses? She knew for a fact Molly read Us Weekly, and was irrationally furious with her for not employing her knowledge now. Was she really going to make him say it?
"No," Hermione said quickly, rushing to intercept Draco's response. "This is Draco Malfoy – from the Alexander Chronicles movies, remember?"
Molly clapped her hands together. "Oh yes!" she exclaimed. "Hermione, you're such an admirer of those movies, aren't you?"
Hermione felt a heated flush come over her face. She had never been a particularly big fan of Molly's, but she certainly hated her at that moment. "Yes," she admitted, tight-lipped.
Draco, sensing awkwardness, made a surprisingly fanciful gesture and tipped an imaginary hat to Hermione. "Well, I don't plan to steal you away from your boyfriend – " he turned quickly to Ron, " – you are the boyfriend, yes?"
"Yes," Ron said a pleasant smile. He was generally unperturbed by the whole situation, which Hermione considered to be an insane lack of reaction. "I am the boyfriend, and these are my parents," he added, gesturing in their direction.
"So nice to meet all of you," Astoria said sweetly, as Draco put his arm around her waist and kissed her soundly on the forehead. She smiled up at him. "Darling, do you think maybe we should let them go? We are being rather strange, right now – "
"I'm to just let my soulmate run off, then?" Draco said with a smirk, refocusing his attention on Hermione. She shifted uncomfortably, realizing how disgusting she must look, cursing her bangs and her shoe choice and the eyeliner she was sure was pooling in the corner of her eyes, and there was nothing she could do to fix it. He was looking at her far too intently. "You put me through this terrible ordeal, Astoria, the least you can do is make sure she doesn't get away."
"We should do something," Ron announced. "Why don't we all meet up some time?"
Draco snapped his fingers as a lightbulb seemed to go off in his head, an uncanny recreation of one of Hermione's signature ticks. "My publicist set up a dinner tomorrow night at one of the new restaurants in Brentwood – maybe you two would like to come?" He looked back at Astoria. "It's tomorrow night, right?"
"Yes," she said enthusiastically, "Yes! You should come!"
Draco fished his phone out of his pocket, mumbling as he fiddled with the touch screen. "Hermione," he muttered as he typed, presumably to enter her contact information. He looked up at her abruptly and Hermione felt her heart jump, making unexpected contact with his exquisite grey eyes. "An unusual name, isn't it?"
"Yes," she said with a grimace, thinking of her mother's so-called free spirit and fanciful love of Greek mythology. "I suppose."
"Couldn't forget it if I wanted to, then," Draco pronounced airily, stepping towards her and handing her the phone. Ron and his parents gravitated towards Astoria, who was animatedly asking them about their day.
Hermione put her phone number in quickly and then handed it back to him, his thumb brushing hers as he took it from her. Ensuring that Molly, Arthur, and Ron were all occupied, she focused on Draco's stunningly crafted face.
"I'm sorry if I'm being incredibly awkward," she said, embarrassing herself again with her own earnestness.
"Oh, you're not," he said quickly. "Given the situation, I think it's my behavior that's much more suspect." He smiled rather beatifically, putting his hands in his pockets. "That's the trick with fame – you forget that most people don't like to be randomly approached when they're with family."
"Well they're not really family," she said quickly, "Though I see your point."
"You do seem a little on edge," he commented. "Not that I know you, of course."
"Well, you're certainly not wrong," she said, flashing him a smirk of her own. "You haven't exactly caught me at peak Hermione."
He raised an eyebrow. "I'm probably not peak Draco, either," he said seriously. "I'd be horrified if you thought that gathering personal information from random women on the Venice Boardwalk with my girlfriend in tow was something I do regularly."
"You're right," she said. "Put into perspective, your side's much more horrifying."
He considered her carefully, the slightest etch of a smile on his lips. "I think I'd like to get to know you, Hermione Granger," he said in his throaty baritone, and she smiled sincerely for what she realized might be the first time throughout the whole exchange, savoring a moment to let the oddly appealing sentiment float in the air.
"Likewise, Draco Malfoy," she said, biting her lip and fighting a blush. "I think that sounds doable."
They were smiling at each other and she sensed they were having a moment. Not that that meant anything; Hermione had moments with nearly everyone she met. It was, perhaps, more difficult not to have a moment, when having a conversation with Hermione. She was exceptionally relatable – interesting, but non-threatening. Charismatic, but not polarizing. Magnetic, but not for long. A social chameleon of sorts.
"Draco – darling," Astoria called, "These lovely people need to get going – they've just told me they have a reservation – "
"Oh, Christ, right then," Draco said hurriedly, stowing his phone back in his pocket. He nodded at Hermione. "I'll call you, then?"
"Sure," she said with a shrug, hoping to maintain some sense of cool as they rejoined Ron and his parents.
"All set?" Draco asked, putting his sunglasses on and kissing Astoria's cheek.
She nodded. "So delightful to meet you all," she added cordially, beaming. She was very beautiful, Hermione grudgingly admitted to herself. The way she and Draco interacted was so classy, so appealingly British that Hermione couldn't help but be impressed with them. If memory served, Draco was her age, if not some months or so younger, but he felt far more out of reach than that. After all, when she attended her first college kegger, he had just wrapped the final installment of the world's most successful film franchise in history.
"I quite liked them," Molly said at dinner. Hermione fought not to roll her eyes – Molly seemed to have taken on a slight affectation, like she was mimicking Astoria's lofty speaking style.
"Me too," Arthur agreed. "Astoria is a nice girl. Such a funny coincidence."
Hermione hummed her agreement, realizing with a pang how hungry she was. She felt her phone vibrate and pulled it out of her purse, noticing a missed call. She brought her phone to her ear surreptitiously, smiling as she played the sound of a now familiar voice.
"Hermione - it's Draco, just checking in about tomorrow night." She smiled to herself as she heard him sigh heavily, like he was annoyed with his own enthusiasm. "Sorry, I know you've just heard from me, must think I'm a bit of a stalker - I suppose the reality is I'm just wildly impatient, which is ultimately so much worse. I've got to verify the address with my publicist but shall we do 7:30? Hope that works." He paused again, his voice suddenly softening like he was admitting something against his will. "Very strange thing, meeting you today," he said, and she bit back a smile as Arthur looked questioningly at her from across the table. "I quite liked it, though." The rest of his voicemail was rushed, as though he'd suddenly grown feverishly self-conscious. "So yes, tomorrow, 7:30 – right. Talk to you."
She played it again before she went to bed that night, listening to the airy patterns of his speech.
She called into the bathroom, where Ron was brushing his teeth. "Hey Ron?"
"Do you maybe want to watch a bit of one of the Alexander Chronicles movies before bed?"
"I don't know," she replied insincerely, as though she hadn't been thinking about it for the last ten minutes. "Maybe the second to last one?"
It was the one where Draco's character, Leo, had a very long, broody, "will-they-won't-they" scene with one of the female characters.
"I don't know, Mione," he said, after spitting into the sink. "That movie's so fucking long." She could hear him opening and closing the medicine cabinet, shuffling through his bedtime rituals. "I'm just really tired."
"That's fine," she said brightly.
She raised the phone back to her ear.
"Hermione - it's Draco, just checking in about tomorrow night . . . sorry, I know you've just heard from me, must think I'm a bit of a stalker - I suppose the reality is I'm just wildly impatient, which is ultimately so much worse . . . "
a/n: next up, dinner. And a new Marked chapter coming sometime in the next 12 hours.