“Get your bushy hair over here!” Ginny shouted down the hall.
Hermione let out an aggravated moan as she begrudgingly trampled down the hallway to the flat that Ginny was forcing her to go to. This most certainly was not how she had planned to spend her Friday night. After another stressful week at the Ministry, she had hoped to hang up her robes and nuzzle in her armchair next to Crookshanks, finally finding time to read her book again.
But all that had vanished when Ginny had shared the news with her.
“Can’t we just celebrate tomorrow?” Hermione whined, feeling the warmth of her own flat’s fireplace calling her name.
The pair of shoes ahead of her stomped to a halt and spun around towards her direction. The clasp on Ginny’s robes rose and fell in sharp succession as its owner grew irritable with her companion.
“This is my first job since retiring from the Harpies, so I believe I have the right to dictate when we celebrate!” Ginny commanded. Hermione was instantly tugged from her position as Ginny latched onto her wrist, rendering Hermione’s escape essentially impossible. The redhead dragged her down the hall as they loomed closer to the dreaded destination.
“Are you at least going to tell me whose flat this is?” Hermione bitterly requested. She was certain that there was a more appropriate response, but this was the best she could surrender to Ginny’s plea without expressing how much she sincerely wished she was elsewhere. The entire walk over to the building had been a struggle, and despite her last efforts, it seemed like no matter how much Hermione protested, Ginny was set on spending the evening with whichever new coworker had invited her out.
“Daphne Greengrass,” Ginny explained in a rush. Hermione crinkled her nose a bit at the news. She had mildly been expecting it to be Daphne who had invited them. During her ritual morning reading of the Daily Prophet, Hermione had noticed that the old Slytherin student now wrote for the paper, so it seemed logical enough that Daphne had been the one to extend a hand of friendship to her new compatriot. But it didn’t mean Hermione was too thrilled at the prospect of who else may be in tow.
Ginny halted in front of the second to last door in the hall and finally released her grip. Her imprint remained red on Hermione’s skin despite the brunette’s attempt to placate the slight burn. “Next time, don’t hold onto me like the handle of your broom,” she moped.
She could hear Ginny’s slight amusement at Hermione’s latest complaint. “Old habit. Now a quill’s the only thing my fingers will be wrapped around. Well, that and Harry’s…”
“I beg for you not to finish that statement!” Hermione protested, throwing her hands up in the air. Her shoulders quivered as her imagination completed the thought she so desperately didn’t want to envision. “He’s like my brother.”
“And back when you were with Ron, I had to hear about my actual brother!” Ginny joked.
“Oh, don’t remind me,” Hermione faintly lamented. “Now are you actually going to knock on the door or do you want to get me in an even fouler mood first?”
The friends shared a momentary smile as Ginny tapped gently on the wood. Hermione tried to keep it plastered on her face for the sake of appearances, but her mood did not match the exterior. Within a matter of moments, the door swung open and the pair was greeted by the older looking, but still familiar face of Daphne Greengrass. The colleagues hugged while Hermione stared self-consciously. They seemed legitimately excited to see each other again, only making Hermione feel exceedingly more excluded.
She blocked out their conversation as she took the opportunity to examine Daphne’s flat. While she currently felt alone in the space, she most definitely wasn’t. There were around fifteen or so other witches and wizards of various ages mingling around the open living and kitchen space. Off in the corner were a few wizards who were seeing who could conjure the biggest bubble from the surface of their drink. Hermione couldn’t help but roll her eyes at a game she thought that the boys should have outgrown after second year at the latest. There was another small group huddled in the kitchen, closer to the drinks, and Hermione started to feel the impulse to make one for herself when the slightly increased sound of the hostess’s voice redirected her attention.
“And Hermione Granger,” Daphne said with a strum of intrigue, “I must admit that I did not expect to see you around here. Where’s that redheaded boyfriend of yours?”
Ginny and Hermione exchanged a quick glance at one another. In the year since her and Ron’s break up, it had only just become a topic that she felt comfortable talking about with her friends, and even that was pushing it. She had only recently finally cut her nasty habit of relapsing back to him every other weekend or so. Being a member of the trio that had taken down the reign of the Dark Lord had come with some massive caveats, especially when it came to finding a man who didn’t see her for fame. Casual hook ups were hardly an option, and even Hermione Granger had needs that books in a library couldn’t resolve.
A stern jab in the gut snapped Hermione back into the present. “Ex-boyfriend,” she hastily corrected. To be fair, most people didn’t know that she and Ron were separated. They were still seen in public enough that the majority just assumed that they were still together. And even so, it wasn’t as if she expected Daphne to keep up with her personal life. But thinking about it herself caused Hermione to have an even stronger hankering for alcohol.
Her eyes grazed back to the kitchen and the array of drinks. “If you’ll excuse me,” Hermione said as she abruptly let the conversation.
She wiggled herself between a nearby witch and the kitchen island counter so that she could grab herself a cup. The display in front of her was far from lacking, but the problem was that none of it seemed appealing. Since the war, most witches and wizards had developed enough common sense to include at least a few muggle chaser options, but it appeared as if that had yet to reach certain Slytherins. Probably some sort of stubbornness to stick to at least some wizard-only traditions, Hermione concluded. All things considered, she’d much prefer this practice to their tendencies of the past.
Resigning to the fact that there wasn’t going to be any Diet Coke, Hermione poured herself a glass of elf-made wine, deeming it the least offensive to her taste buds. She brought a quick sip to her lips and let the cold drink travel down her throat. The crisp white-tinted liquid came as such a relief, she took a more generous gulp the second time around until her first glass was already half-consumed.
“What happened to the Hermione that didn’t want to drink tonight?” Ginny teased, resting her elbow upon Hermione’s shoulder. Ginny had wide smile still stretched across her face which Hermione rolled her eyes and shook her head about. The smile quickly vanished, replaced by an expression of concern. “This isn’t about Ron, is it?”
Hermione set down her drink to cover her laugh with both hands. The fact that Ginny could even think that was truly comical. “You know that’s not it,” Hermione reprimanded.
Ginny grabbed the bottle of whiskey and poured her own cup. “Well, then stop being such a buzzkill and look around you! You’re at a party whether you like it or not, and right now, you’re ruining my celebratory mood!”
Ginny raised her eyebrows at Hermione and she knew that she had no choice but to give in. Harry was out of town for an Auror mission and Ron was off on a job in Egypt, so she was her closest friend there to celebrate. Ginny’s eyes grew larger, begging for Hermione to remove the unsavory tone from her present state. Hermione rolled her eyes one more time, and pick up her glass for a toast. “To Ginny. May she bring reputable writing back to the Daily Prophet.”
“Cheers to that!”
The young women clinked their plastic cups and both downed the rest of their drinks. With her glass only containing wine, Hermione didn’t quite mind, but Ginny’s eyes crinkled shut and her lips pursed together at the aftermath of the straight liquor. She rattled her body with a firm shake and her contorted face returned to normal.
“That’s some potent stuff,” Ginny declared pointing to the bottle of whiskey. Her finger soon changed its trajectory and shifted so that it was now directed at Hermione. “And as for you,” Ginny announced with a smirk, “when’s the last time you had a decent shag?”
Hermione’s mouth dropped at her bluntness. “Ginny!” she cried in a hushed whisper.
“And my brother doesn’t count,” she pressed on.
Hermione and Ginny locked eyes, neither one wanting to waver. Ginny had always been more open than her when it came to these things, but it just felt too personal to Hermione! Yet Ginny now had her arms crossed, and Hermione was blocked in the corner of the kitchen. If she had any hopes of ever leaving the space, she knew she’d have to submit to Ginny’s request.
“Other than Ron?” Hermione thought aloud. She looked up at the ceiling, racking her brain for the last new partner. “Well, there was that one time back in 2002 when Ron and I took that break –“
“That was two years ago!” Ginny interrupted. “You mean to tell me that you haven’t been with anyone new since you two actually broke up?”
Hermione felt her cheeks turn slightly hot. That typically didn’t happen until at least a few more drinks in, so she unfortunately couldn’t blame it on the alcohol. “No one that I’ve slept with,” Hermione defended. She could recall a few sloppy kisses after failed dates and a snog session or two, but no one had quite caught her fancy in the past year. Hence the Ron relapses.
“Oh well that just won’t do,” Ginny remarked with her scheming smirk starting to spread. She poured herself another glass of the strong whiskey and then poured an equal amount into Hermione’s cup. “I know exactly what we’re doing tonight.”
Hermione couldn’t help but roll her eyes again. “We’ll see about that.”
They raised their glasses for another cheers but were distracted by the commotion coming from the entryway. Daphne had just released a high-pitched squeal and ran towards the door, wrapping her arms around the new party guest. As she pulled away, Hermione instantly recognized the white blonde hair. One look at him and she brought the recently filled glass to her lips and downed it.
Ginny stared at Hermione curiously, then followed her gaze to see Draco Malfoy and without hesitation, refilled Hermione’s glass.
“We’re gonna need a lot more of this if we’re gonna survive this party.”