Ron had hardly been able to contain his shock. Harry, on the other hand, had been completely laid back about the entire situation. It had taken the walk through the gardens, between rows of fairy lights and intimate couples, back to the Great Hall and many a song played on the dance floor to convince him of the danger of Hagrid’s nature.
‘Like I said,’ Ron stated after at least twenty minutes of their conversation, ‘Giants are vicious. If anyone knew…’ He shook his head sombrely. ‘He’d be sacked. For sure.’
The two fell silent then. Ron watched as Ginny guided Neville about the dance floor. She seemed to be wincing more infrequently now than before, as Neville seemed to grasp the idea that perhaps stepping on her feet was not the ideal manner with which to dance. She was grinning, and even Neville seemed to be enjoying himself thoroughly. He glided around, gaining confidence each second, but as the song ended abruptly, Neville head-butted Ginny in surprise. He turned pink, but as Ginny laughed so did Neville and the two disappeared into the throng of applauding dancers.
Ron looked on with mounting distaste. He watched as the next song began. He watched as Fleur and Roger Davies entered the hall to many turned heads, as he placed his hands at her waist, as she began to float along the dance floor, unaided, dreamy; an apparition of beauty. He thought of their encounter. Ron flushed maroon. Stupid, stupid, stupid, he thought viciously, You? You, Ronald Weasley, go to the ball with Fleur Delacour? Mad.
He watched the tender way in which Roger Davies’ hand strayed to Fleur’s face; how it stroked through her hair and how she smiled at his touch. He watched her eyes glitter in the twinkling silver light and the way her skin sparkled, untouched, as she shimmered and drifted under the glinting eyes of the charmed stars above.
It seemed an eternity before the Weird Sisters finally finished their set.
It was midnight when it happened, and Ron and Harry were equally grateful to be able to stand up from their lonely table and leave the Great Hall. Ron was tired, but mostly he just teased the line of agitation. It was only when he saw Hermione hugging Krum in the Great Hall that his frustration tipped the scale. She smiled graciously at the tall boy in blood-red, who brushed her neck warmly before joining his fellow Durmstrang students into the frosty Christmas air. Ron passed the two without a word, following Harry up the stairs in the hope of a good night’s sleep.
Oh no no no, Hermione moaned inside her head, what on earth have I done?
The moment that Draco had fled the Hall, Hermione had collapsed in her chair, paralysed with shock. Seconds had passed agonisingly; each note of the music seemed to groan in decline as Hermione’s mind worked in terror.
I just kissed Draco Malfoy, she thought, horror churning her stomach painfully. A stupor seemed to engulf her; an all encapsulating air within which her surprise numbed her and the outside world turned mute. Her mind could not help reliving it. The memory of her lips passing over his; she could still taste him. She could still feel his touch, his warm breath, the sharp tang of some drink left lingering in his mouth. The shadow of him was still with her and her mind circulated between memory and shock endlessly, until suddenly she could feel her legs once more.
As physical feeling returned, a new thought plagued her mind.
Did anybody see?
They had stood in a remote and dark corner of the hall, but that did not mean that curious eyes could not pry. After all, people had been close during the encounter! Her stomach flipped over and over in sheer panic. Perhaps Ginny and Neville had seen? Her eyes searched the surroundings frantically. They were nowhere to be found. Had they rushed off to tell? Had they sped away to instigate the whisper that she, Hermione Granger, had kissed her all time rival, the Slytherin, Draco Malfoy?
No, her rational mind told her, they were not even that close anyway. Neville was only in range of a spell; he would not have seen her in the darkness, and would probably have fled to fix the boils on his face immediately.
Hermione’s heart slowed a little. Surely, had someone seen, they would be giving her looks; disgusted looks. Looking around, nobody even seemed to glance in her direction. Almost the entirety of the assembly was grouped on the dance floor. No one she was close to seemed to have strayed near.
And, she reasoned, it’s not like many of the people in this school know you anyway. Would they have cared if they had seen?
She had calmed down noticeably. Her shoulders now drooped, liberated from tension, and her hands resolved to smooth out her dress rather than twine in and out incessantly. Yes, shock still pervaded her body, in fact it deemed itself rooted within her very bloodstream with the little tremors that perforated her flesh, but the initial panic was gone. Only her own intentions were to be questioned now.
I kissed Draco Malfoy, repeated the voice in her head. And now, more than panic, self-revulsion flooded her system. She had come to the Yule Ball with the kind, the caring, the chivalrous Victor Krum; yet she had skulked into the shadows with the foul, loathsome, evil little cockroach that called himself Draco Malfoy. Hatred pulsed through her, but she wasn’t sure whether it was directed towards Malfoy or herself. Now more than ever she felt disgraced. Tears welled in her eyes and her only thought was of the injustice of it all. Hermione had desperately desperately wanted to share her first kiss with Victor. But now, oh, but now, her kiss had been hijacked by none other than that snake Malfoy, that dastardly serpent that had slithered uninvited into her personal life. Not that you refused him…
She wiped the tears from her eyes. There were couples, over there, far into the middle of the Hall, swaying to the dulcet tune, the gentle melody reverberating through the hall. For the second time tonight Hermione felt truly alone.
Draco stood in the boys’ bathroom of the Slytherin common room. He was panting; his mind was whirling, thoughts throwing themselves to the forefront of his brain incoherently. The most prominent thought however, was why?
He could not deny the electricity there had been between them, as it still pumped through him, reared its ugly head whenever his thoughts passed her way. He wanted to scream in frustration. Why Draco; why did you do it?
Feeling hotter and more uncomfortable than ever he ripped off his robes, and threw them across the large room. He looked in the mirror again. His face was ghostly, his light hair plastered across his forehead. The torches in the bathroom flickered, giving him a frightening and menacing appearance. He sighed heavily. His shirt still clung to him, but his sweat had turned icy cold. He began to shiver violently, not only from the chill but the mixed emotions still racking his body.
Never a Mudblood.
'Draco?' There came a knock on the thick oak.
Draco looked up. The door was locked, and knowing Pansy, she wouldn't think to use magic in a situation like this.
'Dracoo? Are you there?' Pansy asked. Her voice was small and worrisome.
He did not want to face her. He crossed the room silently, and slid into a cubicle, sitting unceremoniously on the toilet. He was shivering to such an extent that his very bones rattled against one another.
It fell silent. He looked at the door again. He wanted nothing more than to crawl into bed and sleep forever, forget everything. He was bitter to say the least and crying had not helped in the slightest way.
There was no sign that Pansy was still out there. Draco sat and waited all the same. His heart had slowed and his teeth were now physically chattering.
The moments in that cubicle seemed infinite. All Draco could do was sit, elbows on knees, and brood silently. He felt that he should be able to hear the torch flicker so pronounced was its glow. But, same as Pansy, the light emitted no sound. The coast seemed clear.
He stood up, feeling heavy, and stumbled to the exit. He pulled out his wand and unlocked the solid door, before wandering as silently as possible outside.
'Draco!' Pansy shrieked before pouncing on him. She had taken the stubborn route of sitting outside until he came out. He groaned as she tackled him.
'Draco! Draco?! What's wrong with you?!' She cried, observing his soaked shirt and pale face.
Draco ignored her, attempting to shake off her vice but she clung on tight.
‘Draco, answer me,’ she moaned, ‘what’s wrong? Why aren’t you talking to me?’
Draco shook her off once more, this time perhaps too violently. Pansy stumbled backwards clattering against a portrait on the cold stone wall.
‘Watch it young lassie!’ shouted an angry old wizard who shook his crooked cane at her. Pansy ran towards Draco, determined.
Draco tried to escape from her, but his joints had had no time to thaw from the icy bathroom. Pansy leapt upon him, this time tackling him to the floor as his knees cracked and gave way.
He landed on his back, and he heard his spine groan in complaint. Pansy was atop him, straddling his chest and staring down at him, defiant.
‘My poor Draco,’ she cooed, stroking his face, ‘so cold. What’s wrong darling?’
Draco could fight no longer. His energy was drained and his bones complaining. He let Pansy assist him upright, and they returned upstairs to the main common room. Pansy sat him onto a dark leather sofa, and he sank gratefully into the cushions. Pansy sat beside him, her face only inches from his, and sighed heavily.
‘Look,’ she said, ‘I know this is hard for you Draco.’
Her voice had turned so serious that Draco had to turn and look her in the eyes.
‘But,’ she continued, ‘we can’t let this get in our way. We’re good together, you know. Pure bloods; a true wizard and witch in such a disgusting world.’ She snarled the last part of the sentence.
Draco’s stomach dropped to the stone floor. His blood turned even icier. Pansy knew? How could she know? Did she see us!?
‘I can help you!’ Pansy said, clutching his hand passionately. Her eyes were excited, and she had shuffled even closer to him than before.
No, Draco thought, she can’t know.
‘You’re afraid of commitment!’ Pansy gasped dramatically, ‘You, being a boy, are afraid of giving everything you can give!’ She sighed and put the back of her hand to her forehead. Draco almost snorted.
‘But,’ she said, ‘I’ll help you. You love me and I love you and that is all we need!’ She smiled and merlin’s beard, there were tears in her eyes! ‘I know it’s hard.’ She continued, and Draco sighed gently with exasperation, wondering when her little speech would end, ‘I know sometimes I find it hard to show my true feelings.’
Draco actually did snort this time. He did manage, however, to conceal it as some kind of cough-sneeze hybrid. Pansy laid her hand on his shoulder, supposedly comforting.
‘Draco,’ She whispered, her face now right next to his, ‘I love you.’ And she kissed him. And oh my, it was not gentle. Perhaps she felt she had to express all her feelings now with this one kiss, because boy did she almost suffocate him. Draco broke the kiss, gasping for air, trying and failing to get away from her putrid stench.
Pansy stared at him pointedly. Draco saw no other way out, except getting rid of her. He did not want that though. He wanted to keep his accessory just a little longer.
‘I love you too,’ He said in a monotone, and Pansy squealed in delight.
Why, Draco thought in panic as Pansy swooped in for another kiss, why did I not stay with the Mudblood?
Hermione crossed her legs impatiently and hugged herself, tight. The chill that had stolen away from the night stalked her as she stood and began to walk, slowly, indecisively.
She had to find Victor. Although her fury, her indignation and her tears still lingered, she could not remain sulking and panicked, a victim of the will of shadows. She sighed heavily. Her agitators seemed to lurk at her shoulders; first Ron, then Lavender and last, Malfoy. Even in her head she spat the word. But with her mind gorging fury, her body was entirely seduced. Her flesh seemed to melt with each thought, her lips tingling in anticipation. Hermione’s eyes glittered as she remembered his scent, his touch, his gentleness as he’d lifted her, held her. Even that quick-witted mind of hers remembered the spark.
She stopped in her tracks. The fluid tune seemed to stretch into forever.
No, she thought, I will not let him or anyone else ruin my night. After all, when again in her life would she be able to dance with Victor Krum?
Hermione’s eyes searched the crowd as forever ended, as the music reached its final light-hearted crescendo, as the crowd disintegrated and fell into applause. She pushed forward from the shadows. Yes, there he was. She spied the boy in blood-red and smiled. He was searching for her. Malfoy’s presence still lurked overhead, chilling her, but she tried to shake the quiver. She walked into the light, towards the dance floor, and she shimmered, a lonely blue star in the expanse of the sparkling sky.
A shadow passed over her, no longer just a psychological menace. The dark boy in front of Hermione stood tall and resolute. He stared at her, his face grim.
‘We should talk,’ said Blaise Zabini.
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