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"Is not general incivility the very essence of love?"

- Jane Austen, Pride and Prejudice


The gentleman looked irritably around him, his lip curled up in undisguised disdain. He had objected to being present that night and felt vindicated in his reluctance to attend. Blaise had, unfortunately, been impossible to say no to, stubborn wanker that he was, and so Draco now found himself both terribly bored and indescribably unimpressed with everything about the poor country assembly he was partaking in.

Thankfully, beyond a polite nod at every introduction and the occasional single syllable word in response to a direct question, he had managed to avoid engaging with the poorly dressed, questionably smelling attendants that surrounded him. The combination of his well tailored robes, worthy of a man of ten thousand pounds a year, and impressive scowl was enough to intimidate even the most aggressive hopefuls. Blaise on the other hand seemed to be enjoying himself quite successfully, which Draco attributed mostly to the pretty girl he had spotted and attached himself to near the beginning of the evening.

Far from finding anything wanting, Blaise was in the mood to be pleased, and so he was, declaring the music to his taste, the townsfolk friendly and charming and the ladies beautiful. He paid little mind to the foul aura of the best friend he had cajoled into coming along, used to his tempers enough to know when to leave him be, and instead focused his attention on sweet-talking the young beauty who had so quickly captured it, a Ms. Luna Lovegood.

Hermione Granger was likewise enjoying herself that evening. She had come to the assembly somewhat reluctantly herself.

Not one to revel in the pomp of public events or desire the opportunity to display, flirt and flaunt that they presented, she generally attended them only when it was unavoidable. She enjoyed herself well enough when she was made to go, but nonetheless preferred to exert her energy on more academic pursuits in the peace of her father's study.

Tonight the reason she had especially have rather stayed home was, incidentally the reason she had especially been made to come. It had been circulating that the wealthy young man who had recently let the nearby estate of Netherfield would be in attendance. That news in itself would have been inconsequential had it not been accompanied by the very important fact that he was unattached and brought with him an equally unattached and, if rumor was to be believed, even wealthier friend. Hermione knew that, without a doubt, all the single gentleman's daughters in the country would not want to miss such a rare opportunity of advancement and she was not incorrect.

The assembly was nearly full to the gills of lace clad young ladies and their hopeful mamas all wishing to catch the eye of one of the handsome eligible young men. And they were handsome, Hermione allowed upon seeing them. The rumours for once had not exaggerated there. The night-dark eyes and hair of Mr. Zabini contrasted with the almost white locks and sleet-grey eyes of Mr. Malfoy in such a way that, even had their income not preceded them, they would have lingered in the dreams of many a romantic young lady that night regardless.

As it happened, and really not much to Hermione's surprise, her dearest friend Luna quite quickly captured the new Master of Netherfield's eye. Upon conversing with him she deemed him to be a good spirited and genuine sort and Hermione was pleased that he could so quickly recognize the value of her friend, whom she had seen others overlook in favor of more simpering, high-spirited girls.

His friend's temper, however, was as different from Mr. Zabini's as his looks. Hermione could not recall meeting anyone in her one and twenty years who was less pleasant nor more determined to be displeased. She had tried, at first to make polite conversation with him while Luna was engaged with Blaise and that had gone precisely as follows:

"How are you enjoying your time in Hertfordshire?"

She received no response aside from an impressively supercilious scowl and a raised eyebrow as if to say 'What do you think?'.

"I hear you're from the north of Derbyshire?"

A hummed affirmative as he looked boredly around the room. Hermione felt her ire flare at the utter rudeness of this man.

"Well the rumours of your handsomeness were certainly not exaggerated."

He looked at her finally, meeting her eyes with an utterly contemptuous look. Before anything could come out of the mouth he finally seemed inclined to speak with, she went on, "It's too bad they so vastly oversold your personality. I had heard you were clever."

This was not precisely true, but she felt the white lie was worthwhile. His shock at being thus addressed momentarily slackened his face into blankness. Unfortunately not a moment more had passed before a mean little smirk curled up his lip.

"You're awfully bold, witch. Has no one taught you the prudency of watching your tongue when addressing your betters?"

Hermione's temper, which had heretofore been only mildly pricked by his rudeness rose rapidly at his question.

"Are you threatening me?"
He leaned closer to her and she was only a little surprised by how nice he smelled. A bit like cigar smoke and freshly shorn grass. His breath ghosted indecently against her ear, as he breathed the words only meant for her.

"Trust me, flower, when I am threatening you, you'll know."

Hermione shivered at the cold edge in his voice. She pulled back, glaring up at him. Far from frightening her, his words only infuriated her further. In her anger she did the only thing that felt like a reasonable response. She stomped on his fancy leather shoe as hard as she could. Quite hard, as it turned out.

His shocked gasp of pain caught Luna and Blaise's attention and they turned to the pair, concern and surprise coloring their faces to see Draco hopping around clutching his foot and Hermione glaring at him as though he were the Devil incarnate. Said witch gave them a quick curtsy, smiling apologetically, and shot one last glare at Draco before sweeping away, looking for all the world like a woman vindicated.

Blaise didn't bother to conceal his amused smirk as he observed his still cursing and now quite flushed best friend.

"Can I assume you deserved it?"

"I hardly said a thing to the crazy bint!" was the response, hissed through clenched teeth.

Luna frowned at having her friend referred to as such. "Hermione is lively but I've never known her to be violent. Though the moons of Saturn will be in alignment soon and she was born under the star of Asterius which could be affecting her cosmic energy."

The two men looked at her blankly for a moment before a wide grin broke across Blaise's face. He led the witch away, asking her more about what else the moons would affect and left Draco to deal with his ire, irritation and now throbbing foot alone.

He couldn't believe the mad woman. She'd been attempting to converse with him normally enough and then suddenly she was attacking his person? Because he said that she would know if he threatened her? If that was all it took to set her off she must be assaulting people all the time.

He looked around to see if he could spot where she'd gone and finally noticed all the faces looking at him, smirks barely hidden behind carefully placed hands and feathered fans. Bloody hell, he was going to make her pay.


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