Ring... Ring... Ring
Hermione's eyes fluttered open as a loud groaned escaped her lips. She grabbed one of her pillows and covered her head, trying to stifle the annoying sound.
Ring... Ring... Ring
She swore inaudibly and flung her blanket off her body. She got out of bed and sluggishly made her way towards the sitting room.
"Bloody hell, I'm coming!" she shrieked at the offending device. She irritably snatch the phone from its cradle and spoke, "Hello?" she said hoarsely.
"Morning sweetheart, are you already up? Happy Christmas!" A cheery voice asked.
She plopped down on the couch and started massaging her temples, "Morning, Golden Boy - Happy Christmas too," she replied. She then turned her face to the side to check the time, "Why in Merlin's name are you calling me this early?"
"Sorry Hun, I know you're still thrashed from last night," Harry said with a chuckle.
"Ha, ha - funny, really. For your information, I was not trashed last night, just got a little tipsy," she said sarcastically.
"If you say so, I won't argue with you at all."
"Out with it Potter, what's the real reason why you called?" she asked.
He sighed, "Fine, Ginny asked me - no badgered me to call you. She wants me to remind you that the Ball is tonight," he replied.
Hermione frowned, "What do you mean tonight?" she asked confusedly.
"It's tonight, Hermione, it's the 25th - you forgot didn't you?"
She closed her eyes tightly and mentally cursed, "I did," she admitted. She leaned back on her seat and let out an audible sigh, "Look, can you just tell Ginny that-"
"Na-ah, you're going. Your Headgirl so you're obliged to go. I'll drag you if I have to and you know I'm not kidding," Harry interjected.
"Don't get your knickers in a twist, I was not backing out," she huffed.
Her eyes snapped open when she realized something, "Oh crap!"
She shot up from her seat and started pacing, "I totally forgot to buy a dress!" she said, panic evident in her voice.
"Don't worry your pretty head about it, love, Ginny has you covered. My wife knew you didn't shop for a gown, so she took the liberty to buy you one," he chuckled. "As a matter of fact, it's being delivered as we speak - hold on," he paused. "Ginny! I'm talking to Mione, do you want to talk to her?"
"Yes, hold on," Ginny's voice echoed from the background.
"I'll let you talk to her, here she comes," Harry said.
"Happy Christmas, Mione!" Ginny chirped.
She moved back to the couch and sat down, "Happy Christmas Gin," she replied.
"What time are you coming? I already took care of your dress and it's truly Magnifique!"
She can't help but giggle at Ginny's attempt to sound like her sister in law, "You're spending too much time with Fleur, love - you're beginning to sound like her," she teased.
"I do, right? I really love her accent, I think it's very posh," Ginny replied cheerily.
"Yes, it's indeed posh and you do sound good."
Ginny chuckled, "I'm glad to hear that, Ron said I sounded like I have clogged sinuses."
"You know, Ron," she said. She then moved her hand to her lips to muffle a yawn, "Is it okay if I drop by after lunch?"
"Yes, that's fine. And oh, tell Blaise to go here directly."
"Isn't he your escort tonight?"
She cringed, "Err - yes, okay. I'll just owl him then, thank you for reminding me."
"You totally forgot that he's your date, didn't you?" Ginny asked in an amused tone.
She grabbed a throw pillow and hugged it to her chest, "I'll see you later, Gin."
"Alright, I won't badger you with questions anymore. See you in few!"
"Thanks, love you."
"Love you too, Mimi - bye!"
She put the phone back on the cradle and let out an exasperated sigh, "Looks like I'll be going to the Ball whether I like it or not," she grumbled. She leaned back and rested her head on the back of the couch, her eyes fixed on the ceiling. The day she's been dreading has finally arrived and she can't even convince herself that she's ready to go back. After four long years, tonight would be the night that she would set foot again at Hogwarts - the place she avoided like plague. She let out another sigh and sat up. She grabbed her notebook and pen from the coffee table and started scribbling a short note to Blaise. Telling him that she would be attending the festivities later and to meet her at Harry's instead of her flat. "This would be a long day," she said as she stood up.
Hermione went through her Christmas morning routine as planned. She distributed all her gifts and made a short trip to her parent's house to have their yearly brunch. It was almost quarter past one when she found herself strolling along Diagon Alley, "Oomph," she gasped when she bumped into someone.
"I'm sorry - Hermione?"
She lifted her gaze and saw a familiar figure standing right in front of her, "Pansy?"
"It's been awhile since I last saw you, Happy Christmas," Pansy replied with a large smile.
She smiled back, "Yes, it's been awhile. Happy Christmas to you too," she replied. Her eyes then strayed towards the paper bags dangling on the blonde witch's arm, "Are you here alone?" she asked.
Pansy shook her head, "I'm with Seamus, but we decided to run our errands separately so we could get things done faster. How about you?"
"I'm here alone, but I'm just passing by - I'm off to Harry and Ginny's," she explained.
"Oh, I won't keep you then."
"It's nice seeing you again, Pansy. Send my love to the girls and Seamus."
"I'll go then, have a good day," she said with wave before turning on her heels.
She halted her steps and turned her head back towards the other witch, "Yes?"
"I'm expecting you to the Ball later. I'm sure someone would love to see you there, so make sure to come," Pansy said mischievously.
"Who?" she asked with a quirked brow.
Pansy didn't give her an audible answer, but she threw her an exaggerated wink before walking away.
She stared at Pansy's back for a few beats before shaking her head, "Slytherin's," she mumbled.
Potter Mansion: 5 P.M.
"Oh Gin, this is absolutely stunning!" Hermione exclaimed with awe. She carefully ran her fingers along the gown's bodice, her eyes taking in every detail.
Ginny beamed, "It is, isn't it? When I first saw it, I instantly knew it was made for you - even the color is perfect!" she gushed excitedly.
She let her hand drop and worried her bottom lip, "But isn't it too revealing?" she asked.
Ginny waved her hand dismissively, "Pish-posh! You're off age now; it's about bloody time you show off some of your best assets."
She moved her eyes back to the gown, indecision gnawing at the pit of her stomach.
"It's a Masquerade Ball, they'll think it's just your costume," Ginny said with reassurance. "Oh! Did you see the mask?"
She leaned forward and started rummaging through the box on top of the bed. She plucked an intricately decorated mask and lifted it to eye level, "Wow, this is something," she said.
"It's charmed; you don't have to worry about it falling off your face once you put it on. And by the way, so as the gown," Ginny explained.
She moved her eyes to Ginny, "What does the gown do?"
Ginny grinned, "Let's just say that you don't have to worry about putting on your own make-up," she said proudly.
"You really prepared for this, huh?"
"Am I too obvious? Did I go overboard again?"
She reached for her best friend's hand and gave it a soft squeeze, "You didn't and I appreciate all of this, thank you," she said earnestly.
Ginny let out a relieved sigh, "I'm glad you don't think it's too much," she said. "And I also want to see men drool over you - literally if that's possible," she added with a wink.
"You're bonkers!" she chuckled.
"I know, that's why you love me," Ginny said smugly.
Potter Mansion: 7 P.M.
After hours of playing with James, Ginny urged her to hop in the shower to get ready. She took her time scrubbing all the grim from her earlier activity and emerged from the bathroom feeling squeaky clean. She walked towards the bed and studied her dress thoughtfully, "Ginny really has an exquisite taste in clothing. The only problem is, if I can pull it off," she mumbled. She then padded towards the dresser and sat down' she grabbed a brush and started untangling her riotous curls. Once she's satisfied, she put the brush down and squared her shoulders, "You can bloody do this, it's just a place - you can definitely go there," she said with resolve. With that mantra in mind, she shot up from her seat and marched back to bed. She gently lifted the dress and started slipping it over her head. She adjusted the strap on her shoulder as she padded towards the full length mirror to her left. She stood right in front of it like Ginny instructed and watched the enchantments work on her. She waited until the last rhinestone had been tucked in her curls before she moved closer to the mirror, "Wow," she gasped in shock. She lifted her hand and carefully ran it along the bodice of her gown, her eyes glued to her reflection.
She was jerked out of her trance when she noticed her wand hovering on top of the bed, her alarm reminding her that it's time to go. She turned on her heels and hastily walked towards the bed, she grabbed her wand as she plopped down on top of the comforter. She summoned her jewelled stilettos and quickly slipped it on her feet. She stood up from her perch and slipped her wand inside her clutch. She threw herself a last once over before she padded towards the door.
"Aunt Herrrrmmmmmmyyyyyyyy! Are you ready yet?" James' called out just as tiny thuds of footsteps resounded along the hallway.
"Yes, I'm done," she replied as she closed the door behind her.
James seemed to appear out of nowhere, "WOW!" he exclaimed, his eyes wide like saucers.
She braced her hands on her hips, "How do I look, sweet pea? Do I look okay?"
James bobbed his head fervently, "YES! You're soooo pretty!"
She laughed heartily, "Thank you, love," she said as she ruffled his unruly hair. She then offered the same hand to the boy, "Would you like to escort me downstairs?" she asked.
"YES!" James said excitedly.
She let the little boy lead her, "Are your parents ready?" she asked.
"Uhuh, Mommy is pretty like you!"
"I bet she is," she replied with a smile.
James ushered them towards the living room like a true gentleman, "We're here!" he announced loudly.
All the room occupants turned towards them, their eyes wide in shock. Ginny was the first to react, "Oh my gosh! You're gorgeous! I knew it - that dress is really made for you, Mimi!" she gushed excitedly. She then made a bee line towards her and gestured for her to turn, "Absolutely gorgeous!" she gasped.
Harry narrowed his eyes at Blaise, "Zabini you better behave yourself tonight. If I ever caught you laying an indecent finger on my best friend I'll cut your balls off," he whispered gravely. He then walked towards her and smiled, "You look beautiful, Mione," he said.
She felt her whole face turned red with embarrassment, "Cut out the compliments, you two are making me blush!" she mumbled.
Harry wrapped his arm around his wife's shoulder, "You two are going to make me work hard tonight," he grumbled.
"Don't you dare, Harry James Potter!" Ginny spat half-heartedly, her eyes twinkling with excitement.
She rolled her eyes at Harry and moved her gaze to her stoic looking date, waiting for him to react.
Harry cleared his throat loudly, "Zabini, did you by chance swallowed your tongue? Aren't you even going to say anything to your beautiful date?" he asked.
That seemed to jar Blaise out of his stupor, "Hermione, you're - wow," he breathed out, clearly out of words.
She threw him a thankful smile, "Thank you, you look good too," she replied shyly.
"Told you there would be drooling," Ginny whispered with an amused giggle.
"Yeah, but I'm not afraid to use my wand to snap it close," Harry replied as threw Blaise a warning look.
Ginny snorted, "Good luck to you," she replied.
Malfoy Manor: 7 P.M.
Draco studied himself in front of the mirror for the nth time, smoothing his tuxedo and straightening his tie repeatedly. "You don't look bad, time, has been good to you," he said to himself.
"Draco, aren't you done yet? You've been there for a bloody hour!" a high-pitched voice said.
Draco fought the urge to scowl as he spun to face his date, "I'm done, I was just making sure that I look perfect tonight," he explained.
The beautiful blonde woman entered his room and walked towards his bed, "More like psyching yourself," she said as she gracefully sat down.
"I was not!" he huffed. He then walked towards his bureau and snatched his favorite cologne, his mind drifting back to the night he convinced his cousin to pose as his date.
Draco paced back in forth, "Common Luci, this would be the last favor I'll ask from you. Please don't make me attend that Ball alone," he pleaded.
Luci rolled her eyes, "Would you stop pacing? You're making me dizzy!" she snapped. She then leaned back on her seat and folded her arms on top of her chest, "Don't you have someone else to go with? Why on earth are you asking your cousin to accompany you to a Ball?"
He stopped pacing, "I don't want to go with anyone else - it's complicated," he said.
"Uncomplicate it for me then," Luci said.
He walked towards the couch and plopped down unceremoniously; he rested his arms on top of his knees and hung his head. "The woman I'm in love with will be there and I don't want her to think that I'm seeing someone else."
Luci stared at him for a moment before letting out a defeated sigh, "Fine, I'll go with you."
He felt his body sag with relief as he turned his face to side, "Thank you," he said with all the sincerity he can muster.
"You must really love this woman, this is the first time I saw you beg," Luci mused.
"I really do," he said without hesitation.
*End of Flashback*
He shook his head to clear his thoughts, "Yes?"
"You're really psyched out about seeing her, aren't you?" Luci asked with a chuckle.
He turned towards her and blatantly ignored her statement, "Thank you for doing this Luc, I really owe you a big one," he sincerely said.
Luci stood up, "Just make sure that you get your woman at the end and I'll consider us even," she said.
"I'll try my best."
"Don't try, do your best."
"I will," he replied. He then walked towards her and offered his arm, "Time for our grand entrance, are you ready?"
Luci looped her arm around his, "As ready as I'll ever be," she replied.
He squared his shoulder, "Let's go then."
The couples arrived at Hogwarts together, but before they entered the Great Hall to join the festivities, Ginny pulled Hermione to the side. "I know this is a huge step for you and if any given time you feel uncomfortable, tell me and we'll leave - no questions asked, okay?"
Hermione can't help but smile at her best friend's thoughtfulness, "Stop worrying about me Gin, I'm fine."
"Are you ready to go in?" Harry asked as he slipped his arm around his wife's waist.
"Yes, we are," she replied.
Blaise shifted closer and offered his hand towards her, "Shall we?" he asked with a small smile.
She smiled back, "Yes," she replied as she gave her hand to him.
Harry pushed the door double doors open and was immediately assaulted by Seamus, "Finally! I've been looking all over for you, mate!"
Harry cracked a large grin, "We've just arrived," he replied.
"I figured that," Seamus replied with a chuckle. He then moved his eyes towards Ginny and Hermione, "Good evening ladies, aren't you both a sight for sore eyes," he said.
"Evening, Seamus," she said with a wave.
Ginny leaned towards Harry, "Good evening to you too, where's Pansy?"
Seamus grinned, "She around here somewhere, last time I checked she was talking with Daphne," he replied.
They all turned around and saw Lee Jordan waving at them almost frantically.
"That's the reason why I've looking for you," Seamus said.
"You should go there, Harry," she said.
"You sure?" Ginny asked.
She nodded, "I'm sure, go on and have fun - Blaise and I will find you two later," she paused to look at the man standing beside her, "Right?"
Blaise nodded, "Of course, you go on ahead."
Harry studied Blaise's face, "Remember what I told you a while ago, mate," he said.
Ginny grabbed Harry's arm, "Don't mind him, you two enjoy the evening," she said. She then started dragging her husband towards the opposite direction, "Seriously, Harry?" she snapped.
She turned towards her date with an apologetic look, "I'm sorry about that, he's just being protective - he doesn't mean anything by that," she explained.
Blaise smiled, "You don't have to apologize, love, I'm used to it by now."
She felt her cheeks flush with his unexpected admission, "Oh my - this is not the first time he warned you?" she asked, aghast.
"You're blushing. Well what do you know, I've already made you blush twice, this is really looking good," Blaise teased.
Hermione swatted him playfully, "This is not funny so stop changing the topic!" she said. She then let her hand drop, "I'm really sorry, you didn't have to hear those things from him."
Blaise stared at her for a moment, "If you really want to make it up to me for Harry's disembodiment threats, I'll take one dance from you and we can call it quits," he said.
She shifted on her feet, her eyes scanning their surroundings. Only then she realized that a few couples are already dancing and they're standing close to the dance floor, "Okay, but do we have to dance now?" she asked nervously.
Blaise offered his hand to her, "Every moment is perfect when it's you I'm dancing with," he replied with a wink.
"If I can just find a way to get inside your heart, I would be the luckiest guy. if I can just be the one who'd be by your side just a chance to feel what it's like and I'd do anything to be in his shoes 'cause I know I could give even more..."
She hesitantly placed her hand on top of his, "You're laying it thick tonight, aren't you?" she joked to diffuse the tension between them.
Blaise pulled her closer and gently guided her hands around his neck, "I'm not, I just know what I want," he said meaningfully.
She didn't know how to respond so she just offered him a weak smile.
"I'm really glad you decided to go," Blaise said as he started swaying them with the music.
"I'm glad I came to," she replied.
Blaise swallowed thickly, "You know I like you, right?"
She felt her gut twist painfully, "Y - yes," she replied.
"Standing outside your world wishing you'd let me in and I'd show you what my love can bring. Helplessly hoping to give me half a chance because I know I'm just one step away..."
"Are you ready to take this friendship further?"
She knew what she meant, but she found herself playing dumb. "Further?"
Blaise shifted even closer, pulling her flush to his chest. "Yes, the relationship kind of further."
"Welcome home my dear former students, welcome!"
They both stopped dancing and turned towards the familiar cheerful voice.
Albus Dumbledore appeared in the middle of the dance floor, his face full of merriment. "It is to my inmost joy to have you all back, even for just one night. I'm very much pleased to see familiar faces grace this hall once again," he said looking at his former students with a large grin. "Tonight, we are all gathered here to celebrate not only the season, but your homecoming as well. It has already been six years since you all graduated and I can't be any prouder for what you've all become."
"Let's continue this later," Blaise whispered before ushering Hermione to the side.
She fought the urge to let out an audible sigh of relief, "Thank Merlin," she thought.
"Tonight will be all about food, music and good friends. I beseech you all to forget your troubles and enjoy the festivities."
The crowd let out catcalls and loud cheers.
Albus waited for the whole place to calm down before continuing, "I know you are all excited to catch up, but before we officially start the feast, I would just like to acknowledge the presence of the two people whom I'm quite sure you all very know well."
Her heart started pounding inside her chest, "Shit!" she thought. She took a step back to hide behind Blaise, "I hate this!" she mumbled.
Blaise turned his face towards her, "I'm sorry - what are you doing back there?" he asked in confusion.
"Without further ado, I would like to welcome our former Headgirl, Ms. Hermione Granger!"
"Shit!" she grumbled just as a bright ray of light shone directly at her. She forced out a smile and lifted her hand to wave at the Head Master.
Applause and wolf whistling filled the room.
Albus nodded at her, his blue eyes twinkling mischievously, "And of course, there's no Headgirl without a Headboy," he paused dramatically and turned his gaze towards the other side of the room. "Mr. Draco Malfoy, welcome home!"
She followed Dumbledore's gaze, her eyes frantically searching the crowd. "He's - he's here," she thought with panic. Her heart was beating frantically inside her chest, making her a little light-headed with the lack of oxygen. She fisted her hands to her side, trying her hardest to fight off the mixture of anticipation and longing building inside her chest. "You have to stop, it's over," she thought over and over.