The characters and canon situations in the following story belong solely to JK Rowling, Scholastic and WB. I am not making any money from the publishing or writing of this story.
Beta credit: this chapter was first beta’d by bunnyhops. All subsequent edits by CoquetteKitten, who is quite possibly divine in nature.
Hermione looked at herself one last time in the mirror. Her sleeveless dress, which seemed slightly naughty in her own eyes, was still demure. The silky, iridescent fabric draped over her slender curves, ending at the top of her knees. The boat neckline bared her collarbones and fell in soft folds lower on her chest, revealing the tiniest hint of the tops of her breasts. As she moved in the light, the bottle-green material took on a subtle, silvery sheen. On impulse she added a favorite necklace — a delicate chain with a charm Harry had given her shortly after the war. To remember our fun at Gringotts, he’d said with a grin. The little Ukrainian Ironbelly, meticulously wrought in silver, never failed to remind her of the strength she carried within.
She’d been soaked, scrubbed, plucked, oiled, manicured, had her hair done, make-up applied, and even been dressed by her two friends. Luna had gone so far as to kneel down and buckle the straps of Hermione’s lovely little heels. She and Ginny had left her alone for a few minutes but promised to return soon; Harry was waiting for them in the common room already.
The afternoon had been productive in more than one way. Firstly, of course, was the transformation her two friends had achieved for her. She really couldn’t stop looking at herself in the mirror! Secondly, she’d drummed up the courage to tell the girls about the war-stake, her premature acceptance of it, and the courtship that had presumably begun. It was unbelievable how readily they accepted every part; then again, they were Purebloods — this was knowledge they’d possessed their entire lives. Luna had immediately run to tell Harry about his role in it all so he was prepared to escort her to and from the party.
The party! Hermione’s stomach felt as though it were full of butterflies caught in a windstorm. She clutched at it as her determination faltered slightly. How is it I could face a dark lord, but not the boy to whom I accidentally engaged myself?
It had been three days since she’d taken the magical scroll from the Headmaster’s hand, and in that time (admittedly, one of those days she’d hid in Professor McGonagall’s rooms) she hadn’t seen Draco Malfoy once. Was he hiding from her? Did he regret his decision already? Hermione tried to reason with herself. Yes, he’s probably hiding. He’s probably as nervous as I am. And it wasn’t likely he’d regret a decision that had been made so long ago and was probably legally retractable. The truth was, Draco and she were in similar positions — but, as Professor McGonagall had pointed out, she knew Draco’s intent and he knew nothing of hers. This gave her just enough courage to walk down to the common room and her friends.
Harry noticed her white knuckles as she grasped the railing and smiled sympathetically. “Ready?”
“As I’ll ever be. Let’s go now so we can be back here sooner.”
He offered his arm to her, which she gratefully accepted, and Ginny and Luna fell into step behind them. “By the way, you look amazing tonight. Draco won’t know what hit him. It’ll be the Yule Ball all over again.”
“Thank you. The- What?”
Harry chuckled. “Surely you remember! You wore that beautiful gown, your hair was all done up — you even had make-up on. Draco just stood by the punch bowl and drooled.” He glanced down at her startled face. “You didn’t know? He’s liked you for ages, ‘Mione. Really liked you. I learned all about Pureblood traditions from Ron and Neville over the years, and I’m not shocked about the Malfoy stake.”
Hermione’s mouth hung slightly open as she tried to process what he had just said. Draco’s liked me — really liked me — for ages. And I never noticed. And now we’re engaged to be married, and we’ve never had a real conversation. And let’s not forget — I’m marrying his father as well. Muggles would eat this stuff up on toast. Draco likes me.
“Umm, thank you, I guess. I’m so glad to have your support, Harry. This is all so new to me! If I’d known what was happening, I’d never have taken that scroll from Dumbledore so quickly. I . . . I’d have thought about it and got to know Draco in the meantime.”
He put his other hand over hers, which was resting on his forearm, and gave it a firm squeeze. “I think what happened was meant to be, ‘Mione. Being a House Wife is a huge distinction, and you deserve to be honored. Always. The Malfoys will take care of you and they’ll love you, and I think you’ll find you can love them, too; just give it time.”
His words filled her with hope and bravery. She lifted her chin a bit higher and smiled at him gratefully.
The party was in full swing when they arrived. The Slytherins had decorated the walls of their dungeons with alternating tapestries of shimmering silver and deep, luminescent green, and the effect was, for lack of a better word, magical. Hermione paused on the threshold of the common room, gathering her courage. When Harry tugged her forward she followed, glancing back at the door longingly.
“We’ll just plan to stay an hour or so, right? If you need to leave earlier for a really good reason, I’ll take you back to the dorm. And try to relax, ‘Mione; it’s a party.”
Harry dragged her to the middle of the room where a crowd of students was dancing to loud, pulsing music. Ginny and Luna joined them, and Hermione relaxed and let the music guide her movements. She had never been a confident dancer, but these parties had shown her that no one was watching with a critical eye. Ginny and Luna were a riot, with their ridiculous over-the-top hip swinging and exaggerated sexy pouts, and Hermione joined in their game. Soon others were mimicking the silly moves as well.
She recognized a few Gryffindors in their midst and was glad when she remembered the rules that had just been explained so carefully to her. She made sure to keep her distance from all the boys, even ones she considered friends. She swung round at one point to find Ron right behind her with a feral look on his face. His eyes, which must have been glued to her bottom, were now fixed on her chest. Hermione found herself appalled at the way he was looking at her, and she turned around again and moved as far away as possible.
They must have carried on for an hour on the dance floor before Harry finally began complaining of being tired and thirsty. Hermione agreed. “You’re right. Why don’t we get a drink?”
He guided her across the room, noticing all the looks Hermione was garnering. She really looked nice tonight, and interestingly enough, her dress was the same color green as the decorations. She was even wearing some silver to complete the similarity: a delicate chain around her neck from which hung a small charm. They stopped at a table against the far wall, laden with bottles and punch bowls and rows of glasses.
“Circe’s left tit — look at this spread!” He whistled and turned with a grin. “Pick your poison!”
She glanced around at the choices and decided to finally see what all the fuss was about firewhiskey. However, Harry had no sooner poured her a small bit in a glass and turned to hand it to her when it was intercepted by a large, pale hand. Draco Malfoy had made his appearance.
“Miss Granger, perhaps you’d care for a different beverage.” He was placing a tall, stemmed glass filled with a bubbly, pale gold liquid in her hand.
Hermione scowled at him and brought the glass to her lips. He did it again! What is wrong with- Oh. As the crisp, cold champagne hit her taste buds, she smiled involuntarily; it might have been aimed in Draco’s general direction. Harry excused himself, telling Hermione he’d be nearby.
Draco held up the glass of firewhiskey originally intended for her. He looked at it thoughtfully, then raised it to his mouth and drained it in one gulp. His lips tightened into a thin line and he gave a small shudder. He looked down at Hermione. “For courage.”
He was obviously nervous, and that somehow helped her relax a little bit. “I don’t see why you should need courage for a scolding, Mr. Malfoy!” She frowned at him.
Now Draco looked confused. “I beg you pardon?”
“You’re insufferable! When was the last time you let me have fun of any kind?” Her frown turned into an outright scowl.
He looked even more confused, and so she continued, “You are the most aggravating drink stealing, curfew calling, flirt-interrupting . . . person . . . I know! You’ve been foiling my fun for years!”
Draco looked down at her from his considerable height with an expression of confusion and distress, and then what could Hermione do but smile? She beamed up at him, a small, nervous laugh escaping her. “I’m sorry — that was very rude of me. I’m a little nervous, I guess; being angry sometimes helps me get over it.”
“I’m . . . confused. Are you upset with me, or nervous, or angry?”
“I’m very nervous. And I don’t want to be, so I’m trying to be angry instead. But I’m not upset with you, not really — although you really have made a habit of keeping me from fun over the years.”
Draco’s eyes were smiling but his mouth was solemn.
That is a VERY good look. It’s almost a twinkle.
“ . . . from trouble.”
“I’ve made a habit of keeping you from trouble over the years. It’s been a past time of mine.”
“Is that what you were doing?”
“Yes. For instance, take firewhiskey–”
“Well, I would, only you won’t let me.” Sweet Merlin, he twinkled at me.
“It’s not a drink for someone with no tolerance for alcohol. Had I not kept it from you, you’d have either fallen asleep in a corner and been taken advantage of by some boy, or lost all your senses and been taken advantage of by some boy.”
“Yes, as you say, ‘oh.’ Did you not think of that?”
“I . . . I’ve never had enough alcohol to know how much about it. In light of that, I thank you very, very much.”
Now the smile reached his mouth in a slight, one-sided quirk of his full lips. An almost-smile. “I’d ask you to dance, but you seem to have worn yourself out.”
“Yes, I did. It’s nice to finally talk to you, though. Unless you’d like to find someone else to dance with.”
Draco looked horrified. “Why would I do that?”
“Perhaps you really, really like to dance . . . I wouldn’t know; I don’t know anything about you. Oh — are you?”
“Am I what?”
“Are you even allowed to dance with someone else, or do the rules of this courtship not apply to you?”
His face had relaxed from its previous look of horror and he offered her his arm. “There are different rules for me. Many more, in fact. Would you care to sit and talk some more?”
Hermione took his arm and smiled tentatively at him. He’s not that bad. A bundle of nerves, yes. But so am I. He has the best twinkle. This might be nice. “I’d like that very much.”