Disclaimer: I do not own the rights to the Harry Potter series or "Some Kind of Wonderful," on which this story is (very loosely) based.
A/N: This is my attempt at fluff (and as such, it may be completely terrible, in which case I apologize), so you can expect ooc-ness from Draco, at the very least.
Some Kind of Magical
"Merlin save me, I'm in love."
Hermione sighed dolefully as her lap was suddenly filled with the heavy weight of a long, lean, and very male blond. Her Unspeakable partner, to be specific. Her former classmate, childhood antagonist, and drastically reformed violator-of-people's-personal-space, one Draco Malfoy, to be even more specific.
"That's lovely, Draco. Please remove yourself from my person."
Draco lifted his blond head from where it lay cushioned on her thigh and fixed her with a wounded look. "That's all you have to say? I've just suffered a life-altering epiphany, the likes from which I may never recover, my ickle heart more than certain to be smashed into a billion bleeding pieces, and you think that's lovely? Cruel, Granger, too cruel. You wound me with your indifference."
Hermione reluctantly placed her sandwich on the bench beside her, sparing a moment to curse herself for not apparating home to her nice, comfy, warded flat for her lunch break, and turned her full attention to the sulking face peering up at her.
"Alright then, tell me all about her."
Draco then proceeded to list the many dazzling characteristics of his mystery woman, each one as vague as the last. Hermione nodded along, catching words like brilliant, stunning, and graceful, all punctuated with an almost nauseatingly dreamy expression in those stormy gray eyes, while his pale hands gesticulated wildly, his Malfoy insignia ring eventually becoming painfully entangled in her long curls.
"Ow, ow, just let me—"
"Right, sorry 'bout that, I'll just give it a yank…"
With a muffled yelp from Hermione and a victorious cry from Draco, the ring pulled free, taking with it several mutilated strands of hair. To his credit, Draco actually managed to look contrite as he pulled himself into a seated position beside her, helpfully smoothing out the wrinkles in her pencil skirt until she swatted his hands away.
"Anyway, so I've decided I need to woo said strumpet, and that's where you come in."
"I need your help—I'm out of practice."
"Draco…" Hermione retrieved her sandwich, but did little more than pick at it whilst fighting the internal battle that kept her from meeting his eyes, knowing she'd be lost once she spotted that friendly, trusting smile he seemed to wear only for her. "Isn't there someone else who can help you with this? Someone a bit more suitable, maybe?"
Draco scoffed dismissively. "Who could be better suited? You're clever, resourceful, and—last time I checked—you are in fact, a woman. I'd say that gives you quite the edge, actually."
Hermione took a deep fortifying breath, bracing herself to tell him no and actually stand her ground for once, when he dropped the bombshell.
"Besides, you're really the only friend I've got these days. If you won't help me…"
She felt more than saw him shrug beside her, leaving out the unspoken no one will. And then she did it; she raised her eyes from the mutilated sandwich on her lap and met his wide, earnest gray gaze that pleaded ever so softly, the corners of his mouth turned up in a small, sad sort of smile. She sighed her defeat, and Draco beamed.
Hermione desperately stamped down the answering tug in her chest, the pull that always tried to draw her closer to those rare, unguarded smiles. Clearing her throat, she wrapped up the desecrated remains of her lunch, tossing it in the nearby trash can as she rose from the park bench.
"Alright, then. Lead the way, Romeo."
Draco bounced to her side, casually throwing an arm over her shoulder and giving it an affectionate squeeze, and then leading her through the crowds back to the ministry. He only dropped his arm once inside, his face taking on that pinched sort of look she'd always mistaken for disdain. She knew now that it was his insecurity that drew his shoulders back so stiffly, and that knowledge was hard won. She'd suffered through months of that sneer, thinking he was still every inch the prat he'd been in school, and in turn treated him with open contempt.
It wasn't until after they'd been partnered together, often forced to work alone late into the night, that she finally confronted him on his apparent attitude and somehow managed to break through the hard layers of his armor. They'd shared shockingly personal thoughts during those late nights and come to a sort of understanding about one another. Over the months, that understanding grew into respect, which then became friendship. She could now honestly count Draco as one of her closest friends, given that she spent much more time with him than she did with Ron or Harry, both boys having busy lives of their own. And she knew Draco wasn't lying before, that she really was the only close friend he had left.
Steering Hermione through the crowded atrium, Draco gave her a sharp but subtle pinch, nodding his head at the security check desk and the buxom blonde seated there. Hermione bit back a groan—of course, leave it to Draco to fall for that particular witch. Astoria Greengrass was the epitome of the spoiled pureblood princess. Possessed with clichéd good looks (long, sleek blonde hair, big blue eyes, full pouting lips, and a pair of magically enhanced breasts that defied both gravity and nature), a full bank account, and a wardrobe filled with tastefully revealing designer robes, she was picture perfect, twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week.
Astoria's parents had been more or less neutral during the war. As one of the more respected pureblood families, they strictly adhered to the expected prejudices of the social elite (mudbloods need not apply, thank you), but never actively followed Voldemort. Their uninvolvement saved them from the loss of wealth and status many other families suffered (including Draco's), so they were now top of the totem pole in wizarding high society. A union with a Greengrass would mean immediate ascension into the lifestyle Draco had been raised in—a return to glory, if you will.
The thought made Hermione ill.
Hermione slowed as they neared the desk, expecting some sort of exchange to take place between the two blonds, but Draco took firm hold of her arm and moved them forward with nothing more than a slight nod to Astoria. She barely acknowledged the gesture, her icy blue eyes skimming over Draco as though looking right through him in search of someone worthy of her attention. She apparently found such a person, beaming a dazzling smile at one of the Department Heads as he approached her desk.
Draco let out a little wistful sigh, audible only to Hermione as he steered her into the lift. Once inside, she looked up at him, noting the glazed, star-struck expression on that pointed, imperfect face she knew so well.
"That went well."
Draco scowled at her dry tone. "Shut up."
"Have you even spoken to her?"
"Yes! She had a sister in our year at Hogwarts, and all the Slytherin blokes used to tease her and hex her hair different colors."
Hermione raised an incredulous eyebrow. "Right…have you spoken to her since school?"
"Not yet." He crossed his arms defensively at her smirk. "I'm working up to it, alright? Look, I told you I needed help, didn't I?"
Hermione nodded. "Yes, and I agreed, but really, Draco? Astoria Greengrass? You think you could have chosen someone a little more…"
"Ideal? Lovely? Perfect?"
Draco scowled, his arms crossing tighter over his chest. "Don't be ridiculous. She's just the sort of girl I was always meant to marry. An ideal match, really. If it wasn't for the bloody war, the Malfoy name would never have lost its status, and I'd—"
"Never have befriended a mudblood like me, and I'd, in turn, not have to waste my time helping you chase after arrogant bimbos."
Hermione stared hard at the lift doors, willing them to open. She hadn't meant to be so harsh, hadn't meant to take his words to heart. She knew he was looking at her now, most likely with his jaw hanging the way it does when he's taken by surprise, but she refused to look.
"Hermione, I…" His voice, already sounding soft and apologetic, was cut off by their arrival at level nine.
She darted out as soon as the doors were open, leaving him trailing in her wake.
"Forget it, Draco. I told you I'd help you, and I will. Leave me some time to think about it, and I'll get back to you later with a game plan."
She plopped down at her desk, immediately diving into the pile of paperwork left in her inbox, while Draco fidgeted to her right. When she finally chanced a look his way, she was surprised by his expression. It was something new, something she'd not had a chance to categorize before. He looked pensive, confused almost, and somehow regretful. She mustered up a small, reassuring smile, which seemed to clear some of whatever he was feeling away. He leaned in and placed a brief kiss amongst the curls on the side of her head before moving to his own desk and his own pile of unfinished work.
Hermione blinked away the stinging in her eyes and pushed down the swelling in her chest, and buried herself and her unfortunate feelings in work.
"Are you sure about this?"
"It's just, I mean…are you sure you're sure?"
"Look, you wanted my advice, I gave it. Take it or leave it."
Draco sighed, running his hand through pale blond locks in agitation. "Right. I just thought you'd suggest flowers or poetry or something. You know…romance." He waved his hand through the air in a vague gesture that Hermione had come to interpret as 'things I have neither the time nor patience for.'
"Traditional romantic gestures, at least at this point, would be a complete waste of time. Astoria is the kind of girl who's perfectly used to men fawning over her and giving her gifts—you're not going to attract her attention that way."
Hermione sighed impatiently and got up from her desk, moving to stand in front of Draco where he was propped against the wall. Taking his chin in a firm grip, she brought their faces close together, locking her eyes onto his.
"Yes?" He seemed a little shocked by their new position, affording Hermione the perfect opportunity to capture and hold his full attention.
"You're acting like a right ponce. Stop it."
Draco angrily narrowed his brows and swatted her hand away. "Hey, I'm not—"
"Yes, you are. Come on, Draco! All you need to do is channel your old Hogwarts persona. The old you would have never made such a big deal out of this."
"Yeah, well. There are a lot of things the old me would never have done. Doesn't mean they're not worth doing." He muttered the last bit under his breath, shooting Hermione a strange look from beneath his fringe, his chin tucked down to his chest.
Hermione fought back a blush (unsuccessfully) and cleared her throat delicately. "Be that as it may. You said you wanted Greengrass—that you loooove her. Is that still true?"
Draco tried not to laugh at the silly face and air quotes that accompanied the 'l' word, but wasn't able to suppress his huge grin. "I suppose."
"Then get off your arse, go in there, and treat that girl like garbage!"
Draco took a deep breath and blew it out again in a heavy gust of warm, peppermint scented air that sent the curls framing Hermione's face fluttering out around her.
"Right. Wish me luck."
Hermione smiled and handed him a large cup of lukewarm coffee. "Go get 'em, tiger."
He replied with a confused look, obviously not familiar with the muggle saying, before heading for the lifts, Hermione trailing behind.
Once in the atrium, he headed for the exit, choosing a path that would have him walking right by the security desk. Astoria sat behind it, disinterestedly thumbing through a gossip magazine, raising her eyes every few minutes to scan the crowd for anyone worth kissing up to. As usual, she didn't even acknowledge Draco, something that became impossible as Hermione wove through the crowds, bumping into the tall blond at just the right moment to send his beverage spinning out of his hands and into Astoria's lap, splattering her magnolia white robes with warm coffee. She let out a piercing shriek and leapt out of her chair, knocking a stack of papers to the floor in the process.
Draco paused long enough to rake his eyes up and down her ruined robes, meet her furious glare, and mutter a blasé "Oh, sorry about that, Aurora."
Her glacial eyes narrowed to tiny slits, her cheeks colored with a furious blush. "It's Astoria, you great, lumbering…"
But Draco never found out what she called him, since he'd casually carried on his way as soon as he muttered his half-arsed apology, even as half a dozen men swarmed the desk to pick up her spilled documents and offer to fix her robes. She didn't seem to notice any of them; her cool eyes followed Draco all the way out of the building.
"Well, I think it's safe to say you've got her attention now."
Draco smiled and stole another chip from Hermione's plate. "Very true. I'm still not completely convinced that's a good thing, though."
Hermione sighed. "Don't you trust me at all?"
Draco nodded thoughtfully, grey eyes distant. "Yes, I suppose I do. Funny, isn't it?"
Hermione hummed her agreement, not needing an explanation. If anyone had told her, years ago when she was still in school, that Draco Malfoy of all people would be coming to her for love advice, coming to her as a trusted friend, she'd have called for a team of mind healers from Saint Mungos straight away. The very idea was just bizarre.
Her attention was brought back to focus by a low, pained groan from Draco.
"Oh lovely, just what this day needed."
Hermione beamed, knowing that tone all too well, and began scanning the crowded pub for the source of Draco's misery. "Harry, Ron!" She waved them over, trying not to chuckle as Draco slumped low in his seat.
The boys greeted her with enthusiasm, picking her up in tight hugs and mussing her hair, before nodding tersely to Draco and seating themselves around the small table.
"Hope we're not interrupting anything." Harry said with a curious look between Hermione and the scowling blond now squished in close beside her.
Draco shot him a dark look and started to respond, but was cut off abruptly by Hermione. "Not at all, just a bit of minor plotting, that's all."
"Plotting, eh?" Ron replied with a hint of a sneer, "Don't tell me Malfoy here has lured you over to the dark side?"
Hermione let out a dramatic sigh. "It was inevitable. They have the loveliest cookies and throw all the best parties."
Ron rolled his eyes, but smiled none-the-less, while Harry laughed. "Alright then, what are we plotting?"
Hermione quirked her brow and, with an air of teasing mystery, said "Romance."
Ron choked on his butterbeer while Harry's green eyes widened behind his glasses. "His, yours, or…" he trailed off with a vague gesture between the two of them.
"Granger, could we not—"
"Wait, so you're getting love advice from Hermione?" Ron asked incredulously.
Draco started to shake his head just as Hermione stiffened in her seat. "What, exactly, is so strange about that, Ronald?"
"Well, it's just…look, no offense, Hermione, but you're not exactly an expert, you know?"
"No, I'm afraid I don't. Do tell."
Ron, oblivious to the warning looks coming from both Harry and Draco, leaned forward, his voice taking on the gentle tones one might use to explain something unfortunate to a dim-witted child. "Well, I mean when was the last time you even had a date? Look, it's not that you're not a nice person and all, but you're just not very girly. You're sort of, you know, above all that."
"Above it." She repeated, her flat, toneless voice betrayed by the flush rising in her cheeks.
"Smooth, Weasel." Draco muttered.
"Well, yeah…" Ron trailed off, casting helpless looks at Harry and Draco, both of whom were determinedly focused elsewhere.
"So, in essence, you're saying that I can't get a date because I'm some sort of sexless, androgynous robot, is that it?"
Ron's brow furrowed in puzzlement while he tried to make sense of her statement. "Whatsa ro-bot?"
Hermione, however, didn't even hear this last. Her cheeks were truly blazing by then, her brown eyes flashing.
"Well, I'll show you how above it all I am!" With that she stripped her outer robes off her shoulders, thrusting them at Draco. With a few quick flicks, the top three buttons of her grey silk shirt popped open, revealing the soft, pale curves of her breasts and just a hint of black silk. She yanked the clips from her hair and ran her fingers quickly through it, leaving it looking wild and tussled. She rose from the table and cast a searching glance around the pub, settling on a group of men near the bar.
"Now, you just watch and learn, Weasley." She sneered before walking straight up to a sandy-blond headed man at the bar.
The three boys watched as she laid a gentle hand on his arm, drawing his attention away from his friends. They saw him look down at her with a smile that widened as she spoke, his blue eyes twinkling as he laughed jovially and, putting an arm around her waist, drew her in closer to whisper in her ear.
Harry ran his hand through his hair with a tired sigh. "Ron, you're my best mate, but you can be one hell of a tactless arsehole sometimes."
Ron, gobsmacked, tore his eyes away from Hermione who was practically hanging on the blue eyed man at the bar. "What'd I say?"
Harry rolled his eyes and turned away, finally noticed the glazed look on Draco's face. "You okay, Malfoy?"
Draco snapped out of his stupor, looking first to Harry and then across the room at Hermione, his expression darkening as her laugh floated back to them through the smoky room. With a scowl, he pushed up from the table, flinging Hermione's cloak at Harry. "Don't let her leave without that; it's freezing out." And then he quietly left.
Harry sat watching the space Draco'd just occupied, his expression thoughtful, while Ron munched absentmindedly on Hermione's remaining chips, still trying to figure out just what he'd done wrong.
Over the next few weeks, Draco watched with amusement as more and more, Astoria began seeking him out in the crowded atrium. The more dismissive he was towards her, the harder she sought his attention. Her haughty sneer slowly morphed into teasing scowls and coy smiles. Her icy blue eyes passed over men she'd courted a month prior, finding and latching onto Draco with increasing regularity. She'd hang on his arm, laughing off his acerbic comments as she walked him to the lifts each morning. She'd even begun hinting at an invitation to the upcoming ministry gala. The plan was moving along swimmingly; he should have been pleased, thrilled, even.
Hermione grew more and more preoccupied as the days went by. She focused single-mindedly on her work while in the office, and disappeared quickly thereafter. Draco tried to explain it away, but the fact remained that the closer he got to Astoria, the further he felt from Hermione. He felt frustrated and lonely without the company of his closest (you could say only) friend, and resolved himself to do something about it.
He spent the better part of Monday morning watching her at her desk, waiting for the approaching lunch hour. Twenty minutes before her usual departure time, he sat himself on the edge of her desk, clumsily knocking a small stack of folders to the floor.
"What do you say to lunch, Granger? What are you in the mood for, that little French place or Indian?"
Hermione huffed her irritation and began gathering her spilled documents. "Can't, sorry."
"Sure you can, this stuff can wait."
"No, I mean I can't, I already have lunch plans."
"Oh." Draco's smile faltered, but he shrugged it off. "Meeting Potter and Weasley? Can I tag along if I promise to be nice-ish?"
Hermione looked up from the floor with a curious expression. "No, actually. I—"
"Hello, beautiful. Ready for lunch?"
Draco hopped down from his perch and spun around to find Mr. Blue Eyes from the bar, smiling fondly as Hermione gathered the last of the papers from the floor. He felt his stomach twist with dislike as Hermione smiled widely back, gathering her handbag and circling the desk.
"Yes, of course. Oh Robert, this is my work colleague, Draco Malfoy. Draco, Robert."
Draco, stinging from his demotion from best friend to 'work colleague' grasped the man's proffered hand, clenching his jaw on a tight smile even as his grip tightened a bit more than was entirely necessary. Robert, damn him, simply smiled his amusement at the death grip on his hand.
"Lovely to meet you, Draco. Hermione's told me much about you."
"Well, Robert, I wish I could say the same."
"Yes, well…" Hermione cleared her throat delicately, curling her arm around Robert's. "We'd best be going, wouldn't want you to be late getting back."
"What is it that you do, then?" Draco asked coolly.
"I'm a healer at St. Mungos."
"He's being modest," Hermione interjected. "He's the head of research and development in the Dark Arts and Curses department. They're doing the most tremendous work, really."
"Yes, well…" Robert shrugged modestly, and Hermione's already warm smile grew to alarming size.
"Right. Well." Draco felt the dislike in his gut sinking and hardening into something entirely different. "Enjoy your lunch, then."
He stood by her desk and watched them leave, arm in arm and already talking animatedly, until they disappeared from sight.
That afternoon, he asked Astoria Greengrass to the ministry gala.
Draco gracefully spun his date across the dance floor beneath hundreds of twinkling fairy lights. Together, the lights reflecting off their flaxen hair, they were the very picture of beauty, grace, and all that is valued in high society. Him in perfectly tailored dress robes, her swathed in pale, shimmering silk, there was hardly an eye in the room that did not look on with admiration or longing as they moved in perfect synchronization to the soft music.
Stately matrons about the room remarked upon the couple; what a lovely match! How perfectly suited! Astoria preened under the attention and, tossing her hair coquettishly, pulled herself just a bit closer to her handsome escort.
Draco clenched his teeth against the pounding in his head. The heavy, cloying scent of Astoria's perfume turned his stomach as she chattered on about her dress, her shoes, her hair, her jewels…a nonstop stream of nonsense that gradually shifted to the other women present and all their many deficiencies.
"Oh, just look at that Brown chit! Whoever told her she could pull off that shade of pink ought to be drawn and quartered."
"Can you believe the nerve of Lisa Turpin, showing up here in the exact same gown I wore to last month's charity function? As if she even has the hips to pull it off, the stupid cow."
"Parkinson's dress is simply obscene! And with her legs-Drakie really, I know you were young, but what were you thinking?"
Draco gritted his teeth and turned his head away, searching the crowds for a distraction strong enough to drown out the sound of her voice. He found it, unexpectedly, in the form of Hermione Granger. She stood by the open balcony doors, dressed simply and beautifully in a black, strapless gown, her hair swept up off her slender neck and twisted loosely at the back of her head.
The surprise of seeing her there, watching him, was great enough that he mistepped, a minor glitch in an otherwise flawless dance. Tuning out Astoria's rebuke and pointed remark about staying away from the bar for the rest of the evening, he watched Hermione instead, moving quickly through a turn so that his back would not stay to her for long. But she wasn't watching Draco anymore, her eyes were now on Astoria, and there was something there, something raw and bruised that made him stop in his tracks. She looked back to him once, smiled a quite clearly false smile, and then left through the open balcony doors.
Astoria shook his arm, took hold of his chin in an attempt to gain his attention, but he couldn't even hear her voice anymore. His eyes scanned the room, searching for a mop of sandy blond hair and blue eyes. Leaving the dance floor and his indignant date behind, he pushed through the crowds, all the way through to the back of the room where he finally found Hermione's group of friends, including Robert…Robert, who had his arm tucked firmly around the waist of a man Draco thought he recognized as Ernie MacMillan.
He was openly staring at the two men—clearly a couple, if the heated looks passing between them counted for anything—when Potter moved in beside him.
"Evening, Malfoy. I hear congratulations are in order—looks like Hermione's plotting paid off then, yeah?"
Draco simply stared, confused, from Potter's speculative smile to Robert's arm around MacMillan and back again.
Potter's expression shifted slightly as he followed Draco's line of vision. "It was Astoria you were after, wasn't it? Everyone's talking about you two, so it would seem the plan was a success."
Just then, Robert noticed Draco watching him. A faint blush rose in his cheeks as he cleared his throat sheepishly. "Draco, how are you?"
"You're not with Hermione." Draco might have winced at his awkward bluntness had he not been so perplexed.
Ron turned around and let out a laugh. "Course he's not, she's the one who set 'im up with Ernie, in't she?"
"But…" Draco trailed off, and deep within the convoluted workings of his mind, something clicked. "Oh."
Harry gave him a fond, if a bit exasperated smile. "Yeah."
"Oh." How could he have been so stupid? "I've got to…"
"Yeah, you'd better. Good luck, Malfoy."
Draco took off through the crowd, missing Ron's puzzled expression. "What was that all about?"
Harry and Robert shared a knowing look, but said nothing. Ron shrugged it off and turned back to his date and her luridly pink gown.
Hermione wandered through the moonlit gardens, searching for the edge of the property and the apparition point. Swiping absently at the tears streaming steadily down her face, she cursed herself for holding out hope. She'd thought that if only he could see what kind of a person Astoria really was, if the shine of unattainability would only wear off, that maybe, maybe…
She was a fool. Even she could see how perfect they were together—cut from the same cloth and all that rot. Perhaps he needed someone like that, someone graceful, elegant, refined. He could never look so natural at her side. They were too different. Where he and Astoria were seamless, she and Draco were awkward. Where Astoria moved gracefully in his arms, Hermione stumbled clumsily. Why wouldn't he want someone perfect, someone lovely?
Crunching gravel from the path behind her interrupted her thoughts, and she turned just in time to catch an armful of slipping, skidding blond as the loose stones sent him tumbling down the shallow incline. She let out a muffled shriek as his weight crashed into her, knocking them both from the path and into the muddy flower beds behind them.
"What on earth…"
"Why didn't you stop? I called to you…"
"Draco, for Circe's sake, what are you…"
"Why didn't you tell me?"
Hermione looked up and into his eyes, sparkling silver above dirt-smudged cheeks. He hovered over her, heedless of the dark mud staining his knees, the bits of grass and bruised flower petals in his hair. She started to ask him what he was talking about, but the look in his eyes said it all so clearly. She took a deep breath and promptly burst into tears.
She cried it all out, all her hurt and affection, in wet and gasping words that were only occasionally understood by the boy hovering over her, his strong hands soothing, voice shushing, lips brushing gently over her forehead, cheeks, nose and finally mouth, cutting off her cries.
Wrapping her arms around his neck, she held him to her. Their kiss was clumsy, messy and urgent; his teeth knocked painfully against hers, she nibbled too hard on his lip, his hands held her too tightly, hips pressed too hard. He pulled away only to reapply his heated mouth on the bare skin of her neck, while her dirty fingers tangled in his fine, pale hair.
Drawing himself up again, he looked her over, eyes reverent as he stroked a finger across her cheek, leaving a smudge of dirt in its wake. "Perfect."
Hermione's laughter rang out in the empty gardens as she rolled him over, determined to show him just how perfect imperfection could be.