It’s been relatively slow this warm Tuesday morning at St. Mungo’s. I put Lorelai in charge and take the rest of the day off to get back the Malfoy Manor and get ready for the party. We have all decided to have one big party to celebrate both Harry and Neville’s birthdays. Even though Harry’s birthday is tomorrow, he is happy to have the party on Neville’s birthday instead, so we are having the party tonight. I make my way back to the manor to get ready and take a quick shower. I stand in front of my closet with the towel wrapped around my body. There’s a soft knock on my door and Draco walks in.
“Well, this isn’t exactly the outfit I would have planned for a party, but I have no objection to it all the same,” Draco jokes, gesturing toward the towel.
“I’m not going to wear a towel to the party!” I shove him back gently. I rummage through all of the clothes hanging in my closet, trying to find something that is appropriate for the occasion. I give Draco another quick glance, taking in his typical all black style. His black jeans and black dress shirt give him the perfect combination of dressy and casual – perfect for the occasion. He even left the top few buttons of his dress shirt undone. I sigh, looking back at my closet.
“Do you need some help?” Draco walks up close behind me, reaching his arms around me to file through the different options. I instinctively lean back against him as I wait for him to choose something. Eventually he pulls out a knee-length, light blue, strapless dress with white flowers embroidered around the bottom. “There. Wear this.”
“How did you do that? I’ve been staring at this closet for fifteen minutes and you walk in and immediately find something perfect.”
“You were just overthinking it, that’s all. Now, come on, we’re going to be late.”
I stand there holding the dress, realizing that he has no intention of leaving the room while I get dressed. My face feels warm as I suddenly feel very self-conscious. He sits down on Ginny’s bed to pet Crookshanks while I quickly pull on a pair of underwear before he has a chance to see me. I turn away from him and unwrap the towel, placing it on my own bed. I can feel his eyes burning into my back. I grab the dress and pull it on over my head. I pull the dress all the way on and smooth it out. Bracing myself to make eye contact with him, I turn around to face Draco. I roll my eyes at the grin on his face. I pull on some white flats to finish off the outfit and stand in front of him.
“Well?” I hold my arms out so that he can examine me properly.
“You look wonderful. I have exceptional taste.”
I roll my eyes at him again. Cat walks into the room and of course she looks as beautiful as always. Her burgundy hair is hanging down over her shoulders in large curls. Her white mini dress flares out in ruffles at the bottom and is accessorized with a thick black belt wrapped around her waist. She adds more style with her black heels and the white flower pinned in her hair.
“Hey!” Cat sings cheerfully, a wide grin gracing itself upon her face. “Hermione, you look so pretty! I love that dress!”
“You’re welcome,” Draco hisses at me teasingly with a devilish smirk.
“Oh, Draco, Harry is looking for you,” Cat says. She turns back to poke her head out into the hallway. “Harry, I found him!”
Harry appears in the doorway within a few seconds. He shuffles into the room looking exceptionally handsome in a pair of blue jeans and a royal blue dress shirt. He manages to give me a quick glance and a smile before turning to Draco.
“So, I just found a brand new broomstick on my bed,” Harry tells him pointedly. “Do you care to explain that?”
“Well, it was probably on your bed because it’s yours,” Draco explains nonchalantly.
“You bought me a new broomstick!? Draco, those things are expensive! You know that I can’t possibly accept such a –“
“Potter, you saved my life. I hardly think that a broom even comes close to the proper payoff for such a debt. Besides, my family can afford it and you lost your old one during one of the battles of the war anyway. It’s about time you had a new one. I’m sure your flying skills are a bit rusty by now.”
“Draco, it’s too much.”
“It’s your birthday, you should get something extravagant. It means a lot to me to get this for you. Please accept it.” Draco’s voice is pleading, along with his eyes.
“But –“ Harry shifts his weight back and forth uncomfortably.
“Come on, we can even play our own games of Quidditch whenever since you’re going to be staying here longer. Doesn’t that sound like fun?”
Harry stares at Draco in silence for a long moment, considering his options. He can either accept the lavish gift that he secretly wants and adores or he can refuse it once again and listen to another round of Draco’s persistent debating. Draco certainly won’t give up until Harry agrees to take the broom. Harry releases a long, heavy sigh, causing a hopeful expression to materialize on Draco’s face.
“I still think it’s far too much,” Harry mutters in defeat, but Draco ignores him and cheers for his own victory.
“Wonderful! We’ll have to test them out as soon as we get the chance!” Draco seems genuinely excited about the idea. I doubt I will ever understand what either of them sees in flying – it makes me feel light-headed just thinking about it.
“We’ll embark on that adventure tomorrow,” Harry agrees, “but right now we should probably try not being late.”
“Only Harry Potter would show up late to his own party.”
“Hey, it’s Neville’s party, too. I’m sure he can handle it without me until I get there. Although it still wouldn’t be a good idea to show up late for a friends party either.”
We all file out of the room, joining Ron and Ginny by the front door, and head out to the party. We all Apparate to the destination and as we make our way to the ballroom, the sounds of heels clicking echoes all throughout the corridor of the building. Harry pushes open the double doors to the ballroom and we are all immediately confronted with the enormity of the event. There are large crystal chandeliers hanging from the ceiling around the room with white and blue streamers draped across all of them. All of the tables set up on the right side of the room have unconventional flower displays as centerpieces, each table with its own specific colour scheme and design.
The table that has been set up along the wall for the food has a beautiful display of sweets. There is a large cake that is shaped and decorated to look like the Gryffindor House Crest. On the left side of the cake is a small section specific to Harry. There is a tray of cookies that are shaped and decorated to look like lightning bolts to match his scar, Golden Snitches, broomsticks, and Wizard’s Chess pieces. There is also a small display of Harry’s favourite Wizard sweets. There is a similar display for Neville on the right side of the cake with his favourite sweets and a tray of cookies that are shaped and decorated to look like various flowers and plants as a symbol of Neville’s love for Herbology.
The best thing about the food display is another candy section. Next to the table is a large statue that is made as a smaller version of Hogwarts Castle. All of the little openings have snacks hidden within them. The Black Lake is filled with a type of juice with a small ladle resting inside and a stack of cups that are stacked upside-down on top of one of the castle’s towers. The courtyards are being used as bowls to hold candy in. The rest of the castle’s towers are the tops cut off and things sitting inside of them. One of the towers has some melted chocolate in one of them that can be used to dip the other candy in.
The decorations are beautiful and the music is a fast tempo. There are a lot of people dancing, some people sitting at the tables, some people standing around talking, and some people playing with the samples of Weasleys’ Wizard Wheezes products that George brought to help liven up the party. Ginny runs off to dance with Hannah, Padma, and Parvati. Ron heads straight for the food table. Draco and Cat, not really comfortable with any of the other guests, stick close to me and Harry. We all head over to a table where Neville, Seamus, and Dean are talking.
“Hey, look who’s here!” Seamus shouts to be heard over the music. “Hiya, Harry! Cuttin’ it pretty close, don’t ya think?”
“I know, I’m a little late,” Harry apologizes. “And hello to you, too, Seamus. Dean. Happy Birthday, Neville.”
“Yes, Happy Birthday, Neville!” I cheer, giving him a friendly hug.
“Thanks, guys,” Neville says kindly, hugging me back. “And Happy early Birthday, Harry.”
“Thanks,” Harry says. “This is quite the event. Our friends never disappoint, huh, Neville?”
All the boys laugh, looking around the room. A few of the Weasley fireworks go off over in the corner of the room, followed by an outburst of laughter. Neville stands up once he notices the extra two guests standing quietly in the background. I give him a knowing look, silently explaining that Draco’s presence here is a good thing. He simply responds with a smile before turning his attention to the blond, holding his hand out to him.
“Hello, Draco,” Neville greets him politely. “Glad you could make it.”
After a slight moment of hesitation, Draco shakes Neville’s hand. “Honoured to be here. Happy Birthday, Lon- Neville.”
Neville smiles at Draco’s stumble with what to call him but doesn’t say anything. Instead, he gestures toward Cat, who is bouncing up and down in her spot to the music. “I don’t believe we’ve ever met before.”
Cat’s attention snaps to Neville, surprised for a moment to have been addressed. She takes a moment to process his words before responding. “Oh! No, we haven’t. My name’s Cat. Cat Price.”
“Nice to meet you, Cat. I’m Neville Longbottom. You must be living at Malfoy Manor, too?”
“Oh, yes, Narcissa’s been so lovely. It’s a shame that we’ll all be going back home the day after tomorrow.”
Neville looks mildly surprised, glancing between me and then Harry. “Oh, so you guys are going home soon? That was fast. Didn’t you just move in there at the beginning of last month?”
“Yeah, we did,” I answer. “We moved in on the first of June and we move out on the first of August. Well, except for Harry.”
“I’ve decided to stay there a while longer while I get things figured out,” Harry explains before anyone has a chance to ask. He avoids the look on Seamus’s face. Before any of them can retort, Hannah skips over to us and wraps her arms around Neville.
“Hey, are you ready to dance yet?” Hannah asks him, tugging on his arm. “I promise I’ll try not to embarrass you too much.”
“Han, you could never embarrass me,” Neville says sweetly. I can’t fight back the smile that tugs at my lips at the sight of them as Hannah pulls Neville out onto the dance floor just in time for a slow song to start playing. Ginny runs over and drags Harry into a dance. He trips and stumbles, but she holds him steady. Seamus and Dean, having no interest in slow dancing, go over to check out the Weasley products in the corner. Draco and I sit down at the empty table. I watch Cat as she wanders across the room to Luna, who is swaying back and forth to the music by herself. I laugh to myself at how alike they are and expect them to become great friends.
“This place really looks beautiful, doesn’t it?” I say, admiring the turn out.
“Very,” Draco mutters, seemingly distracted.
“Are you sure you’re okay to be here? I know that you aren’t friends with most anybody here and I don’t want you to be uncomfortable. I just know how much it means to Harry to have you here. Besides, if you weren’t here I would be sitting at this table by myself and that would look a bit pathetic.”
“It’s not that at all, I don’t mind being here.”
“Then what’s wrong?”
“It’s just – I couldn’t help but notice you watching them just now.” He gestures toward Neville and Hannah, who are dancing closely in the middle of the floor.
“They’re my friends. I’m merely being happy for them.”
“I’m a bit worried that you feel like you’re missing out on things like that.”
“On things like what? Dancing?”
“No, not dancing. Just this sweet-talk, lovey-eyed, relationship business that they seem to have going over there. I don’t want to keep you from that kind of relationship if that’s what you want and I –“
“Okay, I’m going to stop you right there. Draco, you told me when we first got together that you weren’t the romantic, flower-buying, ‘I-love-you’ type of guy. I knew that going into this and I am happy with the way things are. I don’t need that public display of affection and you telling me that you love me all the time for me to be happy with you. Do I hope that one day you’ll be able to tell me that you love me, at least once in a while – of course I do. But I’m not asking you to suddenly become a romantic. I think that Neville and Hannah are adorable and I’m so happy for them, but that doesn’t mean that I need to have a relationship exactly like theirs.”
“Are you sure?”
I lean over the table and kiss him softly in reply. I then stand up and move to sit on his lap, wrapping my arms around his neck. “I promise, Draco, that this is what I want.”
He sits there silently, staring down at the floor in deep thought. I wait patiently for him to think through whatever is going through his mind while I watch Harry attempt to dance. Ginny laughs and simply rests her head against his chest. They slow down until they are basically just standing there together swaying from side to side.
“I hope I’ll be able to say it one day, too,” Draco finally whispers softly. It takes me a minute to understand what he means. I love you. He hopes? Does that mean that he wants to say it? “I know that you deserve to hear it, but it’s not that easy for me to say. I hope that someday I will figure out how to say it, but I just want you to know that when I don’t – it’s not because I don’t want to.”
I smile and lean against him, my head resting on his shoulder. That was practically the same as saying I love you anyway. “Don’t worry, Draco. You’ve said enough.”
I suppose I haven’t really given saying I love you that much thought. I can’t blame Draco for finding it such a difficult thing to say. I mean, saying I love you means a lot and I want him to feel comfortable saying it. More importantly, I want him to say it because he means it and not because he thinks that I need to hear it. And I can’t help but think that everything that’s happened between him and Astoria contributes greatly to the inner struggle that those three words bring up within him. It must be difficult to think that you love someone and then be betrayed by them so suddenly. The idea of saying I love you only to be hurt by that person is terrifying.
There is another fast song playing and the disaster that is Harry’s dancing only becomes more noticeable. I can’t control myself and laugh loudly. Draco follows my gaze and his own laughter echoes mine. I know that it is probably mean to laugh and Harry is my dearest friend, but there is only so much that I can take of his dancing before I have to indulge myself in the hilarity. Part of me wishes that I could cast some sort of spell on him to make him dance well. Eventually another slow song starts and he seems a bit more at ease. Draco pulls me off of his lap and stands up, holding his hand out to me.
“Hermione Granger, may I have this dance?”
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