Of General Incivility

Disclaimer: Anything you recognize either belongs to 1) J.K. Rowling 2) Jane Austen 3) the screenwriters of Joe Wright's adaptation of Pride and Prejudice.

A/N: I know that I have absolutely no business starting any new fics, much less one that tries to capture the heat and perfection of Jane Austen's Pride & Prejudice. I've pretty much seen Joe Wright's Pride & Prejudice (2005) probably a thousand times (I actually had to buy a second disc because the first one stopped working after the first few hundred times of rewatching), and I'd always thought, Wouldn't it be interesting to botch it all up by trying to make DHr fic based on it? Could I ever be so foolish/brave enough to try?

That being said, this is going to vary in places in terms of how closely it sticks to P&P (Austenites beware!). It's set in the same time period as P&P, but I'm definitely taking a few liberties. I still wanted to use most of the main HP characters, which is why some of the events/characters have to be changed/erased/replaced. Sadly, I had to trade in the wonderfully ridiculous and overbearing persona of Mrs. Bennett for a much more chill Mrs. Weasley because I love Mrs. Weasley too much to do that to her.


"Could there be finer symptoms? Is not general incivility the very essence of love?"

– Jane Austen, Pride & Prejudice

ooo

The Burrow was a crowded place full of energy, which meant there was never a still moment. Everywhere, there was chatter and motion, footsteps thudding down the stairs, conversation in the drawing room, yells of activity echoing over from the fields outside. Hermione had grown used to the constant hum of noise, and could even tune it out sometimes - this she considered a most convenient skill - but most days she retreated to the somewhat more tranquil outdoors with a book. She blamed her need for solitude a symptom of having been the only child for most of her life, until her parents had been killed during a violent robbery when they were returning home from town. She'd been just sixteen.

The Weasleys had been kind enough to take her in, having known them through her close childhood friend, Harry Potter. The Weasleys were generous and kind despite their own financial circumstance; the Burrow was not a manor but a simple farmhouse, large yet cramped with its already too many inhabitants, dilapidated and always seemingly groaning with age. Mr. and Mrs. Weasley had seven children, with the oldest three boys having gone off to pursue their fortunes and careers. Their names were Bill, Charlie and Percy. That left the four younger Weasleys: Twins Fred and George, Ron, and Ginevra (affectionately called Ginny) the youngest of the Weasley clan. She was the beauty of the family, and just a year younger than Hermione.

Hermione was closest to Ron, who was her and Harry's age, and Ginny, who provided the comfort of having a fellow female to lament with over the small misfortunes of their lives.

There was some excited chatter in the drawing room when Hermione returned from reading outside in the shade. Hermione entered the room to see that Ginny's friends, the two Patil sisters, and Lavender Brown, had come by to visit. Not a rare occasion, by any means. Hermione heard their distinct giggles at least a few times a week. They often came to beguile everyone with the latest gossip from town.

Today was no different. After all, it was a truth universally acknowledged, by Muggle and magical people alike, that a single man in possession of ample fortune must be in perpetual search of a wife. Hermione couldn't fathom how men lived like that. How many sleepless nights, she pondered, did men of such comfort lose over not having a woman smile at them from across their supper to stroke their ego for very average accomplishments?

"It is very exciting news indeed! Netherfield Park has been let at last! The very handsome and very eligible Mr. Zabini is expected to come into town next week from the North, and will be staying there for a month," Lavender announced, almost beside herself with excitement. "Five thousand Galleons a year!"

Parvati leaned in. "That's not all!" she exclaimed. "His dear friend, Mr. Draco Malfoy, will be accompanying him. He is also unattached." Parvati's eyes scanned the room, wildly. "Ten thousand a year!"

"Ten thousand?" Mrs. Weasley exclaimed. She looked like she might faint. The Patil sisters giggled.

Hermione began to shake her head, which caught the eye of Lavender, who narrowed her eyes at her.

"It seems Hermione is less than impressed. Pray tell, Hermione - what would pry you away from those dusty pages of yours?"

"A giant library," one of the Patil sisters laughed.

"That would certainly help," Hermione said. "But a library, no matter the size, could ever make up for the character of a man."

"What does it matter his character for ten thousand Galleons a year! He could be a furry beast in silk stockings and I wouldn't hesitate to be his wife."

"I know you wouldn't," Hermione muttered, and Ron, who was sitting beside her, coughed back his laugh.

"It's certainly extraordinary for you to keep such high standards," Lavender sneered. "You – a Muggleborn orphan with no dowry to speak of, relying on the generosity of the Weasleys. You're of age, Hermione, and soon you'll be too old to be considered a true prospect. If you were truly smart, you'd lower your standards from imaginary literary figures. Perhaps then you won't end up a poor spinster."

"Lavender," Ron sighed. "Leave her alone, will you?"

"It's the truth," Lavender said. "She receives no benefit by keeping her circumstance silent."

"Girls, girls," Mrs. Weasley interjected, standing up. "Let's remember our manners, please. Thank you for bringing this news to us, as usual. I have a letter to write to my sister. Will you be staying for supper?"

ooo

There was a little nook inside the Burrow that Hermione sometimes liked to sit in and read. It was next to a window, which provided ample natural light during the daytime, and next to Mr. Weasley's study. She'd discovered some time ago that hearing the quiet rustles of Mr. Weasley working in his study soothed her. She hadn't yet figured out why.

She retired there soon after the conversation in the drawing room, despite having caught Ginny's pleading look for her to stay. The Patil sisters and Lavender were tolerable on their good days, mostly on days that did not involve wealthy, eligible wizards. Hermione would happily boast of having had a few decent conversations with them each. Today was not one of those days.

Hermione paused her reading when she heard two muffled voices in the study.

"Mr. Weasley, considering the news brought to us today, I do think it might be prudent for Ginny and Hermione to meet Mr. Zabini or Mr. Malfoy. No doubt, with news this size, all of the families with single, of-age daughters in the next counties over and in town are making similar plans."

"I thought you had to write your sister a letter," Mr. Weasley said, amusedly.

Mrs. Weasley's voice became firmer. "If you harbor any affection for me, Mr. Weasley, or have felt any inkling of joy within these thirty years of matrimony, then you will find a way to have our girls meet them. Single men of such wealth rarely come with such opportunity in these parts. Both Ginny and Hermione are approaching the end of their marriageable years - Hermione, most especially."

"You've heard Hermione. She'd far much rather prefer an intelligent conversation about philosophy than a small-minded suitor with deep pockets."

"That very may will be, but she is a young girl, and we are her guardians. We can barely muster enough money for Ginny's dowry - how could we even think of hers? What her parents left her was only enough to buy her a few nice dresses. The books they left her of any value, she refuses to sell. The poor girl's been dealt an unfortunate hand. We're all she has, and we must think of her future. She is a smart, wonderful girl. She deserves better than a life fraught with worry and hunger."

Hermione felt a pang in her heart. She knew that Mrs. Weasley was far too kind to ever say such things in front of her. She was right. The Weasleys barely enough money to keep the Burrow upright (every year it slanted a little more to the left), let alone have money for their children to lure in marital prospects.

"But of course," Mr. Weasley murmured. "Which is why I've already paid Netherfield a visit. The girls will be introduced to Mr. Zabini and Mr. Malfoy next week at the ball."

There was the sound of movement, before she heard Mrs. Weasley's muffled exclamation, an affectionate reprimand. "Oh Mr. Weasley!"

Hermione smiled to herself. How she adored the Weasleys.

"Best tell the girls to air out their best gowns. I shall leave that to your expertise, as I simply do not have the appropriate manner of discernment when it comes to the latest fashions in town."

ooo

"Are you nervous?"

Hermione looked up from her book of practicing spells at Harry and Ron, who were floating in midair on their brooms. They casually tossed around an old, weathered ball. The sun was setting behind them, casting a golden glow on their faces.

"Nervous about what?" Hermione asked.

"Nervous about the ball tomorrow," Harry said. "And ensnaring your future husband with his five thousand Galleons a year."

"That's only if she can't beguile the one that makes twice as much," Ron laughed.

"That's right. Could you imagine? Netherfield Hall, full of scheming ladies, determined to wed one of two eligible prospects. Feathers and pearls flying everywhere. It'll be a bloodbath."

"No," Hermione said, giving them a look. "I'm not nervous."

"But of course you aren't!" Harry exclaimed.

"Perhaps if he wrote words across his forehead, you'd find him more interesting."

"And annotations. The lady doth love her annotations."

"There I cannot argue with you. If men were more like books, I'd hold them to much higher regard, and possibly even find them tolerable. At least a person can learn from books. Men are too concerned with their own vanity to spend any of their energy on self-reflection or growth."

Harry and Ron laughed again. "Your disdain for the opposite sex and marriage is precisely what makes you such a pleasure to be around."

"You paint me with too broad a stroke, Harry. It's not marriage I disdain," Hermione stated, simply. "It's marriage without love. Marriage for anything else than love - wealth, material comforts, the fear of dying alone."

"I do love it when you turn all morbid," Ron grinned. "But you're living in a fantasy world, Hermione. Marriage is about utility. You're lucky if you can even carry on a conversation when you're alone. Sometimes, love comes after. Look at my parents. They love each other to death, but they didn't start out that way. I'm sure your Muggle parents were the same. Harry's, too."

Hermione shook her head. "Just because it's the way it is, doesn't mean it has to be that way."

Harry and Ron burst into laughter again. Not mockingly, but tenderly. "Finding Hermione Granger a husband. I do believe we'll enjoy this very much, Ron."

ooo

Netherfield hall was a breathtaking place. Roomy, sweeping corridors, elegant furnishings and high, classic architecture - certainly not a location Hermione thought she would find herself visiting often (if ever again) in the future. Upon entering, she found herself caught between a gape and a dismissive scoff. It was too easy to find expensive things pretty, she knew, but she was rarely allowed to be in the presence of such extravagance.

As instructed, she'd worn her best gown and promised she wouldn't be quite so inclined to dislike everyone who warranted it. At least, not quite so blatantly.

She recognized many people from town and the nearby counties. Women, lots of women - all in their best gowns, with wistful, ambitious eyes. Hermione wondered if she would blend in with them in the crowd. There was nothing particularly distinct about her - brown hair, brown eyes, a plain, slender figure. Someone had remarked once about her eyes, but it was long ago enough that Hermione found it to be of little reassurance. It was just as well. She'd decided that she would be compliant today to a point - she would dance and act pleasant for Mr. and Mrs. Weasley's sakes, but not to the lengths of desperation. She was not here to find a husband. She was only here to make Mr. and Mrs. Weasley think she was.

Hermione walked through the crowd next to Ginny, who had already turned the heads of a few gentlemen. It was no secret that Ginny was very beautiful. Her vibrant red hair brought out her pale blue eyes, which only further complimented a fair, classically striking face. If Hermione was the gambling sort - that is, if she'd had any money at her disposal to do so - she would have bet that Ginny would leave the ball tonight with at least one of the men's hearts, if not both.

"Rest assured, Ginny," Hermione muttered to her. "Even if you don't happen to bewitch Mr. Zabini tonight - which would be a shock to us all - from the looks of it, one of these wizards will happily propose marriage to you."

"Oh, hush, Hermione," Ginny said, flushing.

"You're far too modest for someone of your beauty."

"And you take too much joy in embarrassing me."

"Again - the fact that honest statements about your physical appeal should embarrass you is only a testament to your own ignorance in how people perceive you."

"If only you'd take care to compliment others the way you compliment me, Hermione, perhaps-"

"I only compliment those who deserve it. Far too many expect compliments for doing nothing worth complimenting."

"Then at least," Ginny said, giving her a look, "try to be pleasant, please. For me."

"I've already agreed to be pleasant. But I won't be pleasant if it means being disingenuous."

"Very well then. I believe I've no other choice than to accept that. Come, Papa's waving us over right over there."

Ginny and Hermione made their way over to where Mr. and Mrs. Weasley stood with a tall, handsome man. He had olive skin, dark hair, and even darker eyes. He smiled when he first laid eyes on Ginny, and Hermione, ever the observant one, had a feeling this would be something special, indeed.

"Mr. Zabini, as mentioned, this is my daughter Ginevra, and our ward, Hermione Granger. Hermione and Ginny, this is Mr. Blaise Zabini of Netherfield Hall."

Mr. Zabini bowed to them both. His smile appeared wide and genuine. Hermione was both relieved and surprised to find him quite amiable at first impression.

"It's a pleasure to make your acquaintance. I've been lucky to have met very many pleasant people since my stay here at Netherfield. I can already imagine it may be difficult to leave such hospitality and kindness."

"Holding a ball here is certainly another sort of hospitality to behold," Hermione said. From the corner of her eye, she saw Ginny send her an approving smile. "I've heard rumors of an impressive library here at Netherfield. Can you confirm such whisperings?"

"It's certainly very large, and full of some intimidating tomes," Blaise said, politely. "Unfortunately I can't speak to it much, since I prefer being outdoors. Not as to say I dislike reading-"

Ginny was nodding. "There's just always so much else to do," she agreed.

"But - ah! Malfoy would be able to tell you all about it, I'm sure."

A man appeared next to Mr. Zabini's side, a faint scowl on his face. Standing next to Mr. Zabini, the contrast between them was quite stark. They were both tall, handsome, carried themselves with the invisible authority of being highborn, and dressed impeccably in the latest men's fashions, but Mr. Malfoy had pale skin and hair so blond it was almost white. Hermione almost shivered at how ethereal he looked. He reminded her of the Greek myths she'd read about. He had piercing gray eyes that, unfortunately, didn't do much to soften an unfriendly expression.

"This is Draco Malfoy. Malfoy, this is Mr. and Mrs. Weasley of the Burrow. This is their daughter, Ginny, and their ward, Hermione Granger," Blaise said, warmly.

Malfoy's eyes briefly met hers as he bowed. "Pleasure," he greeted, stoically. He radiated with none of the friendliness his dear friend did.

"Malfoy here is quite the connoisseur when it comes to books and libraries. He's an avid reader and collector of rare books." Zabini nodded to Hermione. "I'm sure you two would have much to talk about."

"I'd be pleased to hear your thoughts on your favorite books, Mr. Malfoy," she said. She said this almost too excitedly. It wasn't often she came across another who loved to read.

Malfoy's eyes passed over her again, but quickly and dismissively. "I don't believe our current surroundings would be conducive to a conversation about literature."

It was the way he looked at the people in the room as he said "surroundings" - common wizards and witches from the country - that irked Hermione. Her initial enthusiasm quickly disappeared. She could feel the arrogance coming off of him in waves.

"Surroundings? I don't believe I know what you mean," she said, innocently.

"Malfoy merely means that it's such a social, jovial atmosphere," Blaise said, "and the dancing should start soon, so the music might hinder-"

Malfoy didn't take very kindly to his friend's attempt to paint him in a more pleasant light, and didn't allow him to finish. "I can't claim to see any other soul here besides you that might actually enjoy the act of reading for intellectual stimulation, much less conversing about it."

Hermione blinked at him. Had he really just so unabashedly insulted everyone here in the room, in front of her, the Weasleys, and his friend?

"I wasn't aware your magical abilities were so extraordinary," Hermione quipped, "that you could correctly discern the leisurely pastimes of people you had never laid eyes on before this evening."

A shocked silence came over the group. Malfoy's steely eyes, at her remark, were now on hers. Hermione held it for a moment, defiantly, before looking away, her chin held high.

Mr. Weasley cleared his throat. "Well, erm, as Mr. Zabini said, the dancing should be starting soon, which I'm sure the ladies would enjoy after sitting in a carriage for so long."

Blaise could barely take his eyes off of Ginny. Hermione wasn't even sure if he was aware Hermione had just insulted his friend. "Of course. Miss Weasley, I'd be honored if you'd have the first dance with me."

Ginny smiled and took his hand, with Zabini leading her out to the dance floor. Rather than be left alone with Malfoy, Hermione briskly curtsied. "Please excuse me," she said, and turned around and walked back into the crowd, eager to be as far away from the very wealthy, very vile Draco Malfoy as quickly as possible.

ooo

Hermione danced one dance with Mr. Zabini, during which he gushed about Ginny. When he was not going on about how funny, kind, and beautiful Ginny was, he was asking Hermione questions about her. What did she like to do? What were her favorite flowers? Had she traveled far outside of the Burrow? Hermione gladly answered his questions. It seemed the more he learned about her, the wider his smile grew. Yes, Hermione thought. He could very well be head over heels for Ginny tonight!

If Hermione could not secure her own future during this ball, then at least she could help in securing Ginny's.

Throughout the evening, she noticed that Malfoy did not dance with anyone except for a woman she had never seen before – despite the many attempts of the Patil sisters and Lavender Brown to engage him in conversation. The woman was dressed in fine clothes, had dark, jet black hair and, like Malfoy, carried a displeased countenance. Since the moment Hermione had noticed her, her expression had not changed once - it was as if she continuously smelled something foul. She observed that they kept close to each other, although there appeared to be no warmth between them while they talked or danced. At one point, Zabini joined their group, and they talked for a few minutes. Hermione caught the woman's gaze move towards Ginny, who had agreed to a dance with Dean Thomas. The mystery woman appeared quite unimpressed and made no effort to hide it.

"Who is that tragically unhappy woman over there?" Hermione asked Ron and Harry.

"That's Pansy Parkinson," replied Ron, his mouth still full of pie. "Arrived with Zabini and Malfoy. Just as wealthy as the both of them, apparently. She's Zabini's cousin."

"I don't think it's Ginny she dislikes," Hermione said. "I think it's everything."

"I always find it odd that it's the wealthy ones that seem so discontent all the time," Harry mused. "At least, their faces do."

"You're wealthy," Hermione said. Harry, like Hermione, was also an orphan. He had been a ward of his uncle, Sirius Black, until he came of age and his uncle passed away. However, Harry, unlike Hermione, had been left a very generous inheritance by his parents. He was safe from the inconvenience of having to court someone based on the size of their dowry. "And you're perfectly happy."

"Only on the outside," Harry grinned.

Hermione danced once with Harry and another with Ron, both having trampled all over her toes. She wandered out onto the terrace, overlooking the acres of neat, kempt grass and manicured bushes of Netherfield hall. She sat down on the stone bench on a far side of the terrace, taking off her shoes to rub her aching toes. She brandished her wand, contemplating a numbing charm.

Hermione froze when she heard footsteps and voices enter the terrace.

"Come on, Malfoy. It reflects poorly if you and Pansy don't even attempt to engage in mixed company all evening. There are plenty of perfectly handsome women here, many of which are standing on the sidelines, waiting for a gentleman to ask them to dance."

She recognized that voice. It was Zabini. Hermione pressed herself against the wall, hiding. Thankfully, she was in an alcove, so it was unlikely they'd catch her listening unless they came around the corner.

"That may be so, but I don't feel quite up to the mood to making small talk with country witches. You're wasting your time out here lecturing me, Zabini. Best to go back inside and see how many more dances you can have with Miss Weasley before the night is over."

"She's the most beautiful thing I've ever seen. Not just beautiful - funny, and kind. She's well-mannered and even-tempered and interesting. I don't think I've met anyone like her, Malfoy. I certainly haven't felt like this for anyone else before."

She could hear a frown in Malfoy's drawl. "Unfortunately, it appears you've been revealed as the victim of Cupid's bad, winged aim tonight. It's just as Pansy suspected. She won't be happy."

"Oh, forget about Pansy. I saw the way you looked at Miss Granger. I daresay she's witty enough to keep up with your unpleasantries and put you in your place," Blaise chuckled. "She's quite agreeable herself."

"Her manners are unorthodox," Malfoy agreed. "And she is clearly intelligent, for a Mudblood. As of her looks, they are tolerable, but not enough to tempt me." Hermione gasped silently. Malfoy quickly changed the subject, as the music stopped and the faint applause rang throughout the hall. "The song is over. If you desire another chance to bask in the presence of Miss Weasley, you'd do well to hurry. You're not the only man with eyes on her tonight."

She heard their footsteps retreat, and their voices become quieter.

"Don't you dare mock me, Malfoy – but I think she fancies me," she heard him say, softly.

"Zabini, she's a Weasley. Their estate - if it should even deserve the title - is named the Burrow. It's in her best interest to fancy you. Her and the other sad, desperate women at this ball."

Hermione waited to hear more, her rage silently boiling, eager to hear what Blaise would have said to his friend after such undeservedly cruel words. But there was nothing. They had gone back inside.

ooo

Ginny's eyes were far away as she very slowly brushed her hair, as if in a trance.

Hermione chuckled to herself, entering their bedroom. "You, my dear friend, look ridiculous."

Ginny blinked, lowering her hairbrush. "Do I?"

"Yes," Hermione confirmed. She got into the covers beside her friend, her own hair loose and in frizzy, untamed curls. It was a relief to be out of that corset. Even with all of the enchantments and charms Hermione had applied to make wearing a ball gown less torturous, a corset was still a corset. Even magic couldn't change that.

"You've had that silly smile on your face since we left Netherfield. If I recall correctly, a certain Mr. Zabini was also wearing one of similar happiness."

Ginny's brows furrowed, suddenly concerned. "Do you truly believe he liked me, Hermione?"

"Ginny," she said. "The poor fellow stumbled over his feet while he danced with you because he couldn't stop staring at you long enough to focus. It was dreadfully obvious. It's lucky he's so rich or his reputation as a love struck man would spread far and wide in town and would surely wound his fragile masculinity."

Her face softened. "Hermione, you know that wealth has never been something I actively sought in a man—"

"Which makes it all the more convenient for you to find such a happy match in Mr. Zabini. It's very clear that he has done what many men have tried and failed to do – he has captured your elusive affections." Hermione smiled. "Of course, it's only obvious to me. I'm privy to the secret moments you smile to yourself like a drunken buffoon. It's one of the rare pleasures in my life."

"Oh, Hermione. I had such high hopes for you – that perhaps you and Mr. Malfoy would perhaps get along. It seemed promising, at first. And then – oh, I still can't believe he said that about you. How could someone utter such a thing?"

Hermione looked away. She hadn't told Ginny the entirety of what she'd heard out there on the terrace. She'd only divulged what Malfoy had said about her, not what Malfoy had said about Ginny and the Burrow. Hermione was often rigid in her honesty, but revealing that would have been cruel. And she'd had enough of cruel words for the evening.

"I don't take any joy in revealing to you the wicked nature of most people, Ginny. Malfoy is highborn and wealthy, of which he is plainly aware. Poor common folk don't dare invade a mere whisper of his thoughts. Secondly, he's a blood purist. I hear it's all the rage these days."

It was true. This was another reason she held such gratitude for the Weasleys. It was practically unheard of for a Pureblood family to take in a Muggleborn, but they had, without hesitation.

Ginny was still frowning. "I still find that very hard to believe. There must be a reason he was so crude. Perhaps he'd just received some bad news."

"Some men are simply without their merits," Hermione sighed. She turned over, closing her eyes. She tried to forget the face of the man who had, in a single evening, insulted almost everyone she had ever known, including herself. "A special few more repugnantly so than others. Good night, Ginny."

"Good night, Hermione." With a whisper, the light went out.


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