Fervently hoping that he had misunderstood, Draco waited for his son to re-state his disturbing declaration.
"I'm marrying Lily Potter." Scorpius crossed his arms and dared his father to refute. "I told you we were dating and that I liked her, so you really shouldn't be so shocked."
"I thought you meant she was a good shag!" Draco downed his bourbon and wished the burn would remove his aggravation with his situation from his mind. "How was I supposed to know you meant you actually fancied her?"
Scorpius laughed incredulously. "I said — and I quote — 'I'm seeing Lily Potter, and I think I'm in love with her'. How the hell else do you want me to spell it out, Dad?"
Draco couldn't believe this was happening. The only thought more irritating than the idea of his son mingling with Potter and his flock of ginger Mudblood lovers was the possibility of him procreating with one of them. It was just as well that his own father was already dead, or this would have killed him all over again, though his mother wasn't likely to appreciate the idea much, either.
But he had told Scorpius in some inexplicable moment of weakness that he was free to marry whomever he liked. Draco didn't really mean it when he said it, but he thought he had at the time. Then again, he hadn't even considered the idea that his son would want to marry into such an unsavoury element. Both he and Astoria had worked hard to instil their son with a modicum of social responsibility, but that had obviously not been enough to keep this borderline catastrophe from happening.
Resigned by his own concession, Draco sighed. "Fine. Just... you tell your mother, not me."
"I already did," Scorpius said, seemingly enjoying Draco's annoyance. "She's thrilled that she'll get grandchildren."
"Ugh, don't say that!" Draco said, shuddering inwardly at the thought of a bunch of red-headed urchins shattering the comfortable silence of Malfoy Manor.
Shaking his head, Scorpius said, "Get used to it, Dad. I love Lily, and that's not going to change. Eventually, you're going to have to make peace with it, and you might want to try sooner rather than later."
Not liking the sound of that, Draco warily asked, "Why is that?"
"We set a date," Scorpius said. "We've decided on the twenty-eighth of June."
"But that's in a month! You can't plan a wedding in a month. Are you bloody mad?" His indignation may or may not have been due to desperation to stop the situation and dismay at its imminence rather than the logistics of planning the affair in that span of time, but nevertheless, it made him feel powerless in the situation. He couldn't even refute the warning signs that Scorpius had pointed out, which made him come to one nauseating conclusion: this was really happening.
"Do I really have to be here?" Draco asked as he anxiously sat with Astoria and Scorpius, waiting for the bride and her parents to meet them for a planning discussion.
Scorpius frowned. "Dad, you can't keep being like this. The Potters are reasonable people, and I don't want things to start off on the wrong foot."
"Have you met them?" Draco grumbled as he drank his tea too quickly, scalding his tongue. When he stole his wife's water to assuage the pain, she simply endowed him with a look that oozed 'well, that's what you get'. He wasn't going to get any support against this mad venture from her, either, if he couldn't even get sympathy for almost inadvertently melting his own face. Already feeling a headache coming on, Draco glanced at his watch. "They're late."
Glaring at her husband, Astoria said, "Draco, it's five minutes. Your world isn't going to end if you have to wait an extra five minutes."
So you say, he wanted so badly to retort before he thought better of it. Astoria wasn't a truly nasty woman, but she had a vindictive streak a mile wide, and if she thought he was putting a damper on her precious baby boy's happiness, her retribution would be quick and it would be painful, like an angry mother Hippogryff without the beak.
Another tense five minutes passed before someone finally rushed to their table, breathless from running none too gracefully through the restaurant. It was Lily, but she didn't have her parents in tow. It was the last person he had ever expected to see. "Granger."
"Draco," Hermione acknowledged. "Harry and Ginny send their regrets, but —"
Suspecting an upcoming lie, Draco asked, "So, Granger, what brings you here instead of Potter and Mrs Boy-Who-Lived?" Hermione averted her eyes, cheeks red with embarrassment, and Draco enjoyed her discomfiture immensely. If he was stuck there, the least he could do was make someone half as miserable as he was.
Finally, Hermione answered, "Well, Harry has work obligations that he can't get out of, and Ginny is busy covering the Eastern European Quidditch League finals."
"In other words," Draco said smugly as he opened his menu, "another hateful, spiteful, disgruntled Weasley. Got it."
The foot that connected with his shin could have either come from his wife or from Lily, though he doubted the latter had even heard him. His sideways glance at Astoria confirmed his suspicion. Her pointed look told him all he needed to know about what would happen if he continued this particular path, so he decided to nurse the glass of water in front of him, wishing all the while that it was some form of liquor.
Pulling out a giant folder, Hermione started flipping through it. Inside were pictures of various congregation halls and even a few churches, along with statistics about seating capacity, accessibility, and practicality in terms of Muggle repelling. Draco was both impressed and irritated by the thoroughness of the research, but after twenty minutes of solid disagreement, the constant over-analysis between Hermione and Astoria, and the feeling that his presence was completely unnecessary grated on his nerves. With a sigh of frustration, he said, "Just have the wedding at Malfoy Manor so we don't have to worry about any of this."
The moment that statement left his mouth, Draco realised his gaffe, but Astoria apparently wasn't up on her war history. She smiled and said, "That's a brilliant idea, Draco! Why didn't I think of that?"
Lily, however, must have been more aware of the situation. When she saw her aunt blanch, she said, "That might not work out so well. Not everyone in my family would be, er, comfortable with going there."
Astoria must have taken the comment as an insult and stood up abruptly before leaning forward toward Lily. "Are you implying that we're not your type of people? Are we not good enough for you?"
"Mother, sit down!" Scorpius snapped. "That's ridiculous. You must have misheard —"
"I did no such thing, and you know it." Her face full of revulsion, Astoria turned back to Lily and said, "I knew this was a mistake, but I want my son to be happy. How he thinks that will happen with rabble like you, I don't know, but I refuse to be a part of this. You Muggle lovers call us pure-bloods judgmental, but look at you, maligning Scorpius's family home!"
Draco stared at his wife, completely gobsmacked at her outburst. He felt like he should have interjected, but what he could possibly say to diffuse the tension rather than exacerbate it eluded him. The entire time they'd been married, he never recalled her being so hostile. Granted, he'd neither known nor cared what her societal views were, but she'd never acted so ill-tempered toward anyone before.
When Astoria stormed out, everyone at the table gaped at the door that the maître-d barely had enough time to open for her abrupt exit. Lily looked ready to rip her future mother-in-law's hair out, Scorpius looked embarrassed, but Hermione was biting her lip. Draco could see how hard she was trying not to think about what had happened at Malfoy Manor decades before, memories that she had no doubt tried to suppress as much as he had, and that was a battle she was losing.
Scorpius was the first to break the silence. Taking Lily's hand, he stood and said, "I'm going to pay the cheque and take Lily home. I'll see you later then?" When Draco nodded absently, the young couple left as quickly as was politely possible.
Left alone with Hermione, Draco wasn't sure what he was supposed to say. He knew they were thinking about the same thing, and mentioning it was a disaster waiting to happen, but an urge beyond even his own understanding took over him. "Listen, er, Granger," he started before amending, "Hermione." Her name felt strange on his lips until he considered the fact that he had never once said it. She had always been 'Granger' or 'Mudblood' to him, but never 'Hermione'.
Hermione had no doubt noticed the awkward syllables, as well. She eyed him suspiciously before settling her gaze once again on her untouched drink, sending a surge of unwanted sympathy through Draco. "She didn't know," he blurted. "I never told her about what happened that night, and since it's not really in the public record…"
"It doesn't matter," she said flatly. "This is about Lily and Scorpius, not me. I just wanted to help my niece until her mother could get back, but it's clearly not working out." Gathering her folder of pictures, Hermione said, "I'll just go. Sorry to disturb your lunch."
Before Draco could even process what she had just said, Hermione was gone. It was that moment that the serving staff decided to finally deliver the food they'd ordered, only to find all but one of the dining party gone and the remaining attendee with a severe lack of appetite.
He should have known that the disastrous lunch wouldn't be the end of the Great Wedding Fiasco, and Draco wasn't wrong in this assumption. Astoria said very emphatically that she would have no part in the whole business and that she would publically condemn the marriage. As if that wasn't bad enough, later that very afternoon, Scorpius stormed into the conservatory where Draco had thought he wouldn't be found, and the younger Malfoy was furious.
"How could you let her do that?" Scorpius snapped. "It took all bloody afternoon to convince Lily that you both don't hate her and won't sabotage the wedding. Then her dad came home, and that didn't improve the situation."
It annoyed Draco that this had somehow become his fault and not Astoria's. All he had done was say one thing without thinking, and suddenly he was the prat who unleashed Hurricane Astoria upon his son's wedding plans. Had he not been cooperative? Had he not gone along with this preposterous idea with minimal complaint? Why was he the villain? Defensively, Draco said, "I'm not your mother's chaperon, Scorpius. How was I supposed to know she'd do that to someone she just met?"
Scorpius sighed. "I know." Dejectedly leaning against the wall, he said, "You didn't mean to upset anyone. Lily told me what happened to her aunt, and…"
Draco was glad Scorpius didn't vocalise whatever thought had been on the tip of his tongue. Chances were that it would have made him look like a complete arse, and he'd already filled his quota for that particular trait for the day. As much as he was loath to admit it, the idea of Lily becoming his daughter-in-law had become less repugnant as he saw her interact with Scorpius. They obviously loved one another, and despite her rather lamentable heritage, she was… nice. Draco cringed inwardly at his own choice of adjective, but he really hadn't noticed anything about her that annoyed him. Worse yet, he had the feeling that down the line, he could even begin to like her.
Groaning, Draco said, "I'll see what I can do."
Scorpius grinned, which only served to further nauseate Draco. "Thanks, Dad." Bounding toward the door, he said, "I'll be back later. I promised Lily's dad that I would sit down with him and have a little talk." The nervousness in Scorpius's voice was apparent, which almost made Draco feel vindicated. He could only hope that Potter would do them all a favour and squash all of this wedding nonsense.
Alone with his promise, Draco pulled out quill and parchment and set out to do something he thought he would never do: compose a letter intended for Hermione. It felt so bizarre that he feared his owl would look at him oddly and not bother delivering the message. But his son had never asked him for anything more than the trivial desires of boyhood, and he had vowed to himself to make his son happier than his own father had made him. If that meant allowing this… unfortunate match-up happen and conspiring with possibly the most annoying person alive to do it, then he would do it.
It was proving harder than he'd thought, though. Quill poised and ready to write, Draco was already losing his resolve. Before he could talk himself out of it, he scribbled down a salutation, only to frown at the solitary word. Granger. That wasn't even her name anymore, though he suspected she would still answer to it. With a grunt of frustration, he scribbled out that word and replaced it with the next applicable term — Weasley. Damn. That wouldn't do, either, as there was the offhand chance that the message would reach the wrong recipient and put him face to face with her even more repugnant husband.
His hand positively tingling in distaste, he scratched out his last attempt and amended it. Hermione. It felt almost dirty being civilised toward her, but he didn't know the first thing about wedding planning. For his own ceremony, his mother had taken care of everything along with Astoria and her mum. He wasn't even sure where one would go to get invitations made. And it was with a sigh that he penned the rest of the letter.
It is my hope that you are still interested in assisting with the wedding plans. If this is the case, please meet me at Twilfitt and Tattings this Thursday at four. Scorpius has a robe fitting scheduled.
He frowned at the words on the page. They didn't sound like him at all, and Hermione wasn't likely to even believe he wrote them at all. It was too… nice. He had never respectfully requested anything in his life, and he wasn't likely to start with Hermione bloody Granger. With an aggravated grunt, he balled up the paper and chucked it at the fire. That fiasco of a note wouldn't be seeing the light of day.
Meet me at Twilfitt's and Tatting's, Thursday at four.
Much better. He sounded far more like himself and less like a mewling sot. Armed with that assurance, he sent the letter off with his owl, Polaris, and decided that his efforts were to be rewarded with a very large glass of spirits — the top shelf, finest one could buy spirits.
Draco wasn't sure if he'd actually expected Hermione to show up when he all but commanded her to do so, but sure enough, at five minutes before the specified time, she strolled into Twilfitt's and Tatting's with her ever-present Book of Stuff. However, instead of acknowledging him in the slightest, she headed straight to the reception desk to speak quickly and animatedly with the witch minding the shop. Even the small bits of the conversation he did catch, he didn't understand, so it was no big loss. It did irk him that she had the nerve to ignore him, despite the fact that he would likely have been as useless as fur on a dragon.
Finally, Hermione deigned to clue him in. "Oh, I was just talking to Miss Stevens here about Lily's dress. Since she and Scorpius are meeting with the caterer and we're already here, Lily asked me to stand in for her fitting."
"But you're fatter than she is," Draco blurted. Once the words left his mouth, his hand slid into his pocket and gripped his wand, just in case Hermione got the notion to hex him.
However, that curse never came. Instead, she whispered, "She's going to, er, need a bigger dress when the wedding comes."
"What is she going to do — hold up Honeydukes and make herself look like a whale before the so-called most important day of her life?" Whatever had possessed him to say that, Draco had no idea, but his survival instinct wanted to slap him silly before Hermione did.
He had already steeled himself to the fist ploughing into his forearm. "Are you saying I look like a whale?" Not waiting for an answer, she hit him again, harder this time and in the exact same spot, which caused involuntary tears to spring to Draco's eyes. "Any other opinions on my figure?"
"No," Draco wheezed as he gingerly rubbed the bruising flesh on his arm. To himself, he grumbled, "Bloody madwoman."
"I heard that," Hermione said, her expression scathing. When he still didn't meet her eyes, she said, "Anyway, I'll be in the other room with Madam Tatting while you finish your business with Miss Stevens." With that, she turned on her heel and left Draco alone with the dire-looking receptionist to figure out what was going on.
"Mr Malfoy," Miss Stevens said, shaking him out of his stupor. "If I could get you to sign right here for the automatic withdrawal from your Gringotts account for your son's couture." She pushed a sheet of parchment toward him with the tiniest writing he'd ever seen and a large, blank line at the bottom for his signature. Handing him a self-inking quill, she said, "At the bottom, please."
Her furtive demeanour made Draco suspicious, which caused him to set down the quill and peruse the document more closely. Despite the miniscule text, it didn't take long for his eyes to rest on the cause. "A thousand Galleons for a set of robes! On what planet is that even… did you sew gold into the lining?"
Flushing, Miss Stevens said, "He and his young lady really took a fancy to a particular fabric. I tried to tell them it was sixty per metre, but I don't think they were, er, paying all that much attention to me."
"Sixty per metre? What in the name of Merlin could possibly cost that much?"
Pulling out her sample book, Miss Stevens flipped to the very back page. She set it on the counter and pointed to a black, shimmering fabric. "It's a Chinese silk, and every tenth thread is pure silver from a specific American mine."
Rolling his eyes, Draco said, "And what's so damned special about this sort of silver?"
"In the area around the mine, there is an indigenous breed of wild unicorns, and their urine has a scintillation effect on the silver buried below. It also becomes impervious to all impurity."
Incredulity didn't begin to encompass what Draco was feeling. "Are you telling me that you're charging sixty Galleons per metre for bloody unicorn piss?" Somehow, saying it out loud caused the idea to sink in even further, and he wiped his fingers off on his trousers where he had stroked the fabric. Then he took the finance contract and tore it in half. "I'm not paying for that."
As Miss Stevens sputtered behind him, Draco stalked into the room where Hermione was closeted with Madam Tatting. "Granger, get your things. We're leaving."
Her subsequent gasp coincided with Draco's realisation that she was standing in the centre of the room, wearing a pinned-together dress that clung tightly to her hips and bosom, the latter not completely covered by the bodice. He was fairly certain he could see more of her goods than were covered, but it was no time to stare. Looking pointedly over her shoulder to keep his gaze from drifting lower, he grabbed her hand and pulled.
From his own visits to the tailor, Draco should have remembered the step stool, but his current state of mind overthrew his better judgment. It didn't take long for Hermione's body to collide with his own and send them both crashing to the floor. She landed solidly on his chest and knocked the air right out of his lungs.
Incognisant of his discomfort, Hermione narrowed her eyes and hissed, "What are you doing? What if the dress ripped!"
"I don't care," he gasped as loudly as he could. "We're going elsewhere." Still unable to draw a full breath, he pushed her back so he could inhale, but the bulk of the dress's train put uncomfortable pressure on a rather sensitive spot in his lap. "Get off!" he squeaked.
His face scrunched in pain must have told Hermione what ailed him; she scrambled off of her ludicrous perch and regained her feet. Bending down, she offered her hand to help him up, as well. Draco decided that she had filled her quota of inflicting physical injury on him and accepted. Once he was standing again, he dusted off the tiny particles of thread that had clung to him whilst on the floor and reiterated, "Now, we're leaving."
Madam Tatting, who had not said a word through the entire exchange, spoke up. "I beg your pardon, Mr Malfoy! We've worked extensively to get the materials for both your son's and your future daughter-in-law's wedding garments. It's hardly appropriate to change your mind now."
"You're talking about appropriate?" Draco sneered. "You're lecturing me on appropriate when that bloody vulture out there —" he angrily gestured toward the lobby, where Miss Stevens likely was, "— to bully a couple of kids into buying unicorn piss fabric for sixty sodding Galleons per yard. I'm not paying a hundred for that damned thing, let alone a thousand, so yes, we're leaving." Without bothering to see if Hermione was following, Draco swished his cloak as imperiously as he could and walked out.
From behind him, he could hear hurried footsteps, which he imagined was Madam Tatting, desperate not to lose one of her oldest and most lucrative accounts. Spinning around, he was surprised to see Hermione, whom he had assumed would've been busy removing the dress she was still wearing. "Shouldn't you be putting your own clothes back on, Granger?"
"Draco, you can't do that! Scorpius and Lily signed a promise of payment contract, so if nobody pays for the order, then both of them could end up in debtor's court."
If Draco had had any delusions that he'd raised his son to be a shrewd man of finance, they were summarily slain right there. With Lily, he could just blame Potter and his terrible parenting, but he'd thought Scorpius wasn't an idiot — especially a thousand-Galleon idiot. But if what Hermione said was true, and he didn't get the vibe that she was lying, then he was indeed stuck with the bill.
With a grunt of annoyance, he started back into the building and cornered Miss Stevens. "If I ever set foot in this place after today, it will be to tell you I'll never do so again. Consider that next time you try to con kids into spending a thousand Galleons on something they'll only wear once." He picked up the remnants of the contract she'd presented earlier, as well as the discarded quill, and scribbled his name at the bottom. He folded it in half and flung it in the direction of Miss Stevens before leaving again.
Outside, Hermione was pacing, despite garnering quite a bit of attention due to her attire, and when she spotted him, she descended upon him in fine Granger fashion. "You can't just leave! Lily's going to get into trouble, and your son's credit will be murdered!"
"Calm down, woman!" Draco said, the sound of her harping drilling into his skull. "I paid for it. I couldn't really afford it, but I paid for it." He rubbed his temples. "How am I supposed to tell Astoria?" That thought alone launched his headache into a full blown cranial eruption. He was going to be a dead man.
Hermione smiled tightly and hesitantly patted his shoulder. "I'll be right back. Just sit tight."
Before he could make a snide comment about the fact that he was standing, Hermione had already disappeared back into the dress shop. True to her word, she was back in less than five minutes, wearing her own clothing and toting both her purse and the Book of Stuff. Tugging on his arm, she said, "Come on, we'll get some coffee and focus on something else."
Draco found himself transplanted to the Leaky Cauldron before he knew it. They were seated in a private room near the kitchens, but as soon as the door closed, it was completely silent. Looking around in surprise, he said, "I didn't know this room existed, and I've been coming to the Cauldron for decades."
"This was used by the Order during the first war and then by Dumbledore's Army for meetings. Hannah was kind enough to lend it to me, but she was not enthused when I told her I'd be here with you."
"Can't imagine why," Draco said wryly. "Her and Fatbottom never did take a shine to me."
Her expression could have easily made a lesser man wither in fear. "Neville actually put in a good word for you, since Scorpius was one of his favourite students. At least one of you grew up."
"Oh, he grew all right," Draco said before an elbow planted itself in his side. Rubbing the site of what would likely be his second bruise inflicted by Hermione that day, he grumbled, "Okay, I'm sorry. Just stop hitting me."
As hostilities seemed to have ceased, both sat at the large table. Hermione sat at the head, and Draco at her immediate right, with the book open between them. She had turned to a page containing appointment dates, one of which was for a half hour from then, but it was scheduled for their present location. He was confused until he saw the parenthetical note beside the time and place: wine tasting.
"I thought the caterers provided the wine?" he asked, trying futilely to recall details from his own wedding, to which he had never paid close attention.
Nodding, Hermione said, "They do, but they have a contract with Hannah and Neville as their distributers. We're here to pick what they'll distribute."
Annoyed that yet another large sum of his money was going to someone he didn't particularly like, Draco said, "Fine. But what is there to choose? Just buy a dozen casks of standard champagne for the guests and a case of something nice for the dais."
The idea seemed to shock Hermione. "You can't do that, it's rude!"
Not if they don't know about it. "Well, I'm not drinking shite, but I'm not paying a fortune for everyone else to drink the best, so I'm not sure what else you want from me."
"Harry's paying for the catering," Hermione said after a dismissive scoff. "Now, if you're done acting like a child, can we please get on with this?"
A mere minute later, a tray arrived with twelve tiny wine glasses, which were grouped into twos. On the tray beneath the glasses, there were numbers, along with boxes for them to tick either 'Yes', 'No', or 'Maybe'. After setting that down, Hannah came back in with two tumblers and a large pitcher of water. Draco felt a strong urge to mock the entire scene, but with the memory of the fresh bruise percolating on his arm, he declined.
Starting on Number One, Hermione set a glass in front of Draco, as well as one in front of herself. He watched in amusement as she first inhaled the scent before taking the slightest of sips. Her face scrunched up, the way she had done in school when she was thinking of an answer. However, in watching her reaction, he neglected to take a drink of his own. Realising this, he eyed the miniature goblet and downed the contents.
Draco could feel her staring at him, waiting for his analysis, but he wasn't sure what he was supposed to say. Luckily for him, she couldn't keep quiet for more than a minute. "I like the bouquet. It's very dry, but it has a markedly fruity flavour."
"Tastes like mouldy bread," Draco said, his nose curling at the horrid aftertaste that had populated his taste buds. Pouring himself some water, he took a great gulp and swished it around in his mouth to erase the remnants of the wine. "Definitely not."
Casting him a sidelong glance, Hermione tapped her wand on the 'No' box and then doled out the next selection. Again, she sniffed the wine and then slowly drank. "This is a lot sweeter, but the flavour is not very rich."
This time, Draco took her cue and only drank a little. Whatever this one was, it didn't have that rank, yeasty taste that the first one did, at least not nearly as much. "It doesn't make me want to vomit. I'll say maybe."
Nodding, Hermione ticked 'Maybe' beside number two and served the next round. Getting the hang of the process, Draco didn't wait for Hermione's unintelligible analysis before taking a sip. The assault on his taste buds was swift and potent, and it didn't take long until he sent the foul liquid back into its vessel. "Tastes like troll sweat."
"I'm inclined to agree," Hermione said as she quickly drank water, just as Draco had the first time. "Next."
The fourth wine was a rather odd combination. It smelled terrible, but it was very smooth, like well-aged Firewhiskey. Draco nodded to himself in approval. "I like this one," he said. "Smells like a goblin's backside, but it doesn't have that taste of something gone bad."
"Really?" Hermione asked. "I thought it was rather weak, even a bit bland."
"Well, considering I hate wine, I'm reasonably satisfied with it." And Draco was being completely honest. He had always disliked wine, even though appreciation of it had always been one of his mother's greatest joys.
"Why didn't you say anything?"
Shrugging, Draco said, "Not my wedding." He finished the rest of his glass and momentarily toyed with the idea of drinking Hermione's, too. Thinking better of it, he took the initiative and served up the next batch, which he didn't care for. The last round was another 'Maybe'.
Tallying up their judgments, there were two 'Maybe' and one 'Yes', and Hermione briefly left the room. When she returned, she had two normal sized goblets and three bottles, which Draco presumed held each of their selected wines. This time, he could see which ones were which, even if he had no idea what any of it meant. He picked up one and sounded it out. "Zinfa… zinfandel. Sounds dangerous."
"That was the one you liked. I didn't really like it, but your opinion counts, too."
The gesture was unexpected. Clearly, she knew far more about wine than he did, so letting him have any say in the final decision whatsoever was a surprise to him. He gave her a slight smile of appreciation, which probably never would've come to pass without the influence of alcohol, however slight. She returned the gesture as she poured two more glasses, starting with Draco's favoured zinfandel.
Taking a long draught from his cup, Draco enjoyed the warm tingle that settled in his belly. He thought he could get used to drinking this particular wine, even if the rest of it could go to hell. He still preferred liquor, but in a pinch, this would do. "This is all right," he mused aloud.
Hermione giggled, which caught his attention immediately. He'd never associated her with that sound. "Just so you know," she said, "that's the cheap one. The one you wanted to serve to the guests."
"I have good taste," he said as he poured himself a fresh glass of the same. "And if you want everyone to have the same, I wouldn't mind this at all." He drained half the glass and smacked his lips in appreciation. "I could get used to this."
Hermione doled out a fresh glass and raised it slightly. "I still like this one, but I could do the zinfandel if you're really that attached to it."
He clanked his glass against hers, and they both drank. And drank some more. It didn't take long before all three bottles were empty, and Draco was finding it difficult to discern between them. All he knew was that he had one hell of a buzz going on and he didn't want it to stop. More shocking, though, was that Hermione was far more fun whilst drinking.
When their conversation drifted to the incident at the dress shop, Draco had finally drunk enough to brave asking, "Why did Lily have you do her fitting? Don't tell me it's because you're the same size." He used his hands to mime having breasts. "You're a bit larger in that area."
Blushing furiously, likely a mixture of wine and embarrassment, Hermione said, "Oh, that's because Lily's pregnant." Her hand flew over her mouth. "I wasn't supposed to say anything!"
In his slightly inebriated state, Draco didn't fully comprehend what she'd said. Instead, he replied, "But don't get me wrong, I'm not complaining. They're very nice."
Taking a very long drink, Hermione said, "Oh! Thank you… I think."
"Do you always do that?" he asked, not even sure if he could describe what 'it' was.
"You're kind of cute when you blush."
Whether it was madness, drunkenness, or Stupidity Serum brewed into the wine, he had no idea, but he closed the short distance between their mouths.
When Draco leant back, an odd sort of quiet languished between them. He didn't dare look at Hermione; if anything, he wanted to melt into a puddle on the floor. He'd done it — kissed the most annoying woman in the world. By all accounts, his lips should've been burning right off, burnt by her tainted saliva, but for some reason, he didn't feel too bothered by it and neither did—
His thought was derailed by her fist colliding solidly with his eye. "OW!" Clutching his assaulted flesh, Draco panted, "Merlin's bloody bollocks, Granger! You hit like a man!"
"Why did you do that?" she shouted. "And the name is Weasley. As in Mrs Weasley! As in DON'T EVER DO THAT AGAIN!"
"I'm sorry!" Draco hissed as he gingerly massaged his already bruising skin. "You'd think after years of snogging that bell-end, you'd be grateful for a decent kiss here and there."
A gasp of revulsion preceded a heavy strike to his bicep and knocked Draco off balance. "I can't believe you said that!" she hissed. "He is not a… a…"
Draco smirked when she couldn't bring herself to repeat what he'd said. "Complete tosser. Has the personality of a retarded Kneazle and not nearly as good-looking. I'm fairly certain I'm referring to that twat you call a husband."
Lips twitching, Draco said, "In all the right ways." A feeling of bravado coursed through him, causing him to commit double the fallacy in one night, and he kissed her again, this time a bit more roughly to prove a point. He had no idea what made him do it, perhaps his alcohol tolerance had been woefully overestimated, but he really, really wanted to wipe that disgusted expression right off her face.
This time, when he withdrew, she just blinked rapidly before nearly falling out of her chair. When she wobbily gained her balance and was on her feet, she said, "I've got to go." Then she practically ran from the room, shouting for Hannah the second the door was closed. Chuckling, Draco lolled back his head and called, "Juno!"
Almost instantly, a house elf appeared. "How can Juno help Master Malfoy?"
"Apparate me home. And if you splinch me, you might live to regret it."
The sun streaming in through the window felt like a thousand white-hot needles boring into Draco's brain through his eyelids. He flopped his arm over his face to block out the offensive light, but the moment he stirred, there was a swift slap right on the tender flesh of his arm where Hermione had struck him the night before. He instinctively cringed and burrowed further into the covers to obscure any further assault, which was probably coming from his wife. What he could've possibly done to earn Astoria's ire, he had no idea, but he really didn't care to find out until his head stopped ringing from his massive hangover.
"Draco, wake up!"
It sure as hell wasn't Astoria, but what the hell was she doing there? "Gods, Granger, why are you in my bedroom?" he said through the covers over his face.
"We need to talk."
It was all he could do to keep from groaning, but he was sure doing so would get him hit again. When women wanted to 'talk', it was always about feelings and garbage like that, and he couldn't have cared less if he tried. Well, maybe, but…
His eyes nearly watered, his breath forced out with an oomph, when her hand slapped down hard on his midsection, mere inches away from delicate territory. After a fit of coughing, Draco threw back the duvet and vaulted out of bed. "What the hell do you want, you mad bint?"
Her jaw set, she jabbed her finger into his chest. "We need to set some ground rules."
Backing away from further physical abuse, Draco said, "For starters, how about you stop hitting me like a bloody maniac!"
"Then don't kiss me!"
"But you kissed me back, so don't go pinning it all on me."
"Oh, so you're Saint Draco now?" Hermione's voice was becoming progressively more high-pitched. "That was completely your fault, and if you do it again, I'll —"
"You'll what?" he sneered, smirking in satisfaction as she opened and closed her mouth several times, unable to respond. "No, I didn't think so." Jabbing his finger into her chest like she had just done to him, he hissed, "I'll not be spoken to like an errant child, and I will not be beaten like an old nag? Do we understand one another, Granger?"
Her response threw him. "What?"
"The name is Weasley. Hermione Weasley. You will address me properly."
With a snort, Draco said, "Not likely. I'd like to be able to eat breakfast sometime today. Now, be a good little crazy person and get out of my sight before I hex you."
"You're… testy right now."
Her comment made something inside of him snap. "Testy? Testy? You barge into my house — who the hell knows who let you in, anyway — and assault me in my sleep, all the while demanding that I respect your personal space while you pummel me to death! How in the name of Merlin's twisted knickers am I not supposed to be 'testy'?"
Instead of contrite, Hermione gave him a tight smile and said, "I can see you're not quite awake yet, so I'll, um, see you downstairs. I have a few things I need you to look at." She turned to leave, but she stopped at the door and added, "Oh, and you, um, have a little, er…" Her eyes drifted down toward his middle, "…issue."
"Get out!" Draco shouted before grabbing his wand off of the end table and slamming the door in her face. He seethed as he listened to her grumble and stalk down the hallway, just to be sure she'd finally left. He simply couldn't wrap his brain around her having the raw nerve to accost him in his sleep for something that could've waited at least a couple hours, or at least until he'd had a chance to take a headache potion and drink a pot of coffee.
However, he was still curious as to what she'd meant by 'issue'. Looking down at his midsection, he noticed that part of his right bollock was sticking out the side of his Y-fronts. "Fan-bloody-tastic."
An hour later, after a lengthy shower and plenty of dawdling to make her pay for her intrusion, Draco came downstairs, properly dressed with everything stowed in the proper undergarments, only to find Hermione and Astoria poring over the omnipresent Book of Stuff. This time, though, they were much friendlier than they were the last time they were together. One of them even giggled. Giggled! But when they noticed his entrance, their conversation abruptly ended; it didn't take much of a stretch to figure out that they were talking about him.
"You two seem rather chummy. To what do I owe the displeasure?"
Biting her bottom lip, Hermione said, "I was just consulting with Astoria on her wine preferences. We never did decide between the two you liked, so I was asking her what she thought."
Draco crossed his arms. "And?"
"And we're going to go for the one you liked. Apparently —"
"No!" he hissed. "What were you two laughing about?" Draco wasn't stupid; he knew exactly what they found so amusing, but making her admit it was merely one step in his plan to get her back for earlier.
Judging by Hermione's lack of ability to articulate and Astoria's smirk, Draco knew he was right. Feeling slightly vindicated, he pulled out a chair and said, "Now, what were we discussing?"
27 June — Eve of the Wedding Day
"You can't be serious," Draco said, desperately hoping he was imagining things. "You can't break things off now! Are you completely mental?"
"Dad, Lily doesn't want to take my name! How am I supposed to spend my life with someone who doesn't want every part of who I am?"
Draco snorted. "Oh, please!" He was dangerously close to slapping his son for being a complete pouf about it, even if he did happen to sympathise with his point of view. But he'd tolerated a month of constant exposure to Hermione, so the lad could and would deal with the fact that his new wife's surname would be Potter, no matter how offensive it was.
Pacing around the study, Scorpius said, "How can you say that? Being a Malfoy means everything to you!"
That statement made Draco pause. Scorpius was right; his name meant more to him than a lot of things. Had Astoria rejected it before their wedding, he probably wouldn't have married her, either — no matter how much planning went into it. Sighing, he said, "No, you're right. Just… just give me a minute. I'll think of something."
But that 'something' was already obvious. He should've known that he wouldn't be shot of Hermione so easily. Even though Lily's mum had taken over a lot of the wedding planning, she wanted nothing to do with associating with Draco. That left Hermione to be the liaison between the two families.
Scribbling a quick note, Draco sent it to Hermione, hoping to stop this madness before Scorpius paced a hole in the carpet. He didn't expect a response so quickly, but sure enough, one came only minutes later. However, upon perusal, it appeared as if she had the same idea that he did: imploring the other to do something before it was too late.
Please talk some sense into Scorpius. Lily is crying her eyes out, and Harry and Ginny are ready to hex him for dumping her.
No matter how delicious the thought of annoying Potter and his weasel wife was, Draco knew that Scorpius would be miserable for ages if he broke things off with Lily. And, as much as he was loath to admit it, he actually liked his prospective daughter-in-law for her intelligence and ambitions. That and she was fairly attractive and not completely red-headed.
This time, he wrote a new missive.
Disregard last message. Meet me at the Leaky Cauldron at nine. Bring Lily.
Clearing his throat, Draco said, "Come on, son. Let's go get a drink."
Raising a brow, Scorpius replied, "But we have a giant liquor cabinet. You should know; you bought it."
"Um, that's not the point. You need a, er, change of scenery. And someone to pour your drinks for you. Yes!" Grabbing Scorpius's arm, Draco dragged him toward the fireplace. "Now, let's go."
"How is this going to help?" Scorpius asked as Draco chucked a handful of Floo powder into the grate. "Getting drunk hardly solves anything."
With a snort, Draco retorted, "Then you don't get drunk enough. Leaky Cauldron!" He stepped into the fire, dragging Scorpius along, not looking forward to the unpleasantness of a double Floo. But desperate times called for desperate measures.
When they arrived at the Cauldron, it was in an even dirtier state than usual, due to the cramped conditions, but Draco didn't care. Checking his watch, he saw that it was still half eight, so he had plenty of time to get Scorpius buzzed enough to forget his issue with Lily before Hermione arrived with the other half of the not-so-happy couple. Maybe if both of them drank enough, then they could just have a good make-up shag and all would be well.
It didn't take long for Scorpius to get into the spirit of drinking his worries away. As he didn't partake in alcohol often, it took effect fairly quickly, and by five minutes to nine, he was already starting to slur his speech. Draco couldn't help but think that, as simplistic as it was, this plan was actually going to succeed.
When the door opened at nine, Draco knew it would be Hermione with Lily, and sure enough, it was. Judging by the eye roll he received, she caught onto his plan quickly. And Lily wasn't far behind. The moment she saw her former intended, only Hermione's hand on her arm kept her from bolting straight out the door, and she petulantly followed her aunt to the bar.
Just loud enough for Draco and Scorpius to hear, Lily said, "What are they doing here?"
Resisting the urge to throttle her for her attitude, Draco sighed. Perhaps this wasn't such a good plan after all. And that realisation was only compounded by Scorpius's reaction. "I keep hearing her voice, Dad." Downing the rest of his drink, seemingly incognisant of the ladies' presence, he added with a sniff, "I can't live without her. I don't care what her name is." The sound of sobs soon permeated the air.
It made Draco want to disappear. His son was a bloody poofter, mewling like a girl! If it was possible to be more embarrassed, Draco couldn't even contemplate it, but all he could do was pat Scorpius on the shoulder and try not to vomit. Glancing over at Hermione, he could see she was trying to get his attention. Her eyes kept diverting toward a darkened corner of the nearly empty bar, indicating that she wanted to talk to him alone.
Giving Scorpius a final reassuring pat, Draco said, "I'll be right back. Going to pop to the loo." Crying into his sleeve, Scorpius nodded, and Draco crept away. He saw Hermione whisper something to Lily, who looked annoyed but didn't raise a fuss. Soon, they were across from one another yet again.
"Any news?" he asked.
"She's really cross with him."
Sharply jerking his thumb over his shoulder where Scorpius was ordering another double Firewhiskey, Draco hissed, "Look at him! He's bloody miserable! Just let her feel bad for him and take him back."
"Draco…" She shook her head. "That's manipulation."
"And you've been married how long? That's what marriage is, Granger. Manipulation and games. Just let them fix this on their own, and we can get this bloody business over with."
"Oh, how romantic of you," she said sarcastically. "Truly, how do you fight the women off?"
"Ha!" he retorted. "Like all of this gooey, lovey-dovey nonsense works in reality. Marriage is about making a good match while dodging all of the stupid crap and not killing each other over it."
"What about love, Draco? Doesn't that count for anything?"
"No! Look at them! They're in love, and they're both miserable. How is that supposed to fix anything?"
"Like that," she said, her eyes focused on the young couple. Curious, Draco turned to look, only to see Lily with her arms wrapped around Scorpius and kissing his forehead. Just before Draco could comment, though, their lips were practically welded to one another. It was… working.
Draco wanted to pump his fist when Scorpius's hand roamed underneath Lily's blouse, but he was sure that, judging by Hermione's gasp of horror, he would be hexed in an instant. But when she started taking out her wand to separate the two, his hand covered hers. "Don't," he said quietly. "This is their night, so let them be." Truthfully, he just wanted them to get married before their next big fight, but he knew better than to say so.
"But it's not decent!" she whispered.
"Who cares? They'll just be at it on their wedding night. What's a day?" With a chortle, he said, "Besides, I doubt you and Weasel waited until you were married."
Her retort was stilled in her throat as she flushed a deep scarlet. Instead, she gritted her teeth as Scorpius picked up Lily and stumbled toward the stairs after loudly commissioning a room for the night from the barman. How he managed it without breaking his hold on Lily impressed Draco. Perhaps he wasn't such a poofter after all.
Soon, their efforts were no longer required, and Draco and Hermione were alone. The former was trying hard not to grin. "I knew it would work."
"You mean you planned that?"
"'Course I did," he said. "Why else would you need to bring her?"
"Oh, I don't know, maybe a civilised conversation!"
"Bollocks! What's more civilised than making up the old-fashioned way?" Waving his hand at the barman for another drink, he added, "Besides, I don't see either of them complaining."
"But they've both been drinking! That's no way to start a relationship."
"Oh, and there it is. I was wondering when you were going to start haranguing me about morality."
"Well, if you had any morals, I wouldn't have to!"
Looking up from his drink with the express purpose of glaring at her, Draco's breath hitched when he saw her chest heaving in anger. She really did have nice breasts, but as he'd not had enough alcohol to forget not to stare, he looked up at her face. The sight of her lips reminded him of their drunken snog in the back room of this very building, and the intense desire do it again was staggering. He had no idea what was wrong with him, but he wanted his hands all over her body.
Stop it, what was left of his liquor-addled common sense screamed. She's married! She's a Mudblood! She's… Hermione Granger! Hermione…
Before he even realised it was happening, their lips met, and it wasn't even him that had done it. Her fingers plunged into his hair, pulling his face into even closer contact with hers. She tasted not of drink but of spearmint and something sweet, and he was starting to crave the flavour more and more. His earlier mental objections were mattering less and less, and more and more, he wanted to start exploring some more of her soft flesh.
His lips drifted to her jawline and trailed down her neck, relishing the feel of her moan vibrating through the skin of her throat. The soft planes of her shoulder were soon exposed as he slid her sleeve away from his mouth's path. And he was only encouraged when her hands drifted to his chest.
How he managed it, he had no idea, but Draco tore himself away from her, gasping for breath, and they stared at one another. How he could do something so idiotic, he had no idea, but it had to stop before someone strolled into that public place and found out.
"I'll, um, see you tomorrow," he muttered as he backed away, hoping like hell that he made it to the Floo before she regained her better sense and jinxed him into a puddle of slime.