Hermione wanted to kill something. She had a very good idea of what that something was, too, but she'd never have the satisfaction.

"I cannot believe you wouldn't tell me this!" she said, her voice bordering on hysteria. In the wake of her declaration, Harry Potter wore a look that said he'd rather be facing Voldemort.

"I didn't know, Hermione. I swear I didn't!"

"You're his best friend! How could you not know?"

"Look, believe whatever you want, but if I had known I would have said something." He said it with that air of finality that he'd adopted somewhere around fifth year. It was that attitude that he couldn't waste time arguing, nor could he change someone's mind that didn't want to be changed. That was how he was now; he stated his opinion, told you what you could do with yours, and that was that. Noticing the way her lips trembled and the ominous glaze of tears in her eyes, he softened. "Hermione, I've got two best friends in this world and you're one of them. If the other one was doing anything to hurt you, you know I'd beat the snot out of him."

The anger drained out of her and she sat down abruptly. "I just…I don't understand why he…"

He sat beside her and wrapped an arm around her shoulders. "I don't either. He's an idiot, Hermione." She nodded into his chest, her tears seeping warmly into his robe. Harry didn't need to say more; he knew well enough that this sort of physical comfort was better than any speech. They sat that way for perhaps fifteen minutes, until the door opening and closing brought them both back to reality.

Hermione sat up automatically, wiping her face and attempting to smooth her hair. Harry wondered why women always tried to make it look like they hadn't just been bawling. If he was going to cry, damn it, he was going to have a right good sob and nothing and no one would interrupt it. It was an infrequent occurrence, but one that he had never been ashamed of.

"Harry, I'm hungry, do you want to order--" Ginny stopped abruptly as she entered the room and noticed Hermione. Her eyes narrowed as she took in her friend's state. Then she set an imperious glare upon Harry and demanded, "What did my brother do?"

Hermione sighed and tried to enjoy the warm summer evening as she walked back to her flat. It really was beautiful out. It would be more beautiful if Ron hadn't cheated on her with the whole world as an audience, courtesy of Witch Weekly. She strongly suspected that Rita Skeeter had been biding her time, waiting for something to use for payback against the girl that had blackmailed her. Hermione had no ammunition to return the favor, since Rita had admitted two years before that she was an animagus and had registered herself properly.

She at least had the satisfaction of knowing that Ron would be in for hell when he dared to show his face. Ginny was incensed, and though Harry tried very hard to avoid conflict these days, she knew he was angry, too.

After that brief flare of rage at Harry's, she wasn't angry anymore. She knew she ought to be. Instead, she just felt like curling up somewhere and wallowing. Any why shouldn't she? Other people were allowed to indulge in behavior like that, so why not her? Driven by illogical whim, Hermione detoured into the nearest pub.

The world was spiraling, and she was at the bottom looking up. Were those her feet she was tripping over? Oh, and a pair of arms holding her up…who was that? She was being dragged through a doorway and experienced a surreal moment as her head knocked against the frame. She felt it, but didn't feel it. It was interesting to observe her own injury with as much care as she would have watched someone on television fall down the stairs.

"Ah…shit, sorry."

Past the doorway now, and there was a second voice.

"Are you out of your mind?"

"What was I supposed to do, leave her there?"

"Couldn't you have brought her to her own flat?"

"I don't know where it is and she isn't exactly coherent enough to tell me."

She was handed off to a second pair of arms. These felt different, but not unsafe.

"What are you doing?"

"Preparing the guest room."

"Where are you going to sleep, then?"

"The couch."

A snort. "I think the drunken pity-case can have the couch."

"Cut her a break." A pause and some unidentified shuffling noises. "You've been a drunken pity-case once or twice yourself, you know."

The hands tightened slightly around her, but they weren't hurtful. She was grateful for them because in their absence she would have been on the floor. "Careful or I'll throw you both out."

The other ignored him. She was moving suddenly, propelled by both of them. Either they were moving very fast, or her feet had completely stopped responding to her brain.

"Give me that bin." The second voice.

"Oh god, you don't think she's going to throw up, do you?"

"If she doesn't, I'm the Minister of Magic. And you're cleaning it up."

The first half-groaned, half-sighed. She was being arranged in the bed now.

"Hermione," the first said, "Hermione, listen." He knew her name? Oh, that was fortunate, right? "If you feel like you're going to be sick there's a bin here. The bathroom is…"

But she would never know, because at that moment she blacked out.

She woke to the smell of coffee and sunlight determinedly penetrating the blinds. Her first instinct was to turn over and drown it out, but as she summoned her leaden limbs to move, she realized that she had no idea where she was. The last thing she remembered…was the pub and a cute blonde.

Oh, hell. She had gotten rip-roaringly drunk and gone home with someone. Well, it served Ron right, but she wasn't sure how she felt about it. It wasn't the sort of thing she did. What if he wanted to try to date her after this? She was still married to Ron, for now… Oh sweet Merlin…what if she was pregnant? What if the mystery blond had some kind of disease? This was why she prided herself on not doing what other people did in these kinds of situations…

Hermione took a breath. Presumably, given the scent of coffee and the sound of someone moving around beyond the door, he was still here. All right, she would gather her clothes – wait, she was still wearing her clothes. She was fully dressed. Maybe she hadn't slept with him? Hermione stuck a hand up her skirt and assessed things. No, she hadn't slept with anyone last night. Thank God. And thank whoever this kind man was, for having her completely incapacitated and not taking advantage of it.

If there was a clear path to the door she could try to sneak out without facing him. But no, he had done a nice thing, bringing her here and not molesting her. Oh, wait a bleeding minute, why should he be declared a nice guy for behaving normally? He was the one who'd pumped her full of booze, after all. He wasn't faultless.

She sat up and instantly regretted it. Somehow her stillness had kept the raging hangover at bay. Not so anymore. A sharp, throbbing headache made itself evident behind her eyes and her stomach did a cartwheel. Her entire body felt heavy and sore. She'd be lucky if she made it home without vomiting. It was then that she noticed the bin near the bed. Oh lord, it had been used. She had barfed in this poor man's bin. She couldn't leave it for him to clean up, could she? That would be horribly wrong, right?

She was just going to have to face the music. Hermione picked up the offensive-smelling bin and began to move cautiously. She had been hungover once or twice before and knew very well that a sudden movement could be enough to make her stomach rebel again. So far, so good, but she was staggering a little more than she was comfortable with. God, was she still drunk?

She made it out of the bedroom. She was completely disoriented. This man's flat was gargantuan! She heard his voice, deep and smooth; presumably he was on the phone. She followed the voice. Once she found him, the real embarrassment would begin.

By the time she reached the kitchen, he was done with his conversation. She stood in the doorway and took him in. Well, at least in her grief-induced alcoholism she had good taste. The back side of him was good to look at. He was tall, a few inches over six feet, with a strong frame and a very nice rear end. And that hair – it was better than she remembered. It was pale and lustrous, though she hadn't recalled it being this long.

His spine straightened in a way that meant he was aware of her presence. Now he would turn and she would see the face of the man that might have been the key to her revenge. She hoped the pleasantry of his rear continued in the front.

It did. On yes, it did. But this was a face she knew. A face she hated. A face she never thought she'd see again, except if it was glaring from the front of the Daily Prophet with some bleak headline. Lucius Malfoy. Merlin help her, Lucius Malfoy!

His look was neutral, betraying nothing until the bin began to slip from her hands. Then his eyes widened.

"The bin--!"

It was too late. The bin hit the floor, and of course its contents splattered, because if they hadn't it wouldn't be the truly horrific nightmare it was turning out to be. He cringed and closed his eyes and took two deep breaths. He looked like he was trying to find reasons not to kill her.

For once in her life Hermione's brain failed her. Instinct took over and her hands went to the sides of her head and she screamed. Long and loud and at the top of her lungs, she screamed.

He appeared unaffected when she finally ran out of air. "Are you quite finished?" he asked sharply. Evidently the bastard had expected this reaction.

Anger overwhelmed her panic. She opened her mouth to shout at him. But as soon as she did, her stomach did another cartwheel and a few back handsprings. Vomit was imminent. He had expected this, too, apparently. With an expression of distaste he pointed and said, "Third door on the left."

Whatever she wanted to say to him, it would have to wait. Hermione turned and ran, flinging open the third door on the left and only just making it to the toilet.

She stayed in the bathroom a long time, regrouping. This was a hundred times worse than she thought. She wanted to hate him, but things didn't entirely compute. Even drunk she would have known if she was flirting with Lucius Malfoy. Why would he be in a muggle pub, anyway? So how had she come to be in his flat, supremely embarrassed but unharmed?

Gathering the tattered ends of her composure, she emerged. He was, of all places, in the kitchen alternately arguing with someone on a Bluetooth earpiece and cleaning up her vomit.

"Franz, I'm telling you that these numbers aren't adding up," he was saying. "No." Pause. "I don't know! Look at your employees. Maybe someone is embezzling." Pause. "How should I know?"

Her brain stalled at the image. Why was he using a cell phone? Why was he actually cleaning with a mop? Couldn't he just wave his wand and –

Oh. Right. After the war Lucius Malfoy had cut a deal with the Wizengamot. Instead of going back to Azkaban, he gave up his wand for the remainder of his sentence. There had been something like nine years left, and with six gone by…it would be three more years before he got his wand back. It seemed he had adjusted.

"No, Franz, I will not audit your employees for free," he said in a tone of bored sarcasm, interrupting her train of thought. As the other man spoke, that intangible sixth sense told him he was not alone. He turned. "I will call you back and we can negotiate fees." He fished the phone out of his pocket – an iPhone, naturally, because Malfoys always had to have the newest and best, didn't they – and hung up.

He pulled the earpiece off and tossed it on the table. Then he fixed her in a penetrating glare. A million questions burst in her head. Strangely, it seemed that he was actually waiting for her to ask them. But when nothing made it past her lips, he shook his head.

"Well. I think you can finish this." He handed her the mop, and as much as she wanted to by angry at him, she couldn't be. It was her vomit, after all. He seemed about to say something else when the phone rang. He couldn't contain an annoyed sigh and a roll of his eyes. Wait, was his ringtone – was that a Radiohead song? This was surreal.

He picked up the earpiece and brushed past her. Evidently it was Franz and he didn't like being dismissed. Was…was Malfoy working a muggle job, too? Lord knew he had enough money to do nothing for nine years, and she would have thought that he'd consider muggle work below him. Boredom was powerful, though. And from the sounds of things he was dealing with money. Nothing made a Malfoy happier than that.

Hermione mopped up the remainder of the mess. What was happening here? Normally she would have bolted the second she realized it was him, puddle of puke be damned. Malfoy was being civil to her; shouldn't he have kicked her out? Why would he help her in the first place? Damn it, her head hurt badly enough without the mountain of questions!

As an afterthought she washed out the bin. It seemed like the right thing to do. When she was done she was looking around for a towel when the hairs on her neck stood on end. He was watching her this time. He leaned in the door frame, arms crossed.

"Draco should be here with a hangover potion soon," he commented.

"He…I…" Hermione shut her mouth before any more stammered half-replies could escape. They had all made their peace with Draco after the war, but they weren't friends.

"I'm sure you were wondering how you got here. Draco was walking from the train station and saw you in the window of the pub. Apparently some blonde fool was trying to get you to leave with him."

In spite of the fact that he was very nicely clearing up a large black hole in her memory, Hermione felt a bit put off by his tone. It was patronizing – like a parent talking to a twelve year old. "Maybe I wanted to go with him," she retorted. She hadn't, if her reaction to waking up in a strange place an hour ago was any indication, but she wasn't going to admit that.

He rolled his startlingly blue eyes. "Such gratitude. In any case, you got two blonde fools that are, I must say, vastly superior."

She could only gawk at him. In spite of his sarcasm, he seemed…amenable. The beep of his phone gave her a reprieve. He took it out of his pocket and scanned a text message with a slight frown.

"Are you…are you working?" she found the courage to ask. She tried not to sound too incredulous. It was Thursday, after all – people with jobs would have to be working.

"Attempting to, yes. Hungover houseguests and all." He didn't look up as he entered a reply. He was practiced at this. He probably texted better than her. It was ridiculous how…muggle he had become. Though she supposed he didn't have a choice without his wand. No, that wasn't true. He could have stayed at Malfoy Manor, surrounded by his wealth and magic. Why was he out here, seemingly on his own and so nonchalant about living without magic?

"What sort of job?" she asked carefully. One question at a time, until his patience ran out.

He shrugged. "Finances, accounting…same thing I did before. Money is money, be it pounds or galleons."

That made sense. She had never been quite sure of what job he did at the Ministry, but accounting seemed to fit him. "Franz is…?" she asked. Oh, how she hoped that Lucius Malfoy had a muggle boss!

"Franz is a client. A very neurotic client." The phone beeped again and he pointedly ignored it. "He's one of seven. Five muggle, two magical."

That blew her away. Who in the wizarding world would want Lucius Malfoy to do their accounts? He was a convicted Death Eater who wasn't exactly known for his honesty. Well, scratch that – she could think of a few Slytherins who would appreciate a slippery accountant.

"This is unreal. You're talking to me like…like I'm a person," she said, unable to moderate herself.

He quirked an eyebrow. "Was I wrong in that assessment? Are you a hippogriff in disguise?"

She shook her head, smiling for the first time. It seemed that living without magic had done him a lot of good. She tried to imagine six years without a wand, and even though she had lived nearly eleven without one already, she found that she couldn't comprehend it. He had adapted quite well.

"Well, in spite of your digestive pyrotechnics, it's lunch time and I'm hungry," he announced, stepping into the kitchen. "Do you want something?"

Her stomach flinched at the mere thought of food. She shook her head, grimacing.

"Feel free to shower. I highly recommend that," he said dryly. She was ready to be offended, but then she caught a glimpse of herself in the stainless steel refrigerator. She was an absolute fright. "Towels are in the closet next to the bathroom. I don't have any clothing for you, but I can dig something up if you are really averse to putting your dirty outfit back on." He was rummaging in a cabinet, talking as if she hung around in his flat every day. "Then do whatever you want until Draco gets here. I'm on the computer, but there should be something on television to entertain you." He emerged from the cabinet with a jar of jam and flashed a smile. "I have satellite."

"I…thanks." She didn't know what else to say. It seemed that every time he opened his mouth, he flummoxed her.

He nodded and began to make himself lunch. He had slices of a baguette with raspberry jam and brie. If she hadn't been ready to vomit at any moment, it would have been extremely tantalizing.

"No house elves?" she asked, realizing how odd it was that he was making his own food.

"I can't have anything that I could compel to do magic for me," he answered, not missing a beat. "It's not much of a loss."

Hermione blinked. Maybe she was hallucinating. This couldn't be Lucius Malfoy. She was not standing in the elder Malfoy's flat. He was not discussing his life with her while sending text messages. She was asleep at home, that had to be it. The last forty-eight hours had been a bad dream. This was her mind gone off the deep end.

But she found, as she stripped in the strange bathroom and stepped into the shower, that the hot needles of water were all too real.

Forty minutes later Hermione emerged, feeling clean but not much better other than that. She picked up her clothes, fully intending to put them back on, but then she caught a whiff. Oh, God. They reeked of liquor and cigarettes, to the point that it made her stomach turn. If she wanted to keep herself from regurgitating again she was going to need something else. Oh, this was embarrassing. The only way to do this was to go out in the towel.

She wrapped it tightly around her body. Thankfully, it was a huge, plush towel that was long enough to reach the middle of her calves. Taking a deep breath, she stepped out into the hallway and followed his voice again.

He was talking to another client, this time in fast, fluent French. She knew a little but couldn't catch anything he said; financial terms were not part of that limited vocabulary. Amazingly, he didn't seem to want to make her squirm. Either that or he was too busy to milk the sheer humiliation of the entire situation. He stood up, not pausing in his negotiation, and ducked into the nearest door on the right. He emerged two minutes later, still talking (it seemed like he'd barely taken a breath!), and dropped a pile of clothing into her arms. Then he disappeared back into his office and closed the door.

She found her way back to the guest room after a startled moment. She had really expected him to try to embarrass her as much as he could. It left her feeling curiously petty; was she wrong to expect so little of him? Hermione shook her head and tried to clear the errant thoughts. He had given her pajamas. How cliché…although she supposed it was the only thing he didn't mind her possibly throwing up on. It was extremely odd, though, to be slipping into Lucius Malfoy's too-large pajamas. This was what he slept in. In his bed. Oh, God.

Hermione shook her head. This was what alcohol did to her. It caused her to find the thought of Lucius Malfoy in bed exciting. Well, his pajamas were very comfortable, in any case, and she was going to take advantage of his satellite tv. She didn't watch nearly enough of it these days.

She was stretched across the couch, deeply involved in a rerun of Footballer's Wives, when Draco arrived. He strode in, stopped, and looked from her to the door of his father's office and back. She was equally fascinated with him; she hadn't seen Draco in years. He was as tall as his father and had finally taken ownership of his looks.

"Here," he said at last, holding out a slim vial of blue potion. "We thought you might need this."

She took it and downed it quickly. The effect was instant; her headache evaporated and her stomach felt settled. "Thanks. For the potion and for helping me last night. I wouldn't have--" her eyes fell on the copy of Witch Weekly at the top of the stack of papers in his hand. "Oh sweet Merlin, what is that?!" she shrieked.

"I don't know, I didn't--" he unfolded it. "Oh." They both looked at the picture on the cover, and for good reason; it was the two of them together, Draco's arm around her waist and her head leaning on his shoulder. It was taken from such an angle that it looked, for all intents and purposes, that they were holding one another amorously. It was blurry enough that it hid her extreme intoxication and what was likely an annoyed expression on his face, but they were definitely recognizable. The headline proclaimed "GRANGER COMFORTED BY FORMER SCHOOL ENEMY!!"

The door to Lucius's office opened. "I heard your dulcet tones. Everything all right?" Neither of them was sure whose dulcet tones he was referring to.

"I picked this up for Mum, and…," Draco answered, holding up the copy of Witch Weekly. Lucius strode over and took the flimsy magazine.

"Hm. It would seem that someone has it in for you, Miss Granger."

Hermione sat down heavily on the couch, fighting tears. "It's that miserable Rita Skeeter. She has a vendetta against me. She was waiting for something to use against me."

"It seems your husband obliged."

She looked up, startled. It was Draco who had said it, but she would have expected it from Lucius. It was the sort of thing he would say. Apparently Draco was taking up the torch of obnoxiousness.

"That's why you're being nice to me," she said, looking back and forth between the two of them. "Because you know."

"Well, we don't live under a rock. Everyone knows."

"You know that Ronald Weasley cheated on me…and you're not mocking me ruthlessly?"

"That would be most insensitive," Lucius said, but he was hiding a smile behind his hand.

"Well I'm glad you two enjoy my misfortune." She stood up and stuck her nose in the air. "Thank you for assisting me last night and for the potion today. I'm sorry I vomited in your flat. I'll be going now." And I'm taking your pajamas with me, you miserable git, she thought.

Neither of them impeded her as she stormed out of the flat. She had put her own shirt back on after spraying it healthily with cologne she'd found in the bathroom. She registered that this was what Lucius smelled like on a daily basis. The fool; he didn't need cologne, as he had charisma. It didn't smell bad, though - much better than booze and cigarettes.

So she was walking down the street in an innocuous white shirt, his navy blue pajama bottoms that were so long that they pooled around her feet, and her battered black flip flops. She had shoved her other clothing into her mercifully large purse and the borrowed top was tied around her waist. It was another beautiful day. Happy people strolled by, mocking her with their contentment.

"Granger! Hey, Granger!"

Oh no. Which one was it? They sounded so alike now. She whirled, annoyed, and came face to face with Draco. She wasn't sure if that was better or worse.

"What?" she demanded.

"You left this." He held out a hand. It was her cell phone. She only kept it so that she could talk to her parents; understandably, they found it hard to get used to owls. Some of her childhood friends were in there, as well – the few she'd stayed in touch with.

"Oh. Thank you." She took it and turned to resume her walk.

"Hermione, I'm sorry," Draco said. "What I said was unkind."

She sighed. "Yeah, but it's true. I might as well get used to that. I mean, pretty soon people are going to be saying much worse because they all think I'm fleeing to you for comfort."

"I don't get it. Shouldn't everyone be sympathetic with you and not the Weasel?"

She chuckled. Clearly he had never experienced Rita Skeeter's ability to play her readers like a harp. "You'll see, Draco. You'll get the fallout, too."

She turned to go, but his hand around her wrist stopped her. He was smirking. "If it's going to be a scandal we may as well give them something that'll really blow their minds." And before she could respond, he lowered his lips to hers and kissed her.

Hermione didn't recall how she got home. Right, it was a cab that Draco had hailed for her. Jesus Christ, she had to stop thinking about the way he kissed. It wasn't real. He was only doing it to taunt the intrusive media and probably to taunt Ron; she knew that nothing in the world would make Ron more infuriated than her being romantically involved with Malfoy. But oh my, could Draco Malfoy kiss. Or maybe it was that it had been a long time since she'd been with someone who could; she knew her husband wasn't the world's greatest kisser. Just for a minute, then, she could think about how Malfoy's lips had brushed hers with just the right amount of pressure and how his tongue attacked and retreated with a veiled promise…

There were eleven owls outside her flat. Oh, hell, it was starting already and that issue had only been out one day! Her cell phone had seventeen missed calls and three voicemails. They were probably all her mother; she'd left her a sobbing message.

She decided on the lesser of two evils. She would get to the owls tomorrow; no doubt half of them were from readers of Witch Weekly and the other half from her friends, berating her for going anywhere near Malfoy. Instead, she listened to her mother's voicemails and then started to dial her number. As she did, the phone beeped. A text message. No, a media message. Curious, she opened it.

A song began to play. It was vaguely familiar.

Now listen I think you and me have come to the end of our time,
What do you want, some kind of reaction? Well, OK, that's fine.
Alright, how would it make you feel i
f I said you that you never made me come?
In the year and a half that we spent together, yeah, I never really had much fun.

I never wanted it to end up this way,
You've only got yourself to blame,
I'm gonna tell the world you're rubbish in bed now
And that you're small in the game.

In spite of herself she was smiling. Someone had sent her an angry breakup song. It was probably one of her girlfriends from home, but when she checked the number it was one that she didn't recognize. Hermione frowned. She had no idea who had sent it.

I saw you thought this was gonna be easy, well, you're out of luck.
Yeah, let's rewind, let's turn back time t
o when you couldn't get it up,
You know what it should've ended there, that's when I should've shown you the door.
As if that weren't enough to deal with you became premature.

I'm sorry if you feel that I'm being kinda mental,
But you left me in such a state.
But now I'm gonna do what you did to me,
Gonna reciprocate.

A sudden certainty hit her. Who had last had her phone? Yes. Draco Malfoy. And who had indicated, very unsubtly, that he would help her reciprocate? But she was fairly sure that Draco didn't have a phone of his own. In spite of his father's mugglization, he was still very far removed from muggle culture. He would have no knowledge of muggle music, or how to send a message like this.

Perhaps his father had helped him? Perhaps…Lucius had sent it himself? She was unconscious in his flat for hours, and milling around in it nearly all day. He could have gotten her phone number. But why would he do that? She shook her head. It wasn't possible. It was probably just one of her girlfriends who had changed to a new number.

She texted 'thanks' back to the mystery person and went to sleep.

The number of owls had tripled by early the next morning. Sighing, Hermione opened her window and they dropped their bits of mail on her desk. Well, there were no howlers; that was good, at least. She located the ones that were from the expected people first. There was one from Harry, Ginny, Luna, Fred and George (she'd open that last, very carefully and at a safe distance), and (God help her) Molly Weasley.

Harry first. It was short and carefully worded.

Hermione, I know you're upset…but Malfoy?

Then Ginny.

Hermione Jean Granger! There is no use in trading one piece of stupid rubbish for another! Wow, she really was mad at her brother.

Luna next. It was about what she expected.

I'm sorry to hear that Ronald is behaving boorishly. Dad says that it's succubus gnomes that make men stray, so here's a charm that ought to repel them.

Hermione smiled, knowing full well that there was no such thing as a succubus gnome. Nonetheless, she picked up the charm, which was a green stone in the shape of an octagon, and slipped it over her head. Luna meant well and Hermione would be eternally grateful for that.

Now she was down to the two that she least wanted to open. Sighing, she picked up Molly's letter and opened it. It wasn't what she expected.


I know that what my son has done is inexcusable and that he's broken your heart. He has heard from me more than anyone else how foolish he is. He will be lucky if he manages to win you back. Of course I hope that he can, but that is up to you. In the meantime, though, I know you are vulnerable and angry. Perhaps your liaison with Malfoy is an attempt to get back at Ron, or maybe you genuinely like him. I don't know. I just ask you to please be careful. When you are heart-broken you may do some things you later regret. I am here if you need to talk.



Hermione sniffled and beat back the tears. She didn't want to cry. Molly was a hellcat when it came to her children, but even she could acknowledge when one of them was wrong. She felt a pang of sympathy when she thought about all the dark stares Ron was surely getting at the Burrow. She scoffed at it a moment later; he had done it to himself. With a deep breath, she picked up the letter from Fred and George. She placed it on the desk, took five steps backward, and opened it with a flick of her wand.

Nothing happened. Cautiously she approached. It seemed to be just a normal letter, though there was something enclosed with it.


Next time ickle Ronnie tries to get up some other bird's skirt, give him a bit of this. It's not our design, but we hear it's highly effective.

-F & G

P.S. – It might be interesting to give some to Malfoy, too.

Hermione examined the small packet of blue powder that had come with the letter. She had no idea what it was, but Fred and George's endorsement meant that if she used it on Ron, it would probably be highly painful and/or embarrassing. He deserved it. She put the sachet of powder in her desk drawer. Perhaps one day, if she was feeling particularly vengeful, she'd use it. This hadn't turned out so bad. No one was berating her except Ginny. Well, that was only the letters from people that actually liked her. She was sure the mail from the Witch Weekly readers would be worse. But as she waded through the pile, she was pleasantly surprised. Most of them were letters of support or encouragement. This was definitely not the reaction that Rita had been looking for. Had she inadvertently turned Hermione and Draco into media darlings?

Shaking her head, Hermione began to write back to Harry and Ginny. They were always together, so if one got the letter the other would be there to read it, also.

Harry & Ginny,

Relax, it isn't what it seems. I got a bit depressed the other night after I left your flat and decided to go to the pub. After drinking myself into a fine state of oblivion, I would have made some very bad choices if not for Malfoy. That picture is him dragging me away from the pub; I'm nearly unconscious. There's nothing romantic about it. He was only doing me a favor. I don't quite understand it, but I can definitely say that he's changed for the better.



She sealed it and sent it off with one of the owls. Then she finally called her mother. Two hours later she hung up, drained. She had to get out and do something. Wallowing in her flat wasn't healthy.

As she got ready, an owl pecked at her window. Sighing, she let it in. It dropped the letter, which had Harry's handwriting on it. Hermione gasped when she opened it; a clipping of Witch Weekly unfolded onto her desk. It was her and Malfoy on the sidewalk kissing. We may as well give them something that'll really blow their minds, he'd said. Oh, the slimy git had known this would end up in the magazine!

Harry's letter said only: Nothing romantic, huh?

A/N: The song in this chapter is Lily Allen's "Not Big".