Hermione doesn't have a problem with the basement, the house, or the new neighbours. She doesn't have a problem with the construction equipment, dust, and noise like many of the other residents. Hermione has a problem with the architect.
They say it's going to take nine months at the least. Nine months of him driving past her house in his ostentatious and glitzy Audi. The one with the twinkly LEDs for headlamps, and chrome trim glinting no matter which angle you look at it from.
Nine months of smug looks and lewd gestures, and reminders of hey remember that one time when we had sex?
It wouldn't be so bad if she wasn't sitting in the planning permission hearing, distracted out of her mind by the way his fine dark fingers sort through the file of documents in front of him. He's spinning a pen around in the fingers of his right hand, and she tries not to think about exactly how skilled he is with those...
Oh who is she kidding, she wants to climb the man like a tree.
Hermione has a very, very serious problem with The Architect.
He's talking about façades and building materials and that goddamn basement that's going to take so long to construct, but all she can hear is oh shit yes harder, and that's not really helping her problem.
She is eventually jolted out of her retrospective fantasy by the vote and, after voicing her agreement of the construction, one of the other residents pipes up in disgust.
"She's only saying yes because she went to school with that smarmy architect."
Hermione frowns, and leans forward, looking down the row at the speaker, Mrs Brewster. "Bronwyn, I assure you. Nothing pains me more to agree to something presented by Mr Zabini, but in this case, despite the short term inconvenience, I feel the construction of a two million pound house will significantly increase the value of all the properties in our development."
Mrs Brewster bristles for a moment, before huffing and crossing her arms across her wide body. "I still think it's nepotism."
"I'm unsurprised that you lack the intelligence to see both the bigger picture, and use the word nepotism correctly." Hermione reaches behind her and pulls her coat off the back of her chair, sitting it in her lap in anticipation of the committee's decision. "What, did you get it from a word of the day calendar?"
"Your ignorance really is rather astounding, Mrs Brewster," comes a voice from the table at the front of the room. "Similar developments in surrounding areas have proven to increase the average property price by up to twenty-five percent. Surely you must be thinking about your retirement fund?" Zabini taps the end of his pen on the table and raises his eyebrows. "And Miss Granger is correct. If her vote of yea were nepotistic, you are grossly overestimating her influence with our esteemed council."
Hermione frowns and tugs on her coat. "Thank you for that wonderful observation, Zabini. Now if you'll excuse me, I have to get home and feed my cat, whom I also have very little influence over." She stands and looks towards the committee chairman. "I trust a formal notice will be sent out regarding the decision?"
The chairman nods. "Yes ma'am, if your vote is final, you are free to leave."
She strides out of the room, calling 'lock it in' over her shoulder as she pushes the door open. The walk to her car is short and cold, and she wishes for a moment she weren't living amongst Muggles. Keeping up appearances has started to become tiresome.
Someone calls her name from the other side of the asphalt and she almost drops her keys in surprise. Her fingers already numbing from the cold, she shoves both the keys and her hands in her coat pockets and turns, grim faced, to the man jogging across the empty car park.
"What do you want? Aren't you supposed to be waiting for the committee's decision?"
He winces for a moment and rubs a hand across his eyes. "Look, I just wanted to say thanks."
"For... not um... y'know being an asshole and voting no."
"Why would I do that?"
"Just because..." He pauses and bites his lip.
"Well, spit it out."
"You're really going to make me say it, aren't you?"
She cocks her head to the side for a moment and pretends to think before nodding.
"I thought you were going to be vindictive and try to block the build. I heard it was you that cursed Marietta Edgecombe that time in fifth year, and everyone knows what you did to Umbridge."
She snorts in disgust and looks him dead in the eyes. "And you thought because you had two orgasms and I only had one, I would pass up the opportunity to get a free increase on my house value just to spite you? You need to check that ego, Zabini. It's getting out of hand."
He looks confused for a moment. "I thought... you never texted back, I figured you were faking, I guess."
"One night stand is a one night stand, sweetheart. I'm not prepared to be your booty call."
He holds his hands up and takes a step closer. "No! That's not what I was intending at all. Oh fuck, I really messed this up, didn't I?"
"Shit, Granger. You're sexy and beautiful and ridiculously smart, and a bit of a bitch sometimes, and please will you go out for dinner with me? Just once. You don't even have to stay for dessert if you don't have a good time."
"You're asking me out? On a date? When you just called me a bitch?" She removes her hands from her pockets and crosses her arms over her chest, eyebrow raised, eyes glaring.
"I happen to like bitches."
She nods in approval at his lack of backtracking. "Okay, one date."
She opens the car door and leans against the window for a moment. "Yeah, but nowhere magical, I don't want to be on the cover of The Prophet the next day with a headline proclaiming Zabini turns back on Muggle lifestyle for war hero Granger, or something equally as ridiculous.
He's grinning now. "Okay, deal."
She gets into the car without another word, and squeals the tyres of her vintage BMW as she drives off.
It's just one date. One date with a tall, built, gorgeous man, who despite being tarnished by Slytherin House, actually turned out pretty alright. Actually, better than alright. Intelligent, philanthropic, witty.
As she stops at a red light, she lets her head drop to the steering wheel.
Fucked. She is completely and utterly fucked.