"Honestly Hermione, how can you not dress yourself for a date, you are 29 and two offices away from being the head of magical state in Britain. Useless Gryffindor." Pansy rolled her eyes and flicked through the wardrobe in front of her. "Though with clothing like this to choose from it's no wonder. Do you ever go out?" She went on without giving Hermione a chance to sputter an answer. "No. Of course not. You and that cat are on the couch every night after 5pm and then you're in bed by 10 like a grandmother." She pulled something out that had decent enough lines that she could transfigure it into something worthwhile. A wave of her wand and it changed colors from that awful Gryffindor red to a nice green so deep it almost looked black out of the light, hem shortened to something someone would wear this century and the neckline lowered so it wasn't Yule Ball approved. "Here."
"I can't wear that! I'll bend over and everything will fall out." Hermione was bright red even looking at it.
Pansy just shrugged. "Then don't."
"What do you mean 'then don't?' You don't know what the night is going to entail!"
Pansy rather thought the indigance was cute. Stupid Gryffindor getting in her head like this. She rolled her eyes once again. "It most likely won't entail mortal combat, sit down, cross your legs like a lady, don't lean so far forward reaching for something when you can ask to have it handed to you. Honestly, you're clever enough to figure it out. Brightest witch of her age my left tit."
"I hate you." But she grabbed the dress out of Pansy's hands anyway.
"Yes, that definitely explains why you owled me in a state this morning about what to wear. People definitely do that with enemies."
Hermione kindly flipped her off as she disappeared into her bathroom to get ready. Pansy collapsed onto her bed to wait, unmade of course because Granger, while being the biggest neat freak about her library or notes, was a little bit of a slob elsewhere. Who didn't make their bed? It took two seconds, for Merlin’s sake, a swish of the wand, and yet she sat down and got a rush of faint scent, the floral of Hermione’s shampoo and the more musky scent of her perfume, coming up from the covers. She had good choice in scents. Perhaps that was why she didn't push too hard on the other woman making her bed like any other functioning magical adult. Perhaps.
Thirty minutes later the sounds of the shower stopped and then there was the normal scrabbling of Hermione trying to figure out just how in the world to get ready. If she hadn’t already known that the woman had bribed Pavarti Patil with help with her potions essays for the rest of the year in fourth year to help her get ready for the Yule Ball, Pansy would have wondered how she had pulled that off, but as a good Slytherin, of course she knew everything. She counted down to herself, wondering just when Hermione would give up and call her in. She got to all of fifty when Hermione’s voice came from behind the door.
“Updo or down?” She was already a bit exasperated. “And why in the world did I agree to this again?”
“To get the youngest Weasel to shut up, I suppose.”
“I know you like her, why do you call her Weasel?” Hermione cracked the door open, glaring out at Pansy.
“Because it riles you nicely, why else?” She arched a rather perfectly shaped eyebrow, thank you very much. And if she focused on that she wouldn’t focus on the fact that Hermione had nothing but a towel around her and was very damp still. Those were not normal things to notice about a friend.
“And I’m sure that telling her she needs to find someone else for you to date would be a fun activity for her.”
“You wouldn’t dare.”
“Not if you tell me updo or down. And dramatic makeup or understated. Then I think we can find some sort of peace between us.”
Pansy snorted, trying not to sneer at the lingering image of Ginny Weasley setting up a blind date for her. Or any date really. No thank you she was perfectly capable of finding her own dates, that’s what the Shimmering Unicorn and its exclusive clientele was for. She wasn’t about to pick up a woman from some common sports bar that ginger jock loved, no, she had class.
Instead, she thought of the dress, thought of Hermione’s scant necklace collection and thought it over. “Half up and half down, otherwise you’ll be pushing your hair behind your ears all night like you have a tic. You can let them know about your disgusting chewed quill habit on the second date instead. But for Salazar’s sake use the hair potion I got you for your last birthday please. That half priced one you use only lasts half the night and you know it. And the makeup...not dramatic, that’s what the dress is for, but understated is for day looks. Cats eye and a bit of green shimmer, and I mean a bit, Hermione you aren’t a bloody fairy.”
Hermione laughed once before shutting the door. “At least not the kind you’re meaning, no.”
Pansy was more than a bit confused which probably meant, “are you referencing a muggle saying again?”
“Yes, Pansy, it’s a slang term for gay people, not usually complementary, but fuck them, I can reclaim what I want.”
Since she was Hermione Granger, Golden Girl, that was fair enough, she supposed.
“She really hasn’t told you who she’s set me up with?” Hermione asked a few minutes later. “I know you two gossip even though you both pretend not to every single time I see you together. The clamming up as soon as I step around the corner is a clue.”
“That’s her, not me, thank you very much. I know how to be covert. It’s not my fault Gryffindor teaches you to all be honest and true and fucking wankers.”
“What right and proper language from such a high class woman,” Hermione sassed.
“Just for that I’m picking out your ugliest accessories for tonight.” Pansy pushed herself up and towards the few jewelry boxes that Hermione owned.
“No you won’t, you’re the Editor of Witch Weekly and if I said in public that you’d sent me out ugly as sin, it would either be fashionable the next day or you’d lose all your reputation.”
“Oh get stuffed.” Not that she wasn’t right, it would be fashionable by the next day, but that didn’t mean she had to throw that in her face with all the righteousness of a Gryffindor who knew they were right. Merlin alive, why was she friends with this woman again?
She sorted through everything that Hermione had, pulling out a pair of passable fake emerald teardrop earrings, making a mental note to replace them with the real thing next Christmas, after all if she was to be Minister she’d need the real article to look the part, and a delicate Elfish gold bracelet, strands woven into intricate knots that caught the light just so. When had she gotten this? She’d never seen it before and it was actually decent.
Hermione opened the bathroom door and stepped out, hair falling softing in tamed loose ringlets down her back, the front of her hair gathered back and pinned at the back of her head with a golden hair clip with emeralds to match the earrings. Well, at least she’d managed to pick something out on her own that was acceptable. She put out her hand and dropped the bracelet and earrings into the other woman’s palm.
“Since when have you had an actually decent bracelet and hair clip?”
“The pin was my grandmother’s.” Hermione went quiet as she always did after talking about her muggle family. “She only wore it for special occasions, so I keep the same habit.”
“And your first date in two years is a special occasion.” Though the snark lacked all of her normal bite.
“I thought so.” Hermione shrugged and then Pansy actually looked at the dress on her and, Salazar, was her heart supposed to be beating this hard? She’d known that it would look wonderful on Hermione when she’d been altering it, but seeing it like this? Merlin, she needed a moment. She couldn’t exactly have a moment, but she needed one. She could only hope she wasn’t blushing.
“And the bracelet?” She managed to say in a perfectly even voice. There were few things she felt thankful to her parents for, but poise and etiquette training was one of them.
“Oh,” Hermione blushed, “I uh, bought that on a whim, actually because I thought it would be something you’d approve of.”
“I very much do.” Their eyes locked for a moment and Pansy, as people savvy as she was, had no idea what in the world passed between them, but it was something .
Hermione’s wrist shot out. “Can you help me put it on?” She waved off Pansy’s next comment. “Yes, yes magic and all that exist whatever, but you also have hands.”
Pansy didn’t even have it in her to snark this time, she just took the bracelet, carefully unlatched it, and put it on, fingers brushing against Hermione’s warm skin for a few moments, and only the tightest reign on her magic kept it from arcing to the other woman. She hadn’t had this little control of herself and her magic since before she’d gone to Hogwarts. She had to get a hold of herself, damn it.
“Thanks,” Hermione said, a bit squeakier than normal, but Pansy brushed that off.
She took a step back and gestured for Hermione to put the earrings in so she could get a look at the full ensemble. Hermione obeyed her without another word and Pansy nodded. Granger looked damned hot. Perhaps a little too hot, the thought crossed the back of her mind, but she ignored it, as she always did. Instead, she turned around, rummaged around in the bottom of the wardrobe again, and pulled out the one pair of heels that were high enough for a date and work or some stuffy party full of old maids, and charmed them so they were actually comfortable and Hermione couldn’t fall on her face. She put them on the floor and Hermione stepped into them before looking at herself in her full length mirror.
“I shouldn’t be surprised that it takes you less than five minutes to make me look like this, and yet.” She turned and enveloped Pansy in a hug, heels now making Hermione tall enough that Pansy was being treated to an up close and personal view of the cleavage the dress so gracefully showed off. “Thank you, I don’t know what I would ever do without you.”
Hermione’s wand vibrated on the nightstand and she stepped back. “Bloody hell, just in time too it seems.”
Pansy held up a clutch, the same dark green as the dress and gold fastenings. “You aren’t taking that bottomless hellhole you call a bag tonight and ruining my hard work.”
“Joke’s on you all of my purses are charmed to be bottomless hellholes as you call them.” She took the clutch from Pansy and grabbed her wand, waving it until extra lipstick and a few other things all flowed into it before it snapped shut. “I’ll owl you about everything when I get home?”
“Oh please, Granger, you’re telling me everything blow by blow tomorrow over breakfast.”
Hermione rolled her eyes. “Fair enough I suppose. I figured that might be the price I paid for all this.”
“But of course.”
Hermione leaned forward and dropped a kiss on Pansy’s cheek. “And now I guess all that’s left to do is apparate there.” She stepped back and turned on her heel, disappearing with a pop.
Pansy sank down half a second later on the bed again, unable to keep in the groan she’d been holding on to since she’d seen Hermione in nothing more than a towel. She’d been ignoring all these little hints and signs for so long, but now, well, she had no bodily integrity after seeing one Hermione Granger in a nice dress and done up for a date and she couldn’t really kid herself anymore like she could over the little rushes of affection over tea when Hermione said something stupidly cute or the way her smile made her heart flutter or whatever other mushy bullshit she felt in the last few years of their friendship that she’d so carefully dismissed. Of fucking course she had to be a lesbian stereotype and fall for her best friend. Malfoy would not let her hear the end of this if he ever found out. The fucking git. She rubbed at her face and groaned some more. But who else was she going to drink with about the fact that she’d just helped her best friend that she was in love with get ready for a date with someone who decidedly wasn’t her . Better that she had a few fire whiskeys in her when he found out than not.
She pushed herself up and apparated directly into Malfoy’s foyer with her usual dramatic flourish, leaving behind the soft scents of Hermione’s sheets, but none of the frustration.
Narcissa had only been talked into this because Draco still had puppy dog eyes that could get her to do anything, even if he was almost thirty. She supposed it would just be a lifelong weakness for her. She couldn’t even be angry about it, he was her baby boy after all.
It didn’t hurt that this was one of her favorite restaurants and even if this blind date didn’t work out, at least the wine selection would. And if it went anything other than spectacularly, she was definitely indulging in more than enough wine to sink a ship. A Black, stooping to the level of a blind date. There were generations of her family rolling over in their graves right now, she supposed. Then again they were still probably going round and round over her divorce, so what did their opinion matter anyway, they could spin like a top for the rest of eternity and she couldn’t be bothered.
The table Draco had reserved them was one of her favorites, able to see most of the dining room for optimal intelligence gather, back to the wall so no one could sneak up behind her, alcove that it was in amplifying sound from around the room just enough that Narcissa could concentrate and make out almost everyone’s conversations one at a time if she chose while she was watching the coming and going of other patrons. Her Dragon knew her well.
She was here twenty minutes early because a good Slytherin knew that the key to any interaction that was uncertain was to not let the other person get the drop on you, even if this was just a harmless date. Some old habits she would gladly carry into the beyond with her. That, and having a glass of wine mostly empty by the time the actual date rolled around would only help loosen her up just a bit. She might not snap off the other person’s head if they were truly atrocious, she tended to be generous when she was a glass or two in, but no further.
Narcissa’s eyes flicked up to the door, sensing someone powerful step onto the dining floor. Her eyes locked on a woman in a dress that was fabulously mind melting, low cut, but not enough to be scandalous, a hem that showed off legs that were marvelously toned, fitted so that it showed off the body underneath without being lewd, and that color was a stroke of subtle brilliance. She wondered just where the other woman had gotten it. Perhaps that was her date she was rather ogling, and if that was the case, oh no, whatever would she do? She laughed to herself quietly before actually managing to pull her eyes up to the woman’s face finally and freezing mid-chuckle.
Hermione Granger was staring back at her from atop that dress. And now the maitre-d was turning, showing her the way to her table, walking through the main floor, making a beeline for her table. She held her breath, hoping against hope that they stopped anywhere else, but no, they kept right on.
What in the Salazar’s name was she supposed to do in this situation? The woman was the same age as Draco for Merlin’s sake. She couldn’t be seen on a date with someone quite literally half her age. And what exactly would Draco think when he…
Draco was the one who had set all of this up. Draco was the one that told her it was a date not just an outing to make a new friend, a date. He knew and yet he’d gone ahead with this plan anyway? What in the world was he thinking?
Her eyes swept over Hermione Granger’s body again as she was steps away from the table again and tilted her head just slightly. A bright witch, nearing the peak of her power, who was beautiful? Unfortunately Draco seemed to have nailed her type down to a t. Her Dragon really did know her it seemed. And it made the “really, mother, just give it a chance before you go running to the hills,” speech he’d given her before sending her off make that much more sense.
Well, she was a Slytherin, and she wasn’t about to let Hermione Granger catch her on the wrong foot. Draco could be dealt with later along with whoever had helped him plan this, because she was rather certain that Hermione wouldn’t have agreed to a blind date set up by him, close as they were now via mutual friends. She had a few candidates in mind already.
Narcissa pushed out of her chair with a smile that she didn’t really have to force. “Miss Granger, I see it’s you who’s been looped into this blind date shenanigan.” She stepped forward, gripping the younger woman’s arms lightly before kissing her on the cheek lightly, smelling something wonderfully floral, perhaps orange blossom, and lingering for perhaps a moment longer than she should. She pulled away again and let the maitre-d reseat the both of them.
Hermione, for her part, was checking out Narcissa with none of the subtlety she had shown, which she found amusing. She knew the witch had a decent poker face, but right now that seemed very much beyond her. The boost to her ego was more than slight. Of course her dress was to die for, Anathema had told her she’d killed someone to get it on sale, and one never could be too literal with her, and she’d otherwise made sure she looked better than she had in years, willing to impress whoever ended up on the other side of the table, but most importantly show the rumor mill that she wasn’t planning on becoming an old spinster. She was still young for a witch, after all.
The younger woman finally shook herself a bit and answered Narcissa’s implied question. “Yes,” she laughed, “Ginny wouldn’t stop bothering me until I agreed.”
Narcissa had to pause for a moment before replying. The woman’s brain was one of those few that screamed its thoughts so loud, disjointed little fragments shooting past her that all connected so quickly it was almost hard to keep track. She wasn’t surprised that that was how the Brightest Witch of Her Age’s brain worked, but being this close, she had to recalibrate her mental shields to bring everything down to a manageable level that she could ignore...if she chose to anyway. For now she was rather enjoying the “oh no...so attractive...do I know how to talk?” thoughts that were zooming by.
“Ginny Weasley,” Narcissa said, considering. Draco had gotten very close to Harry Potter after the war. To the point where she’d been surprised that he’d announced his engagement to Ginny. She had felt almost sure that….she didn’t read Draco’s mind as a rule, no mother should read their son’s mind, but some thing she still couldn’t help overhearing, and she could have sworn she saw a ring in Draco’s mind, on his finger, and green eyes looking up at him from one knee beside it. But Draco also Ginny almost as much. And she still did wonder. Oh did she wonder. But Draco would tell her in his own time, and that was that.
“I didn’t know she was so fashionable,” she continued, gesturing at Hermione’s ensemble, trying not to snort. The woman was as daft at fashion as they came unless it was Quidditch sportswear.
Hermione laughed and it was lovely and musical and Narcissa found that perhaps she was a bit more over her head than normal in a social situation because her heart hadn’t fluttered like that since Hogwarts. Dear Salazar, she couldn’t be acting like a schoolgirl, that was beneath her.
“Merlin, no, she’s the one person who might be worse than I am. No, Pansy helped get me ready tonight.” She gestured at the dress. “She altered this herself.”
Narcissa hummed her approval. Perhaps she’d have to invite Pansy over to tea to thank her for this vision. “Now that certainly tracks. Her originals have always been remarkable, even when she was younger.”
A hint of a blush crossed over Hermione’s face as she nodded. “I always thought so, even when she was a prat in school.”
Now it was Narcissa’s turn to laugh. “Somehow I get the feeling that you’ve said something along the same lines for Draco.”
“Oh certainly, and to his face too. He doesn’t deny it.”
“Would you believe me if I told you that was all Lucius’s doing?” Narcissa arched a teasing eyebrow.
“Considering what he’s told me about Christmas and birthday presents that you got him? Not a chance.” Hermione grinned, shrugging one shoulder, hair slipping forward and covering her collar bone. Narcissa had quite the urge to tuck it back into place.
“Well, I suppose I can’t argue with that. But he is my Dragon, so I doubt I would change a thing.”
“He turned out right in the end, that’s what matters.” She reached forward and took a sip of her sparkling water and relaxed a bit. “I admit, I thought the beginning of this date was going to be rather awkward getting to know someone else before some common topic came up that would while the night away, but it hasn’t felt like that at all.” She snorted. “Of course Ginny will never let me live it down if I tell her she set up a decent date, so if you could keep that between us…”
“Oh assuredly. Draco is most definitely going to sweat for a least a few minutes before I let him off the hook for these plots.” She picked up her menu. “Now, Miss Granger, enough about those hooligans, have you been here before?”
“No, I’ve walked past it more than once and thought about it, but I never could find the excuse to spend most of a paycheck on a meal even if I can well afford it.”
Narcissa felt her eyes spark. She did so love introducing people to new things that they enjoyed immensely. “Ah, wonderful, do you trust me to do a bit of ordering then?”
Hermione glanced around the glittering restaurant for a moment before looking back at her. “Narcissa Black in a fine dining space? I think I’m in good hands.”
“I’ll endeavor to keep your faith in me then.” And half a second later a waiter was by their table, pad at the ready, attentive as ever as Narcissa rattled off a few of her favorite dishes and a few more that she thought might please Hermione, before he disappeared, leaving them alone to start their date in earnest.