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Chapter 10 – A Ball

Draco Malfoy and Theodore Nott arrived at Potter’s Hall fashionably late. In fact, the ball had already started. The house was alit with candles hanging everywhere in mid air. Garlands of fresh flowers crisscrossed the ceilings, and swags hung above all the windows. One of Potter’s servants showed them to the splendid ballroom, and it seemed grandeur was the common thread throughout. All the men in the room looked imposing and dashing in their dark coats, white shirts and waistcoats, and Draco Malfoy was especially well groomed tonight. With his boots highly polished, his waistcoat of fine ivory silk, his long pants and coat black as night, he made a handsome picture. He smiled brightly because he was looking forward to tonight. He was looking forward to seeing Hermione.

Hermione was nervous about tonight. She found a perfect gown, and although she was partial to red and rose colours, the green gown she picked to wear fit her beautifully. She had one of the servants help her dress and help her with her hair. The young servant made a crown of green flowers and ribbons, and weaved them through her hair, which she wore on top of her head. All the women in the ballroom looked like princesses tonight. Hermione could only hope Lord Malfoy would find favour in her. She wondered where he was, for she did not see him yet.

“Lord Malfoy,” Theo said, “did you not make some comment about the fact that you would never attend a ball at Potter’s Hall?”

Draco sneered, “You must have imagined I said that.” Theo laughed.

Draco scanned the crowd for a certain someone, when Theo said, “She does not appear to be present, old man.”

“Who?” Draco feigned indifference.

Theo just laughed again and patted Draco’s arm and started toward the refreshments. That was when Draco looked toward the balcony, and he saw her, just outside, standing all alone. She appeared remarkably composed, at least on the outside. She looked magnificent. She had on a green satin gown, with a lace overskirt, and a matching headdress. He thought she looked perfect.

Draco tugged at his cravat, and straightened his jacket. He was nervous, but why? All sorts of emotions washed over him as he looked at her lovely face. Confusion, (why did he feel so strongly for her?), embarrassment, (why had he treated her so shoddy in the beginning?), politeness, (this was a formal occasion), and desire, (a fullness in his heart just at the thought of being near her.)

He strolled out to the balcony and she met his gaze. He bowed politely, and she smiled widely. Perhaps she felt a tinge of what he felt. “Miss Granger, you look lovely. How did you know green was my favourite colour?” he teased.

“I, well, I did not know, Sir,” she stumbled.

He thought she was forever charming. He said, “You have not forgotten that I reserved the first, have you?”

“I have not, Sir,” she said. “I thought we had agreed on more than just the first, but perhaps that was my mistake.”

He smiled politely and came to stand next to her. “You might be correct, now that I recall. I did reserve more than one. I hear a song playing now, shall we join the crowd?” He held out his hand. She swallowed hard and placed her hand in his. He held her hand, and his other hand went to the small of her back, to usher her into the throng. He threaded her through the crowd, his hand not losing contact with hers. He felt the hand on her back belonged there. They took their place in line, and he knew she was bewitching him with the oldest magic around.

Hermione regarded him and his quiet demeanor with quiet confidence. He seemed attentive to her. Earlier tonight, Harry had warned her of Draco’s intentions. She promised Harry there was no mutual affection. She lied, at least on her part and perhaps on his as well. Her body tensed each time he touched her hand.

During the dance, heat flooded his body each time their hands touched. When they parted, and stood apart for the others to dance, his thoughts lingered to her touch. Her brown eyes were brighter than he ever remembered seeing them. His eyes were brighter with the sensual awareness that she evoked in him. His attention from her could not be waned.

Her attention was drawn to his silver eyes once more, as they took their turn in the middle of the crowd. His voice, when he spoke of the song, sounded sweeter than the melody of the music to which he referred. His angled chin, aristocratic features, sly smile, all ached to be remembered. His voice sent shivers down her back. She was more than just attracted to him.

He did not mean to become so attracted to her. He had not meant to fall so hard so fast. What folly was this? They circled again, his hand taking hers. He wished to bring it to his lips and kiss it gently. No, he wished to kiss her lips. As they walked through the other dancers, her natural scent washed over him, and he was intrigued.

They parted again and stared at each other. Time stood still. When his rough hand held her smooth one, she found herself disoriented, and her stomach lurched. Her awareness of him seemed more intense tonight. Who was this man who held her heart captive?

She accompanied him through the crowd one last time, and he was aware of the warmth of her body, as he walked next to her. He felt possessiveness about her, and he felt the need to impose his company on her all night, or be forced to madness. Her lips looked full and kissable. He wondered what her bare skin would feel like next to his. He thought of the immoral thoughts he was thinking, and he hoped nothing in his actions would betray him. She was a lady, and he would respect her, at all due cost.

Hermione was contrary to the tension between them. She picked up on his feelings, but she reveled in it. It did not cause her distress. When she parted from him the last time, her body free from his, free from his grasp, she felt uncertain what to do next. All she wanted to do was to be with him. Nothing else mattered. She had a feeling nothing else ever could.

The song ended, he bowed, she curtseyed, and he escorted her off the dance floor, amidst the sea of applause for the song and the dancers. He took her back to the balcony. From the corner of his eye, he saw her pink lips, and her delicate ear and earlobe. It took him a moment to realize she asked him a question.

“Pardon, Miss?” he said.

“I asked you if you attend many balls?” she said.

“There is always a ball around here. Must keep the masses entertained, mind you,” he said lightly.

“This is my first,” she said.

He found that bewildering. “What about when you came out to society?”

“I never had a coming out, Sir,” she acknowledged. “We kept mostly to ourselves, and did not socialize with others.”

“What a shame, but at least you have this ball in your honour,” he said.

“I rather think the ball is more for Harry to announce his engagement to Miss Weasley,” she revealed, somewhat sadly.

He did not know if she was sad because a ball, which was meant for her, was just a ruse, which he doubted, or if her depression was caused by her thoughts of abandonment. She flashed him a brilliant smile, suddenly, and said, “But this is still a lovely party, is it not?”

“I have seen more beautiful things, Miss,” he said sincerely, looking upon her beautiful face. “Shall I get us some refreshments?” She nodded.

She stepped over to a darkened side of the balcony to wait for him. She did not want anyone to see her outside, because she did not want to waste a moment conversing with anyone else. She stood next to an open window and was surprised when she heard someone inside the ballroom say her name.

“Miss Granger seems attentive to Lord Malfoy tonight,” said a male voice.

“I cannot believe Lord Potter turned down Fred’s request for him to court her, but then would consent to Lord Malfoy’s advances. I am certain he is either not aware of their attachment, or if he is, he is not pleased.” The second voice belonged to Ron Weasley. She pressed herself closer to the wall, to continue to listen. After all, if they were rude enough to talk about her, she could be rude enough to eavesdrop.

“She probably feels the need to go after a rich husband,” said a female voice she did not recognize. “But she has to know that Lord Malfoy would never attach himself to a Muggle-born. Someone should talk sense into her.”

“I think they look wonderful together. I think we should stop talking about them, as it is unkind to do so,” Luna Lovegood said.

“To think, though, Fred Weasley is not deemed good enough for her, but yet, she has her sights on Lord Malfoy, who is so far above her it is laughable!” said a different voice yet.

“Harry’s the one that refused Fred’s request,” Ron pointed out.

“Yes, and I am sure it was at her insistence,” said his sister Ginny. Then Ginny said, “I told Harry that he needed to find her a husband, or at the very least, an occupation, perhaps as a governess, before we wed. A home cannot have two ladies at its head. I will be Lady Potter, and I will have many duties in which to adhere, and I cannot think of them with her still in the house.”

Hermione could not believe everything she had just heard. They were all being so unkind, save for Ron and Luna. They did not know her, so why presume to speak so familiar about her and her feelings and desires. They were as bad as Lord Malfoy’s pureblood friends were. Ginny especially, who acted so kind and sweet, now to say such things, was very revealing of her true character, in Hermione’s opinion. It was as she expected. She told Harry that Ginny would not want her to stay. She expected such dialogue from the pureblood elites, but not from Harry’s friends.

Malfoy walked back out on the balcony and searched everywhere for Miss Granger, when he finally spied her by an opened window. He said, “Miss Granger, I didn’t see you there by the window.”

Ron Weasley looked out the window at the mention of her name from Malfoy, caught her eye, and looked devastated. He knew that she must have heard the entire exchange. She looked over quickly at Lord Malfoy and he said, “Are you distressed?”

She nodded. She walked down off the balcony, taking the steps quickly. He put the glasses down and followed. He caught her at the bottom near the entrance to the gardens.

“What is the matter, Miss? Are you overheated, or overset?” he asked. He truly looked concerned.

Ron Weasley came running toward them. Without pretense, he walked past Lord Malfoy to step in front of Hermione. “Miss Granger, I apologize for my friends’ comments about you. I know they were less than favourable. Please, do not let them concern you. Likewise, I hope you will not tell your cousin, for it may cause problems with him and my sister.”

“What did you say?” Draco had to ask.

Ron turned to the man and said, “Lord Malfoy, some of my friends and family questioned your attentiveness to Miss Granger.”

Hermione stepped forward and said, “That is not entirely the truth. They questioned my attentiveness to you. They feel I am not good enough for you.” She looked from Draco to Ron. She continued, “I guess it does not matter how much money a pureblood has, a pureblood is prejudice through and through, rich or poor.” She walked away. She met Harry on the top step.

“Hermione, what is wrong?” He touched her face.

“I have a headache, and I would like permission to retire,” she said stonily.

“But this ball is in your honour. I am about to announce you to the crowd,” he said.

“The ball is in honour of your engagement, Cousin, which as it should be. I think your future wife would prefer if you did not announce me. I am of no importance, no one should hold a ball for me, and I am sure none of your guests came tonight for a mere Muggle-born. Please, excuse me.” She made to step past him, but he took her arm and led her back down toward the men at the bottom of the steps.

He turned to Lord Malfoy and said, “What did you say to cause her discomfort? Did your friends say something unkind?”

Lord Malfoy looked indignant and said, “Speak to your common friend here. It was he and his friends who spoke unkindly about your cousin. Perhaps you should look to your own circle of friends, and see if they are truly your friends, before you find fault with mine!”

He held out his hand to Hermione. “Miss Granger, I believe you promised me another dance.”

“You truly do not have to dance with me, please, do not assume I beg for your attention,” she annouced.

“No, but I beg for yours.” He took her hand and led her back toward the balcony. He would let Lord Potter sort out this fiasco with his friends. He was not a party to the scandal, and would not be one. When they reached the top, he took their glasses from the windowsill and handed one to her.

“To your health,” he said with a sardonic grin. She nodded and drank.

“Lord Malfoy, may I inquire something of you?” she asked.

“Yes, I had dance lessons,” he joked.

“That’s not it, although I do appreciate that you did not step on my toes,” she quipped. “No, my question is this, do you find yourself thinking about me, when we are not together?”

“How forward of you, Miss,” he said sincerely. In truth, he liked her forwardness.

“Forgive me,” she said, “I was not raised with the social graces that you are so accomplished. I just wanted to know your intentions.”

“I intend to dance with you again, all night if possible. Those are my intentions, and I can guarantee you that my motives are pure and simple. I adore you, and while I know this will be frowned on by all those around, I no longer care,” he said plainly.

She looked at the ground. Harry walked up to the patio and stepped toward the pair. He said, “Malfoy, do you mean to court my cousin?”

“My, I see where she gets her forwardness,” Draco said sarcastically.

Harry frowned but said, “I must know your motives are sincere.”

“My motives, my motives. Everyone wants to know my motives,” he harped. He walked to the ledge and leaned against it. “If your cousin likes my company, I will impose it upon her. Those are my motives, thus far.” He would not claim more, not yet, not now. Potter had no right to ask, before he offered.

“I see,” Potter said. He turned to Hermione and said, “In light of Lord Malfoy’s most obvious disinterest, I am going to give my permission for Fred Weasley to court you, with the intention of a possible marriage. That is the end of it. Now, come in the ballroom, so I can have my company receive you.” He reached for her hand, but she moved away from him.

Hermione truly could not breathe. Why was Harry acting like this? She took yet another step backwards, toward the ledge, and she felt tears upon her eyes. Ron Weasley stepped up to his friend, and Lord Malfoy looked from Harry’s face to Hermione’s. Harry Potter, supposed saint, was a cad, in Malfoy’s opinion.

“It is easy to bully a young woman, isn’t it Potter? Yes, invite her to your home, and then sell her off to the highest bidder, is that it?” Malfoy spat.

“Sir, do not say anything more, or I shall not be responsible for what might happen next,” Harry warned.

Hermione said, “Harry, please, why have you changed your mind about Mr. Weasley? You said it was my choice.”

“Because it was a wrong choice! You are entertaining thoughts that Lord Malfoy cares for you, when he more or less told us just now that he did not. You think you are going to learn enough this summer to further your education, but you will not. You must think of your future, but since you will not, I will think of it for you!”

“Yes, I heard from the future Lady Potter that you and she had already discussed as much, just as I thought. I shall leave here, post haste, and you cannot force me to stay. All your fine talk about this being my home now is a lie, for the minute your intended says she doesn’t want my company, you force me to leave.”

“This has nothing to do with Ginny!” he shouted.

She looked at Ron, and said, “You glossed over your story to him, did you not?” She turned back to Harry and said, “Lord Potter, I appreciate your kindness this past week, and the gifts your have bestowed. I will trespass here no longer. Allow me to stay until the morning, please, and then I will beg my leave.” She ran past the men, through the ballroom and up the stairs. She ran down the hallway to her room, tore the flowers and ribbons from her hair, causing her tresses to fall in waves upon her shoulders, and opened her window to stare out at the starless night sky.

Draco turned to Potter and said, “It is not my place, Sir, to correct you in your own home, but you have made an erroneous mistake, and a grave one at that. It is not your right to speak for my intentions and me. That should be left to me. It was badly done and you owe your cousin and me an apology. While I have made no formal offer, I will say that I hold the fine lady in question in high regard. It is a pity that you do not do the same!” Draco turned and walked back down to the garden. He would Apparate to the back of the house and perhaps he would catch the young woman at her window.

Hermione sat by her opened window to contemplate her next move. What would she do now? She would not cry. That was one thing she would do. A perfect evening, ruined, by such awful actions by such awful people! What madness. Why could she not enjoy a nice dance with a handsome man? Why did it all come back to her future? Her cousin should worry more about his own future, and less about hers.

She leaned out the window and said, “Mother, I miss you so much.” She looked down and Lord Malfoy was under her window.

“Hello, Miss,” he said. “A nice night for a walk, is it not?”

She thought he was mad. She leaned out the window and said, “I think it might rain.”

“I should hope not,” he said. “Why do you let others ruin your night? This was your night. This was my night. Come back to the dance, Miss.”

“I cannot,” she said. “I simply cannot face those people.”

He held up her locket. He said, “You must come back down, if only for your precious locket. If you do not come back down, I shall be forced to give it to another. Perhaps Lady Parkinson would enjoy the trinket. Also, the woman I know would never be afraid to return to a dance because of a slight from a few people whose opinions matter not.”

She smile. “You are right, so I shall return, for this is a special night, and it may well be my last night here. I shall see you shortly, if only for my locket.” She closed the window, but knew in her heart she was returning to the ball for more than just her locket.

Draco said to himself, “I promise you this, Miss Granger, it is far from your last night here.” He put the locket in his coat pocket, and Apparated back to the balcony by the ballroom.

She bent to pick up her flower headdress. She put it back upon her curls, as a crown, and she opened her door to find a remorseful Harry on the other side.

He explained, “I had no previous discussion with Miss Weasley about your future, as you overheard her tell her friends, I promise you that. Perhaps I do not know her character as well as I imagined. Please, do nothing rash. Come back to the party. I shall make no announcements, of any kind, tonight, so you should not feel pressure from me. I will not force you to court someone you do not wish to court.”

Hermione wondered if that meant he was not going to announce his upcoming wedding when he proclaimed he would not make any announcements of any kind. She took his hand and he escorted her back to the ballroom. As they entered she said, “I was wrong to speak to you so rudely, Cousin. I was also wrong to lie to you when you asked me if I held Lord Malfoy in my affections. I admit I do.”

Lord Malfoy, unknown to her, was right behind them. He had his answer. Their affection was shared. He tapped her shoulder and said, “I believe the next dance is mine.”

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