25. It’s Not Exclusive
“What is that?” I asked, frowning as I entered her room, both my new dress, and Rose’s clasped in their boxes, tightly beneath my arm.
It was time.
It was nerve wracking, finger shaking, heart pounding, and definitely what had brought on my shallow breathing, and had enlisted the butterflies in my stomach to assume their normal task of flying about down there.
It was New Years Eve.
And in two hours, we would be at the ball.
We were both changing into our gowns in her room. I had glanced at her slightly, as we both changed, to see her standing in the mirror, clad only in a bra, with a long black piece of material hanging from the side of her bra—just beside her arm.
Rose chose that moment to be a comedian.
“They’re called bras, Katie.” She said obviously. “They’re used to support parts of the woman anatomy, and occasionally make them look bigger. Like tonight.”
I glowered at her.
“I’m not talking about the bra,” I told her icily. “I’m talking about the weird thing hanging
Rose turned and grinned at me.
I was momentarily struck with the oddness of this situation, as I—entirely clothed--faced my friend—not quite so entirely clothed.
“It’s this new thing that Astoria Malfoy had developed.” Rose said as she grinned at me. “The first woman smart enough to voice her annoyance at not having any place to put a wand at a party.”
Astoria Malfoy was clearly a very intelligent woman.
“My mum bought me one,” Rose said, “and you one. Yours is in the bag on the bed.” She looked down at the two large, flat boxes in my hands. “Are those the dresses?”
I wasn’t quite computing her words, at that moment, staring in shock at the plastic bag on the bed. Hermione Weasley had bought me a bra?
Rose took my silence as a yes though, and took the boxes from my hands.
Of course, Hermione Weasley buying me a bra also brought up the odd question of how she knew it would fit me.
But, three minutes later when I returned from my room (where I had put it on) to Rose’s—where we would don the dresses—it fit sure enough.
“That is so weird.” I told Rose bluntly.
She just laughed. Still, I tucked my wand into the small little pouch, and adjusted the bra so that it would stay up. Rose did a couple of charms on both me and herself assuring me that now neither the bra, or the dress would slip, and we pulled out our gowns.
I couldn’t help but wonder, really, what we were doing going to a massive ball at the Malfoys home. The question had been tugging at my mind since I had first heard about it, but I hadn’t quite worked up the courage to voice it yet.
Now seemed like a good a time as any.
“It’s not exclusive…” Rose said, when I asked exactly how the Weasleys and the Potters found themselves annually invited to a ball hosted by who had once been their worst enemy. “Well, it is…” She backtracked with a slight grin. “It’s just not like Mr. Malfoy only invites people that he likes.”
I frowned again.
“But I thought your dad and Harry, hated Mr. Malfoy.” I said, confused.
Rose shrugged. “They used to hate each other, in high school.” She adjusted the top of her dress in the mirror before turning to me and leaning against the end of her bed. “They grew out of it. Plus, Uncle Harry saved Mr. Malfoy’s life in the Battle of Hogwarts.”
Of course he had. I had read the books, bibliographies and news articles and interviews that all narrated the tale. Harry Potter had flown back to save Draco Malfoy from the devouring fire that had already killed the junior death eater, Crabbe.
“My dad, and Uncle Harry respect Mr. Malfoy, and vice versa. They’re adults. They’ve grown up.”
That made sense. I wondered momentarily if that was how it was going to end for me and Emily. A mutual respect for each other, between the never-ending silence. The thought sent an uncomfortable pang through me, and I felt my face falling by itself. I quickly fixed it before Rose noticed.
“Besides,” Rose continued, oblivious (for once) as to what was going through my head. “There are over four hundred guests every year. They barely see each other, let alone had deep and meaningful conversations.”
That made sense, so I decided not to push it—and instead focused all of my concentration on trying to fix the irritating clasp at my back. Eventually giving up I asked Rose, who clasped the dress at it’s back quickly. We then stood side by side, staring at our reflections silently in the mirror.
To put it lightly, I adored my dress. Even more so, thinking that Albus had payed for it and it was a Christmas gift, but still—even if I had had to pay the large sum of money to buy it, I would have loved it.
It was silver. It was made out of a shimmery soft silver material. The neckline was low—with straps that rested around my neck. I had taken into account a bit of Ginny’s advice however, as at the middle there was a wide turquoise sash that wrapped neatly around my waist—starting beneath my boobs and ending just above my hip bone, and definitely the only thing that stopped the neckline from going lower. The skirt of the dress was the same shimmery material, slit to the knee so that I could walk, and flow-ey.
I was already equipped with your standard ball charms. One that kept my stomach sucked in, and Weasley’s Wizarding Weasley’s instant pimple vanishing cream covered my face. The dress had been charmed so that it didn’t accentuate any parts of me that I didn’t want attention brought to, as well as making sure it stayed done up at the back. My shoes had been charmed with a foot softener—so that I wasn’t a heeled cripple by the end of the night, and Rose had even performed a nifty charm that she assured me meant I wouldn’t fall over while dancing.
And that was enough to make me extremely happy.
I didn’t have my hair done at that point, but sitting on Rose’s dresser was the intricately designed turquoise hair pin that I had also bought with the dress. It matched the sash perfectly, and it meant that I hadn’t entirely ignored Ginny’s advice in Al’s letter.
Rose had bought a purple dress—a deep purple that matched her vibrant hair perfectly, and brought out her bright blue eyes. Her dress was floor length like mine, and flow-ey as well. It was strapless, with a small rose at the right side, just beside her shoulder. The skirt flowed as well, with a slit a little higher than mine—with sparkles covering the entire dress that shimmered as she moved—even though I couldn’t for the life of me see them when she was still.
Rose was the first to speak.
“Impressive.” She said slowly. Only she said it differently, so it really came out like ”Im-preess-iiiivvve…”
Very much like you might expect from a rude teenage boy.
But my friends had more class.
Sometimes even I astonish myself with my uncanny powers of predicting the future. I rolled my eyes as Fred examined both our dresses.
“More so to you Katie,” he said after that, “because Rose is my cousin and the mere thought of looking her that way makes me feel like throwing up in my mouth.”
Rose took the comment far better than I would have.
“Oh. Right. That’s nice. Thank you, Fred.”
Fred grinned at her and pulled her into a hug underneath his arm—“Just kidding, Ro-ro,” he assured her, while she rolled her eyes. “You both look gorgeous.”
And that was definitely a compliment coming from Fred. I wasn’t ready to see Fred in a tux, and even though Rose had assured me that Fred got all his girls somehow, I defiantly hadn’t expected to see this. In a tux, without a tie, his hands in his pockets, and with a black jacket casually over his shoulders, Fred Weasley looked every bit the ladies man he was.
“It’s about time you guys got here,” Fred told us conversationally, as he directed the two of us to the drinks table. “My dad hasn’t stopped cracking joke about his ear since we got here.”
“Was he talking your ear off?” Rose asked him conversationally.
Fred glowered at her. She giggled as she poured herself some butterbeer, and took a sip from it, evidentially satisfied with her pun.
“Not funny,” Fred said stonily, “Uncle Fred’s probably turning in his grave.”
“I think you’re dad’s jokes about his ear are funny,” I said with a sigh.
I wasn’t even really lying.
To lose a part of you that important, and be able to still joke about it later on seemed to me to be a good thing. Plus, his dad was George flipping Weasley. He’s literally one of the funniest people in the wizarding world. Jokes about his ear couldn’t have been that
terrible, even if George had limited options for said jokes.
“Tell that to my uncle.” Fred said bitterly.
I shrugged. “I already did.” I said absently, remembering my brief conversation with Fred Sr. that day I was wrapping everyone’s presents.
Fred stared at me, “when?” he asked, surprised. ”Where?”
I shrugged again, turning my head to him and taking another sip from my glass. “Uh, a couple of days before Christmas.” I told him. “In my bedroom.” I smiled at him.
Fred’s eyebrows rose.
“He was in your bedroom?” he said incredulously.
I grinned at him over the top of my drink, watching his amused/surprised face. “Ours is a forbidden love.” I told him with a wiggle of my eyebrows.
Fred wrinkled his nose. “That’s my uncle.” He reminded me. “My dad’s dead twin brother.”
And suddenly the conversation was awkward again.
Good work, Katie.
Fred, however, meant it in jest. He broke out into a grin—breaking through his very good fake serious/shocked face. I glared at him as he snickered at me, and Rose looked on and giggled. I punched him lightly in the arm. Scorpius and Albus chose that moment to arrive.
“Are we punching Fred?” Albus said with a bright grin.
“Count us in.” Scorpius said.
They both hit him at exactly the same time, on opposite arms. Fred swore as his glass jolted, spilling a bit of it on his jacket. “Aw crap,” he moaned as he looked at it. “My dad’s going to kill me.”
He wasn’t going to kill Fred. Because seconds later, Rose had whipped out her wand from her bra holster, and the jacket was beautiful again.
She had to teach me that one.
“Why hello there, lovely ladies.” Scorpius drawled once Fred’s jacket drama was over. “I don’t think Albus and I have had time to admire…”
They gave us both a once over, with high eyebrows and appraising smirks. Rose rolled her eyes and made a face, even though one look at her mouth—which was trying desperately to hide a smile—showed that she was enjoying having Scor look at her as much as I was enjoying Albus’s grin.
“Very nice, ladies.” Albus concluded grandly, after another moment of overstated, overacted examination of our dresses.
I didn’t really mind.
Because, sex-god of all sex-gods was standing in front of me, dressed in an impeccable tuxedo that made butterflies in my stomach fly at double pace, and my lips went dry.
Not to mention he wanted to dance with me.
“Who is that?”
Fred said suddenly, zeroing in on his latest target for the night. A blonde, standing in the corner, at another drinks table, checking Fred out from over the top of her glass.
“Dunno…” Scor said. “I think she’s the daughter of one of the guys that Dad works with.”
Fred stared at her, probably running through a thousand ways that he could charmingly knock her off her feet.
“Reckon I could do it?” Fred asked, not taking his eyes from her. She had noticed now, and was smiling a cute little smile—and purposely avoiding his eye.
“I would say no,” Scorpius said as she appraised this new girl, before turning to Fred. “But then in half an hour you’ll be snogging her in some corner, so I’m going to say go for it.”
“And we’re sure she’s in no way related to me?”
I snorted, although if you think about it, with a family that size, you’d need to check from time to time.
Fred looked at me seriously. “Katie—you have clearly never heard of the ‘Awkward Dance of ‘09.’” He told me seriously.
My eyebrows rose, to disappear beneath my fringe.
“Positive,” Albus said, still assessing our blonde beauty. “I’ve never seen her before.”
Fred grinned, apparently having received all the assurances he needed to work up the confidence to approach said young lady. “Alright then,” he said, straightening his jacket, “wish me luck boys. I’m off to have a dance.”
As if on cue, the music began, with people clearing room for people to dance. Instantly, couples were in the space, spinning and twirling around impressively. I noted, duly, that Ron and Hermione were dancing slowly in the middle of the circle, looking entirely entranced with each other.
“Aw…” I cooed softly.
Rose rolled her eyes.
“Come on,” Al said suddenly, grasping my gloved hand and sending a shock through my entire body. “I believe you owe me a dance.”
Sweet crapping daffodils.
As he whisked me off, I had enough time to catch Rose’s gaze as she grinned for me, before Scorpius pulled her off to dance with him.
And then, as Albus’s hand rested on my waist and my hands instinctively went around his neck, I couldn’t care less what was going on with Rose. Because I was dancing with Albus Potter. And I could smell him again—a wonderful combination of cologne, and smell of his drink on his breath.
It made me weak at the knees.
Fortunately, Rose’s spell kept me on my feet and dancing.
“So, you liked the present?” Albus asked me, with a secretive little grin.
I smiled up at him.
“Of course I did,” I told him, electing not to tell him how disappointed I had been initially. “It was brilliant.”
“I see you took my mum’s advice,” he said with a grin, gesturing at the clip in my hair and the sash around my waist.
“She’s a very knowledgeable lady,” I told him. “And also very cool.”
Albus grinned. “So you’ve met everyone’s parents now, then haven’t you?”
I nodded, not entirely sure where this was going to go.
“So when are we going to meet your parents?”
I laughed at the thought. Michael and Helen Dalton. My parents. The whackos that had given up magic entirely. The thought of Rose, or Albus, or Scor, or Fred meeting them was a strange thought. I couldn’t entirely imagine what they’d do—either parties.
My mother would guess about how I felt about Albus straight away. She was perceptive like that, even if she was entirely bonkers. My dad would probably be disarmed by Fred’s humour, and Rose’s intelligence, and Scorpius I’d have to keep entirely silent.
“Well, I haven’t met Scor’s parents yet,” I said, deciding to avoid actually answering the question. And that was true. I hadn’t seen them, even if we were at their home.
Albus looked at me quizzically.
“I’ll have to fix that, won’t I?”
I thought for one terrible second that Albus was going to fling me at Mr. and Mrs. Malfoy and I would fly into them and stack it, no matter what spells Rose had performed to make sure that didn’t happen.
Instead, Albus twirled me under his arm, and began dancing in a way that made us move around all the other couples.
“Where did you learn how to do that?” I asked, as we moved.
Albus laughed. “I’m a guy who knows how to tap dance, Katie.” He said, reminding me fondly of the events that brought me closer to all my wonderful new friends. “Of course I can do a waltz properly.”
Of course he could.
Especially if he’s been at these balls for his entire life.
It was uncanny, amongst all of them. The way that they moved and walked and talked was all-perfect here. It was as though they had been raised to be socialites. Which, I suppose they had. Growing up as the children of the most famous people in the world meant that they had to be relaxed and natural and poised at events like this.
Not like me, who had seen the wash of reporters from one of the windows and pulled a face that I’m quite sure got caught on at least seven cameras.
Which is embarrassing, but I’m not thinking about it.
“That’s Mr. Malfoy there,” Albus said, as he finally stopped pulling me around the dance floor, and we assumed a waltz at a pace that I could keep up with. “Dancing.”
I risked a glance.
As I had always thought, Draco Malfoy looked every bit like his good-looking son. His hair—an identical shade of platinum blonde—was thinning slightly, and his face was a little more pointed than the old photos I had seen of him. But in his suit, I could see exactly why every eligible woman here, over the age of twenty-five, continued to sneak glances at him.
His attentions at that moment, however, were entirely focused on the woman who he was dancing with. A breathtakingly beautiful blonde, with pale skin, a soft face and sharp eyes that only focused on one man as he led her around the dance floor.
“And that’s Scor’s mum—Astoria.” Albus continued. His hand moved slightly he spun me again, landing on the small of my back and sending little shivers up my spine. “I used to have the biggest crush on her.”
I felt a pang of jealousy run through me that I instantly felt stupid for. This was Astoria Malfoy. Of course Albus would have had a child like thing for her. He didn’t have one anymore.
Not that it mattered to me.
Because Albus and I are entirely a figment of my own imagination and never likely to actually get together in real life.
I watched Draco Malfoy spin around the dance floor with interested eyes. This was the man who had disarmed Albus Dumbledore moments before the impressive man died. The man who had possessed the elder wand without knowing it, and narrowly avoided murder at Voldemort’s own hand. The man who had inevitably helped Harry Potter save the world, and who had since then put up with our society crucifying him for his adolescent mistakes.
It was hard to believe that this man had anything to do with Death Eaters.
Of course, seconds later, when there was a shuddering scream that halted all the music and a deafening bang that sent everyone stumbling I realised that I was going to have the chance to see the Death Eaters first hand.
“They’re here,” Albus breathed.
And then there was chaos.
Ooh! Again with the cliff-hangers! Ain’t I a little stinker?