Thank JKR for allowing me to use your beloved characters as my playthings... muahaha...
"After you,” Lyulf motioned toward the young man and woman.
The three men moved aside, allowing Draco and Hermione to step forward. Pulling together once more at the backs of their leaders, the trio followed at a short distance.
On both sides of the walkway, cameras started blowing up with record shutter speed.
“It’s Hermione Granger!”
“Miss Granger, this way!”
“She’s with Draco Malfoy!
“You were always such enemies-”
"Now they’ve arrived at the year's biggest social event together!"
“Mr. Malfoy, over here!”
Good gods! Thank Merlin they don’t actually expect me to smile, Draco thought crossly to the woman at his side.
“Miss Granger! Hermione!”
She laughed aloud in response and the resulting wave of flashbulbs was blinding.
“On your left! Draco! Draco Malfoy!”
SNAP- SNAP- SNAP-SNAP!
Oh, please, darling! Her calm, collected words were medicine to the angry laceration his thought process was becoming. You’re with me- she paused and turned right at the pleading of a young photographer -doesn’t that give you something to smile about?
Draco meditated on her words. “You know what?” he asked, surprising her with his decision to speak aloud. “You’re right.” He took her hand, lacing her fingers through his own and bringing it up to his lips. His brilliant grey eyes met hers as he kissed her pale fingers. Her cheeks flushed.
“Miss Granger! Miss Granger!”
“Stop bloody calling her that,” Draco called out coolly. “You haven’t taken your eyes off us since we walked in; don’t tell me you didn’t notice?” Her hand was still within his, still inches from his lips, even.
“Smart-arse,” she said, chuckling as he looked first with a pitying expression at the paparazzi, then with a meaningful smirk at her ring-encircled finger.
“He’s done it, now,” Lyulf choked on a snort of laughter.
“Draco! Hermione! When was the wedding?!”
“When did you stop hating each other?”
“Bravo you silly git,” Hermione laughed, rolling her eyes. They’d almost made it to the door. “I feel like I’m back with the old praise-whore from Slytherin.”
Draco tossed his head back, crowing in hilarity.
“Merlin's beard look at them-”
“On your left!”
“Hermione! Why did you marry Draco Malfoy?”
“Yes! What made you get married?”
What ‘made’ us get married? Hermione thought. It was her turn to crow. As if we could actually go into that with them!
“Excuse me!” Draco declared, raising an eyebrow in disbelief, “‘why did we get married?’ Have you seen this woman? For photographers, you need to get your bloody eyes checked!”
“Good one,” Blake murmured with a snicker.
They’d finally made it to the ballroom’s entrance, much to the dismay of the clamoring paparazzi. Cameras continued to flash and pop; voices endlessly hollered out prying questions in their direction. Neither of them paid the gossip-mongers any more attention; they were too relieved to have successfully made it through the gauntlet.
“Welcome, honored guests,” an elderly man announced pompously as the couple crossed the threshold from velvet carpet to marble floor. The music that had been soft at the far end of the red carpet turned out to be quite loud once they'd fully made it into the ballroom. A full orchestra occupied the far corner of the room, and the gorgeous hum of the string instruments pulled at Hermione's heart. Unbidden, a smile of pure pleasure lit upon her lips.
“Thank you,” Hermione replied politely, wowing the aged doorman with her sudden and radiant smile. Draco didn't have a particle of interest to spare on the man. In his opinion, who wouldn't be floored by his wife?
“Where are Potter and the rest?” he asked, gazing around the room.
“Just look for the biggest group of people and they’ll be at the middle of it, I’m sure,” she sighed.
“Lovely,” he replied sarcastically. “In that case, lets not say ‘hello.’”
“I don’t know if that’s really an option-”
“Well, if it isn’t Hermione Granger!” a voice called suddenly from nearby. “Haven’t seen you in a while; you look bloody incredible! You’re not tucked between your two overly-chummy bodyguards from Hogwarts, eh? The Golden Trio didn't arrive together? Surprising to say the least! What've you been doing?"
The blathering man immediately continued his speech as though she hadn't said a word. "I’m with the Ministry, of course," he declared in what he obviously thought was an impressive manner. "I'm heading the Department of-”
“Excuse me, are you talking?” Draco cut him off coldly, stepping into the newcomer’s line of sight.
“Cormac,” Hermione began, forcing a tight smile, “how’re things?”
“Err... things are... great,” his braggart mouth stuttered under Draco’s challenging glare. “What about you, Malfoy? Sticking pretty close there, don’t you think?”
The blonde man raised his eyebrows in an expression that indicated he questioned Cormac’s sanity. “What was that?” he replied. Turning to Hermione, he added, “did you hear that, love? We’ve hardly made it through the ruddy door and already someone’s criticizing how closely we stand to one another!”
Cormac blinked. “‘Love?’ Wait... who are those blokes following right behind you?”
Hermione put a hand to her head, already feeling it pound.
“Our entourage,” Draco answered simply. As the man before him goggled, he went on, “say, isn't this a gala for those who donate to the Ministry and such? How’d a commoner like you get in here? Shouldn’t you be out front, taking pictures and the like?”
Cormac's mouth worked as he tried to understand what Draco was talking about. All he managed to get out was: “Huh?”
“Draco,” Hermione murmured, torn between embarrassment and hilarity, “he’s not with the paparazzi, he attended Hogwarts with us. He works for the Ministry.”
“What?” Draco replied with a comical amount of disbelief. “No! He was spewing out so many words... I was certain he was some reporter who’d managed to sneak in, or something.”
“Hey!” Cormac exclaimed, his face turning red in a growing bout of anger. “What’re you on about, Malfoy? Are you trying to have a go at me?”
Draco sighed and pinched the bridge of his nose. “Listen up, Corbin-”
“Whatever. You’re making my wife uncomfortable with your incessant yammering.”
“Your what?!” the other man exclaimed loudly, causing other guests to look and see what all the fuss was about.
“Run along and find someone else to talk at, would you?” Draco finished, totally ignoring the man’s indignant sputtering. When Cormac looked like he had every intention of continuing the argument, Blake stepped in front of him with a wolfish smile that stopped him in his tracks. Putting an arm around Hermione’s shoulders, Draco pivoted gently and started leading them in the opposite direction.
“That was fun,” she muttered under her breath. “Where were you during Slughorn’s ridiculous Christmas party our sixth year? I really could’ve used your verbal arsenal.”
“I was wreaking havoc, of course,” he answered, “it’s always nice to be needed, though."
The run-in with Cormac's pawing self had damaged Draco's only nerve. Now, everywhere he looked, it seemed like men were ogling the beautiful woman on his arm. He scowled. Leaning down toward Hermione's ear, he whispered: "stay with the guys; I'll be back in a moment."
"Hm? Why-?" But he was already marching across the ballroom floor, weaving seamlessly between the various dancing and chatting couples. Hermione frowned curiously as she watched him have a brief word with the orchestra's conductor. The man seemed intrigued by whatever Draco had told him, and he nodded and smiled. Draco smiled in turn and began to make his way back to his wife.
"What was that about?" Hermione furrowed her brow, her brown eyes sparkling with interest.
Draco took her left hand in his right, twining their fingers together as he brought her hand up to his mouth in a kiss. Although it was seemingly light and chaste, Hermione felt an inordinate amount of heat where his lips had touched her skin. His eyes locked on hers. "Let's dance," he murmured.
"Uh-huh," she nodded, disarmed yet again by his charm for only the millionth time or so.
Not even sparing them a glance, Draco said: "men, stay."
If he'd been able to tear his eyes away from his beguiling wife, he would've seen Lyulf, Blake, and Ryuu all roll their eyes and smirk in unison. As it was, Draco was already leading Hermione onto the dance-floor. The song was just ending, fading into a new melody. It virtually enchanted the ears of all who heard it: soft yet sweeping and heart-wrenchingly beautiful all at the same time.
Draco took Hermione's right hand in his left, simultaneously placing his right at the small of her back. He noticed that her eyes had narrowed slightly and glazed in a familiar look of deep concentration.
"Draco," she began quietly, still focused on something only she could see.
"Yes, darling?" he said, a smirk tilting dangerously across his mouth. He knew precisely what she was seeing.
With his right hand he pulled her body quickly and tightly against his own, aware that, despite the growing number of people who'd turned to gaze at them, she was completely lost in her own world. "What about the song, Mi?" he smoothly began a deliciously slow waltz. Delicate notes floated across the air toward them from the grand piano.
Draco watched Hermione's face as she closed her eyes, momentarily overcome by the music. Her teeth bit lightly at her lower lip, and he didn't need to see into her thoughts to know what she was picturing in her mind... in her memories.
White sheets... scattered across the bed... across the floor...
The piano's notes continued to dance playfully.
Smiling... teasing... laughing... kissing...
The strings sang higher and higher... achingly higher.
Hands... lips... bodies knit together...
The brass soared, plucking at their skin, pulling them closer and deeper into the music.
Power... Fire... Need... His intensity and silver stare... Losing her ability to speak... to think... Their hearts beating faster and faster... meeting together as one-
The whisper somehow made it's way into Hermione's consciousness. "I... what?" She was desperately flustered. "It's just... it's this..." she gasped, trying to catch her breath as he whirled her further out onto the floor, "this song..."
"Yes, I know," Draco said softly. "I heard it once, in your head." He smirked, " the... first time."
She could only blush furiously in reply, her mouth forming a tiny "o" of surprise.
Taking this as some sort of cue, Draco raised an eyebrow and brought his face close to her ear. "What?" he murmured, sending chills down her spine, "am I giving you any ideas?"
"As a matter of fact, yes," Hermione declared. Red as a beet, she stomped on his foot without delay. He hopped backward, his yelp turning quickly into a laugh that echoed across the hall. "How on earth did you figure out the song from that time... this song?" she hissed, feeling weirdly vulnerable amidst the crowd of hundreds. "How did you remember it?"
"How could I not remember it?" he asked, still laughing. "That was hardly a forgettable situation... and because it played through your head, it played through mine, too," he winked. "I'll admit it was difficult to find, though."
"Sienna, I know," he smiled at her, "by Brian Crain. I don't know if it's gone out of my head since that night... not fully, anyway."
"And somehow you got them to play it," she chuckled, nodding her head toward the conductor as he waved his baton passionately. Draco merely grinned, his powers of persuasion needing no explanation. Hermione shook her head, and noticed that nearly half the guests were just standing around, watching the two of them as they danced through their own little world. Their song was coming to an end, and the crowd looked like spectators at the edges of their seats.
"Well, we are absurdly captivating," Draco shrugged, pulling her close after one last turn and leading her from the floor.
"It's not like we can do anything about it," she tossed her hair.
He laughed at her miniature bout of conceit, "I love you, Mi," he said, draping an arm around her shoulders. She was about to agree whole-heartedly when he added: "Oh, look, it’s the gingers.”
Hermione glanced in the direction of Draco’s inclined head. Molly and Arthur Weasley were standing ahead of them at the opposite end of the room, politely chatting with some wizards Hermione didn’t recognize. Bill and Fleur were there as well; along with Percy and his wife, Audrey.
“The rest of their clan must be around here, somewhere,” he shrugged. Hermione only sighed in relief, waving at them from across the room.
“Friendly faces,” she breathed. “finally-”
“Draco?!” a high-pitched squeal sounded randomly from behind them. Draco clapped a hand over his face in dismay and Hermione felt his thoughts.
Oh, bollocks... Well, I put it off for as long as I could. Damn this ball and all occasions that force me to go out in public-
“It is you! I just knew it! Are you here with anyone?”
“As a matter of fact, yes,” Hermione replied as she turned around. “And how are you this evening, Pansy?”
“Granger?” the other woman was obviously shocked. She stood, her widened eyes flicking from Draco to Hermione and back again.
"In a manner of speaking," Hermione narrowed her eyes and smiled. It was a particularly frightening smile she’d learned from the man at her side.
"I... uh..." Pansy attempted to gather herself around the jolt she'd received, moving her gaze back to Draco. "I've been trying to reach you, you know! Ever since I read about what happened in the Prophet..." her eyes strayed over to Hermione once more, and the long-haired woman chuckled under her breath.
Look at how flustered she is! She doesn’t know what to think with me standing here.
Yes, the blonde man agreed. She's always hated when things don't go her way...
Pansy crossed her arms over her chest and pushed her lips into a pout, trying to ignore the undeniable closeness of the couple before her. "You shouldn't have kept me in the dark about things, Draco," she reprimanded. "It's not like you."
"It's not?" Hermione repeated incredulously. "I'm sorry, but... don't you know him at all?"
"I don't see how any of this is your business, Granger," the other woman sniffed.
"It's no one's business but hers, Parkinson," Draco replied. "You expect me to answer to any woman other than my wife? You're dreaming." With Hermione's hand entwined in his own, he pushed past the flabbergasted woman without delay, leaving her gawking beside a row of buffet tables.
It hadn't turned out as funny as Hermione had thought it would, not like her random interlude with Cormac McLaggen. Draco had the expression of a thunderhead. All right there, love? She thought, gently giving his hand a squeeze.
I hate seeing people like her. Draco replied simply. People who make me remember the past. What is she even doing here?
“It took her a while, but she was eventually pardoned,” Hermione murmured. “It undoubtedly has to do with the fact that she married a muggle-born.”
Draco glanced at her sharply. “You’re kidding!” he remarked.
“Nope” she pulled a wry face, “I don’t know how they met or if she even has feelings for him. It may’ve only come to pass because she knew his blood status would go a long way toward clearing her own name. That, and he’s some big deal at St. Mungoes, although I don’t know in which department.”
“Ha!” Draco laughed aloud, bringing more attention to them as they strolled around the ballroom with their very obvious escort. “So, she landed herself a galleon-rolling Healer? Yeah, I’d put my bets on the latter, Mi.”
She was just about to staunchly agree when a voice cut her off.
“Hermione! And Malfoy, you actually showed?”
“Hilarious, Potter,” Draco sneered as Harry approached, followed by a veritable throng of hangers-on. Ron was at his side, looking harassed.
“Where are the ladies?” Draco quipped curiously.
“Escaped to, what is it you call it?” Ron turned to question Hermione, “powder your foreheads?”
“Close,” she laughed, “it’s ‘powder our noses.’”
“Basically, they’ve abandoned us,” Harry stated, deadpan.
“Can you blame us?” Ginny declared as she and Susan came up to the group. Susan only laughed, going over to Ron and twisting her arm through his.
“Oh, look,” she began, eyes twinkling as she looked up to him, “we were gone for a whole five minutes and, despite all your fears to the contrary, you’ve both managed to stay alive.”
Draco raised an eyebrow as Ron huffed half-heartedly. “I like her,” the blonde man said, appreciating Susan’s direct manner.
“I thought you might,” Hermione’s lips twitched into a knowing smile.
"We saw you two earlier," Ginny waggled her eyebrows. "That was some show you were putting on."
"What?" Hermione feigned ignorance of their rendezvous down memory lane across the dancefloor, while her best friend elbowed her in the side.
"Just setting everyone straight, is all," Draco said, his arm tighter around Hermione than ever. "I don't need any more pathetic gits flouncing up, thinking they can eat her alive with their eyes."
Noting their confused looks, Hermione explained: "Cormac McLaggen." The mention of his name was greeted with various nods and exclamations of understanding.
“Mr. Potter!” someone suddenly spoke up from the crowd that’d been steadily growing around them. “You’re associating casually with Draco Malfoy! How long have you two been acquainted?”
“Since we were eleven.”
“Since we were eleven.”
Both men spoke at the same time. Surprising themselves and each other, they also simultaneously broke into bouts of laughter.
“Oh, Merlin,” Hermione just shook her head and shared a glance of mutual resignation with Ginny.
“Only months ago, you led a band of Ministry officials to the location where Mr. Malfoy had been with Miss Granger, with the intent of arresting him. Now you appear to have repaired your relationship, is this true?”
“Is that Rita Skeeter back there?” Ginny muttered, looking amused.
“You wanted to arrest me?” Draco repeated. His eyes were sparking with a barely restrained surge of hilarity.
“‘Repaired our relationship?’” Harry frowned in disgust. “Don’t say things like that, that’s way off.”
“Oh, come now, Harry,” Draco grinned evilly and slung an arm around the other man’s shoulders, “I thought that after all this time we’d become closer than that.”
The group of friends laughed hysterically as the green-eyed wizard pushed the other man quickly away. Around them, other guests plucked up the courage to pester them all with more questions.
“Mr. Weasley, have you set a date for your wedding to Miss. Bones?”
“Mrs. Potter, can you tell us why you left your quidditch career? Has something new come along?”
“Miss Granger, do have any plans to return to the Ministry?”
“Mr. Potter, what can you tell us about the sudden end to the attacks that have been plaguing the Lower East end of muggle London?”
“Were they in fact connected, as you’d previously stated?”
“These are the kind of questions I get asked,” Harry muttered, glancing in Hermione’s direction with a cynical twist of his mouth.
“Have you successfully questioned any of the survivors?” They went on. “Is it, in fact, due to a werewolf clan rebellion, as you’d mentioned might be the case at the Ministry’s press conference three weeks ago?”
Three weeks ago? What on earth are they talking about? Hermione wondered, wishing her telepathic link would reach her dark-haired friend.
I don’t know. Damn... Draco thought fiercely, raking a hand back through his mussed blonde hair. It wouldn't be surprising if Agilolf had been initializing a set of attacks before he found me. It stands to reason that he would continue them, too... even during his own personal attack on us. He could feel the trio of men at his back shifting uncomfortably. If they knew anything, now wasn't the most opportune time to question them.
I can’t believe Harry figured out the cause to such a fine degree, based on evidence alone, Hermione mused, impressed not for the first time by her friend’s amazing instincts.
All the humor had been drained of the group of friends as they thought about the truth to the questions being hammered in their direction. Harry looked perfectly content to not answer anyone, until he caught Hermione’s eye.
“Was it?” she started, “was it due to... a rebellious clan of werewolves?” she asked him.
“You didn’t know about it?” Harry said quietly, surprised.
“It was them, wasn’t it?” Draco added, disregarding Harry’s question. “When was the last attack?”
“Monday before last,” he replied, glancing over to meet gun-metal grey eyes. “Four separate attacks, all ten days apart, all in East muggle London.”
“It’s been ten days,” Hermione murmured. They’d seemingly forgotten the existence of the person who’d first posed the question, or any of the other media, for that matter.
“And no new attacks,” Harry added with a nod. “You know why.”
More fidgeting ensued from Draco and Hermione's escort.
The crowd around them picked up instantly on the famous wizard’s meaningful statement.
“You know why?”
“They know why?”
“What can you tell us-”
“It was a werewolf attack,” Harry began, his eyes trained on the couple at his side, “staged by clan-leader Agilolf Lykourgos.”
“It’s been taken care of,” he stated calmly, cutting off the burgeoning tide of their questions.
“How can you be certain?” someone interjected from the back of the crowd.
“Because,” Harry said grimly, “Agilolf Lykourgos is dead. The clan in question has suffered massive losses; all the dangerous rogues have been weeded out. It’s now under new, law-abiding leadership.”
A low voice behind Hermione spoke up: "Mr. Potter-"
"Lyulf," Draco interrupted the older man, turning to meet his eyes, "later."
Lyulf knew an order from his Alpha when he heard it; his mouth instantly snapped shut.
“Does this mean that the muggle and magical communities are safe once again?”
“How do you know this new leadership is law-abiding? Do you know the new leader? Have you met with him?”
Harry chuckled, jamming his hands into his pockets and looking casually in Draco’s direction. “Yes,” he admitted, “we’ve met.”
He won’t go any further, you know, Hermione thought, answering her husband’s silent musings. Not unless we give him our consent. Do you want it to get out right now? Or do you think it would be better to wait?
Draco gazed at Hermione; she was ready and willing to follow him anywhere. It didn’t matter what he’d decide, she’d be with him. He listened to the barrage of questions that streamed around them as people begged Harry to reveal more. Looking over at the dark-haired man, Draco met his sharp green eyes.
“Who is the new clan leader?”
“Mr. Potter, what more can you tell us?”
The blonde man grinned wolfishly and shrugged, “ah, what the hell,” he said, lifting an eyebrow mischievously, “inquiring minds want to know, Potter. Don’t keep them all in such suspense.”
His odd manner of speaking drew the attention of the media; he merely smirked in acceptance of the sudden turn of events.
"All right, then,” Harry responded slowly, with a “you’ve been warned” expression. “As a matter of fact,” he went on, addressing the surrounding mass of reporters and Ministry employees alike, “The new clan leaders... both of them... are right here in this room."
Hustle and bustle ensued as everyone within range of Harry’s words began turning and looking around, as though expecting to see a pair of wolves strolling through the ballroom, sniffing out hors d'oeuvres. Draco laughed, unable to help himself.
You didn’t think we’d stand out that much did you?” he announced. Bloodless faces slowly began to turn in his direction, and he continued. “Mi,” he chuckled, “do you suppose we should be offended? I mean-” Draco paused, a wicked silver glint lighting up his eyes, “they apparently wouldn’t know an Alpha werewolf unless I walked right up and bit them.”
"Song for Sienna" by Brian Crain is a real song. It truly is heart-achingly beautiful. In my opinion, it's what a love that spans time and space would sound like, if it were put to music. Look it up some time and enjoy! I hope that when you hear it, it brings these scenes from my story alive for you the same way it does for me.
P.S. I had a bugger of a time editing this... I hope the spacing is okay! Also, only one more chapter left... are you excited? Heehee....