Disclaimer: Belongs to JK Rowling
Without A Paddle
It was a good thing he loved Pansy he realised, for the Merlin knows what time. She was the sister he never had, his to watch over and protect. Stand by her, accept her decisions, and love her unconditionally. Pansy however had taken his want to respect her and her decisions, one step too far. Really? Associating with Gryffindors and a Hufflepuff like it was natural? Outrageous, and the fact that she expected him to go along with it, confirmed his suspicions. Scar-head had done something to her, something bad. She no longer was the girl she was five years ago, and he didn't like the new version.
Pansy wasn't Pansy anymore, there was no snark, no bitterness, and she never stopped bloody smiling, it wasn't right. It was all Scar-head and his merry band of followers fault. Like right now, no self respecting former member of the house of Slytherin would let him put their arm around her, sitting all cuddled up, so bloody cozy it was nauseating; and then laugh and joke with them, in their latest amusement. Tormenting him. Sure it was a regular occurrence now that Pansy had moved in with Scar-head, to make as much fun of Draco as they could, but to actually partake in the teasing of him? It wasn't right, but she sat there, laughing and giggling, giggling along with them.
The source of this latest frivolity? Valentine's Day, of course it wasn't so bloody funny last year when Potty and Weasel didn't have witches of their own, but now that they did, he was fair game, prime for the mocking. Had he teased them last year as they were desperate and dateless? Well not much, not like this. They were questioning his manhood.
"What'll it be Malfoy? Do you want one of those fruity drinks? The ones with the little umbrellas?" Weasel laughed, pulling Bones tight against him in his mirth, not noticing the head lock he was putting her in, she tactfully pulled his arm away.
"No thanks," he said dryly. "I think I'm about done."
He saw the dynamic duo exchange a glance, and he knew this could not be good.
"You know Draco, I think I can help you here," Potter said slowly, "I know you must be lonely, what with Pansy and me, and well all your other friends are married, or about to be married. It can't be easy for you."
"Get to the point," he snarled.
"We've taken the liberty of doing the hard yards for you," the alarm bells starting ringing for Draco the second the smile grew on Potter's face, "a friend of ours, a good friend, who we think is perfect for you. Has agreed to meet you here tonight, and possibly accompany you on Valentine's Day."
"Isn't that nice of her."
"Hello everyone," Draco turned, and he all but fell out of his chair.
"You've got to be fucking kidding me."
"You remember Justin don't you Draco?" Weasel asked, the glee written all over his ugly face.
"I remember Finch-boy."
"Good good," Potter said, "join us Justin, I'll get Tom to get us some more drinks. Same all round?" They all nodded, "what will you have Justin?"
"A Sex on a Broom."
"Sounds good," and Potter then turned to him, "same for you Draco?"
"No thanks Potter," he said getting up, "I'm done."
When he passed Pansy, he gave the little wench a kiss on the cheek out of habit, and to annoy Potter. Granger gave him a small smile. He said his goodbyes, more of a grunt to the bumbling duo, and left them to it. Their set-up wasn't favourable to him at all. If they truly thought he went for that side of the team, surely they could find a better version. Honestly, Finch-boy? He didn't even pass muster at Hogwarts, his final marks while not known for sure, were believed to be in the realm of Draco's own friends. Nothing to owl home about. How he got his job at the Ministry was beyond Dracos comprehension.
He was passing the notice-board as he buttoned his coat, preparing for the cold outside the bar, when he saw it. It looked out of place on the pubs notice board, the pink was all wrong. Seems Tom was holding a Valentines feast next week, well Draco would have to drop all plans to come to that. If he had had any plans. Yet another year, he would be without plans, and all of his friends had plans with their spouses.
All except one, he closed the door and went back to the table.
"Granger," he said as he got to it, "what are you doing on Wednesday?"
She dropped the olive back into her glass, "Pardon?" She was goggling at him, much like Lovegood would.
"On Wednesday," he said slowly, "do you have any plans?"
"Uh no," she said.
"Good," he smiled at her, "I'll pick you at about ten?"
"Sure," she stuttered.
"That's Valentine's Day," Potter, the all knowing one shared.
"I know," he said, "see you then Granger."
He resisted the urge to whistle as he left them to their drinks, the looks on the duo's faces made up for everything they had said and insinuated that evening. Complete and utter disbelief, not that he wasn't gay, they knew that, the fact that he would ask Hermione out. Why wouldn't he? She was intelligent, she had matured into a beautiful woman, really what more could he ask for? Besides, it was only one date, absolutely nothing to it.
It was a good thing he hadn't spend a lot of time planning it, their day together. It would have all been for nought otherwise, so that was a relief. There wasn't a reservation here to cancel, and other plans he had made to call and make apologies for. None of that needed to be done, what with Granger sending him an owl the day before saying that she would be by his place to pick him up at precisely five thirty, and to cancel any plans he had made.
To be completely honest though, he had no idea how one actually planned a date with Granger. She didn't seem like the roses and chocolates kind of girl, not that she would have thrown them in his face, she was just different like that. Draco had tried to talk to his partner at the Ministry about it, but Theodore was never any help when it came to girls. If he wanted help with planning a date with Finch-boy he'd be a big help, but if Granger didn't go for the flowers and chocolate, she surely wouldn't go for a gay bar.
He was relieved when the owl came, he had never planned anything like this before, at Hogwarts when he took a girl out it had always been to Hogsmeade and a Butterbeer at the Three Broomsticks, and maybe, Madam Puddifoots if he really liked her. There wasn't a whole lot of scope for creative and originality. Then after Hogwarts, there wasn't any dating done at all. In the busy days following the defeat of Voldemort, he had been too occupied with proving that he had in fact been assisting Potter.
After that very difficult task was done he had to find employment, surprisingly, the Ministry had given him a start. Granted he had started at the very bottom, he was damn sure the Ministrys House Elves were treated better than he was. A Malfoy always landed on their feet though, and he'd survived, he had prospered in that situation, and had gradually moved up. He was still a glorified errand boy, a shit kicker, but it was a steady income, and it kept his head above water. That was the main thing.
He was unprepared for what life as an 'adult' actually entailed, it had taken some adjusting. His friends, or the ones he had left coped much better than he did, Blaise was off travelling, the life of a nomad, that's what he wanted, so he had gone. Pansy however, had stayed in London, and in what seemed like no time at all to Draco had attached herself to Potter, and had been there ever since. To say he didn't understand that at all would be an understatement, they hadn't exactly been friends at Hogwarts, but they were happy, that was the important thing he had learned.
Draco had got one part of his life sorted, he was employed, there was a steady income, and he had a nice home. It wasn't half the size of the Manor, but in the short time he had lived there he had made it feel like more than a home than the Manor had ever been. There was something missing however, a gaping hole that seemed to be getting bigger as time went past. Pansy had Potter, even the Weasel had managed to get a decent girl, he however had no one. Seeing the lovey-dovey couples everywhere, especially at this time of the year was driving him crazy. It was bad enough on a normal day, but now there was pink and red everywhere, and normally tough, hard men where turning into simpering fools.
The main problem he had with this time of the year was that he didn't have anyone. He could tolerate it if he had someone, but suddenly it was important to have a partner, even a date for this one stupid day; and Draco had bought into it. He had got tired of the dynamic duos constant teasing and niggling, and when they'd bought Finch-boy into it. Draco knew; enough was enough, he had asked the one person he knew would be alone on Valentine's Day as well, her boyfriend breaking it off with her just before Christmas. Surprising him she had said yes, so here he was, sitting in his flat waiting for Granger to come and pick him up.
He should have been picking her up, he was the man. Granger however had rules that only she followed, maybe that's why her boyfriend broke it off? He had never figured out why that happened, two smart people together, it had seemed like a perfect match to Draco, but maybe Boot just couldn't handle all that was Granger. She was more than a little bit of a handful. Maybe tonight wasn't such a good idea?
Too late, he heard her footsteps coming up the hallway to his flat. A steady, sure knock on the door to announce herself, and it was time. Time for what he wasn't exactly sure, what did Muggles do on Valentine's Day anyway? He was about to find out.
"I don't know why we don't just Floo or apparate," he grumbled as he followed her down the stairs.
If you could hear someone rolling their eyes, he would be hearing her loud and clear right now. She was so very predictable, after the eye roll came the exaggerated sigh, and then she would say something in her grown-up witch voice. It was the standard 'annoyed Hermione' reaction.
"I told you this already," she sighed, "do you even pay attention?"
"Some of the time, yes I do."
"Well, we can't very well Apparate where we are going, and it's not connected to the Floo," she said pulling open the door to the street. "We are getting a taxi."
"Oh no," he said, grabbing her arm, and pulling her back, whispering, "they smell."
"What?" She laughed, "don't be ridiculous, some of them do, but I came in this one, and it has no odour at all."
"Really?" He asked, looking warily over at the innocent looking vehicle by the curb.
"Not a word of a lie," she said, walking over the car, with him still holding her arm with no choice but to follow. "Besides, it's only a little drive to the station."
Much to his surprise the taxi didn't smell, or maybe Granger did a charm or something. Who knows, it didn't matter. He'd survived, he'd never do it again, but he had survived. This however, was a whole different game. A taxi was fine, just him, Granger and the driver. This was a freak-show, the Pipe. The Pipe. That wasn't a name, ridiculous, but Granger insisted, sayint that it would take them right where they needed to go.
He had kept the grumbling to a minimum as she bought the tickets; he didn't say two words as he followed her to the platform and they waited for the train.
Being late in the afternoon, heading into early evening every man and his kneazle seemed to be on the train. As a result he had to squish up against Granger, which wasn't so bad really, she had rather agree-able body features. Anything really to prevent the rather odd man with purple hair, and high heels from getting to close.
Throughout his how ordeal, Granger just stood there, hanging onto a handle like a pro, and damn it all if she didn't have a smile on her face. The little witch knew exactly how he felt about this, he may have grown up and gotten used to Muggles, but this was just too much.
It was a rather pleasant evening for London in the middle of February, there was little to no breeze, and the late afternoon sun was setting to the East, casting a warm glow over them as it disappeared. Draco still had absolutely no idea what they were doing.
"Where are we going?" He asked the up-teenth time.
"It's just up here," she smiled, "the water looks lovely doesn't it?"
"Positively inviting, if I wouldn't freeze my bollocks off I'd be in there in an instance."
"You could relax a little," she said, "you aren't on the train anymore, or in the taxi, so I don't know what you are complaining about."
"I'm not complaining."
"No, but you aren't exactly Mr Cheerful."
"Do you hear me complaining?" He asked, watching her out of the corner of his eye has they walked along.
"No," she sighed, "but you are thinking it."
"Actually, Granger, I wasn't thinking it," he said, "I was thinking how it wasn't so cool this evening, it is a nice evening to be out and about, I was however wondering where in blazes we were going as well."
"Nearly there," she said, smiling at him.
"I'm not going to hate this am I?" He asked warily, "maybe we should have gone with what I had planned."
"Sure, there was the dinner in Diagon Alley," he said, "then I was thinking, if you wanted we could have gone and seen that musical down at the Theatre."
"Really?" He was amused, and a little affronted by the disbelief in her voice, like she didn't believe he knew how to plan a date.
"Really," he repeated, "but of course I dropped all that as soon as you came calling tell me it was your way now."
"Oh," she whispered, "we could still, if you wanted to?"
"No it's alright, I'm sure our spot has been snapped up by now," he said, waving a hand, "and I'm intrigued but what you have planned."
"Plus more than a little bit wary."
"Now that's more like it," she laughed.
He looked ahead of them along the path, and saw what they were walking to, and judging by all the people milling around, it was their destination.
"Please tell me we aren't doing what I think we are."
"I can't do that."
"Because we are."
The taxi was one thing, he was only in it for a short amount of time, he was just starting to get sick of it when it was over. Then came the train, with that lovely Muggle man. Of course the upside of that equation was the necessary pressing against Granger, with her soft curves and rather pleasant scent. This however was different, worse, Granger seemed to be on some quest to acquaint him with Muggle transportation, what next one of those things they flew in?
He'd pictured maybe a nice little secluded restaurant, with private tables. Perfect for chatting, and just getting to know Granger a little more. This however, was ridiculous.
"Well isn't this just cozy," he whispered to Granger.
"What do you mean?" She asked, placing her glass back on the table.
"It's such a nice and romantic way to spend Valentine's Day," he said, looking around the room, "I think we are the only ones under 40."
"Really Draco," she admonished, looking around as well, "we aren't... oh we are."
"Yes," he sighed, "did you think this would be different?"
"Well yes, I was told this was very popular and that we were incredibly lucky that there was a cancelation."
"Very lucky," he said dryly.
"Well just relax," she said looking around, "it won't be too bad."
"Sure, I've always wanted to cruise up the Thames on Valentine's Day with a bunch of old Muggles."
It wasn't as bad as he thought it would be, Granger turned out to be pleasant company. The conversation was never boring, and it flowed. Just the way he liked it. Also, for the most part, they had been ignored by the others on board.
He liked sitting with her talking, even when they were at Hogwarts and they just used words to hurt each other, there was something else to it. He baited Potter and Weasley, and they took it, Granger didn't, she knew exactly what he was doing and she didn't let him get away with it. Her barbs back, well it left him feeling more satisfied than any insult or seeing Potter or the Weasel get into trouble. Now that they were out of Hogwarts the insults had changed, they were no longer meant to hurt, they were there to tease. Exchanging words with Granger had become a pleasure.
"You can't be serious?"
"Yes! Why is it so hard to understand?"
"It's just you and Pansy didn't exactly get along at school."
"Well neither did you and I, and here we are," she smiled, "and Harry and Pansy, they weren't best buddies at school, and look at them, married."
"You and Pansy, are friends," he said slowly, as if that would make it make more sense.
"You go shopping, out to lunch, and have gossip sessions."
"Why is that so hard to believe?"
"It's just you and Pansy."
She laughed, and turned back to the table, and gasped.
"Them," she whispered.
"Friends of my parents, oh crap."
"They are coming over!"
"We have two empty seats in front of us."
"Hello Mrs Nielson," she greeted, a blinding smile in place.
"Hermione," the man greeted, placing his hands on the back of the chair, "how are you dear?"
"I'm fine sir, how are you?"
"I'm well," he said looking down at the table in front of him, "and would you look at this! We are sitting with you two tonight."
"Ah," Hermione said quietly, "that's lovely."
Draco echoed her sentiments.
For once this evening he was glad something was going wrong, everything that had seemed to be awful hadn't been quite as bad as he expected. Right now, this was horrible.
Listening to that man drone on and on about how the War was affecting his business, all the while the wife was making doe eyes at him. It was unsettling, the first few times he had given her a polite smile, hoping that would appease her. It didn't. It got worse. Now she made those ridiculous eyes whenever he looked at her. If they weren't friends of Grangers parents he would have been out of there fifteen minutes ago.
Draco was proud of himself when he didn't jump when the leg brushed against his. If it wasn't for the fact that it was on the opposite that he was sitting to Granger, and she would have to be a very good contortionist to reach he would have thought it was her. There were two options left, the middle aged woman with the slightly crooked nose, or the middle aged bald man, he didn't know which he preferred.
Those were toes, in stockings, but toes all the same. Stroking his leg with toes, he glanced up and the wife gave him another one of those smiles, which she more than likely thought was enticing; all it did was make him want to run to the railing and empty his stomach into the river.
He gave her a weak smile, and returned his attention to his wine glass, which was empty. Refilling it, he had another drink.
"How's your meal Draco?" The wife asked, leaning forward, her top gaped a little under her dinner jacket.
"Fine," he said quietly.
Granger placed a hand on his arm, "Are you okay? You've hardly said two words all through the meal."
"I'm good," he answered, giving her a smile.
She nodded her head, and turned back to her dinner.
The toes were under his pants, slowly pushing his pants up.
There was only so much of this he could take, it was bad enough that these Muggles had come and interrupted his dinner with Granger, but they had to feel him up! Draco put his fork down, he had to be gentle and subtle about this. There was a chance that he was to see Granger again, or even meet her parents, he had to not embarrass their friends.
He would just excuse himself from the table, that would solve it. The foot would stop, the eyes would stop, and he could get some much needed air, because it was like a sauna in here.
"If you'll excuse me, just going to go to the washroom," the wife said opposite them, and it stopped.
Draco and the husband rose out of their chairs slightly as she got up and left them. He left out an audible sigh of relief as he watched her walk away, even if it was only for a few minutes it was still peace. Maybe he'd forget what it had felt like.
"So Draco," the husband said, "what is it that you do?"
Draco prepared his standard version of what he did for Muggle ears, "I work," and he stopped. It was back, the slow steady movements of a foot on his lower leg, and it definitely wasn't Hermione; and it wasn't the wife.
"It's not funny!"
She composed herself somewhat, "uh, yes it is."
"A creepy older man felt me up at dinner, and it's funny? It's disturbing, I need to see one of those head doctors or something," he whined.
"I'm sure you'll be fine," she smiled, "take a bottle of Fire whiskey to bed, and when you wake up tomorrow tonight will be a distant memory."
"I don't want to do that."
"Why not? No memory whatsoever sounds like a good option to me."
"If I do that, I'll forget the good stuff."
"Like what? The view down Mrs Nielson's top?"
"No," and it was his turn to smile, "you, sitting there with ice-cream on your chin for what was it? Yes, five minutes."
"It wasn't five minutes," she scoffed.
"Yes it was."
"Was this before, during, or after Mr Nielson started groping you?"
"Wench," the taxi pulled up in front of his building then. "I had a good time tonight Granger, around the rather unsavory conduct of our dinner companions."
"I did too," she smiled at him.
"We should do it again," he said quickly before he regretted it.
"I'd like that, alone preferably," she laughed.
"Sounds good," he said opening his door, "good night Hermione."
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