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Chapter One – The Wedding Reception

CHAPTER SONG: NARA by E.S. Posthumus


Adrian Pucey was a well-known womanizer throughout the wizarding world.

He was a hopeless flirt – promising women the world so he could get what he wanted – and he was a heartbreaker, crushing girls' spirits when they realized that they wouldn't be the one who could change his ways. And despite knowing all of this about him, women flocked to him. He was devilishly handsome and all it took was a smile and few compliments from him and women found themselves to be unable to resist his charm when he focused it on them.

And he was even worse when he was drunk – hence why Hermione Granger was hiding from him in the upstairs loo of the Weasley house.

For some reason, he had set his sights on her that evening and he was being relentless in his pursuit. The wedding reception had been going on for hours now outside in the backyard and though it was the wedding of her best friend and she was one of the bridesmaids, she couldn't go down there just yet. Firewhiskey and champagne had been flowing freely since dinner and since Hermione wasn't too keen on drinking, she had stuck with water and one mug of pumpkin juice. Adrian had taken advantage of the free alcohol however and now, he was practically intolerable, stalking her around the back yard, trying to get her alone with him. Hermione didn't even like him when he was sober so he was an absolute nightmare to her when hew as under the influence.

The wedding of Harry Potter and Pansy Parkinson had been a small affair in the backyard of the Burrow and there had been no expense spared that day. Both the Burrow and the backyard were decorated in a sea of flowers and tables of endless food. Everywhere Hermione had looked, there had been music and laughter and people dancing and eating. Everyone was so happy and that in turn, made her smile. Harry was now married and Hermione wondered if she had ever seen him smile as much as he was that day in all of the years she had known him.

Ron and his wife, Luna, had been on the dance floor for most of the night even though Ron hated to dance. He usually wound up doing things he generally hated if doing it made his wife happy. Ginny and Draco had been sitting at their table, eating and exchanging whispers and secret smiles as his hand continuously went to touch her still-flat stomach. Only Hermione knew of the couple's pregnancy so far though they were making it fairly obvious to anyone who merely paid attention to the couple's revealing actions.

There was so much cheer and celebration and Hermione hated that she couldn't enjoy it with her friends and family. She hated that she had to hole herself up in the bathroom with hopes that Adrian would either pass out in a drunken stupor or he would find some other poor girl to rub up against; a girl who would enjoy that sort of attention from him.

She stared at her reflection in the mirror hanging above the sink. Her hair, usually a wild tangent of long dark brown waves and curls, had been styled into a stylish up do being held with so many bobby pins, that her scalp was beginning to hurt. Pansy and Ginny had tried to use magic like they had done with their hair but Hermione's had always been stubborn. The bridesmaid dress was a dark green satin form-fitting gown with yellow gold trim; a mix of Gryffindor and Slytherin colors. It was beautiful and even though it clung to her body and had a more drastic v-neck than she was comfortable with, Hermione couldn't help but feel beautiful in it. Everyone told her what a beautiful young woman she had grown into with her pale porcelain skin, deep brown eyes and freckled nose.

She had shed her baby fat for a thin frame and she had received more than her fair attention from the opposite sex. None of the men had interested her however. Her last serious relationship had been with Viktor and she had nearly married him despite not loving him. Since him, there hadn't been anyone. She was so immersed with her work and her family and friends, that she didn't have time for a relationship – certainly not the kind of relationship she craved. Her friends probably never would have suspected their bookworm friend was a hopeless romantic but Hermione indeed was. She dreamt of having her own love story like Ron, Ginny and Harry had had theirs. She wanted romance. She wanted to be swept off her feet.

With a sigh, she began pulling pins out of her hair, hoping that if she took her time, Adrian would forget about his pursuit of her for the evening. Curl after curl tumbled down her back and her head immediately began to feel relief. She knew she couldn't stay in the loo for the rest of the night. Harry was her best friend and it would be incredibly rude for her to keep staying away hidden like this. This was a happy night for all of them and Hermione deserved to celebrate with everyone downstairs.

Hermione Granger, worker for the Ministry, one of the smartest witches to ever come out of Hogwarts, hero of the war and best friends of Harry Potter, did not hide from anyone – especially a person like Adrian Pucey.

The last bobby pin was yanked from her hair with an air of determination and leaving them in a pile on the sink counter, Hermione turned and grabbing the doorknob, swung it open, gasping in surprise when she nearly collided with a firm muscular chest in the hallway in front of her. Her hand flew to her chest and for a moment, she thought that Adrian had found her but tilting her head up to look at who she had almost walked into, she immediately relaxed.

Marcus Flint. He had been a few years ahead of her at Hogwarts but he was one of those Slytherins who's reputation preceded him. And from what she knew of all of those stories she had heard of him, he was nothing more than a violent stupid oaf. She had no idea what had come of him after he had finished school and she was surprised that she even knew who he was. The closest she had ever come to him was when she had been with Harry and the Gryffindor and Slytherin Quidditch teams would get into it. But even then, Hermione's focus had always been on retaliating against Draco and the insults he had flown at her. She never noticed Marcus Flint.

But then the war came and everyone chose sides. Surprisingly to almost everyone, many former Slytherins chose to fight with Harry instead of against. Draco, Marcus, Adrian, Pansy and Blaise Zabini all helped immensely in fighting during the war and old school rivalries were no longer of any significance. Though they ran in the same circles, Marcus and Hermione still didn't know one another. They knew of one another of course but other than that, they were still very much strangers.

Their eyes locked together and Hermione nearly took a step back from the intensity suddenly of it all. Instead, she straightened her shoulders and continued staring at him. He had grown quite handsome actually since he had left school. His black hair was in slight disarray, almost in chaotic yet seemingly controlled spikes. He had used magical charms to fix his teeth years ago and though he wasn't as handsome as some of the other men she had ever seen, to her, he was the quite handsome. He certainly had the tall, dark, mysterious and slightly dangerous persona down pat.

His eyes continued to be fixated so intently on her, she was frozen in her place. No one had ever looked at that before and she was completely hypnotized. She didn't know why his eyes were set on her like that but she found that she liked it.

"I was sent to come find you," Marcus explained in a deep, masculine voice that sent a shiver down her spine. "Apparently, Ron is trying to sneak a piece of wedding cake before Harry and Pansy cut it and Luna said that you were the only one who knew how to even attempt to stop him."

She couldn't help but laugh, stepping into the hallway. "Separating Ron from food is a skill that I have honed to perfection over the years. Luna has only been married to him for a year. She's still in training," she explained to him and she was surprised when he smiled. Marcus Flint did not seem like the man who at all smiled no matter what the situation. He looked good when he smiled. "And how did you get stuck with the detail of seeking me out?" She asked, tilting her head up to look at him, leaning back against the wall behind her.

He was wearing black dress pants and a white button down shirt with a dark green tie hanging loosely around his neck. The sleeves were rolled up to his elbows and she couldn't help but notice how muscular and in shape this man in front of her was. What was the matter with her all of a sudden? One would think she had never been in the company of a man before. Perhaps Fred or George had spiked her water or the pumpkin juice. It seemed to be the only explanation at the moment.

"True, I was a chaser in Quidditch but I can seek something out if I have to," he informed her and she smiled, a faint blushing breaking out across her cheeks.

She knew him to work for the Ministry as well in the Department of Magical Law Enforcement. She, herself, worked in the Department of International Magical Cooperation and had seen him several times at Ministry events but they had never spoken at those.

"What were you doing hiding in the loo anyway?" He asked.

She laughed slightly, almost embarrassed. "I was actually hiding from your best friend. He is very much a determined hunter tonight."

Marcus laughed, scratching the back of his head. "That's probably the nicest way I have ever heard a woman refer to the git as." She laughed as well, tucking strands o hair behind her ears, still looking at him. "If you want, I will gladly tell him to sod off and leave you alone for the night."

"Don't think I can take care of myself?" Hermione questioned with a raised eyebrow.

"Oh, I know you can. I was just trying to be a gentleman," he explained to her with a smirk and she smiled at him, shaking her head slightly. "I've known Adrian since birth. I can handle him so if he gets out of hand, just let me know."

"I will run to you like a damsel in distress if the situation calls for it," she promised him with mock-sincerity and he smiled at her. Her heart twisted slightly in her chest and she wondered once more what was wrong with her. This wasn't her usual behavior in the least – especially a man like Marcus Flint. Of course, she didn't know him in the least to even begin to categorize him.

She turned her head towards the open window at the end of the hallway when she heard music floating up from the backyard. She smiled and pushed herself off the wall, moving down the hall. It was dusk outside, the sun setting lower behind the horizon, rays of purple, red and orange streaking across the sky and the first of the stars appearing. Candles were being lit on the tables and suspended in the air above the dance floor and Hermione leaned out the window, smiling as she looked down over the wedding reception.

"I love this song," Hermione said with a smile, pulling her head back through the open window and taking a step back into the hallway. She turned and looked at Marcus to see that he was staring at her. She blushed again and wondered if he looked at everyone with such passion in his eyes.

"Do you want to dance with me?" He asked her unexpectedly, pulling his hand out from his pants pocket and extending it towards her.

Hermione smiled and reached out, placing her hand in his, his fingers encasing around her and gently pulling her closer to him. Still grasping her hand, his other lightly slid onto her hip and she rested her other free hand on his shoulder. He was much taller than her and he looked down at her as she looked up at him. Both smiled and began swaying back and forth to the music pouring softly through the window. His hand grew a bit more bold and slid around her hip to rest on the small of her back. Hermione smiled up at him to let him know that it was alright and her hand crept across his shoulder to the back of his neck, her fingers beginning to toy with the short black hairs. He pulled her a bit closer to him, their hips touching and Hermione nearly gasped at the jolt she felt through her body from the contact.

"You're a good dancer," she told him softly, her head still tilted upwards to look at him, a faint smile across her lips. Hadn't she just been dreaming of something romantic happening to her? To Hermione, this was an extremely romantic moment and she never would have thought that Marcus Flint would be the one sharing it with her. She almost laughed at the lunacy of it.

"Surprised?"

She shrugged. "A little. Men your size usually don't possess the grace to dance."

"Appearances can be deceiving," Marcus said and she couldn't have agreed more.

Hermione smiled as he pulled her even closer to his body, their chests now pressed together and the jolts shocked through her body once more like electricity. "This is so much better than staying in the loo," she told him and he laughed.