"She is tolerable; but not handsome enough to tempt me."
Hermione Granger took a deep breath and scanned the room. She did not particularly want to be at this investment networking event, but she had promised Harry. Catching her eye through the crowd, he waved her over and she moved to join him in a small group of what she assumed were potential investors, steeling herself for an evening of small talk and bad wine.
Having recently quit his job as a ministry auror, Harry was trying to attract financiers for a new, London-based Quidditch team, a venture that would easily cost millions of galleons. This was his dream—conceived after years of difficult and depressing work, which of course had followed his abusive childhood and dark adolescence, during which he'd died to save the entire wizarding world from the Dark Lord. Twice.
Countless late night brainstorming sessions, scrapped proposals and endless revisions—many in which she had participated—had led to this moment. Hermione gazed at her best friend with deep affection. If anyone deserved a new start doing something that would give him joy, it was Harry. However, he did need serious capital if he was going to do it. And while his name paired with his Quidditch star fiancée Ginny's was enough to get people to listen to the pitch, it wasn't necessarily enough to get them to sign on. Hence the plea to Hermione to accompany them to this event and add a little additional golden girl lustre.
She supposed she did bring something to the table. She'd kept her profile high in the years since Voldemort's defeat and had risen through the ranks at the ministry. She was now in a top position in the Regulation and Control of Magical Creatures department and she was proud of her work. She also wasn't above using her status to further it, so she did also have some skill at this networking game. How many ministry mixers had she smiled and chatted through? With that thought, she turned on the charm for the newcomers, murmuring her way through introductions, hoping her smile was gracious. They were indeed investors with many questions about the business plan and her involvement.
Hermione listened and made conversation, but her mind wandered. Which was probably why she noticed the exact moment that Draco Malfoy walked into the room with Theodore Nott. The rest of the crowd seemed to notice too and a ripple of whispers pulsed through it. Nott was a well-known angel investor, with the type of deep pockets most of the hopefuls at the gathering were dreaming about. And of course Malfoy controlled one of the largest fortunes in wizarding Britain. Their presence instantly seemed to make the room's energy higher, the laughter louder.
Hermione hadn't seen either wizard in years, but one couldn't avoid reading about them in the Daily Prophet, which followed particularly Malfoy's every move breathlessly. She supposed it was understandable—young, beautiful and rich always sold papers.
She very pointedly didn't stare, unlike some others in the crowd, but admitted to herself that the two wizards did make an impression. Both were tall and impeccably dressed—so polished that they looked a bit out of place in this group of hopefuls. Nott was on the slight side and a bit more relaxed in his bearing, his dark eyes twinkling as he surveyed the scene. Malfoy was the same yet different to her eye. The annoying cockiness of his school days had matured into a sort of languid confidence, and his face was no longer pointed, but more… arresting. She took in his perfectly tousled hair, broad shoulders and slim hips and was taken aback by the small frisson of heat that resulted, although she ruthlessly tamped it down. He'd been a twat in school, but an irritatingly good-looking one, so nothing had really changed.
The surprising thing was that Malfoy was the last person she expected to see at a function like this. He was too well-connected to need to network - she figured he must be there as a favor too. She noted that his features already registered a sort of pained boredom and sniffed to herself. Wasn't that just like him? He may have publicly renounced his family's wartime beliefs, but he was still a snob.
He obviously thinks himself above all this tedious money grubbing—she conveniently ignored the fact that her thoughts had been running in much the same direction not five minutes ago. Deciding not to waste any more attention on the two wizards, she instead redoubled her focus on Harry's investors, catching Ginny's eye and laughing as one of them attempted a witty comment.
A few hours later, Hermione was waiting at the bar for a glass of water, slightly hidden from the rest of the room by a potted shrubbery. She looked on in amusement; it seemed that the networking event had, with the help of the ample drink and rather scant food, turned into a bit of a dance party. Groups of people were whooping it up on the floor as the lights went lower and the band got louder.
Harry had been working the room—he'd spent a good 30 minutes talking to Theodore Nott—but he had now commandeered a table and was huddled up with another group who were gesturing and speaking loudly over the music. Ginny was sitting with them until she caught Hermione's eye and got up to join her.
"Looking for a way out, yet?" Ginny grimaced as she glanced around.
Hermione gave her a guilty smile. "Yesss, I believe my utility and patience are both spent for the night. You?"
"I think Harry's stuck in for a bit longer. I'll need to hang around in support, but you should get the fuck out of here while you can."
Just then the band started a particularly energetic tune that triggered waves of cheering from the pissed crowd. "I'm sorry, darling. I wish I could spirit you away too." Hermione winced as someone fell over on the dance floor.
"Oh I'll be ok. It's gillywater from here on out. I'll just have to make sure Harry doesn't need too much help home."
Hermione laughed and nodded—Harry had been going drink for drink with his new friends, and he was a notorious lightweight. "It seems like it's been a good night for him. Those men he's with have been talking to him for ages and I saw you two with Theodore Nott for a good bit of time."
"I know! It's been ace! I'll need to do background checks on that lot," Ginny gestured to the table, "but Nott is legitimate. He seemed really interested in Harry's plan. He asked all the right questions and suggested a follow-up meeting. I also actually enjoyed talking to him. He's not at all what I thought he was like in school. He was very charming and kind. Not stuck up in the least."
"That's good to hear. Unfortunately one can't say the same about his companion." The corner of Hermione's mouth tugged up.
"Yeah, Malfoy's been walking around all night like he has a stick up his arse." Ginny put on an over-the-top posh voice; "one wonders why he bothered sullying himself with the riff-raff."
"Although, it's really too bad," Ginny continued with a mercenary gleam in her eye. "He would actually be an amazing addition to our investment team. Our publicity would double! And he's gotten surprisingly easy on the eyes."
"Agreed. But, total prat." Hermione tilted her head with mock regret, causing her friend let out a bark of laughter.
At that exact moment the band ended their set and in the relative silence Hermione overheard the voices of the subjects of their conversation from directly on the other side of the shrubbery. She slapped a hand over her mouth as Ginny's widening eyes mirrored her instant panic. Oh my god, had they been overheard...? But it soon became clear that Malfoy and Nott were deep in conversation and hadn't noticed them.
"...not all bad, Draco," said Nott's voice. "There are some great ideas in this room!"
"And did any of these ideas came with great business plans? Or really any sort of plan at all other than, 'give me your money and don't ask too many questions'?"
Hermione narrowed her eyes at Ginny, who mouthed 'twat', but remained in place and silent, committed to shameless eavesdropping.
"Thanks for your insight, but I'm not an idiot," said Nott, taking a sip of something. "Potter's scheme is actually rather intriguing. He wants to start a London-based Quidditch team, which when you think about it, it's astounding that no teams represent London. There's a large wizarding population to support a fan base and ample locations for a pitch. And with Harry Potter and Ginny Weasley's names attached to the project there will be a lot of free PR. I've asked him for a private meeting to discuss it further. I've always sort of fancied being involved with a Quidditch franchise."
Malfoy snorted, "Make sure you go over his numbers with a fine-toothed comb at your meeting. If I know anything about the 'chosen one', it's that he tends to rush in without much of a plan."
Hermione locked eyes with Ginny at this, although she privately acknowledged that the least well-supported part of the plan was the actual financials. She'd been meaning to review them, but hadn't had time to really sit down yet.
"Hermione Granger seems to be lending her support to it," countered Nott. "Seems like she wouldn't do that if it were a shit plan. In fact I think you should consider investing too. You love Quidditch, you live in London and you don't lack for funds. It would be a lark. Besides, you'd get to work with Granger, and she's gotten rather nice to look at."
Ginny's mouth dropped open in total surprise and Hermione's brows flew to her hairline—she was riveted waiting for Malfoy's response.
"Yes, the involvement of the 'brightest witch of our age' seems to be enough for the whole of wizarding Britain to drop everything and wade in," he said, his tone icy. "But Granger would do anything for Potter, including supporting a poorly thought-out investment scheme. I don't trust that lot to have worked anything through carefully, so I would never trust them with my gold."
Nott started to protest but Malfoy cut him off. "Anyway, I'm out, Theo. I can't stand another minute of this soiree and this crap wine. I can feel a headache coming on. Take your meeting with the Golden Trio if you want; you've certainly placed stupider bets. Just don't throw my name around and do not set yourself up as a matchmaker. Granger may be tolerable, but she's not enough to tempt me." A glass plunked on the bar, "I'll see you tomorrow at the Club." With this parting shot Malfoy stalked away. Nott called out a quick goodbye and also moved off - in Harry's direction.
Hermione looked at Ginny in complete silence for a full ten seconds before they both broke into helpless laughter. When Hermione could speak again, she posed exaggeratedly against the bar and drawled, "the brightest witch of our age is tolerable, but NOT enough to tempt me." This set Ginny off again and the two were wiping tears from their eyes as Harry approached.
"What's got you two in stitches?" he asked with a tipsy smile.
"Oh nothing," Ginny replied. "Just making fun of a couple of posh twats." This cracked Hermione up afresh and it took a moment before all was calm again.
"Well, I count this night a big success," said Harry, looking a bit puzzled at their antics, but clearly deciding from long experience to ignore them. "The investment group I was talking to at the table wants me to send them my proposal documents and Theo Nott wants to meet with me this week to discuss the plan in more depth."
"I'm so glad, Harry." Hermione planted a kiss on her best friend's cheek.
Ginny kissed his other cheek, "yes, love, that is really encouraging. I'll help you prepare the documents and prep for your meeting, but shall we get going home now?"
"Yes!" Hermione joined her voice to Harry's and then followed her friends out the door toward the apparition point.
Later in bed, she couldn't help chuckling again at the tone of Malfoy's voice when he'd said 'the brightest witch of our age'. She actually hated that moniker, every news article about her seemed to work it in and she thought it made her seem totally insufferable, but she cackled at the idea that it got under his skin. Anything to pierce that uppercrust arrogance.
And she truly didn't care about his opinion. Although the 'tolerable' comment had stung slightly, it also appealed to her sense of the ridiculous. She knew she was more than tolerable. And despite the fact that she'd seemed to display a very minor physical attraction to grown-up Malfoy tonight, she wouldn't ever remotely consider him either. He was too full of himself, and the pureblood world he moved in bored her to tears. She sighed, rolled over and closed her eyes, content to put him out of her mind for another several years.