This Is For The Lonely

Disclaimer: None of these characters are mine.

Hermione Granger was a witch who believed that everyone deserves a second chance.

That is to say, she believed in giving people a second chance in theory. In reality, she was the sort of person who held a grudge. It was hard to forgive when you could not forget, and Hermione's memory was such that she could recall every slight that any particular person had ever paid to her. But with the ball being held in celebration of the one year anniversary of Harry Potter's triumph over Voldemort, she decided it was time to give a second chance to one of her former tormenters at school.

Besides, she told herself, it wasn't as though Draco Malfoy had much of a chance to being with. He grew up inundated by his parents' remarks about how pure-bloods were superior to all; it was no surprise that he was such a nasty boy at Hogwarts. Not having to live in fear had done wonders for him, and he no longer resembled a frightened little ferret, leading Hermione to believe that now might be a good time for reconciliation. She always did appreciate the fact that he kept his marks up, unlike her friends, and she supposed if they went together for the Victory Ball, he would at least be able to make decent conversation. So after much consideration, she approached him to ask him to the fete, thinking it was time that they put the past behind them.

She was very, very wrong.

Hermione knew that the second she finished speaking.

Malfoy looked at her as though she was a small bug that he was considering squashing. "I'm sorry," he said. "But do you actually think that I would deign to be seen anywhere with you?"

Hermione felt her cheeks burn, and she silently cursed the fact that she blushed so easily. "My apologies," she ground out. "I won't be bothering you again."

"I should hope not." He looked her over once, rolled his eyes, and then started to examine his nails. "I suppose that you might have got inflated notions about yourself given your past experience with wizards. But make no mistake. Unlike your former flings, I actually have standards, and you, my dear, are not pretty enough to suit someone with more refined tastes, like me." He made shooing motions with his hands. "Now run along, like a good little witch. You have wasted enough of my time as it is."

Hermione dearly would have loved to come up with some rejoinder then and there that would leave him fuming for days. Unfortunately, he had struck at her weak spot, and she knew that she had to get out of there before she burst into tears in front of him. So Hermione fled to the sanctuary of her flat, where she promptly locked herself into her bedroom and had herself a good cry. She knew she wasn't beautiful. She knew she was passably pretty at best. It hurt so much when people reminded her of that fact, as if she would never be as worthy as someone like Ginny Weasley simply because Hermione wasn't as lovely as her. It didn't seem fair, and it didn't seem right, but it also seemed that was how the world operated.

She wound up going to the ball alone. For some time she thought that Harry would ask her to go with him—just as friends of course—since evidently Ginny was attending with another wizard and Harry would routinely complain about the whole thing to Hermione. But he wound up finding another witch to go with, that bastard, and so at the eleventh hour, Hermione found herself with no prospects for a date. She didn't resent Ron going with Lavender, as the two of them were now a couple, but it would have been nice if Harry hadn't led her on like that. She considered briefly not going but decided against that. She had nothing to be ashamed of. She wasn't going to become fodder for malicious gossip by not attending the celebration of her best friend's victory. She was going to show up, help herself to the spirits, and make her exit as soon as her leaving would be unremarked on.

Hermione was on her second drink and standing against the wall near the bar, so she had a very good view when Draco Malfoy made his entrance, with Ginny Weasley hanging off his arm. She quickly polished that off, reached for another glass, and then forced herself into the crowd to mingle. She was on her fourth drink and listening to a grouchy old codger go on and on about how the textbooks Hogwarts used were substandard (an opinion she held herself), when she decided that Draco Malfoy was worthless and he had never been worth giving a second chance. Forty-five minutes later, when she spotted Harry sparring with Malfoy over Ginny, she reflected that her best friend's taste in witches left much to be desired and that he was a wanker as well. Hermione lost track of time after that, as everything became one big blur as she sought out conversation after conversation, trying to ignore the fact that she had not been asked to dance even once tonight. It was after midnight when she was confronted with Pansy Parkinson offering her a glass of wine.

"Here. You look like you need it," the other witch said.

"Thanks," replied Hermione as she gingerly took the glass.

"It's not poisoned," Pansy assured her.

"Pity. I could use a bit of poison to put me out of my misery right now."

"I know. If I had any poison, I would take it myself instead of waste it on you." The black-haired witched leaned against a pillar. "It's somewhat comforting to know that I am not the only one who is completely miserable tonight."

Hermione frowned. "You came alone too?" she asked. She had thought she was the only young witch suffering from that stigma tonight.

"No. I wish I had though." Pansy nodded over at Harry. "He asked me, and I accepted. But that Weasley bitch hadn't even been in the room for ten minutes before he abandoned me."

Hermione winced. Harry could be a bastard. "I'm sorry he's such a git," she said. Then a thought occurred to her. "I'm surprised you're here with me, instead of comforting Malfoy for losing his date."

"That shows how little you Gryffindors know about us Slytherins. He would much rather find comfort in the arms of Daphne Greengrass." Pansy finished off her glass. "I'm Draco's last resort when it comes to finding someone to comfort him. I mean, look at me. It wasn't only Gryffindors who compared my visage to that of a dog." Her eyes blazed as she glared across the room.

Hermione felt as though she had found a kindred spirit. "Let's go," she said. "I'm feeling like having a bitter rant right now, and I would rather not give certain people here the pleasure of witnessing it." The other witch nodded her agreement.

The two of them wound up going to Hermione's flat, seeing that she lived alone while Pansy still resided at home with her parents. They did make one stop at Pansy's house though for more spirits, as Hermione only had one bottle of firewhisky at her place, and that wasn't going to be enough to last them through the night. Each witch had her own bottle as they spoke at length about stupid tarts and the wizards who coddled them.

"I don't know who I hate more," Hermione said sullenly. "Bitches like Ginny Weasley, or all the wizards who would do anything for her." She tilted her head as she pondered the question she had set before them. "I hate them both equally, I think."

"I have no such ambivalence about the matter. I hate the bitches more," Pansy declared. "I hate those witches who have never had to work for anything their entire lives. Like Daphne. All she has to do is toss her hair, and wizards come running to her. Unlike me. I've had to work for everything I have. I don't have the luxury of being able to fall back on a pretty face. As for the wizards who fall for those pretty faces…they're just pathetic really. I deserve better than them."

"That's a good way of thinking there," said Hermione. She looked at the firewhisky in her glass, almost mesmerized at how it caught the light. "No, I suppose wizards like that aren't worth our time."

"Draco turned you down, didn't he?" Pansy said abruptly.

"How do you know that?" A feeling of dread churned in Hermione's stomach, and she suddenly questioned the wisdom of imbibing as much as she had. "Don't tell me that he went around telling everyone—"

"Oh no, no," Pansy said in a rush to reassure her. "He didn't go around bragging to everyone that you had asked him. He did say that he might have considered going with you just to piss off Potter and Weasley, but Ginny Weasley was better looking and so the obvious choice." She twitched her nose. "I would have warned you if I had known."

"Bleh. I would have warned you about Harry, if I had known. Especially seeing how he made me think that of course he would be going with me if he wasn't going with Ginny and I didn't have a date. That fucking wanker. Ginny's had her claws in him ever since our sixth year. It's as though she cast some sort of spell over him. He can't think properly when he's thinking of her."

"That's called being a stupid male. You would be surprised how many of them are about. I think the only worthwhile wizard in my year in Slytherin is Theodore Nott."

"Really?" asked Hermione.

"Yes. Gregory always has been slow and cruel. Nothing much to recommend him there."

"What about Zabini?"

"He's the same as Draco."

"Pity that. He's so pretty too." Hermione thought about the Gryffindor boys in her year. "In my year, I suppose Neville and Seamus are both fine. Can't say anything for the rest of them."

Pansy raised her eyebrows at Hermione. "Not even your best friends?"

"When it comes to their taste in witches? You've seen how Harry is with Ginny. Ron's pretty much the same way. He fancies pretty precious princesses, while making fun of girls like Eloise Midgen all the time, as though he's a great catch." She huffed in frustration.

"I never knew that," Pansy said. "I suppose I don't know much about Gryffindors, given how our Houses were at each other's throats when we were students."

Then the two witches looked at each other.

"Are you thinking what I'm thinking?" asked Hermione.

"Yes, and I'm wondering if it only seems like a good idea because we're both so smashed."

"True. But I would have never humiliated myself with Malfoy if I had you to advise me."

"Yes, and I would have never said yes to Potter if I had consulted you."

"We didn't run the same circles, did we? So you would know all about the wizards that I know nothing about, and vice versa." They both thought it over silently.

"Oh fuck it," Pansy said finally. "I say let's do it."

"It's worth a try," Hermione agreed. "At the very least, it'll be nice to have someone to commiserate with."

That was the start of a beautiful friendship. Whenever Hermione thought about going out with a wizard she knew little of, she ran the idea past Pansy. That was how she knew to avoid Lawrence Montague, who always was after one thing and one thing only, while giving Marcus Flint a chance, something Hermione would have never considered without Pansy's input. In return, Hermione warned Pansy away from Dean Thomas, telling her that he still had a thing for Ginny, while convincing her to go out with Percy Weasley, who had changed a lot since his years in the Ministry. Hermione enjoyed having a female friend who she could count on for good advice. Before she only had Ginny to turn to, and Hermione never saw the point of doing that. The whole thing restored her belief in giving someone a second chance because there were people like Pansy, who would be loyal friends if only one were willing to let go of the past.

And as for people like Malfoy, who just spat in her face when she tried to make amends and let bygones be bygones? Hermione had no need for them. She didn't believe in giving people a third chance.

Author's note: This is a bit different from what I usually write. I tend to write romantic comedies, instead of angst, but I thought the change might be good. What did you think? Like? Dislike? Please please let me know.