Disclaimer: This story is based on characters and situations created and owned by JK Rowling, various publishers including but not limited to Bloomsbury Books, Scholastic Books and Raincoast Books, and Warner Bros., Inc. No money is being made and no copyright or trademark infringement is intended.
Summary: "You look like someone transfigured you into piano wire and went 'twang,'" Ginny said. "We're going clubbing." Post-war, post-Hogwarts, femslash, slash, het, threesomes, light bondage, and alcohol. Consider yourself warned.
Author's Note: "Paint the Town" is a kinda-sorta sequel to "Restoration," a long one-shot that's really a loosely connected series of post-war ficlets. Here's what you need to know about "Restoration" in order for "Paint the Town" to make sense:
It's a post-war, post-Hogwarts story. Voldemort killed Dumbledore and then Harry killed him. Ron and Hermione jointly killed Lucius Malfoy and Bellatrix Lestrange. Draco, after learning up close and personal just what evil and torture and hatred are like, switched sides and sat out the end of the war.
Ron runs a WWW outlet in Hogsmeade. Hermione works at the Ministry, in the Department for the Regulation of Magical Creatures. Ginny does experimental potions research. Luna is the chief editor for the Quibbler, and she's hired Draco to write travel guides. Harry, Ron, and Hermione shared a flat for a couple years; Luna and Ginny lived on the floor above them. And Ginny likes Muggle nightclubs.
"Paint the Town" would not exist without my wonderful beta-reader Lasair, who dug up some unintentional subtext in "Restoration," shoved a few plot bunnies at me, and proceeded to laugh in my face when the blasted things latched onto my ankles and refused to let go. I'd like to thank Lasair and Miss Cora for looking this over - any remaining canon goofs, grammar mistakes, continuity errors, implausible characterizations, bad dialogue, boring passages, and Americanisms are my fault, not theirs.
ETA: As of 9/5/06, "Paint the Town" has been edited for grammar, flow, typos, and two extremely minor plot points. The first plot tweak picks up some previously dropped Ginny/Luna subtext from "Restoration." The second makes Bill's love life HBP-compatible. (Beyond that, I've ignored HBP; this story was written from OotP canon and will not change based on anything else revealed in HBP or Book 7.)
Paint the Town
The Friday that Hermione came home through the Floo connection feeling not just tired and put upon, but truly, utterly frazzled, Ginny pounced on her.
"You look like someone transfigured you into piano wire and went 'twang,'" she said. "You need to unwind, so we're going clubbing."
Hermione shook her head, trying to clear her muddled thoughts. It had been a terrible week at the office. Her supervisor was on holiday, the house elf representatives were no help creating a code of fair conduct for their own- no, their employers; correct terminology was the first step to freedom - Mr. Sinkshaft of the Goblin Council had cancelled their lunch meeting, and she couldn't possibly have heard Ginny correctly. "I'm sorry, what did you say?"
Ginny fixed her hands on her hips - drawing attention to how tantalizingly low-slung her jeans were and exposing the gold navel ring Hermione still couldn't help staring at - and favored her flatmate with the Stare of Ultimate Disdain, usually reserved for Harry and Ron's less brilliant moments. "We. Are. Going. Clubbing. Get changed - I left the clothes on your bed."
"But I don't-"
"No," said Ginny, talking over Hermione's protests and pushing her through the flat. "Not one more word. Now that Ron's moved out, he says it's my job to make sure you unwind. It's Friday, I'm going clubbing, and you're coming with me. Now change!"
One last shove propelled Hermione into her bedroom, and Ginny shut the door behind her. "I'm not letting you out until you agree to come with me. And don't even think about Apparating - I nicked your wand."
Hermione fumbled for her wand, realized Ginny wasn't lying, and stared at the clothes on the bed. It wasn't quite as bad as she'd expected when Ginny mentioned clubbing - no miniskirt or spiked heels, thank goodness, and unlike Ginny's shirt, this blouse at least had a back - but the shocking plunge of that neckline! And the thigh-high slits on the long skirt! There was no way on earth...
"I'm perfectly willing to keep you locked in all night," Ginny said through the door, as if she'd read Hermione's mind. "Without dinner, too. Give already."
With a sigh, Hermione shucked off her office robes and started picking through her drawers for a bra that the blouse might have a prayer of actually covering.
"I'm never going to forgive you for this," hissed Hermione as she trailed Ginny through Muggle London.
Ginny shrugged, unconcerned. Hermione hadn't bolted from the pub during dinner, after all, so she couldn't be too serious about her protests. "That's what I said the first time someone took me out. You'll get over it." She peered at the parchment scrap in her hands. "I've never been to this club before, but I've heard good things about it. Harry says the music's really good for dancing."
"Harry goes clubbing?"
Ginny shot her a confused look. Hermione had been working too much lately, and drifting away from her friends now they weren't all sharing adjoining flats anymore - but was she really that out of the loop? Obviously Ginny hadn't been paying enough attention to her friend. She resolved to fix that.
"Yes, Harry goes clubbing. What did you think he was doing Friday nights? Twiddling his thumbs on random street corners?"
Hermione shook her head. "No, I just... Harry? Clubbing? Harry dances?"
"And how," murmured Ginny, remembering her shock when she'd run into Harry on a dance floor several months back. After a disastrous first night out during the period when he'd been flailing around trying to find his way out of his post-war seclusion, he'd sworn that he'd rather suffer Cruciatus than dance in public again. As far as Ginny was concerned, whoever had convinced him to break that promise, and had helped him transfer his natural grace from his broom to his feet, deserved a bloody medal for services to humanity.
Face crinkling with mischief, Ginny bent her head and whispered in Hermione's ear, "You should see his bum when he's really moving - hot stuff!"
Hermione gave a scandalized gasp. "Ginny!"
"What? I'm just telling the truth. I may not like him that way anymore, but I'm not blind. You have to agree Harry's easy on the eyes."
"I don't think of my friends that way," Hermione said, just a shade too hastily.
Oh, really? Now that was interesting - was Hermione still hung up on her wartime experiments with the boys? This bore further investigation. But not now. "That must be awfully boring," Ginny said, voice neutral. "Anyhow, here we are - Crimson."
"Are you sure I can't have my wand back?" asked Hermione, edging closer to Ginny as several men in leather pants leered at them.
"It's helping hold my hair up, so no. Not until we're back at the flat - unless I get so pissed I can't manage the Underground, in which case I won't care how my hair looks and you can Apparate us home. Come on." Grinning at Hermione's apprehension, Ginny seized her friend's hand and dragged her to the club door.
"Pot, kettle. I'm not dancing with you - when's Luna getting here again?"
Draco leaned back against the bar, fingers tapping along with the beat that thrummed through the building. "She said eleven. What time that translates to in the real world is anyone's guess."
"True." Harry tilted his glass thoughtfully, watching the beer creep up the sides to maintain a level surface. He still wasn't certain how he'd ended up in a - well, in some sort of relationship; they were still trying to work out the details - with two such irritating people. They couldn't even be irritating in the same way, either - no, Luna was a nut and Draco was a bastard. An interesting and oddly attractive bastard, yes, but still...
"You're sure you don't want to dance?" Draco spread his arms and arched his back suggestively, grey eyes peering slyly through his glitter-dusted hair.
Harry snorted. "Twenty-one years old and you're still a drama queen, Malfoy. Is there anything you won't do for attention?"
Draco raised an eyebrow. "Potter, nobody wearing jeans that tight has any right to accuse me of begging for attention. Besides, I am gainfully employed in a respectable profession, whereas you do nothing but enhance your celebrity by throwing money at squalling idiots and begging shamelessly for more money so you can do it again."
Harry chucked a handful of peanuts at Draco, who flicked his hand, sending them to swarm around a loudmouth drunk at the other end of the bar.
"Wand up your sleeve?"
"Spring-loaded wrist holster," said Draco, pulling back his cuff to allow Harry a quick glimpse of the mechanism.
They drank in silence for a moment before Draco returned to the original topic. "If you don't dance with me now, I'm going to pick out the first stranger I see and abandon you to Lovegood's six left feet until closing."
"She doesn't have six left feet," said Harry. "Two, maybe, until she unwinds, but not six."
"Still. Do you want to loosen her up all by yourself?"
"Not really." Loath though Harry was to admit it, Draco was far better at talking to people - at least when he wasn't being an arrogant prick. Draco could smile and nod and spin some bullshit story about nothing in particular until Luna, with the aid of a drink or two, managed to focus completely on the here and now.
Harry was better at keeping Luna from drifting off in the first place, but he always felt awkward trying to bring her back from her mental wandering. Something about his expression usually revealed his disbelief in her cockeyed view of the world, making Luna turn glum or go into her batty seer act - not that the batty seer persona wasn't interesting in its own right, but it wasn't much use for anything... physically intimate.
"Gryffindors are hopeless at subtlety," Draco told him once when Harry dropped by his office to complain about this tendency to push Luna away.
"You know," said Harry, wishing that they were still enemies so he could sock Draco in the nose, "the Sorting Hat wanted to put me in Slytherin." Chew on that, Malfoy.
Draco snorted. "I always thought that hat was off its rocker. We would have eaten you alive, Potter - you wouldn't know subtle if it bit you in the arse. Anytime you had a secret, you practically screamed it with your body language, and you can't tell lies worth two Knuts. You're an unscrupulous bastard, I'll grant you that, but you're far too direct for Slytherin."
"So are you, then," said Harry, leaning across Draco's desk. At Draco's raised eyebrow, he rushed onward. "All those years you tried to get me, you never worked through anybody else. It was always you - telling the professors about Norbert, calling me the Heir of Slytherin, playing dementor on the Quidditch pitch, writing that song about Ron, sending me that trap Portkey, dropping hints about your Dark secrets, attacking me on the train, swearing you'd kill me... How is that subtle?"
Draco shot him a good imitation of Ginny's Stare of Ultimate Disdain. "Because you weren't really the point of all that - well, except for when I swore I'd kill you; that was personal. But for everything else... Yes, I hated you - you were a self-righteous git as much as I was a self-absorbed bastard - but being your enemy was basically a way to win status in Slytherin and stay in my father's good books. The world didn't revolve around you, Potter, not even with that prophecy, and it certainly doesn't now."
Harry had stalked out of Draco's office feeling oddly disgruntled. It wasn't as though he'd wanted to be in Slytherin, but he hated losing to Draco in anything, and he hated being dismissed from his attention.
It was several hours later before it occurred to Harry that Draco might have been lying.
"Which just proves my point," said Draco, when Harry confronted him about that. "You're no good at subtle and I'm a much better liar. Now go find another one of your sad-sack charity cases - I'm busy."
Remembering this, Harry shot a sideways glance at Draco as the Slytherin lounged against the bar. So Draco thought he could cajole and order Harry around? He wanted to dance? Fine. Two could play that game.
"On your feet, Malfoy." Harry yanked a startled Draco off his barstool, wrapped an arm indecently tight around his waist, and hauled him off to the dance floor.
Hermione bit her lip and wished fervently to be anywhere but in this nightclub. She and Ginny were seated near the bar, watching the dance floor - to ease her into the atmosphere, Ginny said. But the music was bone-jarring in volume, throbbing in her teeth despite the reflective sound baffles that ringed the dance floor, and the pulsing lights and thin haze of smoke were not helping Hermione relax at all. Neither were the dancers; some of them, to her shock, were practically having sex in public.
She was only watching them out of disgust and apprehension. Really. You never knew when some degenerates might decide to strip and be even more shocking.
Ginny had already put away a few shots of something vaguely orange, while Hermione was still nursing her first bottle of beer. It tasted vile, but Ginny had insisted that alcohol was a vital part of the experience, and, resigned, Hermione had ordered the least alcoholic thing that came to mind. She was beginning to wonder, however, if she might not prefer to be drunk. At least then she'd have a chance of not remembering any of this tomorrow.
"Ginny!" a female voice called over the frantic beat and the strange synthesized guitars.
Hermione whirled in her seat and stared, beer forgotten, as Luna Lovegood wove her way through the crowd. The normally sedate girl - woman, Hermione reminded herself; they were all women now - was dressed, unsurprisingly, oddly, but in a much different direction from her usual efforts.
She wore a deep purple miniskirt, a neon orange halter-top that left her stomach bare, chains of paperclips in her ears and around her neck, fish-net stockings, and battered pink combat boots. Her eyeshadow was a shocking blaze of sunset colors, drawing attention to her large, pale eyes and the intelligence that swam behind veils of irrationality and blind convictions. Hermione felt the familiar surge of irritation at seeing such potential brilliance wasted on Luna and her idiotic Quibbler, but it was diluted by a large dose of confusion over Luna's presence at Crimson.
"Luna? What on earth...?"
Luna blinked. "Hermione! What are you doing here? Did Ginny bring you?" She stole a chair from a neighboring table and sat beside them, beaming in her vague manner.
"Yeah, I brought her," said Ginny. "She's wound tighter than tight, lately, and I wanted to check this place out anyhow." She leaned forward, heedless of the way she was exposing her cleavage, and stage-whispered, "But Hermione doesn't want to dance, and I haven't got her drunk enough to forget that yet."
Luna frowned at Hermione, who bristled. What right did Luna - Luna Lovegood, of all people! - have to judge her?
"We'll have to fix that," Luna said. "Wait here - I'll get some help. Oh, and watch out for the Tenebrous Skalstock by the loo. They like to collect human teeth, and this one goes after people who pass out in the back rooms."
Hermione turned on Ginny. "What's Luna doing here? Who's she going to fetch? And what on earth is a Tenebrous Skalstock supposed to be?"
"Having fun, probably Harry, and I haven't the foggiest idea," said Ginny calmly, as if seeing Luna Lovegood in a nightclub was a perfectly ordinary occurrence. "Drink your beer before it goes flat."
Hermione gulped the rest of her beer before she realized what she was doing. She eyed the empty bottle suspiciously, and decided just one shouldn't throw her off too badly. Besides, she reminded herself, if she did get drunk, she might mercifully forget all this in the morning.
"Harry and Luna? I know she's his press manager, but this?"
Ginny shrugged. "I don't know if they're actually together. Maybe they just like to watch each other's backs - you can run into some bad news around here."
"Together? I didn't mean- Wait a minute, bad news? And you want us both to get drunk? You're mad!"
"Rumors of my insanity are greatly overstated." Ginny grinned at Hermione's consternation. "Sit tight - I'll get us another round."
Hermione tapped her fingers nervously against the table, unaware that she was beating out a syncopation to the current music. This was a bad idea - spectacularly bad, in fact. It was true that she generally felt better after going out and unwinding with Ron, but Ron's idea of fun was a few hours at one of the Diagon Alley pubs with his fellow Quidditch fanatics, or an evening watching movies on the television Hermione had painstakingly showed him how to work. That was her speed, not this club - this Crimson - with its pounding music, flashing lights, and trendy drinks.
She could vaguely understand what Ginny saw in this sort of thing - the other girl had always been interestingly wild underneath her innocent façade, and she liked to flaunt her independence - but Luna? Harry? Hermione's imagination failed when she tried to picture Harry on that dance floor, wearing tight black jeans, a green t-shirt that might as well have been sprayed on, chunky silver bracelets...
Wait a minute.
That wasn't her imagination. That was Harry - Harry Potter, one of her two oldest friends - wearing that outfit, glistening with sweat, and walking off the dance floor with his arm around Luna's waist. Another man, a slim blond with a blood-red silk shirt and glitter in his loose hair, had his arm wrapped around Luna's other side.
"Granger, what a... pleasant surprise," he said, lips curling in a tiny smirk.
"Draco Malfoy?" Hermione jerked bolt upright, splaying her hands flat on the table, ready to push herself away. Ginny had her wand; she was defenseless!
"Yeah, Draco Malfoy," said Harry easily. "Who works for Luna at the Quibbler, remember? And who isn't a Death Eater, so relax. Hi, Hermione - haven't seen you in a while. I didn't expect to run into you here."
"I didn't expect to be here," said Hermione, sounding more shaken-up than she preferred; confronting the son of a man you'd helped kill could do that. Yes, now she remembered that Malfoy had left Voldemort before the end - but what was he doing here, with Harry? Maybe she was already drunk and hallucinating. "But Ginny stole my wand and-"
"Oh, Ginny," said Harry, as if that explained everything. Perhaps it did. "Well, that's three of us she's got now. I wonder if she'll ever manage to drag Ron and Neville along." Harry slid into Ginny's vacant chair; Malfoy snagged another one and sat down beside him.
"Beer all round?" asked Luna. Receiving nods from the two boys - no, men, remember, men - she wandered off to the bar, passing Ginny on her way.
"Draco?" said Ginny as she plunked down two beers, one for herself and one for Hermione. "I thought you were still in Egypt. And Harry, stop stealing my chairs." She promptly stole Luna's seat, on Hermione's left, and arched her back with a sigh, which pulled her shirt tight against her breasts and let the lights glint off her navel ring.
Hermione swallowed. Ginny was on first name terms with Malfoy? Wait, forget that - Harry had been on the dance floor with Malfoy? She was beginning to wonder exactly how much of her friends' lives she'd missed since her promotion and the extended hours that came with it.
Malfoy shrugged. "It turns out we have a photo archive of Egyptian sights - Lovegood's father had some poor sod down there a while back, chasing rumors of a hoard of blood-sucking mummies - so I was able to move through my stops faster than I'd expected. Which, in addition to Potter's latest bout of altruism, is why we're out celebrating."
"We?" asked Hermione faintly, taking a large swallow of beer. First Ginny raised the possibility of Harry and Luna, and now... She didn't want to follow that thought.
Harry flushed. "Well, you see... we sort of... that is..."
Oh, bugger. She'd been right.
"All three? Now that I wasn't expecting - congratulations Harry!" said Ginny, a smirk of her own replacing the surprise that had washed over her face. She turned to Malfoy as Harry's flush grew almost incandescent. "Harry's always liked Ravenclaws so Luna's not that much of a stretch... but you, Draco? I'd like to hear that story!"
"Oh, Potter doesn't like me at all," said Malfoy. "But Lovegood does - and I know all their dirty secrets so they can't get rid of me."
"Bastard," said Harry, smiling as he reached over and tangled Malfoy's hair.
"Pot, cauldron. And you'll suffer for that." The bite Hermione had expected was absent from Malfoy's voice, and his eyes twinkled even as his mouth curled in a vicious little smirk.
Harry - Harry, who'd spent seven years hating Malfoy's very existence! - smirked back. "You keep saying that, but I don't feel any pain."
"One day, Potter, one day. I'm just waiting until your guard is down."
Hermione discovered she'd finished her second beer. "I'm getting another drink," she said. "Excuse me." She had a feeling that getting pissed and embarrassing herself was going to be the least of her worries in the near future. And she really, really hoped she didn't remember any of this in the morning.
"Weasley, are you bloody insane?" Draco asked, as Granger walked unsteadily toward the bar. "Why the hell did you bring her here?"
Ginny grinned at him, a surprisingly evil expression for a former Gryffindor. Then again, she was the one who'd helped him refine his Stare of Ultimate Contempt. "Because I felt like it," she said. "Why do you care?"
"She'll tell your brother, and he'll kill us all!"
"Who'll kill us? I thought the war was over." Luna deposited the beer, stole Granger's chair, and looked quizzically around the table.
"He means Ron," said Harry, "and Ron won't kill us. I think. He should settle for throwing a few curses and yelling a lot - then he won't speak to us for a week."
"Yes, and then he'll come murder me in my sleep, thus making a clean sweep of the Malfoy line." Draco pouted when he realized Harry and Luna weren't taking this seriously enough. "You don't believe me."
"I never believe you - why should I start now? The worst that can happen is he'll never speak to us again." Harry took a swallow of his beer, looking upset at the thought of losing Weasley as a friend - Draco couldn't see why that was a bad thing, but then, he'd never understood what Harry saw in Weasley in the first place.
"That's why I didn't want to tell him," continued Harry, "but it had to come out sometime, right? And maybe it's best for Hermione to tell him instead of me. That way I won't be right there when he explodes."
"I don't think Hermione would want to watch Ron explode either," said Luna. "They are friends, and she doesn't like blood."
"He'd be exploding metaphorically, Luna - it'll still be messy and painful, but no blood should be spilled," said Ginny. Then she smiled the sadistic smile of the uninvolved observer. "You do realize, though, that even if Ron doesn't kill anyone, he's going to tell Mum."
Harry blanched. "Mrs. Weasley? But we're not even... we don't... we just..."
Draco smacked Harry for being an idiot and asked, cautiously, "Is your mother that scary, Weasley?"
"Yes!" said Harry. "Hang on, I need something stronger to face this." He walked off in the direction of the bar.
Draco watched as Harry stopped next to Granger, who was perched on a barstool and appeared to be working her way through a line of garishly colored cocktails. Harry leaned down and spoke into her ear - well, Draco thought that was what he was aiming for. It was hard to tell through all that bushy hair.
He turned back to Luna and Ginny, frowning. "People we know are going to know about us. I don't like it. We haven't even worked out exactly what 'us' is."
"Don't worry," said Luna, resting her hand on his. "Mrs. Weasley managed to survive seven children; I'm sure you won't be any more shocking than the twins."
"That's what you think," muttered Draco, weaving his fingers through hers. "They'll all be after me for corrupting their precious hero, never mind that they spent years thinking he was insane or dangerous, and never mind that I managed to get away from the Dark Lord without doing anything too depraved."
Draco sank briefly into contemplation of that dark period of his life, when he'd learned what war really meant and what lengths Voldemort would go to. He still thought Muggles were more dangerous than most wizards realized - particularly the ones with magical relatives, the ones who knew what they were missing - but he had to admit they ran some interesting nightclubs. You never found anything like Crimson on Diagon Alley.
"Stop moping," said Ginny, poking him in the nose. "It's not pretty on Harry, and it's not pretty on you either."
"I don't want to be pretty. I'm not a girl."
"But I like your hair," said Luna. Draco blinked; that was less of a non sequitur than her usual tangents. Was she losing her touch? "You're losing glitter - turn so I can fix it."
Draco grumbled, but acquiesced; there were certain things not worth arguing about when Luna was involved. "No color-change spells, Lovegood."
"Mmm-hmm," said Luna, pulling her wand from her boot and transfiguring one of her paperclips into a comb. "Stay still."
"Give him a French braid, Luna," said Ginny, giggling. "He'll look so cute!"
"Weasley, just because I have Potter and you don't, there's no reason to be vicious."
In the corner of his vision, Ginny snickered. "Maybe so, ferret-boy, but I have tons of other insults that need paying back. For instance... I kissed him first. You remember? Back when I was - what was it you said - 'thanking my hero traditionally,' I think."
Draco growled. "All right, I was an insufferable little twit. I admit it. Diary-girl."
"Draco, please don't upset people who have the keys to your house-wards and who might decide to test experimental potions on you," said Luna as she tugged and maneuvered his hair. "Things could go rather spectacularly wrong - no offense meant, Ginny - and I prefer you alive. Also, immaturity attracts poltergeists and I'd rather not have one following you around the office. Or in bed."
Draco sighed. Poltergeists weren't attracted to immaturity, exactly - opportunities for malicious chaos would be more accurate - but Luna was right about Ginny and her potions. She had the Weasley temper in spades and she was a lot sneakier than her insufferable brother; it wasn't the best idea to cross her. "Fine. Weasley, I'm sorry. That was uncalled for."
Her composure recovered, Ginny patted his shoulder. "Yes, it was, from both of us. Now smile - Harry's bringing Hermione back. She looks a bit unsteady, so you may have a chance to start over and pretend you're not an infuriating bastard."
Draco fixed a grin on his face - not a smirk! nothing like a smirk! - and prepared to convince Granger that he wasn't evil, wasn't corrupting her precious ickle Harry-boo, and really wasn't worth getting bloody Ron Weasley to murder him.
Ginny watched, somewhere between amused and worried, as Hermione plastered herself tipsily over a succession of people on the dance floor. This wasn't quite what she'd had in mind when she dragged her friend down to Crimson, but then, she hadn't been expecting to meet Harry, Luna, and Draco here. And she really hadn't been expecting them to all be together - not in that sense of together, anyhow.
Hermione, poor soul, who hadn't seemed to realize that, contrary to her own habits, her friends had lives outside of work and sleep, was utterly shocked. And Hermione never dealt well with surprises.
Pretending she hadn't seen anything, steadfastly ignoring Draco, and getting drunk off her arse on strawberry daiquiris was better than freezing stiff, launching into mother-hen intervention mode, or running off to tell Ron, Ginny supposed. It was certainly more interesting to watch.
"You want to get out of here, go to my place, beautiful?" asked the man currently rubbing his groin against her arse and running his hands up under her shirt.
She turned in his arms and gave him a once-over - not too tall, good build, long fingers, wicked beard, nice bum, killer sense of rhythm, decent package from what she'd felt - some other night she might have taken him up on that. Ginny sighed. "Not tonight. I have to make sure my friend gets home safely."
He pouted, the beard adding an intriguing twist of sarcasm to his face. "Just my luck - all the good ones are taken, with friends, or gay. Maybe some other time?"
Why not? "Yeah, maybe. I'm Ginny. You?"
"Mark. See you around, beautiful." He peeled away and moved in on a cluster of girls maybe a year or so older than Ginny, wrapping his hands around someone's waist. Fickle bastard. But a good-looking fickle bastard, just right to scratch the itch for a night. Looking for more was only asking for trouble.
Ginny sighed again. There were times she really wished she wasn't so responsible.
Hermione had left her latest partner and was weaving and swaying on her own, arms in the air and hips swiveling to the beat, eyes closed in concentrated bliss. Ginny blinked. Wow. She'd known Hermione was smothering something under all that respectability and fussing about rules - after all, Ginny had seen her snap off rapid-fire curses in battle, watched her viciously dissect people with a few well-placed words, and been speechless with admiration when Hermione had finally lost all patience and punched Snape in the Great Hall near the end of the war - but this was more than she'd expected.
"Hey, Hermione," she said, sliding up behind her friend. "Having fun yet?"
"Yes!" said Hermione, speaking louder than necessary. "I love it! I love dancing! I love beer! I love Harry - you're right about his bum, see?" She flung an arm outward, waving haphazardly across the room. "I even love Luna and that bastard Malfoy. And I love you!"
Hermione twisted, still swaying with the music, and flung her arms around Ginny in a passionate embrace. "You're my best friend ever and I love you."
Ginny patted her on the shoulder, nonplussed. "Er, I love you too?"
"Really? Oh, wow." Hermione beamed upward at Ginny, and planted a sloppy kiss on her neck.
"You know," said Hermione, as if confiding a great secret, "I've never had sex. Not with Harry, and not even with Ron! I told him we ought to, back at Hogwarts, and he said he liked that cow Susan Bones better than me, sorry about that, and go to sleep; there's a battle in the morning. It wasn't fair, not after I got to love him that way."
"Oookay." Ginny was a little worried now - Hermione was obviously more drunk than she'd thought, even though she was managing not to trip over her words.
"I want to have sex," Hermione proclaimed loudly. "Everyone always says how great it is. I want to see if they're right."
Several people nearby looked on with interest. "You going to do anything about that, or can I move in?" one man asked, only half-joking.
"Back off, bastard," Ginny spat, hand flying to her wand where it, along with Hermione's, was serving as a chopstick to hold up her hair. She swept her glare around the little audience she and Hermione had acquired. "Hands off. That goes for all of you toad-lickers."
"Yeah, stay away from my Ginny," added Hermione, plastering herself over her friend. Ginny froze for a second, and then realized it wouldn't hurt to look like a couple if she wanted to drive opportunists away. Besides, it would probably be more trouble than it was worth to pry Hermione off.
"Come on, baby," she said, using the voice she usually reserved for her temporary conquests. "Let's go find Harry and the others." Hopefully they could help Ginny get her home before Hermione did something she'd really regret in the morning.
Luna swam through the music, weaving with the beat like a shark circling its prey. She had better taste than a shark, though. Sharks would never appreciate Draco and Harry the way she did - unless they were bleeding, she supposed. Blood always seemed to attract attention.
However, blood wasn't a very good way to get attention, not useful attention anyway. People tended to scream and run, or go into shock. And it was a terrible mess to clean up. It had taken weeks to put the Great Hall of Hogwarts back in order after the Easter Massacre.
But Luna wasn't thinking about the war. She was dancing.
Harry ground against her back, hands dipping under the waist of her skirt to tickle and massage. Draco pinned himself to her front, one hand playing with the ties of her shirt while the other snaked over her shoulder to tease Harry.
"Whose place tonight?" asked Draco, leaning in to hide the question from the other dancers, letting his breath ghost over Luna's ear.
"Yours," said Harry. "Ron took Padma to the Burrow for the weekend, but if Hermione runs off to tell him tomorrow, I'd rather be in a flat where he doesn't have the key to the house wards."
"Potter, I believe we may yet teach you strategy. Possibly even before your hundredth birthday." Harry tensed, so Luna pinched Draco's arse in warning; he changed the subject. "You know, I still can't believe Weasley snagged Patil after the way he buggered up at the Yule Ball."
Luna shrugged, the motion rubbing her breasts interestingly against Draco. "She likes chess."
Harry laughed, hot breath tickling the back of her neck. She tipped her head forward; he took the hint and dropped a kiss on her spine. "That's a pretty flimsy reason for a relationship, Luna."
"And ours is so much deeper?" Draco shot back, leaning in and nibbling at Luna's ear as Harry kissed his way along her hairline. She closed her eyes, concentrating on the sensation. Swim in the moment, be here and now. Forget the layers of the world that wrapped tendrils around her during the day, sending her shifting from inside to outside to way beyond. Forget the distractions. No sharp edges here to cut her to ribbons, no mocking voices, no need for defenses - her boys were with her and she was with them.
Harry made some motion - probably a shrug, judging by the way his hands tugged upwards on her skin, rekindling the swirling heat in her belly. "You can't play chess all day."
"You're evading the issue. We have sex and we argue - how is that better than chess?"
"It just is," said Harry.
Luna knew he was blushing; he didn't like talking about their relationship, even though he was mostly responsible for it in the first place. Harry was the one who'd pushed Draco into swearing no Muggle nightclub could possibly interest him, and then dared him to prove it. Harry was the one who'd practically poured alcohol down Draco's throat, not realizing he was getting equally drunk himself. Harry was the one who'd asked Luna if they could stay at her flat overnight since the boys were too pissed to safely Apparate home.
So it was really Harry's fault they'd all woken up in bed together the next morning.
The fact that Luna had forgotten to remind them of her Floo connection had nothing to do with it. That was entirely due to the gypsy moths that had been nesting in her kitchen curtains; it was a little-known fact that dust from their wings could affect the memory. It wasn't her fault Harry didn't believe that.
She was never sure if Draco believed her or not, but he didn't argue so it came to the same thing in the end. And even Harry never said he minded that she'd forgotten...
In any case, there could certainly be worse relationships. Her boys didn't mind Luna's devotion to the Quibbler, and their mocking was friendly, not aimed to wound. Draco's cynicism and whimsy let him follow her through the shifting layers of the world, made him willing to let her keep her shields and to help refine her flashes of insight. Harry's moodiness and care kept her anchored in the here and now beyond the minimum she needed to run her paper and survive in a world of locked and hostile minds. She balanced between them, damping arguments and lending an ear when they struck sparks off each other.
But Luna wasn't thinking about those things now. She was living in the moment, pinned between their bodies, swimming in the music. She was dancing.
"Harry, we have a problem."
Harry turned his head, wondering what Ginny was upset about. Then he saw Hermione, flushed with alcohol and exertion, plunging her fingers into Ginny's low-slung pants while her other hand fumbled with the ties of Ginny's backless shirt.
Ginny fended off another attempt to leave her topless and stared pointedly at Harry.
"Er, right," he agreed. "That's a problem."
"Damn straight - help me out! And Draco, if you say one word, I'll hex you into next week."
Harry sighed, slipped his hands from Luna's skirt, and helped detach Hermione from Ginny. He grabbed her wrists and held her firmly against himself when she tried to lunge forward again.
"You're no fun," she told him, and pouted, lower lip sticking out and trembling.
"What brought this on, Weasley?" asked Draco, still grinding away with Luna, who had her eyes closed to concentrate on the music. Bastard. You'd think he could lend a hand for once in his life. Harry shifted as Hermione kicked at his legs, their movements almost a dance.
Ginny shrugged helplessly. "She's pissed out of her mind, started saying she'd never had sex and wanted to try, and decided I could do the honors. Since when does Hermione like girls?"
Harry looked down at Hermione. Girls? Hermione? It was strange enough for him to be... well, having sex with another man. And enjoying it. What were the odds on two of their old trio swinging both ways?
"At least Ron's normal," he muttered.
Luna and Draco both raised their eyebrows. This couldn't be good; Draco's contempt for Ron went without saying, but Luna?
"He likes to be tied up," said Luna, far too calmly for someone dropping that sort of bombshell. "And blindfolded."
Harry blinked. Okay, so they were all three screwed up. It must have been the war. And Voldemort. He could blame anything on Voldemort. Wait... why did Luna know that about Ron? How did Luna know that about Ron? Sure, they'd gone out a few times, but when had they ever been serious enough for sex, let alone bondage? ...And just how tipsy was Luna to be spilling secrets in the middle of a nightclub?
Hermione stamped her foot, not bothering to aim for him this time - which was good since there was no way Harry could have managed to move his feet at that moment. "It's not fair! He wouldn't have sex with me, not even when I was in love with him, but he goes off with Susan Bones, and Luna, and that slut Padma, and probably everyone else and their dog!" She cast imploring eyes at her friends. "I'm not ugly, am I? You'd have sex with me, right?"
Draco opened his mouth, but Harry cut him off. "Don't start, Malfoy. Not now."
"So I can have sex with her later?"
Luna favored him with a heavy-eyed stare. "I think you'd look sweet tied up with silk ribbons."
Harry snickered at the image that conjured. "Pink ribbons. And a big satin bow."
"...And that would be a no," said Draco. "Bugger. Yes, I'd have sex with you, Granger, even though you're Muggle-born, but these two idiots won't let me. They fear our deathless passion."
"Shut it, Malfoy," said Harry.
"Ron has a good heart," Luna told Hermione, "but he's a bit short-sighted and he doesn't always appreciate what people offer him. He never liked my Gryffindor hats, you know. I'm sure there are many people with better taste who'd enjoy having sex with you."
"Really? Would you?" asked Hermione, wriggling against Harry in a distracting fashion. Hmm. Hermione and Draco. Hermione and Luna. Naked, tied up with ribbons... Harry shifted, moving Hermione off-center against his body. He really had to get out of this conversation before he embarrassed himself more than he'd already done tonight.
"What Luna might or might not be willing to do is irrelevant," said Ginny firmly. "Hermione, you're a wonderful, beautiful person, but you're too drunk to have sex tonight. We're going home instead." She looked at her friends. "Are you sober enough to Apparate? I don't want to drag her through Muggle London like this, and I'm not sure I can get her to bed by myself."
Draco leered. "Whose bed?"
"Draco, shut it. Or else."
Harry and Draco exchanged glances. Luna was never sober enough to Apparate after a club night - she lost her fine magical concentration long before she finished unwinding - and Harry was feeling tipsier than usual, due to his fear-of-Mrs.-Weasley induced binge. They'd been planning to take the Underground.
"I can manage at least one jump," Draco told Ginny, "and I should still be keyed into your wards. You take Lovegood; I'll bring these idiots."
"What, leave from right here?" Ginny glanced around. "Oh, all right; they're all pissed enough not to notice us vanish." And unlike Muggles, Harry knew, the girls didn't carry handbags they'd have to go fetch; transfiguration was truly a marvelous ability.
Hermione snarled sleepily at Draco, but didn't try to escape when he grabbed hold of her hand where it twined with Harry's.
The familiar second of nothingness and pop of displaced air deposited them in Hermione's flat - the same one Harry and Ron had also lived in until three months ago, when they moved out and Ginny moved in. Ron's Quidditch paraphernalia had been replaced by an extra bookcase and there were more cushions on the sofa than before, but otherwise the main room was unchanged.
The cushions turned out to be useful, since Draco was more drunk than he'd admitted and accidentally materialized them two feet above the sofa instead of on the floor. Of course, that could also have been related to the fact that he'd only visited the flat twice before, but in either case, Harry was grateful for the soft landing.
"You still think you're better than you really are," he remarked, trying to untangle himself and sit up. "It's nice that some things don't change."
Draco scowled, pushed Hermione off his shoulder, and turned to the noise that heralded Ginny and Luna's arrival. "Weasley, I'm more drunk than I thought and I hate the Underground. Can we stay the night?"
Ginny shrugged. "That's what you get for taking your flat off the Floo network. You can use your old bedroom, Harry, but you'll be cleaning the sheets tomorrow."
"Fine," said Harry, standing and trading Hermione for Luna. "I think Hermione's fallen asleep, so you shouldn't have any more trouble. See you in the morning."
"Potter, we're not getting up before the crack of noon," said Draco, wrapping his arm around Luna's other side. "Right, Lovegood?"
"Hazelfugs can make you queasy if you get up too early," Luna agreed.
"If you say so." Harry shut the spare bedroom door behind them, sealed it with a locking charm, and helped her get undressed.
"Okay, Hermione, let's get you to bed," muttered Ginny, manhandling her friend out of the main room. "Now, where do you keep your nightdresses?"
Ginny looked around Hermione's bedroom, noting the pile of discarded bras by the dresser and the work robes left crumpled on the floor for once, instead of neatly hung in the closet. She leaned Hermione against the bed and pulled their wands out of her hair, letting it spill down to tickle her shoulders.
"Leviosa. That's it, good Hermione, there's a good floating body, move onto that bed..." Hermione drifted over the bed, fast asleep in the middle of the air. Ginny pulled back the covers, smiling at the pastel butterfly print on the sheets. Sweet whimsy from Hermione - who would have guessed?
The nightdress, a sensible shift of light blue cotton, was hanging on the back of the closet door. Ginny grabbed it and studied Hermione, still holding the levitation charm. How to get her out of her clothes and into the nightdress without waking her? If she woke up half naked with Ginny in the room, she'd either die of embarrassment or restart that 'Woe is me, come make love to me Ginny' kick she'd been on.
There was nothing wrong with Hermione liking girls, and Ginny was even a bit flattered that she seemed to be the focus of Hermione's fancy - it was embarrassing, yes, but it would be even more humiliating if Hermione liked girls and hadn't noticed Ginny. But all that aside, she had her limits. She absolutely wasn't going to do anything while Hermione was shit-faced drunk, no matter what Hermione wanted. That would be wrong. And she wasn't going to say anything tomorrow either, not until she'd had a chance to think over the implications with a clear head. All the implications.
Then maybe they'd talk about it, if Hermione hadn't decided to treat the whole thing as an alcohol-induced hallucination.
Ginny dropped the nightdress on the bed and fiddled with her wand. Should she risk a sleeping charm? It would keep things simple, but people could react badly to psycho-physiological magic if they had alcohol or other drugs in their bodies.
Best not to risk it, Ginny decided. Besides, she wasn't certain she could focus enough right now to cast anything as delicate as a sleeping charm - she'd probably leave Hermione in a week-long coma if she tried!
"Hermione, if you wake up we're going to pretend this is all a massive hallucination, and I'm going to hide in your closet until you fall asleep again, okay?" Hermione didn't answer. "I'll take that as a yes. God, I must be more pissed than I thought if I'm talking to you when you're asleep. I'm going to start with your shoes."
And she was going to stop narrating this idiocy to Hermione while she was at it. Ginny stuck her wand between her teeth, keeping it aimed at Hermione to maintain control of the levitation charm, and set to work.
She pulled off the gleaming black boots - which she'd been pleasantly surprised to find lurking in the depths of Hermione's neatly stacked shoeboxes - with no trouble. The stockings and jewelry came off similarly easily, and Ginny considered stopping there; nothing said Hermione couldn't sleep in her skirt and blouse, after all.
But that was cruel and unusual punishment for such nice clothes, clothes that Ginny had bought specially after poking through Hermione's wardrobe to learn her sizes and studying her friend to see what cuts and styles flattered her figure. And to be honest, she hoped that if Hermione woke up in her regular nightdress instead of the club clothes, she might be more likely to pass off her drunken antics as a peculiar dream. Which would be just fine, in Ginny's opinion.
Then she wouldn't have to consider anything. Particularly not the way Hermione's fingers had traced circles on her stomach and dipped down into-
No. She wasn't thinking about that now. That was for tomorrow, for when she wasn't drunk and Hermione wasn't levitating in front of her, held up by the wand clenched between Ginny's bared teeth while Ginny's hands gently eased Hermione's skirt down over her knees.
"Not ugly," Hermione murmured, shifting in her sleep. Ginny froze. "Sodding bastards don't know what they're missing. See if I..."
She trailed off, and Ginny resumed breathing. She was still thinking about sex? Well, at least if Hermione was dreaming about that bizarre conversation, she'd be more likely to think the bits in the club were also a dream. And then they could forget the whole thing.
Skirt successfully pulled off and folded over her arm, Ginny tugged the blouse over Hermione's head and tangled, sweat-dampened hair, managing not to provoke any more movement, and... done! Ginny grinned around her wand - was she good or was she good?
And wow, she'd checked to make sure Hermione had bras that would work with the blouse, but her friend had picked the skimpiest, laciest one to wear. Obviously some part of her had known she needed to unwind, even if she'd consciously protested.
The knickers matched the bra, a small part of Ginny's mind pointed out as she unhooked the clasp and left Hermione's breasts bare. And Hermione looked practically edible, all stretched out, weightless, and nearly naked.
"I'm not thinking about that!" Ginny muttered, hastily dropping the bra and shifting her wand back to her hand. "Definitely not thinking about that. Time for the nightdress."
She scooped the cotton shift off Hermione's bed. "Hmm. If I'm sober enough to manage controlled levitation, maybe I can dress you with magic? I've certainly learned enough fashion charms off my friends over the years."
"Vestio," said Ginny, flicking her wand.
The nightdress coiled, unbuttoning itself and snaking over Hermione's head. The sleeves slipped over her arms, and the back buttoned up again as the sash tied itself into a bow.
"Neat. Well, that's that. I'll just tidy up in here, and I'll see you in the morning, Hermione, when we can pretend none of this ever happened."
Ginny released the levitation charm, letting Hermione's body settle gently onto the sheets. She tucked in the covers, and then bent down and gathered the spilled bras into her arms, preparing to dump them into Hermione's dresser.
When she stood up, Hermione was staring at her.
"Oh, toad guts."
The bed was only large enough to fit two people comfortably - three would be a squeeze - so Draco cast a quick Enlargement Charm while Harry was undressing Luna. He considered transfiguring the sheets to silk but decided not to bother. Cotton offered better traction. However, the pattern had to go; there was no way he was having sex on orange sheets decorated with animated Snitches. Draco charmed the sheets white, filed away Harry's taste in linens for future blackmail, and resolved never to let the idiot buy furniture unsupervised.
"Malfoy, put the wand down and come over here," said Harry as he plucked out Luna's paperclip earrings and laid them on the dresser next to their wands. Luna was bracing herself against the wall and running a bare foot up and down Harry's still-clothed legs.
Technically speaking, her orange and purple clothes clashed horribly with his bright green shirt, but with Luna's chest thrust forward and that intense concentration on Harry's face, Draco couldn't bring himself to care; he just admired the view. They had no taste, they gave him no peace, they drove him mad, but there was something about those two...
Draco twirled his wand, but tucked it back into the wrist holster instead of laying it aside. He owed Harry for messing with his hair and refusing to dance at the start of the evening. And he had a plan.
"I don't take orders from you," he said, sliding his hands around Harry's waist and tugging his t-shirt out from his jeans. Harry's stomach muscles twitched as Draco ran his fingers over bare skin. Draco grinned. "Scared?"
Harry twisted his head and returned the grin. "You wish."
It was a little tradition, a reminder of their history and a promise not to back out of this new... whatever it was.
Luna quirked her eyebrows at the two of them, her large, gleaming eyes making the gesture particularly expressive, and reached down to unzip Harry's jeans. "Draco, either undress Harry or get naked yourself."
Minx. If she was in a dominating mood, that might be helpful once he got Harry tied up. Draco hid a smile as he shucked his trousers and pants, and unbuttoned his shirt. Harry thought Draco would look nice tied up in pink ribbons, did he? Well, Draco thought that look would go much better on Harry. And he was going to prove it.
Harry was naked now, except for those wide, segmented silver bracelets that always reminded Draco of handcuffs. His wand was over six feet away, tangled in Luna's bizarre jewelry.
"Petrificus totalus," he whispered as he casually waved a hand in Harry's direction, anticipating the sight of the other man bound and waiting on his and Luna's pleasure.
"Oh, bugger." Draco triggered his wrist holster, gripped his wand tightly, and dove behind the bed a bare second ahead of a series of counter curses. You didn't try to hex Harry. You either succeeded or you learned, painfully, why the blasted Gryffindor had topped all their Defense classes and been one of the most feared duelists on either side of the war. Harry was diabolically good at channeling his instinctive magical reactions into wandless curses when disarmed, and by now he'd certainly have summoned his wand, regardless of the consequences to Luna's earrings and necklace.
Harry didn't use debilitating curses on his friends, but even four years after the war, certain reflexes were still somewhat... volatile.
Draco transfigured his shirt into a bent spyglass and peered around the solid, wooden bed frame - there was no way he was putting his naked eye in Harry's line of fire! Minor scuffling noises emanated from the far side - Luna and Harry getting in each other's way?
Draco shrugged. Now or never. He stood, leaning forward to hurl a stunner over the bed... and froze.
Harry's wand was pressed against the back of his neck.
"Petrificus totalus," whispered Harry, and Draco felt his body lock up and topple awkwardly against the bed. "You really ought to remember that I like to attack from behind."
Luna laughed, thumping her fist against the bed and jostling Draco. "Oh, you boys! Making spyglasses out of shirts and riding levitating bracelets over beds - I wonder why people think I'm the strange one..." She shook her head as if dismissing the question. "Oh well. Harry, unbind Draco and I'll conjure the ribbons."
"Pink silk," Harry reminded her, tapping his wand against Draco's shoulder to undo the bind and levitate him over the bed.
Pink silk shot from Luna's wand, the ribbons wreathing around his body to pull his arms back, spread his legs, link his wrists to his ankles, and tease various sensitive areas that drew an outraged squawk from Draco's newly responsive vocal cords. "Let me go!"
Luna tilted her head as if considering. "...No, I think we won't. I was right - you do look sweet. You'd look ever nicer if you smiled."
"I'm not sweet!" Draco protested. Merlin, this was embarrassing!
Luna simply shrugged, laid her wand back onto the dresser, and crawled onto the bed in front of Draco, tempting him with all that skin he couldn't reach out and touch. Harry, the heartless, double-crossing bastard, laughed as he settled in behind him.
"How does it feel to have no power?" asked Harry, his fingers dipping dangerously low on Draco's back. "Draco Malfoy, arrogant Slytherin, always in control... Tonight we're calling the tune."
Luna's hand closed over him, and Draco involuntarily twitched his hips forward. "No," she said, a hint of a smile hovering at the edges of her mouth. "Don't move. Harry, spank him if he tries anything again."
"This is uncalled for!"
Harry leaned forward and let his words drift into Draco's ear, breath hot and lips trailing against skin as he spoke. "Can't take your own medicine, Malfoy?" A sharp thrust of fingers punctuated his question.
"Ah! That's not the point!" Since when was Harry this forward? Draco knew Harry was anything but a pushover, but usually he and Luna let Draco set the pace in bed, deferring to his air of greater experience. The fact that his actual experience before this mess was limited to Pansy wasn't something Draco had felt compelled to mention.
"I don't like points; they usually hurt even if you learn something useful, and far too many people learn the wrong things instead," said Luna, her eyes suddenly serious. She added Draco's balls to her ministrations, drawing an overwhelmed gasp. "But Draco, you said it yourself: all we do is have sex and argue. I want to find what my mother and father had, to have someone look at me the way they looked at each other. We don't have that now, but we could; I can feel it. Maybe we just need to try new ways to get there. Right, Harry?"
Harry was silent for several seconds, his hands still. Then, "Yeah," he said. "That's exactly right. We have to learn to trust each other more, to see if we can build something worth keeping. And Draco? We're starting with you."
They might have had a point, and not a terribly painful one either, Draco admitted afterward as they lay collapsed together, his hands still fastened to his ankles. He'd never been in the middle before, never wanted to give up control or admit that he'd grown to care enough for his partners that he'd regret losing them; if he was always in charge, he could pretend he'd just grown tired of them if they left. But Luna had amazing hands, Harry had a wonderfully filthy mouth when he was running the show, and they'd used those ribbons in mind-boggling places...
Still, there were limits!
"Weasley's insane," he mumbled, "asking Patil do this to him every night. Absolutely barking mad."
"So says the man who not five minutes ago swore he was having the best sex of his life and begged us not to stop," said Harry dryly. He leaned down and snagged his wand from the floor.
Draco shrugged as Harry banished the ribbons. "I'm a Slytherin. Obviously I was lying."
Harry jerked upright, but Luna reached over from Draco's other side and poked Harry in the collarbone. "Harry," she said, pale eyes glimmering, "think. Which time was he lying?"
Most people dismissed Luna out of hand as slightly mad, but Draco knew better. Loony she might well be - for Merlin's sake, who actually believed in Crumple-Horned Snorkacks? - but she was still a sodding Ravenclaw and too perceptive for his peace of mind. Draco met Harry's questioning stare with a blank face, and stifled a groan when the idiot suddenly grinned and winked at him. Couldn't they leave a man some secrets?
Apparently not, but neither Harry nor Luna pressed the issue. Instead, after a few cleaning charms, courtesy of Harry, and a few furtive kisses and 'accidental' touches, they pulled up the covers and settled in for the remains of the night.
Several hours later, Draco woke to the faint glimmerings of dawn and the realization that Harry's wand was balanced on the headboard. He smirked. They were similar enough that they could make some use of each other's wands, and he owed Harry revenge, now more than ever.
One quick charm later, pink silk ribbons tangled in Harry and Luna's hair, and, for the final touch, a pink satin bow rested snugly around Harry's cock. Draco returned to sleep with a smile.
Hermione stared blearily at Ginny, trying to figure out how she'd got from Crimson to her own bed, along with a complete change of clothes. While she was at it, she'd like to know why her furniture and walls were swaying, why the air felt thick, and why her breathing sounded so loud. Then she noticed the pile of bras in Ginny's arms.
"You undressed me!"
Ginny edged toward the door. "Er, yes. But don't worry about it! This is just a dream; go back to sleep."
"I'm not asleep. And you saw me naked!"
"Yeah, that happens when you undress someone," said Ginny, and then winced. "Sorry. Er, I didn't want your clothes to get rumpled? And you had your knickers on, anyhow," she added defensively.
Hermione shifted herself so she was leaning against her pillow, propped up by the headboard, and massaged her forehead. "I can't think. But I don't think that sounds like a good excuse." They weren't really her clothes, were they? Were they Ginny's? That would explain why she didn't want them rumpled. But if they were Ginny's, then they wouldn't have fit Hermione. She thought not, anyway.
Her brain wasn't working properly.
"Well..." Ginny began, obviously fumbling for some farfetched excuse.
"Nevermind," said Hermione. She could figure this out if she could just get her thoughts clear. Think, girl, think. She hadn't bought the clothes; they'd just been waiting on her bed...
Wait a minute, forget the clothes. "You saw me naked!"
"Look," snapped Ginny, "it's not my fault you went and got yourself drunk and came onto me. I don't see what you're so upset about anyhow - you're the one who asked me to have sex with you! And that tends to involve seeing the other person naked."
Hermione blinked. "Sex?"
"Yes, sex! You blabbed at the top of your lungs that you've never had sex, and you were practically begging anybody within twenty feet to fix that."
Hermione gaped. "I never! I didn't. I couldn't have." Especially not to Ginny.
"Oh yes you did!" Then Ginny blanched. "Er, that is to say, no. You didn't. I must have been imagining things. In fact, you're imagining things now - I'm not really here, this is all a dream, and you'll forget all about it in the morning." She dropped the bras and started backing toward the bedroom door.
"Oh no you don't!" Hermione lunged to her feet, lurched as the room wobbled around her, and managed to latch onto Ginny's arm. "I'm not that drunk! You stay here and explain yourself. Tell me exactly what happened at that nightclub." She paused. "We were at a nightclub, right?"
Ginny let her hand fall from the doorknob and sighed. "Yeah, we were at a nightclub. We met Harry, Luna, and Draco, found out that they're having some sort of ménage à trois, and you decided to get shitfaced. Do you remember that?"
Well, now she did. Hermione winced. "I remember hoping I wouldn't remember that. That's why I was drinking."
Ginny shot her an amused look. "I'm sorry to disillusion you, but alcohol isn't usually that helpful. Anyhow, you got drunk off your arse and started dancing like mad. Then you complained about Ron not having sex with you, said you wanted to know what sex was like, and..." She gulped. "And asked me to, well, do it with you."
"So I got Harry and Draco to help bring you back here," continued Ginny, oblivious to the ice running through Hermione's blood. "You fell asleep on the way. And that's basically it."
Hermione stared blankly forward, cudgeling her sodden brain into something that could pass for rational thought. She'd asked Ginny to have sex with her. Shit. She wasn't supposed to do that! She'd known Ginny would be horrified, known the other girl - no, woman, sod it all, woman - only had eyes for men. Hermione had been fine with an occasional lingering glance at Ginny's shoulder, or her breasts, or that maddening navel ring, or... Anyway, she'd sworn to never say anything!
She knew going to a nightclub would be trouble. Ginny had the right idea - pretend this was all a massive hallucination.
"So... I asked you to have sex with me?" Hermione heard herself saying. No! Stop acting as though this is really happening!
"Yeah," said Ginny. "Er, you can, you know, let go of my arm. I'm not going to run away. Probably."
Hermione blinked. "Oh, sorry." She let go of Ginny's arm and tried to take a step back, only to find the room swaying, the air suddenly thinning and refusing to support her. "Ohhh, I drank too much... turn off the room!"
"What? Are you okay?" Ginny stepped forward and steadied Hermione, hands firm around her shoulders. Whatever was making the room swim didn't seem to be moving her.
Hermione leaned gratefully against her friend, soaking in the warmth from body contact. "I can't think right now. Don't let go."
Why was she saying things like that? She was trying to pretend this wasn't happening. Stupid alcohol, making her lose control of her mouth. Ginny obviously wanted to go away and pretend nothing was wrong. She shouldn't ask her to stay.
Then again, Ginny was holding her...
Sod it. Thinking could wait until morning. Right now, Hermione was going to enjoy cuddling against Ginny.
"I meant it, you know," she admitted. "Do you mind?"
Ginny squeaked, then cleared her throat and said, "Not really? Er, that is, I'm flattered? And totally confused. And we're not doing anything because you're still drunk, and you'd better agree with me about that or I'm leaving and I don't care if you fall over." By the end, Ginny's voice had settled firmly into the I-know-what's-best-for-you tone she'd picked up from her mother, the one that suggested both great affection and a great capacity to inflict pain if the person addressed didn't shape up and follow orders right now.
Hermione admired that tone. When she gave orders, she sounded screechy or hysterical, not calm and confident like Ginny, or like Harry when he wasn't busy doubting himself.
Wait, Ginny had told her to do something.
"Yes," she murmured into Ginny's neck. "Yes, of course."
"Oh. Well, that's good," said Ginny a bit awkwardly. She patted Hermione on the back. "Let's get you back to bed now - I promise to stay until you fall asleep - and we can talk about this in the morning when you're not drunk and I don't feel like you could knock me over with a feather."
"Mmm-hmm," agreed Hermione, letting Ginny maneuver her back toward the bed and closing her eyes to shut out the swaying furniture. The dresser had to be doing that on purpose to make her dizzy. Perhaps it was a hex. She'd have to look into that in the morning.
But not now.
Hermione let herself be tucked into bed, and she drifted off to the wonderful sensation of Ginny stroking her hair. She'd definitely feel embarrassed in the morning, she thought distantly, but right now she couldn't possibly care less.
Luna's first conscious thought, upon awakening, was that there was something in her hair. She blinked, examining herself in the mirror on the opposite wall: the pink ribbons were a bit tangled, and she really preferred orange in her hair, but they were a sweet thought. Now, which of her boys...?
She blinked again, noticing Harry's matching ribbons and the one bow further down. Ah. She nudged Draco with her foot and shook his arm where it lay across her stomach.
"Thank you for the present, Draco," she said.
He snorted something that might have been an acknowledgement, and snuggled up to his pillow. Harry grunted and tightened his grip on Draco's other arm.
Luna sighed. It could be hard, being the only morning person in a relationship.
Since there didn't seem much chance of a repeat of last night, she supposed she might as well clean up and start fixing breakfast, including the strong tea and coffee the boys used to pry themselves awake after club nights. Checking on Hermione might not be a bad idea either - Luna hadn't been paying much attention, but she didn't think the other girl was used to that much alcohol, and she had seemed overly upset about being a virgin. That was a silly thing to worry about, in Luna's opinion, but she'd never really understood Hermione. She rarely understood people with minds so tightly laced and blinkered.
It was a pity. Hermione was quite brilliant, and if she'd only been a bit more accepting, she could have been a great help to Luna's investigative reporters.
She sighed again and slipped out of bed. Her wand was still on the dresser, along with the paperclip jewelry Harry had tangled when he summoned his wand to hex Draco. Luna carefully detangled the flimsy pieces of metal, mind drifting as her fingers worked.
She'd always liked little contraptions like paperclips, corkscrews, rubber bands, pocket knives, and those retractable ballpoint pens Muggles had. They were fascinating to fiddle around with, and often much more practical than their magical equivalents. It amused her that wizards so often neglected basic technological advances while touting their superiority over Muggles. Closed minds made for some very silly social patterns.
Electricity was generally useless around zones of high magic - Luna would grant magical supremacists that much - but what was the harm in replacing parchment scrolls and quills with white paper, staplers, and pens with their own internal supply of ink? Besides, there were so many ways to decorate pens, whereas a feather quill was pretty much a feather quill, regardless of minor plumage variations. You couldn't make quills that had little trains drifting back and forth in a liquid capsule, or quills that had seasonal figurines on the ends. And you couldn't unscrew and rearrange the pieces of a quill while you were trying to think; all you could do was pluck out the little barbs that made up the feather, leaving yourself with a bare, ugly stem.
Ah. The paperclips were detached from each other and bent back into shape. Luna swiftly hooked them into a chain, wrapped it multiple times around her left wrist, and fastened the first clip to the last. There! Aesthetically pleasing, fast, a useful source of transfiguration materials, and cheap enough that she'd have no worries if someone took it, the way people often seemed to take her things. True, that happened less often since she'd left Hogwarts, but her staff seemed to have an odd obsession with hiding her office supplies until she extended their deadlines.
Luna lifted her wand to her hair and charmed the pink ribbons orange. Then she tidied them until they were arranged in a sort of crown, ran a brush through her now-loose hair, and transfigured her abandoned clothing into a purple paisley bathrobe. That ought to be decent enough for wandering around her friends' flat on a late Saturday morning.
After tugging the sheet up over her boys - you never could tell who might accidentally open doors, and she was the only one who got to see them naked and relaxed - Luna ambled into the main room of the flat.
She knew her way around practically blindfolded - she and Ginny had lived just above this flat for over a year, and had spent most of their time down here with their friends - and as such she managed not to trip over any of the furniture. Luna wasn't fond of furniture. Sofas and end tables had a tendency to attack her when she wasn't paying attention, unless she'd used subduing charms on them. Fortunately, she'd long since charmed all the furniture in this flat. Hermione and Ron had given her peculiar looks, but Ginny had stared those two into submission before they could open their mouths.
Harry had simply shaken his head and sighed. Luna smiled now, remembering that. He had a mind as closed as Hermione's in some ways, but at least he didn't try to force his blinders over her thoughts; he just tried to explain why some people thought her actions were odd. And he was getting better about keeping his disbelief off his face. Perhaps that meant he was even getting rid of his disbelief.
There was always hope, after all.
Luna knocked softly on Hermione's door. When nobody answered, she peeked in. Then she jerked her head back, shut the door, and slapped her hands over her mouth to stifle her laughter.
Hermione was lying curled up against Ginny, head tucked into Ginny's neck. Ginny's leg was thrown over Hermione's, and both girls had their arms tangled around each other. Granted, Ginny was fully dressed, and she was on top of the covers while Hermione was under them, but that wasn't at all what Luna had expected after Ginny's blatant discomfort at Hermione's drunken advances.
"That'll teach me not to expect surprises," she murmured to herself, smiling. Hmm. Judging by the visual evidence, perhaps she could have mentioned her occasional fantasies about Ginny, back when they had shared a flat, without risking their friendship... but then, if she'd approached Ginny romantically, she might not have ended up with Harry and Draco. Things did seem to have worked out for the best, and meddling with what-ifs was a dangerous business, especially since the Ministry kept a chokehold on the timeline.
Luna headed for the kitchen, planning to make pancakes. Draco and Harry still needed breakfast, after all, and she didn't particularly want to be near Hermione's room when either one of those girls woke up.
That should be amusing.
She had started the coffee steeping - Hermione had thoughtfully set up a number of Muggle appliances, including a coffee machine, behind a miniature protective ward - and was mixing batter for the pancakes when a pop of displaced air signaled somebody Apparating in the main room. Luna frowned. Who would visit at this hour on a Saturday? More to the point, who had the keys to the house wards? Hermione and Ginny had let some of the protections lapse since Harry had moved out - they didn't have to worry about hero-worshipping stalkers, after all - but it was still fiendishly difficult to break into this flat.
"Oi, anybody awake?"
Luna slipped her wand back into her pocket and sighed. Ron. She ought to have known; the boy did have a talent for turning up at the most unfortunate times.
This might be a bit awkward.
"Hello, Ron," she said, carrying her bowl of pancake batter into the main room. "What are you doing here?"
Ron gaped. It wasn't a particularly good expression on him, Luna thought absently, and it was one he wore too often for her taste. That had been one reason they hadn't worked out as a couple, aside from his complete inability to open his mind or at least stop trying to close hers.
"I'm checking on Hermione," he said now, "making sure Ginny hasn't mucked up on relaxing her. What the bloody hell are you doing here?"
Luna shrugged. "We helped Ginny bring Hermione home last night, and decided to stay instead of risking the Underground. Now hush - everyone's still sleeping and I don't want to wake them until breakfast is ready."
"'We helped'? Who's this 'we'? And don't worry - I'll just wake Ginny - she's used to it." Ron moved over to Ginny's bedroom and opened the door before Luna could protest.
"Oi, Ginny, time to wake- she's not here!" He spun around with a worried look. "Luna, where's Ginny? Her bed isn't slept in... who was with you last night?"
Luna sighed. He was jumping to paranoid conclusions again, a classic symptom of a closed mind. She didn't think the other girls would want him to know the details of last night... how should she put this, then? "Ginny is fine. Hermione drank a bit too much and Ginny seems to have - no, don't go in there-"
She was too late; Ron had flung Hermione's door wide open and was gaping in fish-faced shock at his sister and his best friend sharing a bed, one in club-wear and the other in a nightdress, their arms wrapped around each other. Ginny had shifted so Hermione's face was visible, her lips clearly pressed again Ginny's neck.
"WHAT THE BLOODY HELL IS GOING ON HERE!"
Hermione and Ginny jerked awake to Ron's thunderous question, blinking in shock at their position and his presence. Luna caught Ginny's eye and shrugged. "I tried to stop him. You explain, and I'll have the pancakes ready when you're done." She was fairly sure this was going to take a while.
"You're damn right she's going to explain!" shouted Ron, looking like he was winding up for a melodramatic tirade.
"Oh, bugger me, it's Weasley."
Ron whirled. Draco and Harry were both leaning out the doorway of the spare bedroom, bleary curiosity on their faces and scraps of pink ribbon decorating their shoulders like confetti. Luna glanced downward, noticed they'd both found loose trousers somewhere, and nodded to herself. If Ron was reacting this badly to Ginny and Hermione, she didn't think he would have survived seeing her boys naked together.
Although... his expression if he'd found the three of them in bed... no, funny as that might have ended up being in retrospect, she was sure it wouldn't be at all pleasant to experience. Currently they were all at least semi-clothed and this was going to be awkward enough.
"Luna! Is this the 'we' you were talking about?"
"You and Harry were out with that dirty bastard Malfoy?"
Luna frowned. "Ron. Harry and I are going out with Draco. I realize you may be slightly jealous since I used to be with you, but please don't insult him in our presence."
Harry made a strangled sort of gasp and ducked back into the bedroom.
Ron turned purple.
"YOU AND HARRY ARE GOING OUT WITH MALFOY? AS IN, HAVING SEX WITH MALFOY? DRACO MALFOY, THE DEATH EATER? ARE YOU OUT OF YOUR BLOODY MINDS?"
Luna sighed. This must have been what Harry meant when he said Ron would explode at the news. Draco opened his mouth, presumably to make some sort of sarcastic insult; Luna motioned him to be silent.
"According to you, I've been out of my mind for years," she told Ron. "Even though I doubt you'll understand anything, we'll explain what's going on. But first I'm going to finish making pancakes while Ginny and Hermione explain their own situation."
As Ron spun back to face the other girls, who had neglected to let go of each other's hands, Luna smiled to herself and walked back into the kitchen. This was definitely going to be a bit awkward, but at least she didn't have to face it alone.
Ten loud and confused minutes later, which Hermione spent hiding in the bathroom and Ginny spent flatly refusing to tell Ron anything until he stopped acting like an unholy combination of Percy and Mum, everyone ended up at least semi-decent and squashed around the kitchen table facing a platter of pancakes and large pots of both tea and coffee.
Ginny speared a pancake with her fork, sliced it into twelve equal pieces, and dropped one tiny dollop of strawberry jam on each piece before looking around. On her right, Hermione was staring blankly into a coffee cup as if ignoring the world would somehow erase last night. Draco and Luna had flanked Harry, who was picking at his food and pretending not to stare at Ron. On Ginny's left, Ron himself was attacking a stack of syrup-drenched pancakes as if they had threatened to kill the family and needed to be destroyed.
When he finally stuffed a bite into his mouth, Ginny spoke. "Okay. First of all, this is none of your business. It's between Hermione and me, and you get no say."
Ron jerked his head up. "Bufth-" He swallowed. "But you're my sister. And Hermione, you're my best friend. Of course it's my business!"
Hermione twitched. Ginny tapped their feet together under the table, resting her toes on the arch of Hermione's bare foot.
"No, it isn't," she said, dragging out the Stare of Ultimate Disdain and leveling it at her brother. "We had a little too much to drink last night, spilled a few secrets, and are going to see what happens. And whatever happens, it's between us. Not between us and you."
Ron looked like he was going to protest again, and Ginny upped the intensity of the Stare. "Do I ask what you and Padma do in your private time?"
"Well?" She upped the Stare again.
"No," mumbled Ron.
"Right. So you don't ask what Hermione and I might or might not do either. Because it's none of your business, you toad-licking idiot!"
Ron stabbed a pancake resentfully, but didn't respond. Ginny nodded in satisfaction; it was nice to know she still had it. She would have liked to chew him out even more for just barging into the flat and their bedrooms, but she didn't think it would help Hermione if Ginny reminded her how they'd woken up. Hermione was twitching enough as it was. Ginny rubbed her foot against Hermione's ankle in what she hoped was a soothing manner.
"Am I at least allowed to ask what the bloody hell is up with you, Harry," Ron growled, "or are you going to bite my head off too?"
Harry twitched even more violently than Hermione, but drew a breath to answer. "I'm going out with Luna and Malfoy."
Ron glared at his pancakes. "Right. Draco bloody Malfoy? Are you stark raving mad? And since when have you been into blokes? I thought you were normal!"
Hermione sank further into her chair. Ginny leaned forward to scream in her brother's ear, but Harry beat her to it, furious in an icy way she hadn't seen since the war. "Normal? Normal compared to what, Ron? To you?" Harry glared across the table, looking more like a battle-ready soldier than a tired young man in baggy pajamas. "Would you like me to drag out the sordid details of your sex life?"
For several seconds Ginny thought Ron might literally explode from anger... but then he took a deep breath and slumped back in his chair. "Oh, sod it all. It's not worth it."
"What's not worth it?" asked Harry, voice still cold.
Ron waved his hand aimlessly. "This. Yelling at you. I'm sorry - didn't mean to say all that." He poked at his pancakes, shoving the uneaten pieces around the plate. "It's just... I thought you two were the normal ones, see. And now you're in a threesome with Luna and bloody Malfoy, Harry, and you were sort of in bed with my sister, Hermione. Couldn't you have told me?"
"He was afraid you'd take it the way you just did," Draco pointed out in an aggressively reasonable voice.
Ron scowled. "If you hadn't run like a baby in the last month of the war..."
"Yes, but I did realize I was wrong, I gave information to your side when I left the Dark Lord, and you've already killed my father, which should be quite enough to satisfy whatever bizarre family feud you seem to think we have." Draco favored Ron with his Stare of Ultimate Contempt. Ginny was pleased to see how well he'd adapted her lessons to his own use. His Stare didn't have quite the same effect on Ron that her own did, but then, she was Ron's sister. She had an unfair advantage.
"My parents were quite happily married, thank you."
"Draco, hush," Luna broke in. "And Ron, please try to behave. It's really your own fault for not telling anyone you planned to visit."
Ron mumbled something that Ginny couldn't catch.
"I said that's what Padma told me. I should have listened - she's always right - it's just so bloody annoying sometimes."
At this Hermione finally looked up from her silent contemplation of her coffee. "She's always right? It's annoying? You should have listened to her? You bastard, that's what you used to say about me! What does she have that I didn't have? I practically threw myself at you! I could have tied you up if that's what you wanted!"
Ron stared, and Hermione flushed. "I don't want you anymore! But... what on earth was wrong with me? Why didn't you want me?"
Well. What did you say to that? Apparently Ron had no more idea than Ginny did, since he just sat dumb as a stone, fork held motionless in midair.
"Nothing is wrong with you, Hermione," said Luna. "I meant it when I said that people would love to have sex with you. I assume Ron was just too blind to appreciate you back then."
"Well? Is that right?" Hermione stared at Ron, demanding an answer.
He leaned his elbows on the table, cradling his head in his hands. Ginny restrained the urge to pat him on the shoulder; she loved her brother, but he deserved a bit of pain right now. "Bloody hell - whatever I say is going to be wrong, isn't it."
Hermione sniffed. "I already know you have the emotional capacity of a teaspoon and you have no idea how to deal with 'mushy stuff.' You won't shock me. But we've been best friends for years, and I think I have the right to know why you dumped me."
"She has a point," said Harry, the ice finally melting out of his posture. Then he grinned. "Besides, you've just made us explain our love lives to you - the least you can do is explain yours in return."
Ginny grinned back at him across the table.
"Very funny, you wanker," said Ron. "Oh, fine. You all hate me now anyway. Hermione... it just wasn't working. I thought you knew that - you hardly ever kissed me, even - and I didn't want to keep beating my head against a wall." He shrugged, looking helpless. "It wasn't going to work with Susan either, but I didn't care about her. It didn't matter with her. It would've mattered with you and I didn't want to screw up. You know I'd've screwed up. Emotional capacity of a teaspoon, remember?"
"You screwed up anyway," said Hermione, sounding slightly hoarse. She took a long swallow of coffee. "Of course I knew it wasn't working. But I wanted to make it better. I thought sex might be a start. And I love you, you idiot."
Ron gulped. "As a friend, right?"
Hermione waved her hand. "Oh, now, certainly. But then..." She looked up from her coffee and seemed to notice the others for the first time. "Er, this may not be the best time for this conversation."
"Oh, go on. I think this is fascinating," said Draco as he leaned forward. Harry swatted the back of his head. "Ouch! Potter, that was uncalled for."
"You! You're having... you're having..."
"Sex, Ron," said Ginny, amused. "They're having sex."
"Shut it, you. Malfoy, I can't believe you're having sex with Harry and you still call him Potter! Harry, what the bloody hell do you see in this bastard?"
Ginny hauled the Stare of Ultimate Disdain out again. "Ron, how many times do I need to say it's none of your business?"
"Thanks, Ginny," said Harry. "But Ron's my best friend. He deserves some sort of answer." He reached out and grabbed Luna and Draco's hands - Luna smiled while Draco looked surprised at the contact, but both held him reassuringly. "They... they make me happy."
Harry looked pensive. "Yeah. It's hard to be happy. I wasn't until Hogwarts, and even then there was Voldemort. And afterwards I was... drifting for a while. You and Hermione and the rest of your family make me happy, but Draco and Luna do too. I'd be sad without them. Not that I wouldn't be sad without you, but it's different."
Ron snorted. "I bloody well hope so - no offense, Harry, but there's no way in hell I'd shag you."
"Thanks, Ron," said Harry. "It's nice to know I'm in the same boat as Hermione."
Ron winced, and Hermione snickered. Good, thought Ginny. If Hermione could see the humor in that, she was feeling better. Ginny nudged Hermione's foot with her own and smiled when Hermione's toes started wandering around her ankle in return.
"I think," said Luna suddenly, "that we've covered everything that needs to be covered in public. Also, the pancakes have gone cold. Harry, do we want the other Weasleys to know about us?"
"Oh, tell them, Harry; we don't bite," said Ginny. "Mum will have hysterics but she'll get over it. She got over Fleur; she'll get over this too. She thinks Luna's adorable, so you're one up already."
"You're forgetting Malfoy. She might get over it after twenty years. Maybe," muttered Ron. Idiot - they were trying to reassure Harry, not scare him off. Then Ron shrugged. "Yeah, let me tell the others - we're practically your family, after all. Mum will just have to cope."
"Good God, I'm going to be almost-related to a pack of Weasleys," said Draco as if he'd just realized this and considered it a fate worse than death.
"We'll make an exception for you, Malfoy," said Ron, glaring. "Well, Harry?"
Harry fiddled with his glasses. "Er, I suppose. And... would you tell Remus too? And Neville? But not until tomorrow, please?"
"For a man who wanted to waltz into Voldemort's fortress without any backup, you can be a real coward sometimes. Yeah, okay, I'll be your messenger boy, but you're on your own when everyone shows up to grill you." Ron stood from the table and stretched. "I should get back to Padma. See you around?" There was a general chorus of farewells, and he Apparated out with a pop of air, leaving the others to clear away the remains of breakfast.
Ginny snorted. Typical Ron - show up, throw everything out of order, and vanish before you could make him clean up his mess. Family was wonderful, but there were times, many of them, that she'd be happy to trade in her brothers for only two Knuts.
She wondered whether Hermione was going to pretend that nothing had happened.
Hermione washed the dishes by hand rather than trusting them to either the Muggle dishwasher or a charm. It gave her time to think and kept her from looking at anyone else in the apartment. She still couldn't quite wrap her mind around Harry being with Luna and Malfoy - no, Draco; she supposed she'd have to get used to calling the insufferable twit by his first name. She couldn't believe she'd grilled Ron about their failed sex life in front of her friends.
And she especially couldn't figure out what was going on between her and Ginny.
That little game of footsie, Ginny's comparison of them to Ron and Padma, and the way she hadn't insisted that nothing had happened, seemed to indicate that Hermione hadn't driven her friend away and that Ginny might even be up for something more... but Hermione wasn't certain. The only other time she'd considered a physical relationship had been with Ron, and look how that had turned out. She was sure Ginny would at least be more considerate about turning her down, but she didn't want to risk that. It was safer not to even ask.
She'd leave the next move to Ginny.
Ginny had put away Hermione's clothes and was now firmly ensconced in the shower, while Luna had herded Harry and Draco back into the spare room - it still seemed odd not to have Harry sleeping there regularly, though Hermione already had trouble remembering that Ginny's bedroom had belonged to Ron just a few months ago - presumably to tidy up and get dressed.
Ginny had been right; strange as it was to think of him that way, long after their quickly-fizzled attempt at a school romance, Harry was hot stuff. Luna was a certifiable nutcase, but she had a peculiar, dreamy self-confidence that compensated for her lack of grace. And, Hermione added in the privacy of her mind, while Draco Malfoy was still a rat-faced, whey-skinned bastard, he didn't look half bad bare-chested.
She still liked Ginny best, though.
Hermione hoped she hadn't sounded too desperate last night. Her memories were still a bit blurry, but she suspected that if she'd lost her inhibitions enough to hang all over Ginny and ask for sex, she might also have let slip that she'd been thinking about her friend for a while now, and hadn't been looking particularly hard for new objects of lust to distract herself.
"Hermione?" She looked up, making an inquiring noise in response to Harry's question.
He was leaning in his old doorway, a set of crumpled sheets in his arms; miniature Snitches darted across the orange fabric, flashing in and out of sight in the folds. "Why were you using Ron's sheets on the spare bed? You hate them, and he's been trying to find them for months."
"You mean those aren't yours, Potter?" Malfoy - no, Draco - chimed in from somewhere out of Hermione's sight.
Harry turned in the doorway and pulled a face. "I have some taste, Malfoy, and I'm not obsessed enough with Quidditch to want flying balls on my sheets."
"The possible innuendo in that is so obvious that I won't even bother mocking you for it." Draco joined Harry in the doorway, dressed once again in his tight trousers and red shirt, looking much more rumpled than last night. "So, Granger, why do you have Weasley's sheets? Still pining for him despite your protests?"
Hermione clenched her hands around the sponge and carefully didn't throw it at his smirking face. "Not that it's any of your business, but no, I'm not. As for the sheets, you'd have to ask Ginny."
"The Quidditch sheets? That's revenge for letting the twins at one of my potions," said Ginny, reappearing from the bathroom, face glowing and dark red hair dripping down the back of her fluffy robe. "They replicated it, used it in a chocolate, and got a patent so I had to pay them for the right to use it instead of the other way around."
She grinned, the twinkle in her eye reminiscent of Fred and George at their worst. "Actually, don't bother cleaning the sheets. I'll give them to Ron as is and tell him what you used them for."
Harry coughed suspiciously, while Draco threw back his head and laughed openly. "Weasley, you're my kind of evil. Take pictures."
Hermione felt that she ought to step in to defend Ron, since no one else was, but she'd sided with Ginny in the original fight over the 'misplaced' potion, and she was still peeved at him for barging in this morning. He'd decided to spend the weekend with Padma instead of helping her unwind, which was perfectly reasonable, but he should have trusted Ginny not to let anything awful happen. They were grown women; there was no need to come check up on them.
Besides, Ron was always saying she needed to develop her sense of humor. This certainly ought to count as a step in that direction.
"Make sure to get duplicates for me," she said, setting the last plate in the drying rack and rinsing her hands. "I want to know how long the dead fish expression lasts before he realizes what he's holding."
Harry adopted his own dead fish expression, while Ginny and Draco gave her unsettlingly similar considering looks. "Granger, I think I could get to like you," said Draco after a few seconds. "What do you say - friends?"
"You're a snide, self-absorbed twit, but you must have some redeeming qualities or Harry wouldn't like you," said Hermione, drying her hands and moving into the main room. "I suppose we can give it a try."
"Oh, that's a relief," said Luna, joining Harry and Draco. "It's always best when people get along."
Hermione restrained herself from rolling her eyes at the platitude.
"But arguments are so much fun!" said Draco. "Think how boring our life would be if we agreed on everything. You'd go mad in days... oh, I forgot - you're already-"
Luna pinched Draco's arse. He broke off with an undignified yelp reminiscent of his days as their incompetent school nemesis, and Harry laughed, a smile splitting his face as Draco pouted and tried to look pitiful, overacting as always.
Harry said they made him happy. Hermione hadn't quite believed that, hadn't seen how Luna Lovegood and Draco Malfoy, of all people, could fit together with him, but maybe they did. It made no sense on the face of it, but then, love had proved itself to be anything but logical.
Maybe love was supposed to be senseless - sweeping into ordered lives to shake things up, pushing people down paths they'd never consider on their own. Maybe that was why she and Ron hadn't worked out. There was nothing surprising about their relationship, after all, no paths she hadn't considered a hundred times before they first kissed... at least until he'd broken things off. That she hadn't expected.
Hermione glanced at Ginny, who was watching the byplay with an indulgent expression. The idea of kissing Ginny hadn't so much as crossed her mind until the day she'd looked up from lunch as her friend stretched her arms above her head and her navel ring glinted in the sun, making Hermione's mouth go dry. Even after that, she'd confined herself to the occasional idle fantasy, assuming her interest would fade sooner or later, and Ginny would never reciprocate anyway.
She had no idea where they might go if they did start anything. Ginny hadn't ever shown any interest in a long-term relationship, just going off with a succession of one-night conquests - 'playing the game,' as she said, 'scratching the itch.' Was there any hope she'd want something more serious with Hermione? Was there hope she'd give up her string of men for a woman? Would she be willing to kiss Hermione, touch Hermione, have sex with Hermione?
Hermione had no idea. She had no plans. It felt very strange.
"We should head out," said Harry, "and let you have your flat back. Ginny, where do you want the sheets?"
"Dump them on the bed." Ginny walked over to hug Harry and Luna, and pat Draco on the shoulder. In her bathrobe, no less - she had no shame. It was one of her more interesting qualities. "Now that you're not hiding from us, I expect to see you people more often!"
Harry looked uncertainly at Hermione.
She sighed. There were days she would love to steal an experimental Time Turner and whisk him away from the Dursleys before they convinced him he was a worthless freak, but that was impossible. "The flat's always open to you," she said, smiling. "I don't want to start losing touch with my best friends again."
Harry relaxed a trifle, but still looked utterly surprised when Hermione hugged him. Luna smiled indulgently, and Draco tipped her a small salute behind Harry's back, silently mouthing, 'Thank you.'
Maybe he really wasn't half bad these days.
Luna checked the boys to make sure they had all their things, deposited the dirty sheets on the spare bed, and grabbed Harry and Draco's hands. Draco raised his wand, winked, and Apparated them away, leaving Hermione and Ginny alone in their flat.
Hermione looked nervously at her friend. Ginny shuffled her feet.
"Yeah," said Ginny. "Er, we should talk."
"Yes, that would probably be a good idea."
They stared at each other in silence.
"So," Hermione tried again, and couldn't think what to say next.
"Okay, this is ridiculous," said Ginny, flopping onto the sofa. "We could stand around all day without getting anywhere, and that would be utterly stupid. Listen, I meant what I said to Ron - I'm willing to see what happens. But I don't know what you want to happen. And I never thought about sex with girls before, not seriously anyhow. So tell me what you want and we'll go from there."
Hermione gulped. She didn't want to make the first serious move, didn't want to lay any expectations on Ginny. What if she drove Ginny away? And how on earth could Ginny talk about sex so calmly?
She needed to be calm. Rational. List her hopes and expectations and make them into a plan.
"Er, first of all, I still want to be friends," she started. "And more, if you're willing - we could kiss, and touch... And... and only me, not other people too. I don't want just one night, like you usually do. You... you mean a lot to me, and..." Hermione trailed off, watching Ginny's neutral face. "You don't want that, do you."
Ginny tapped her fingers on the sofa arm, thinking. "I don't know," she said eventually. "Of course we'll still be friends. And I'd be okay with kissing, at least - I've done that much with girls before. As for sex, I suppose that depends on how the kissing goes."
Hermione bit her lip. "And the rest?" New paths were opening up in her mind, paths that went further than just one-sided admiration or a no-strings bit of fun. Maybe she could tie herself and Ginny together and build something lasting - but not against Ginny's will, not unless it was a mutual choice.
Ginny had gone still. "You're asking a lot, especially since we don't know it will even work once. I don't do well with long-term things."
"But why? You don't have any trouble with long-term friends. Is romance really so different?"
Ginny shrugged, pulling her bathrobe more tightly around herself. "It's more - you give up more of yourself, tell more of your secrets, need more in return. I don't like being vulnerable. Not since..."
Hermione sat down beside Ginny. "You already know most of my secrets. I trust you with them. Can't you trust me?"
"...I want to say yes." Ginny leaned against Hermione, pulling her feet up onto the sofa and curling in on herself. "I know you wouldn't betray me. But I'm out of the habit. Since... since Tom, really. And now you know one of my secrets." She smiled, clearly making an effort to lighten the mood, but it didn't reach her eyes.
Hermione bit her lip, damning Tom Riddle and his diary. She'd never suspected this... this wariness was hiding under Ginny's confidence and easy smiles. This complicated things. But Ginny was still Ginny, still funny, smart, gorgeous, sexy, and definitely worth Hermione's time and effort. She was worth a lot more than she thought she was.
"I can go slowly," said Hermione. "You don't have to tell me everything until you're ready. But can we at least try?"
Ginny turned to face Hermione, damp hair straggling around her face. "Try what?"
Hermione shrugged. "A kiss?"
Ginny looked thoughtful, then leaned forward and pressed her lips against Hermione's. It was only a soft contact at first, letting them both get used to the feeling, to the idea of kissing each other. Hermione held still for several seconds, trying to convince herself that this was really happening. This was really Ginny in her arms. This was really Ginny kissing her.
Tentatively - she hadn't done this in years, after all, and this was Ginny! - Hermione let her lips part, breathing against Ginny's mouth.
Ginny's tongue flicked out and danced along the inner edge of Hermione's lip.
Oh! Hermione let the little jolt of surprise and sensation curl inside. Ron had never been that delicate; he'd pushed harder and spent more time on other things, mostly involving his hands. This teasing was strange, but she thought she liked it. She let her tongue run across Ginny's lips, slowly, lightly.
Ginny hummed in her throat, the sound vibrating in her teeth and jaw and tingling against Hermione's tongue. Her hands left her bathrobe, coming to rest on Hermione's waist and rubbing, while her tongue danced around the front of Hermione's mouth. Then she pulled back, holding Hermione's lower lip between her teeth for just a second, extending the contact, and then letting go.
"That was nice, but I'm not feeling wild, desperate passion here," said Ginny, smiling. "Are you sure you want to have sex with me?"
"Ginny! Er, yes. I do."
Ginny's eyes crinkled with mischief. "Prove it, then. Kiss me like you mean it."
"Go on, be sloppy, be wild. Sex isn't all sweetness and rose petals, after all - it's fun, it can be great, maybe even beautiful, but it's a sweaty mess as much as anything else. Kiss me like that and we'll see what happens." Ginny grinned. "Unless you're too scared when you're sober; maybe this was all just an alcohol-induced-"
Hermione shifted her grip to Ginny's shoulders, pulled her in, and - ignoring the part of her mind that was screaming for caution, for carefully laid plans - kissed her, biting, licking, and doing her best to keep Ginny from talking. Her hand slid inside Ginny's bathrobe, exploring downward, hunting for that infuriating navel-ring. Aha! There it was; she tweaked it, rubbing around Ginny's stomach and dipping even lower to-
An odd sense of déjà vu swept over Hermione, and she pulled back, breathing heavily.
Ginny blinked, took a deep breath, and said, "Okay, so it wasn't just the alcohol."
"I tried that last night, didn't I," said Hermione.
"Kissing me? Not like that. Getting your hands into my knickers, yes." Ginny looked speculatively at Hermione. "You're not half bad at this, for a virgin. It's still a bit weird, thinking seriously about sex with a girl - with my best friend! - but... this might actually work. At least the sex part." She grinned. "I have wondered what breasts feel like in bed, once in a while..."
Hermione bit her lip. "And the rest? You already know most of my secrets."
After a few seconds, Ginny shrugged. "Well, you know one of mine now, too - nobody else knows that about me and Tom - and I'm not dead yet. Let's take it one day at a time. Like I told Ron, we'll see what happens."
That wasn't exactly what Hermione wanted to hear, but it was probably the best she could have hoped for under the circumstances. And in all honesty, taking it one day at a time didn't sound that bad. She trusted Ginny. Maybe that was enough. Maybe this time she could let the illogic of love and emotions run its course without trying to interfere.
Yes. She could do that. "As long as 'what happens' includes me not being a virgin anymore."
Ginny smiled, reaching out to undo the buttons on Hermione's nightdress. "I think that can be arranged. But let's move this to a bed - mine, I think, since yours will just remind me of Ron and other irrelevant-"
Hermione silenced her with a kiss.
AN: Thanks for reading, and please review! I love any and all feedback, but I'm particularly interested in knowing what parts of the story worked for you, what parts didn't, and why.