General Feelings: Old, Very

By Marmalade Fever

Disclaimer: I do not own nor claim the Harry Potter series or any/all related insignia, the property of J.K. Rowling, et al.

September 19th, 2007: Birthday

Age: 28

General feelings: Old, very

Hermione tapped her quill against her chin. Twenty-eight. Twenty-eight plus two was thirty. Thirty times three was ninety. Roughly one third of her life had gone by. Yuck. There was just something about birthdays. When she was little, they filled her with excitement. Another year older, closer to being grown up. Now? Now she was grown up, and the nice things about being grown up seemed very few at the moment. She got to pay taxes. She got to drink alcohol, which she didn't really want to do anyway. She got to work. Don't get her wrong, she liked work, but she wasn't the insane freak everyone seemed to think she was. She didn't like it that much and for an excellent reason.

The other thing about birthdays: It seemed like there was no happy medium. She could be jubilant or she could be depressed, for no better reason than that she wasn't jubilant.

The other thing about being grown up: Here she was, twenty-eight, and single. SINGLE. What had happened to her "grow up and marry Ron and live happily ever after with a cat, three million books, and 2.3 children" plan? Ron had happened. Ron, who had said he loved her, had even suggested they save the house-elves during the Final Battle, had accidentally consumed an irreversibly large dose of love potion and had never felt quite the same way about her since. That was five years ago. That had been her birthday too. Ironic, no?

The other thing about work: Today was a Wednesday, and she happened to work on Wednesdays, and she happened to be two cubicles down from Hades.

Speak of the devil…

"Granger?" It was that drawl. That drawl that made her skin crawl, no rhyme intended. She was depressed. Couldn't he see that? Oh, of course he did. It was his goal in life to annoy her, after all. So of course he'd choose this moment to stop and chat (or banter, rather.)

"What?" she asked. She had settled on curtness as her way of dealing with him. She wasn't sure if it worked.

"There are flowers on your desk, Granger." Odd, it wasn't like him to state the obvious so obviously.

"I know." Curt again.

"There are chocolates on your desk." Very no duh.

"I'm well aware." Slightly more nasal.

"There seems to be an envelope with the words 'Happy birthday Hermione' as well." He crossed his arms like he was daring her to deny it.

"Yes, it seems there is." She coughed. He didn't get the picture.

"Twenty-seven, then?" he asked.

"Twenty-eight." Go away, go away, go away!

"Oh yes, I forgot about the whole you being older than me thing." So nice of him to remind her.

"I'm surprised you would have let it slip your mind."

He smiled. He--wait, smiled? Hermione looked up, curious whether her peripheral vision was playing tricks on her. Apparently not. The hair on the back of her neck stood up.

"You're smiling," she stated. It made her frown.

"I know." He continued smiling. It was really very cheesy too. He had dimples and everything. Freaky.

"Why?" Anything involving Malfoy smiling, especially at her, was a reason for instant red alert.

"I know something you don't know." He said it in a sing-song voice. The red alert sign was suddenly flashing.

"Malfoy" She hoped the fear in her voice wasn't detectable. This was dangerous.

"Why don't you… open the card?"

"The card?" Merlin the great, it was a howler, wasn't it? Wasn't it? But the envelope wasn't red. She glanced at him, glanced at the card, then back at him. "No."

"Open the card." He was still grinning. She had a sudden urge to stamp on his foot and run for the nearest exit.

"I'd rather eat bubotuber pus." She didn't say it lightly either. Something in the twinkle in his eye made her face grow red. "You… you tampered with the chocolates?" Leave it to him to leave something nasty in candy form for her on her birthday.

He shook his head. "Open the card, Granger. Go on."

"No." He was seriously freaking her out now.

He hummed in a would be defeated way. "Aw well, I guess you'll never know…" He turned on his heel and started to walk away.

"Know what?"

On cue, he turned. "There's only one way to find out." His smile had left and was replaced by a sage expression.

Hermione hesitated. "I swear, if something bad happens, I'll--"

He clicked his tongue. "Oh, Granger… so quick to assume."

Hermione raised her eyebrow at him and, just to be safe, used her wand to levitate the card out of its envelope. The front cover depicted a pug wagging its tail and wearing a birthday hat, and on the inside… "Happy birthday, Hermione! Best wishes… Neville?" She lowered her wand. "Malfoy, you're insane."

He rolled his eyes. "Actually, I meant the card attached to the bouquet."

"The…" She looked over at the bunch of amaryllis and saw a small florist card stuck to a plastic holder. She squinted up at Malfoy before removing the card to read it. "This is from my insurance agency," she said. "What exactly are you on?"

"Nothing illegal, I assure you. Why not… check and see who the chocolates are from?"

Hermione huffed and peeked at the little To/From sticker on the box of chocolates. "Harry," she said, crossing her arms. "Honestly, what do you think you're trying to pull?"

Malfoy tapped his chin. "I'll be back later, Granger. You'll see." And he walked away, just like that, leaving her gawking at the entrance to her cubicle.

Two hours later:

"Happy birthday to you!" Hermione groaned, turned a steady shade of pink, and slipped down half a foot in her seat. "Happy birthday to you!" Why her? Why? "Happy birthday dear Hermione--" with the faint echo of "Granger." "Happy birthday to you!" In front of her stood Louise from accounting, Bill from the water cooler (she had never figured out what he did, exactly,) Mr. Garson and his secretary, Mindy, four or five people from marketing, and Malfoy stuck back in the corner, his arms crossed and the most annoying smirk imaginable splayed across his features. Mindy was holding a white sheet cake.

Fifteen minutes and way too much frosting later:

"So." It was him again. While the others had dispersed, he'd stuck behind.

"I really don't have time for this…" she muttered, shaking her head in disbelief. She was curious, though. And a little frightened.

"Of course you have time. Do you think anyone actually works in this office?" he asked. He'd taken it upon himself to conjure a chair, which he now sat on backwards.

"Hmph. I do!" She rifled through her inbox while he sighed.

"Oh, Granger."

"Oh, Malfoy," she groaned. Why didn't he ever just go away?

"I still know something you don't know," he said casually, inspecting his fingernails.

"I'm sure you do," she said, moving her finger slowly across a line in the document she was reading… Trying to read.

"Would you like to know?" He settled his chin between his thumb and index finger.

"More than likely not," she said. Perhaps if she just ignored him?

He made a movement, and she looked up at him as he pulled something from his pocket. For one terrible moment she thought he was about to hex her on her birthday. More irony. But no. He was holding a small package. He raised his eyebrow at her before tossing it, and Hermione only just managed to catch it. "Go on," he said, "why don't you… open it?"

Hermione gulped and took a better look at the package in her hand. It was about three inches wide and one inch high and was wrapped in forest green tissue paper. "I don't know if I should."

He made a dramatic effort at sighing. "Surely our little exercise earlier has taught you some level of trust?

She frowned at him. "I don't like you very much." She knew it sounded childish.

"Go on… open it."

"Fine." She held her breath as she ripped off the tissue to reveal a velvet clamshell box. She glanced up at him briefly before carefully, very carefully, opening it up.

She was speechless.

She was beyond words.

She was actually sitting there with her mouth hanging open, nonsense sounds gurgling from her throat.

"Like it?" he asked. The smug look on his face was, for once, justified. She gaped at him.

"Sapphires?" It was all she could manage to squeak out. He nodded. "You… you bought me a sapphire necklace and earring set? You?" She was having trouble breathing. Merlin, she was having trouble just hyperventilating!

"Don't look so surprised." How could he be so calm? HOW?

"YOU?" she repeated.

"They are your birthstone, aren't they?"

"Huh?" She shook her head. "Yes…" What was the bloody git thinking? Was he just rubbing his wealth in her face or what?

"Here, allow me." And suddenly he was standing, walking behind her, and threatening to choke her with a sapphire necklace! But he wasn't choking her. He was… he was clasping it for her!

The world had gone INSANE.

What's more, Malfoy was still standing behind her… breathing… down her neck. On her neck. Below her ear.

She spun around in her swivel chair and punched him in the stomach. She meant to punch him in the stomach. He'd caught her wrist instead.

"Aren't we violent?" he said.

"WHAT THE--" Hermione used a word that she didn't like to use but on this occasion found it to be the only word fitting "--DO YOU THINK YOU'RE DOING?" Oh God. Everyone in the office heard that, didn't they? She covered her mouth and blushed. Malfoy was still smirking. And holding her wrist. And she thought for sure she was about to catch on fire, the way her cheeks were burning.

"Maybe we should go somewhere more private if you're going to scream like that."

She shook her head violently. There was no WAY she was going anywhere with him at that moment.

"You do like sapphires, don't you?"

Like them? LIKE THEM? She coughed. "Um, yes." She didn't add that she'd wanted one since she was seven and found out about birthstones or that the only jewelry she owned (which wasn't much) had little fake blue stones in them.

"Then what seems to be the problem?" He let go of her wrist.

"I…" Her voice trailed off, and, apparently, Malfoy wasn't really interested in her answer anyway. He was busy going ahead and putting the earrings in her ears as well, which was possibly more frightening to her than the necklace incident because this time he was in front of her, his face closer to her own than she was really comfortable with.

"There." He stepped back to survey his handiwork.

"I--I'm confused," she said at last.

"Oh? Really? What about?" She hated how he could come off sounding so aloof all the time.

"Why," she said slowly, as if talking to a small child or, maybe, a very big one, "did you buy me jewelry?"

"Because if I had gotten you a book it would have been terribly cliché, don't you think?"

Okay, not the answer she was hoping for. "Why did you buy me a present at all?" Equally slowly.

"I thought it might soften the blow."

"The--" she was trying to wrap her mind around that one. The blow? Just as she was squinting, trying to figure it all out, Malfoy did the most surprising thing of all, which almost instantly explained his previous response to her. He kissed her. Her eyes opened so wide she thought they would pop out of her head, and she pushed him away. "Huh?" It was really all she could articulate at that moment.

Malfoy rolled his eyes. "I'm trying to be romantic here, Granger. Sheesh" And there he was, pushing his lips up against hers, again! And he was good at it too! She pushed him away.

"Huh?" she repeated. There was a trickle of sweat running down between her shoulder blades.

"You're really not very good at this, are you?" There! A third time! His lips pressed up against hers, the slightest trace of confectioner's sugar from the frosting on her cake somehow transferring from his mouth to hers, his hands bundled up in the bounty of her hair, his thumbs grazing the little bones behind her ears. She gently, maybe a little more reluctantly this time, pushed him away.

"But… but I hate you. And…"

"But you don't have to keep hating me, do you?"

"I… guess… not…"

"Then we don't have a problem."

"We don't?"

"Well, I don't hate you. Does that help?" Weirdly enough, it did.

"But…" There were a million questions all fighting to be at the front of the queue. "Why today?"

"It's your birthday. And since you don't seem to like your birthday, I thought I'd try to brighten it up." That cheesy smile was back. "Which reminds me, Granger." He reached behind her and picked up the piece of scratch parchment she'd been scribbling on this morning. "You really don't need to be feeling so old. Twenty-eight is only four times seven, and you didn't feel so old at seven, did you?"

"I…" That was the worst piece of logic she'd ever heard of.

"And I'm three times nine, and I don't feel a day over four times five." What the heck was he talking about?


He shook his head as if she were being very silly. "I think I've heard you say 'huh' more times in the last ten minutes than you have in the whole of your life. Aren't you supposed to be that person who always gets everything?"

"Well…" Oh, now he had touched a nerve. How dare he attack her ability to understand things? She was normally very smart. She--

She was actually fairly certain that one of the problems with being grown up had just been solved. If Malfoy liked her, liked her liked her, then she wouldn't be single, and…

That was enough for her to throw her arms around his neck and snog him senseless.

This was the best birthday, ever!

Or, at least, that was her humble assessment.

The End

A.N.: Contrary to popular belief (maybe,) I am not dead! Lol This was written for Granger Enchanted's Birthday Challenge. Here are the specifications:

She must receive a present she has always wanted.

Must be romantic

M15 rating plus (no G or PG!) (Don't know if this really fit that…)

Must be set after Deathly Hallows (pretending the epilogue doesn't exist or any deaths you didn't agree with)

Other must haves: Flowers, chocolate and the words "Happy Birthday Hermione"

TTFN! Marm