No alpha, no beta, no ownership of Harry Potter... I flew solo on this little drabble in honor of Hermione's big Four-Oh, so please forgive any lack of edits. This was mostly written on my phone at a soccer game. Go, team, go! Yes, Olivia, mommy is watching...


Forty.

Forty and divorced and spending an evening alone with a bottle of wine and a work inspired stress headache. Just bloody perfect.

Taking small solace in the simple fact that the weekend has arrived and the ministry can survive without Hermione Granger in the morning, she tips her bottle and pours another glass.

She'd have thought at least Harry would make a little fuss on such a monumental birthday. Not that he forgot, of course. An owl with a surprisingly sappy letter had arrived, a box with a beautiful pendant for her robes tied to its leg. But where was her big forty celebration? Where were all her friends making sure she still felt young and vibrant and assuring her of the years spread before her?

Hermione had always imagined this birthday being something truly special. A trip abroad with all her favorite couples. Climbing a mountain together or fucking muggle sky diving or anything.

Instead, she takes another drink, turns the page in the book she is currently failing to read. The bottle is almost half gone and the book is dry as toast.

Nearly ready to just magically reseal the bottle and toddle off to bed, she's surprised by a knock at her door. Living an almost entirely magical life, hardly associating with Muggles, a knock at the door is a rare occurrence indeed.

She rises and straightens her attire, trying to appear less rumpled. "Coming!"

Not that her home is unplottable, but very few people even know where she lives since the split with Ron. Do people still sell door to door?

Her thoughts dry up when she turns the knob and peers out into the evening. A rather uncomfortable looking Draco Malfoy is standing on her stoop, looking around like he's terrified.

"Granger."

"Malfoy. What are you doing here?"

A flash of irritation. "The polite thing to do is invite me inside, knowing I've come all this way without the benefit of the floo."

Hermione sighs and steps aside. Mockingly grand, she gestures him through the door. "Oh, please won't you come inside?" She deadpans.

That smirk for which he's well known makes an appearance, and all irritation vanishes. My,my, he's an entitled little prick, isn't he?

"Thanks, Granger. So a little owl may have told me it's your birthday."

She groans. "And?"

"I further understand that it's your birthday and you have no plans of note. Correct?"

Hermione folds her arms and tips her face down with a glare. More forcefully, "And?"

"And I'm here to change that, obviously."

She just stares at him then, all her questions lost. She doesn't even know what to ask to clear up her confusion.

"I see you're speechless. While some might be baffled by the rare occurrence, I find I like you much better with your wits about you. Now, get dressed."

Her head is spinning. Hermione looks down at herself and the denims she put on after work. Comfortable but presentable, just in case a surprise party were to be waiting for her when she entered her home.

Of course, it had not, but that's old news by now.

Now, her brain is focused on something else entirely. "I am dressed."

He waves his hand around, dismissing her remark. "No, I mean in something acceptable for public; not this… what is this? Lounge wear? That's a thing right?"

She huffs at him. "You, Malfoy, are an utter snob. Let's get past rehashing what you think of muggle culture and discuss why I need to change clothes."

"Because I'm taking you out for your birthday," he says with a grin. As if it's obvious. As if Draco Malfoy would just "take out" Hermione Granger.

"Wh-... wait, why?"

He looks at her with an obvious effort of patience. "Because it's your birthday," he says, a bit slowly as if she can't follow the logic.

There's just too much to unpack from all of this, too many facts that don't add up. Instead of rehashing this line of questioning, she sighs and relents. "What is appropriate attire for whatever this is?"

His grin widens into something just a little breathtaking. "The blue gown you wore to the commemoration ball would be perfect.

She's startled he remembers something that specific, but only nods and turns on her heel to comply.

XxxxX

Draco spends the next twenty minutes pacing while Granger can't see. He's been doing a fine job, in his opinion, of seeming aloof and unaffected. Inside, he's a fucking mess; a twist of knots and jumbled panic.

All the way to her door, what if she says no?

The moment he saw her, the look on her face a bit put out and her attire meant for a night in, was this a mistake?

When she reluctantly agreed, does she wish I hadn't come?

His relationship with the witch is as a tenuous acquaintance at best, contentious on more frequent occasion. Somehow that hasn't stopped Draco from being drawn to her, enraptured by her intelligence and natural grace. His feelings for her have grown steadily for years, but her marriage to Weasley had made them always inappropriate. The more his affections developed, the sharper grew his tongue in her presence.

Regardless of the current state of frosty relations between them, he's been looking for his opening. She's free now, and somehow he has to undo the damage his mouth has done.

A momentous birthday seemed a perfect chance. So, he'd donned his nicest robes and made reservations at an exclusive restaurant with only eight tables serving three nights per week. He has only attended with his mother, but Draco knows the seating to be very private, set inside half-circle alcoves surrounding the perimeter of the dimly lit space. The perfect setting for an intimate meal full of shared secrets and subtle touches. He's been through it so many times, he could write novels of their love story. The First Time I Touch Her Hand, sequel to She Blushes When My Thigh Grazes Hers.

The later titles are not fit for civil conversation.

He hears a door creak and looks up. There, in that fitted blue gown that hugs her body like a vice, is the witch who holds his heart, clueless that she could crush it without thinking.

She dressed quickly, so her make up is minimal and her curls are a delicious disaster. She's so fucking perfect, it could bring him to his knees.

"You didn't say where we are going, so this will have to do. I'm not spending forty-five minutes and a bottle of Sleekeasy's to do anything more with-"

"You're perfect," he blurts out, then amends, "perfectly acceptable. It's only dinner, Granger, not a meeting with foreign dignitaries."

Why does he do that? Draco knows he sounds like a bit of a prick, sarcastic and difficult, but the idea of being too open, of potentially laying out his desires only to be politely rejected, is one of the most terrifying things he's ever faced.

She shrugs, seeming not to take offense, nor catch his near-slip. "Alright then. How are we travelling?"

Draco steps forward and offers his arm gallantly. "Apparition, if I may?"

She accepts. With no hesitation, she lays her delicate hand on his forearm and looks at his face in expectation.

He swallows, more affected than he had thought he would be by her proximity and her touch, and prepares to spin in place. "Hold tight," he says softly, watching her mouth when she licks her lips.

They land in the foyer, a specially designed apparition point, at the front of the restaurant. The room allows patrons a moment to right themselves so they might walk elegantly into the next room, none of the staff seeing them less than poised, thrown off by side-along.

Her hand is still on his arm, and Draco lays his own palm over hers. "Shall we?"

She nods, and he guides her forward, trying not to cling to her, even as he luxuriates in his skin touching hers.

The wizard in the next room greets them as they enter. "Mister Malfoy. Allow me to welcome you and your guest. If you would follow me this way to your table?"

Draco gives a nod of assent, and their table is presented. A bottle of Champagne awaits them, and glasses are poured the moment they've been seated. The table is set into the circular space, one beautifully upholstered bench lining the wall, allowing a dining pair to sit as close as they wish.

Once they are left alone, Draco looks to the witch who hasn't said a word. "Happy Birthday, Granger." He raises her glass, a silent suggestion they toast to her.

She's looking stunned, but she lifts the glass and raises it to her mouth. They drink. She places the glass back on the table.

This is not going quite as he had written in his mind.

Clearing his throat, Draco tries to engage in conversation.

"I'm glad I found you at home. These reservations are not easy to get, you know. If you'd been working late or off saving nifflers from burning houses or something-"

"Why did you bring me here?"

He turns wide eyes on the witch. Her expression is a little hardened with something. Anger? Distrust? Maybe it's just the normal expression of a confused Hermione.

"Because it's your birthday," he says simply.

"Last year on this very same day was also my birthday. Today, all day, was my birthday. You could have sent a card or just passed by and gave me best wishes. Why, did you bring me here?" She asks the question a little harder, a little more intense.

Why indeed? Certainly not to be scolded. Draco frowns and looks away. "It's a big birthday, Granger. Seems like the type you do more than send a card."

"What, pity then? Poor single Granger, stuck at home. So you what? Thought you'd throw your wealth around and benefit from the public spectacle of my lonely birthday?"

He blinks, completely taken back by the response. She's angry, more than. Fuck, if he doesn't feel his own hackles rise. Words like ungrateful and unappreciative vie for exit from his mouth.

But, there is something in the stiffness of her posture that makes him think she's holding more emotion behind the words. Instead of biting back, he settles for a little honesty.

"I thought it was a good enough reason to ask you to dinner."

She looks away, jaw clenched, and he knows it wasn't enough.

"I needed a reason," he continues. "More than just because I wanted to… because if there wasn't any other purpose you might have said no."

That draws her attention, eyes shifting back to Draco's face. "I was so sure you'd say no," he emphasizes softly, taking advantage of the intimate setting. He could never be this earnest if anyone else could see.

"The Milan conference."

The change of topic jars him. "What?"

Turning to more face him, Hermione's knee brushes his leg once more. "When we were in Milan for the Potions Regulation conference… We literally had dinner at the same time in the same cafe and different tables. What more reason could you have needed beyond logic?"

Draco looks at her, mouth dropped open, then closes it with a click of teeth. "You were still married," he manages, hissing it out in a combination of agitation and confusion.

"It's just dinner," she argues, nonchalant as you please. Does he have to paint her a bloody portrait. Brightest fucking witch…

"Well, I didn't want 'just dinner' so that would have been inappropriate."

In a voice too small to belong to the rumoured-to-be future Minister of Magic, she says simply, "oh."

"Right. 'Oh'. Merlin, Granger, how obvious do I need to be?"

"A little bit more apparently," she mutters, and it's just sarcastic enough, just barely self deprecating in an adorable way, that he chuckles.

Draco reaches for her hand, gently caresses over her knuckles then slides his fingers beneath hers to grip them.

"What do you want then?" She asks. "What more beyond dinner?"

He studies her face carefully. She seems receptive.. or is it merely polite? It's now or never, he would suppose. If not now, he may as well move on. Pining for a witch who shares no interest is a waste of his time, and he's not getting any younger.

"Coffee tomorrow? Lunch next week? Another dinner, no celebration excuse required? What are you willing to give, Granger? Because that's what I want: whatever you'll let me have."

Her fingers tighten around his own, gripping him back. Her eyes bounce between his own, searching for something…. Assurance?

After what feels like a very long time, she smiles, and the dim room feels as though lit by the sun. "Alright. Dinner… then we will see about the rest."

He'll take it. With an answering smile, Draco removes his hand from hers only to tuck a curl behind her ear. She blushes and he lifts his glass again.

"To you. You know, muggles say 'life begins at forty'...Here's to new beginnings."

Hermione Granger clinks her glass against his. "Thanks for doing this for me."

His smile broadens, but he denies, "believe me, Granger, the pleasure is mine."

They have coffee the next day, mostly because he wakes up in her flat.