A/N: I don't own any of these lovely beings, I'm just borrowing them from the great JK Rowling. I also don't own any of the mentioned works of art, since they all belong to their respective creators. Emma and Helen belong to themselves (obviously) but putting them together in this cover-image was done by Gamma Orionis.
As the opening notes of Carmen's third act began to play, Hermione glanced sideways at her companions. They were the unlikeliest companions for her to be with, yet here she was, sharing a loge with them.
She loved the opera. When she had been a teenager, her parents had taken her to the theatre quite often and she had been thirteen when she had seen Carmen for the first time. She had immediately taken a liking to Bizet's masterpiece and when she found out it was playing again in London, she just had to go and see it. It was a shame Ron showed no interest in it whatsoever. She had asked around, but no-one in her family-in-law had been particularly keen on going to an opera. Angelina and Audrey liked the theatre well enough, but opera wasn't their thing. So in the end, she had decided she would just go alone. It was too big of an opportunity to miss out on.
She had watched the first half of the opera from her seat in the stalls. During the pause, she had joined the other spectators to the foyer for a drink.
"Well, if it isn't Miss Granger," a voice behind her said. "Fancy seeing you here." She vaguely recognised the voice and reluctantly turned around, because social standards dictated it would be rude not to.
"Mrs. Malfoy," she nodded curtly at the mother of what had once been her archenemy. It had been more than ten years since she had last seen Mrs. Malfoy, but it looked like the woman hadn't aged a bit. Her features still showed her aristocratic parentage, with only tiny laugh wrinkles giving a hint of her age. She still had a slender figure and her hair was immaculate as it had been in earlier years. The burgundy evening gown that adorned her frame was as luxurious as the dresses she had worn a decade ago.
"It's Mrs Weasley nowadays by the way," Hermione added.
Mrs. Malfoy looked her up and down. "So I've heard. Granger suits you better I think. What brings you here?"
"Geez, let's see, I'm at a opera house, standing with a coffee in the foyer during the pause of an opera. What could I possibly be doing here?" she sneered.
"I was just making conversation, Miss Granger."
"I already told you…" She was getting angry with the woman now. She tried to remain composed, but inwardly she was very annoyed. Of all the people she could meet at the opera, why did it have to be a Malfoy she ran into?
"I know." The blonde smiled. "But I think I prefer Miss Granger over Mrs. Weasley."
Hermione was about to say something in protest, when Mrs Malfoy cut her short.
"So you like opera then. Well, can't say I'm that surprised. Are you here alone?" She looked around for any accompanying party she might have overlooked.
"Yes. Ron isn't really into it," Hermione admitted.
"I know the feeling." Mrs. Malfoy said. "I'm basically the only one in the family who cares about these kind of things. "Even Astoria here," she dragged a woman with brown hair of about Hermione's age into the conversation, "only accompanies me because Lucius and Draco got fed up with it and she doesn't like me going alone. Don't you dear?"
The brunette beside her looked a bit embarrassed. "Really, it's not a problem…" she objected weakly.
"It's okay, I appreciate it. You're absolutely right of course, I hate going alone."
That at least Hermione could relate to. It was not much fun going to the theatre all by yourself, but she doubted she would like going with someone who wouldn't actually enjoy themselves, as was clearly the case with Astoria. She looked more closely at the brunette. So this was Draco Malfoy's wife. Their marriage had been all over the Daily Prophet, though not as ostentatiously as her and Ron's or Harry and Ginny's. Hermione remembered she was a younger sibling of Daphne Greengrass, who had been a Slytherin in her year. Of course she came from a well-respected pure-blooded family as was to be expected for someone who married a Malfoy, but Hermione also recalled that the Greengrasses - though being Slytherins and pure-bloods - had never sided with Voldemort, which was a point in favour of the woman in front of her.
She was pulled out of her study of the young woman by Narcissa Malfoy's voice asking her something. She blinked.
"I'm sorry, I did not quite get that. What did you say?" she said.
"I asked what you thought of the first half of the opera," Mrs. Malfoy repeated.
"It's perfect, as always!" Hermione exclaimed. "Though I must say Sophia's portrayal of Micaëla is a bit… off. I know that somehow the sweet, innocent countrygirl always gets portrayed as a blonde, but the story takes place in Seville! I doubt there were much blond girls around in Spain, even in the 19th century…" She stopped mid-sentence when she realised the woman she was speaking to was a blonde herself.
But to her surprise, Mrs. Malfoy started to laugh. It was a warm, heartfelt kind of laugh, not a sneering kind, and Hermione raised an eyebrow.
"You know, I never really thought about it, but you're absolutely right. I do like her acting though, even though her appearance isn't the typical Micaëla. Robert makes a fine Don José too, he's just like I imagined him."
Hermione was struggling to keep up. Was she actually discussing an opera, a Muggle art form, with the cool and disdainful 'Mudbloods-are-scum' Narcissa Malfoy?
"Is something the matter?" Mrs. Malfoy asked.
"There is something I don't quite understand," Hermione said at last. "What are you doing here?" She bit her tongue. That came out wrong. "I mean…"
"I know exactly what you mean." Nothing suggested that just mere seconds ago, the woman had laughed heartily. Her voice had become the icy timbre again that Hermione had heard her use a decade ago. "People change, as you should well know. There is no reason why I could not enjoy an opera."
Except the fact that you're, you know, a Malfoy? Wife of a former Death Eater? She wanted to shout, but again, she bit her tongue. There was no point in throwing a scene in the foyer of an opera house. It just wasn't worth it. She inhaled deeply and let her breath out slowly.
"Well, it has been a pleasure talking to you, Mrs. Malfoy," she managed. "I hope you'll enjoy the second half as well. Mrs. Malfoy," she nodded at Astoria, "It has been nice meeting you. I do hope you'll also enjoy the rest of the opera."
She turned on her heels and started to walk back toward the hall of the theatre.
"Surely you're not seated in the stalls?"
Hermione froze in her tracks. She closed her eyes in irritation and then turned again.
"And what's wrong with that?" she asked, harsher than she had intended. But really, the woman was getting on her nerves.
"I was just thinking that with the both of you working at the Ministry, you could afford a seat at the balcony."
"Well, I choose not to," Hermione snapped.
"We've got our own loge here," Mrs. Malfoy continued.
Hermione rolled her eyes. Of course, she thought. It figures that even in a Muggle theatre the Malfoys have to display their wealth by owning a private loge.
"If you'd like, you can join us there."
She looked up at the unexpected proposal.
"Why?" she asked suspiciously.
Mrs. Malfoy sighed. "Like I said, people change. Consider it a truce, Miss Granger." She extended a hand.
Hermione scanned the other woman's face for hints of mockery, but found none. Just when a flicker of irritation appeared over Mrs. Malfoy's face at her hesitance, she made up her mind and took the extended hand. "Truce accepted," she said. "On one condition."
"And that is?"
"That you stop calling me Miss Granger."
"Fair enough. I'll settle for Hermione then, if that's okay with you."
Hermione considered this for a moment. She would have preferred Mrs. Weasley but seeing as she probably would not be calling Astoria Mrs. Malfoy and they were of about the same age, Hermione would do.
"Hermione is fine," she said.
The loge was beautiful and she had to admit she had a far better view of the stage from up here. She nestled herself into the big plush chair and let herself be swept by the story again. A silent tear slid across her face when Carmen betrayed Don José to be with Escamillo and when Don José killed her in the final act, more tears fell. She glanced aside, slightly worried that perhaps the Malfoy wives would consider her weak, but she noticed a shimmer in Mrs. Malfoy's blue eyes. Even Astoria, who apparently wasn't that big of an opera-fan, was sniffing and holding a handkerchief to her eyes. Each one tried to mask their tears to the other. In that moment of shared emotion, she almost felt like she was bonding with the two women, which was absurd, considering who they were.
They went to the theatre bar afterwards, to have a drink.
"It's something I also do after a show, just to discuss it and relax a little," Mrs. Malfoy said. Again, Hermione hesitated a moment, but considering she had agreed to a truce, she decided now would be a good time as any to live up to it.
"Sure, why not," she smiled.
Against odds, both Malfoy women turned out to be rather good company.
"I have to admit, it was actually rather good," Astoria said. "I'm still not a big fan of opera and probably never will be, but somehow, the story just got to me. Don't tell Draco though," she told her mother-in-law and leaned in conspiringly. "He'd have a fit if he knew I was one for soppy romance sometimes," she winked mischievously and she and Mrs. Malfoy laughed. Hermione didn't get what the joke was about – other than it was something about Draco – but their laughter was so contagious that she joined in nonetheless. They also laughed when Astoria did an imitation of Zuniga.
Much too soon to their liking, they finished their wine. Hermione insisted they let her pay the next round of drinks and after some protest, Mrs. Malfoy gave in. Taking a sip from her wine, Narcissa commented on Carmen's apparent lack of moral and Hermione retorted that of course there would be such a large discrepancy between Micaëla and Carmen, seeing as it was a man that wrote the story.
"Micaëla is how we women are supposed to be, right, according to men: shy and obedient. Carmen is how they secretly want to us be: wild and passionate."
Soon, they were engaged in a lively debate. Astoria acted as the quiet observer, not being that familiar with the story as the other two, only dropping in once in a while when she felt she had a point to bring to the discussion. Their glasses stood untouched and after an hour or so, Astoria stood up.
"I'm sorry, I really have to get back. I promised Draco I would not make it too late since we have a fairly busy day tomorrow."
"We'll just finish our drinks and then we'll be off too," Mrs. Malfoy said. She and Hermione took a last gulp of wine and they stood up as well.
Hermione looked at the Malfoy women. "It was really nice meeting you tonight," she said warmly. This time, she actually meant it.
"It was nice meeting you too," Astoria replied.
"It was indeed," Mrs. Malfoy agreed. "Thank you very much for your company."
They shook hands and then the Malfoy women went their way. Funny how people can surprise you sometimes, Hermione thought. If anyone had told her yesterday she would have a great time with the wives of Lucius and Draco Malfoy, she would have laughed in their faces for saying something so stupid. That sure as hell was never going to happen. Yet it had, and she had really enjoyed their company. She smiled at the way life turned out sometimes and Disapparated as well.
A/N: So that's it, the first meeting/first chapter! I'd love to know what you think of it, it took me quite some time to find the right tone. Sorry if you're not that familiar with Carmen, I've tried to put not too much detail in there. If you favorite or add this story to your story alerts, it obviously means you like it, so please also leave a review since they make I like them too. :)
As for the title/construction: Sappho was a Greek poetess who wrote about her interactions with women in all its forms: at social gatherings, gossiping, friendship-wise and sometimes even relationship-wise/sexually. So I figured it fitted this story on more than one level. Each chapter will have a woman's name as a title, all of them referring to a work of art (or play or whatever) or mythology if appropriate. Some references will be obvious (such as 'Carmen'), others might me more obscure and you'd have to be familiar with the work in question to understand. Don't worry though, I'll explain in an A/N if that should be the case, so there's no reason why you shouldn't read it.
As for now, I hope you'll enjoy the next chapter as well!