Chapter 6 : Athwart the Feathers of the Night
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Athwart the Feather of the Night
There were several reasons why Hermione Granger had been thoroughly disarmed when she met a soaking wet Draco Malfoy in the entrance hall that morning. The most superficial of these reasons reminded her forcibly of the awkward encounter between Mr. Darcy and Elizabeth Bennett in her favorite Pride and Prejudice adaptation.
She had no idea why he had made no attempt to shield himself from the downpour outside, choosing instead to let himself be soaked to the skin. He was clad in a white button-down shirt with the sleeves rolled up, grey trousers, and a pair of black Converse. The least of her concerns had been where Draco Malfoy had acquired shoes that were so decidedly unlike himself.
His blond hair was dripping water, stray beads winding their way down the curves and angles of his face to finally drop from his chin. His skin wasn’t as pale as it ordinarily was, no doubt owing to the broom flung over his shoulder. The shirt clung to him like a second skin, the transparency revealing nothing anyone would complain about as well as a ghosting of scars across his chest.
Hermione had never seen Malfoy in such a state of unconcerned disarray. He had obviously not been expecting to see anyone, judging by his expression and the fact that he had neglected to cover the tattoo on his forearm. The combination of early morning flying and running through the rain had put him in a rare state of relaxation that seemed to surprise them both. Their halted conversation was nothing special, but his slate grey eyes pierced her strangely for a moment before he turned away.
She couldn’t quite shake the memory of their strange meeting for remainder of the day.
“Hello, darling!” Fabian called, bursting into Hermione’s research room on Friday morning.
“Hello, Fabian,” she answered with an exasperated sigh.
“You’ve barely emerged all week, you know!”
“I know. I’ve just been focused.”
“Well I think it’s time for a reprieve, don’t you?”
“We’re going out tonight, my lovely!”
“Out where?” Hermione asked.
“A night of drinking and dancing, of course,” he said wickedly. “You’ve certainly earned it, cooped up in here working your cute little arse off.”
“You absolutely must!”
“No chance of escape whatsoever?” she inquired.
“Absolutely none,” he affirmed. “And I expect you to be looking like a right tart.”
“You heard me. I’m not dancing with you unless you look bloody fit,” Fabian told her. Hermione looked at him incredulously. “I have every confidence in you. See you outside the gates at ten.”
She stared at his retreating back with a strange mixture of both fondness and dread. Turning back to the scroll in front of her, Hermione determined not to think about what a night clubbing with Fabian would entail until she had to.
By the time she left The Three Broomsticks that evening, Hermione was already exhausted. She had no idea where she was going to gather the energy to withstand a night out.
Resigning herself to the fact that she was completely pathetic, she collapsed on her bed for a nap soon after entering her flat.
An hour later, she awoke to a shrill ring issuing from the wand on her bedside table. Picking it up and whispering the counter-spell, Hermione was relieved to note that she felt sufficiently revived.
She loitered in front of her wardrobe for quite some time, trying to find something Fabian would approve of that didn’t actually make her look like a slag.
Although many might be shocked at such information, Hermione had indeed been to several nightclubs before. Many of the girls who worked at the paper spent the majority of the weekend enjoying London’s nightlife and Hermione had been dragged out with them on occasion.
Reaching to the back of her closet, she pulled out a dress that she had been convinced into buying by one of the aforementioned coworkers. It was a simple red dress that hugged tight to the waist before flowing out. The skirt reached halfway down her thighs and the neckline was fairly plunging, so she supposed it would meet Fabian’s criteria.
Her hair took an inordinate amount of time to straighten, but she eventually achieved the desired result. Painting on a lot more eye makeup than she usually did and applying much darker lipstick than she usually wore, Hermione looked in the mirror and decided she did look quite fit. She dropped a pair of black slingback heels into her magically enhanced handbag before donning ballet flats and a cloak for the walk to the gate.
“See how she smolders!” Fabian called to Hermione once she was in his sights.
“And what exactly are you doing?” she asked him, looking pointedly at his obscenely tight leather trousers.
“Putting my best bum forward, as it were,” he answered, wiggling said asset in her direction.
“Did you magic yourself into those, Fabian?”
“That’s certainly no one’s business. Now, take hold of my arm, lovely,” Fabian instructed. She grasped his bicep and felt the familiar constriction and expansion of Apparition.
Opening her eyes, Hermione saw that they had appeared on a fairly busy street corner somewhere in London. Glancing around, she determined that they were a short distance from Charing Cross Road and the Leaky Cauldron.
Fabian wasted no time in hurrying her down the street towards a rather ridiculous queue. Forcing him to a halt a few yards away, Hermione braced herself on his arm while she changed her shoes.
“Thank Merlin for that,” he said towards her feet, to which she responded with a withering look.
“I am not standing out here in the bloody cold all night,” Hermione informed him.
“Of course not, of course not,” Fabian responded, glancing around them in a way that made him look rather like a harassed bird.
“What are you looking for?”
“Oh, didn’t I mention there will be three of us this evening?”
“You most certainly did not.”
“But I’m sure I did! How careless of me,” he expounded with a smirk. Hermione simply set her jaw and glared at him.
“What in the bleeding hell am I doing here right now?” said a familiar voice from over Hermione’s shoulder.
“You fucking tosser,” she hissed at Fabian before turning around and looking into the startled face of Draco Malfoy.
“Evening, Granger,” Malfoy managed. “Didn’t realize you’d be joining us this evening.”
“Silly me, I’m just so forgetful sometimes!” Fabian apologized in a most unapologetic tone. “But here we all are and don’t you just look fabulous, Draco!”
Malfoy was wearing the same Converse from earlier that day with a pair of black slacks and a black cardigan, under which he was wearing a printed red tee with pectoral and abdominal muscles on it. Hermione barely managed not to burst out laughing. She had no idea who this person was or what was going on.
“Are we waiting out here all bloody night?” Malfoy asked in Fabian and Hermione’s general direction.
“No, no, in we go!” Fabian replied, walking straight up to the doorman and giving him a wink. The tall blond stepped aside and let all three of them in, much to the irritation of those waiting in line. They were immediately swallowed up in a mass of people and noise. Fabian made determinedly for the bar, Hermione behind him.
“Shagged that doorman, did you?” shouted Malfoy over the music and Hermione’s head.
“A lady doesn’t kiss and tell!” Fabian yelled back.
A few moments later, they were huddled by the counter, enjoying their respective poisons. Fabian was making quick work of his martini, while Hermione was slowly sipping her vodka and cranberry through a small cocktail straw. Malfoy had downed half a pint of lager immediately and was now staring into his glass.
“I’m having a hard time understanding why people enjoy this,” Malfoy said flatly.
“That is because you have a great big stick up your arse,” Fabian replied, knocking back the remainder of his drink.
“Better a great big stick than great big di--” the blond shot back, only to be interrupted by the arrival of a tall, olive-skinned man with black hair. He leaned down and said something in Fabian’s ear, inaudible to Malfoy or Hermione over the volume of the music.
“I’ll be back when you two are more pissed and hopefully more fun,” promised Fabian, setting down his glass and allowing the stranger to lead him out onto the dance floor.
“What in the fuck am I doing here?” Hermione heard Malfoy under his breath.
“What in the fuck are you doing here, Malfoy?” she blurted out. “Not exactly your scene, is it?”
“Is it yours?” he responded with a raised eyebrow.
“Fabian doesn’t really take no for an answer,” Hermione pointed out, taking a large sip of her cocktail.
“Right,” Malfoy answered, finishing his beer and turning to ask for another.
Hermione, who seldom imbibed alcohol, could already start to feel herself getting pleasantly tingly from intoxication. As Malfoy started on his second glass, she found herself staring at his hand as it brought the drink to his lips. It was perfectly manicured and his long fingers curved around the base, tightening when he took a mouthful. When he swallowed, she could see the muscles of his neck and jaw constrict and release.
“Are you all right?” he asked. Hermione was not sure how long it took her to register that Malfoy had spoken to her, but she dearly hoped the pause wasn’t as long as it felt.
“Oh, yes. Of course,” she answered, blinking and shaking her head slightly. Malfoy stared at her a moment before smirking.
“Bit of a lightweight, Granger?”
“Quite a mouth when you’re sloshed, as well.”
“I am not. But even I was, that is what you are supposed to do at a place like this, so who bloody well cares?”
“Not me. The more pissed I am, the better to make it through this nightmare,” Malfoy said. Hermione snorted into her glass.
They stood there in silence for several more minutes, catching glimpses of Fabian undulating shamelessly against his dance partner. Once Malfoy had finished his second lager, he gestured to the bartender and said something that Hermione couldn’t hear.
From behind the bar emerged two shot glasses that were quickly filled with a clear liquid she could only assume was vodka, as she couldn’t read the label on the bottle.
“Come on, Granger,” Malfoy goaded. “Life is short.” She looked at him in surprise, finding in his eyes a challenge. Hermione wrinkled her nose in displeasure for a brief moment before steeling her jaw and picking up the offensive beverage.
She lifted her glass to him before quickly knocking it back, chasing it with the sourness of her cranberry juice. One corner of Malfoy’s mouth turned up as he held back a laugh, downing his own shot with his eyes closed.
He glanced over at her with a look Hermione could only describe as impish before hailing the bartender and ordering the same again.
Hermione was absolutely smashed. She drunkenly made her way out of the club with Malfoy and Fabian, stopping a short distance away from the entrance to slump against a brick storefront.
Looking up, she saw Fabian and Malfoy have a brief conversation that did not reach her ears. They both glanced over at her before saying a few more words to each other, apparently coming to some sort of agreement.
Fabian came over and gave her a light kiss on the forehead before turning and heading across the street in the company of a lanky redhead. Hermione slid her eyes from their retreating forms to that of Malfoy.
“Let’s get you home, Granger,” he said, gesturing for her to walk ahead of him. Pushing off from the wall, Hermione’s head began to spin and she collapsed heavily into Malfoy’s chest.
“Oh, my. I feel…” she paused, her brain working to form a coherent thought. “Weird.”
“I’m sure you do,” Malfoy agreed, putting an arm around her waist. He supported her weight down the street and into an alleyway.
“Where are we going?” Hermione asked, confused.
“I’m going to Apparate you to your flat,” he replied shortly. That was all the warning she received before the uncomfortable compression of it overtook her. The moment they landed on solid ground, Hermione lost her footing and began to topple out of Malfoy’s arms. He barely prevented her from landing flat on her back on the hard cobblestone street outside her small apartment.
Malfoy helped her up to the door, where she had enough awareness to fish her keys out of her handbag. She did not, however, have enough coordination to match the key to the small opening above the handle. He took the key from her shaking hand and unlocked the door easily, holding it open for her to pass through.
Another wave of dizziness overtook her and she slumped against the bannister to keep herself upright. Hermione’s vision swam as she felt Malfoy lift her into his arms and ascend the stairs.
She drifted in and out of consciousness as she felt herself placed on something large and soft. Her feet were freed from the confines of her shoes and she was covered in snug warmth as she fell fast sleep.