Next to you
Draco yawned loudly as he walked towards the spot where they're supposed to meet. He slipped his hand inside his pocket and fingered the pendant that kept him awake for most of the night. A tired sigh escaped his lips just as the Black Lake came into his view, "And now, I wait" he mumbled.
Subtle looks, secret smiles, that's what Draco and Hermione's friendship turned into. After that fateful night in the Library, they both decided that it would for their best interest if they kept their friendship under the wraps. It's not that they are ashamed of what they have; it's just that they both knew the risk if the wrong sort of people found out. Their fear at being caught didn't deter them from spending time together though. Thrice a week, they make it to a point to sneak away from prying eyes and hide at their favorite rendezvous. His boulder by the Black Lake has been a good refuge. Hermione placed a few of her self-made wards which Draco fortified with his modified version of a "Notice-me-not" charm. The combination of the spells they casted adhered to each other perfectly, which made them both relax.
Often times, they would find themselves just sitting next to each other without even speaking. She would take out one of her well worn book and start reading while he just stared at the still waters, deep in thought. The companionable silence they shared only proved how far their friendship has gone. They don't need petty conversations to be able to spend time together, which is a rare feat considering how much they love verbal sparring.
"Who are you taking to the Yule Ball?" Blaise asked.
He stopped mid-drink, his face full of confusion. "Huh? Is there another Tri-Wizard Tournament that I'm not aware of?"
Blaise chuckled, "I knew you weren't listening."
He placed his goblet back on the table, "Listening to what?"
"The old coot just announced it a few minutes ago, we'll have another Yule Ball, sans the tournament."
Blaise grabbed his spoon and started eating his pudding, "So, back to my question, who are you taking to the Ball?"
An image of a brown haired bookworm crossed his mind's eye. "I don't know, you just told me about it," he lied.
Blaise let his spoon hover on top of his plate, "Well, you better get started before all the good ones are taken" he said thoughtfully.
He placed his napkin on top of his plate before pushing away from the table, "Yeah, I'll get right to it" he said.
He snatched his satchel from the bench before turning on his heels, "See you later," he said absentmindedly before heading towards his next class.
"That's it Draco Xavier Malfoy" he talked to his reflection. "You have to bloody ask her. You're already friends with her, how hard can it be?" he mumbled.
"Why are you talking to yourself?" Gregory Goyle asked.
"I'm not talking to myself, I'm memorizing some potions ingredients" he lied smoothly.
"For what?" Vincent Crabbe asked.
"None of your business" he snapped.
Vincent opened his mouth to respond but Gregory slapped his meaty palm on top of his friend's mouth, muffling his words.
He threw Gregory a thankful look before moving his eyes back to the mirror. He tousled his hair and checked his appearance one more time before slipping his wand inside his robes. "I'm going for a walk, I'll see you later" he said curtly as he made his way towards the door.
"Yeah, okay," Gregory replied.
He plucked the sand keeper from his pocket as he briskly climbed up the stairs "She should be there by this time" he thought. He turned left from the Great Hall and hastily made his way towards the Library; he tucked his sand keeper back in his pocket before pushing the heavy double doors open. He slipped into the large room and started scanning the tables. When he didn't see any trace of her, he started checking her favorite haunts. He stopped at the last aisle and braced his hands on his hips, "Where in Merlin's name is she?" he asked himself. He paced along the bookshelves and tried to remember the places she often visits during her free time. After a moment, he slapped his palm on his forehead, "Of course!" he exclaimed. He then turned on his heels and made a dash towards the door. He pushed it unceremoniously, not even paying attention to the huffs and puffs of the girls he ran into. He made his way back to the Great Hall and took a quick turn towards the Grand Entrance. He grinned widely as he stepped into the grounds, "How can I forget?" he mumbled. He slipped his hands in his pockets, feeling more confident now that he knows where to find her. He whistled cheerfully as he walked along the damp grass, not even daunted that she hasn't bothered activating their charm. He stopped just a few feet from her, observing her quietly as she turned to the next page.
"Do I have something on my face Draco?" Hermione asked.
"How did you know it was me?" he asked.
She lifted her gaze from the book and cocked her head to the side, "Who else would know where to find me?"
"Pothead and Weaselby?"
She rolled her eyes as she snapped her book shut, "When will you stop calling them names?"
He smirked, "It depends."
"Depends on what?" she asked with a quirked brow.
"If you'll stop calling Crabbe and Goyle ogres"
She blinked a few times before bursting into fits of giggles.
He pulled his hand off his pockets as he moved closer, "What are you doing here anyway? I've been looking all over for you" he said.
She stopped giggling, but a trace of mirth is still evident on her features, "Just trying to have some peace" she replied.
He lifted his foot and rested it on top of the stone next to his boulder, "Let me guess, they're still talking about their latest win against Ravenclaw?" he said wryly.
"Yes," she replied.
She gathered her hands on top of her book, "So, why are you looking for me?"
He suddenly felt less cocky. He shifted on his perch nervously; his heart started beating like a herd of Hippogriffs is about to maul him.
"Just go for it!" his mind screamed at him. He swallowed back the quaffle sized lump in his throat before speaking, "The Christmas Ball is...uhmm...next week, do you already have a date?"
Her eyes widen, clearly not expecting his question.
"I'm not prying or anything" he paused and scratched the back of his neck. "I was just hoping that you-"
"NO!" she squeaked, cutting him off midsentence.
His gut twisted painfully with her answer, "Oh."
Her cheeks burned bright with embarrassment for her abrupt answer. She averted her gaze and started fidgeting with her fingers. "No, you're not prying and no I don't have a date yet" she clarified.
He felt the tension inside his stomach loosen with her clarification. "This is your chance, ask her now!" he thought. He licked his lips and cleared his throat loudly, "Hermione would you-"
Her head snapped to the side and spotted two figures walking towards them, "Shit! I forgot to set the wards!"
"What are you doing with this prick? Is he bothering you?" Ron demanded, his eyes blazing with anger.
"Perfect timing Weasel" he hissed and glared at him murderously. "You always know when to butt in!" he added.
Ron pulled his wand from is robes and pointed it towards Draco, "Say another word and I'll hex your ferrety arse!"
Harry grabbed the fuming red head's shoulder, "Ron" he said, his voice full of warning. He then turned his gaze towards the blonde man glowering at them, "Watch your mouth Malfoy and stay away from her!"
His lips curled into a sneer, "Walk the talk Potter. I'm not the one drawing wands here, am I?" he said sarcastically.
"Will you cut it off?" Hermione said, looking pointedly at her best friends. "I appreciate your chivalry but it is not needed. He's not harassing me or disrespecting me in any sort of way. We were just talking and no, he did not hex me or charm me."
Ron looked affronted, "But-"
"No buts!" she snapped.
Ron opened his mouth to speak again but Harry tugged him back, "Shut it," he whispered.
She hopped off the boulder and shoved her book inside her bag. She slipped the strap on her shoulder before turning her eyes to him, "I'm sorry about this, I'll talk to you some other time" she said, her eyes pleading for understanding.
He nodded curtly, his insides still bubbling with anger for being interrupted.
She walked towards her friends, her face full of annoyance. "Let's go back to the Common Room - now!" she snapped as she stormed towards the castle.
Harry threw him a death glare before dragging Ron along with him, "Hermione, wait!" he called out.
He waited for the trio to make it to the pathway before he let a small smirk, "Good to know she has their balls in a platter" he said with amusement.
Draco let out an annoyed grunt as he entered their dormitory. It has been a week since he last talked to Hermione and up to this point, he still haven't gotten the chance to ask her again. The Ball will be held tomorrow and he's still dateless, time was really not on his side. It's not due to lack of trying though, it's just that Pothead and Weaselby stuck to her like glue, much to his utter annoyance. He trudged towards the couch and plopped down angrily, "Bloody Ball" he mumbled.
He turned his face to the side and saw Pansy Parkinson sitting beside him, "What do you want?" he asked callously.
She shifted closer, "Drakeypoo...the Yule Ball is coming, aren't you asking me yet?" she asked while batting her eye lashes.
He scrunched his face with distaste, "Who says I'm asking you?"
She shot up from her perch, hurt and contempt etched through her features. She took a tiny box from her robe pocket and aimed it directly at his chest, throwing it with all the force she can muster.
"Ouch! What in the bloody hell are you doing?" he yelped.
"You don't deserve that you daft prick! But because I already paid for it and I don't have any use for it, you can bloody keep it!" she seethed before storming towards the stairs.
He rubbed his chest as he pluck the tiny wrapped box on his lap. He lifted it to his eye level, an idea forming in his mind.
On the other side of the castle; Hermione sat on her bed and started talking to no one in particular. "He was going to ask me, I know it! But we we're interrupted, I might've said yes that instant!" she groaned with frustration. A voice at the back of her head asked; "Why do you want to go with him anyway? He's Malfoy!" She pursed her lips and thought about that question, "Don't you like Ron?" it probed again. Hermione shook her head; trying hard to clear her mind to somehow find an answer to that question. "I still like Ron. I'll forever like him. It's just that somewhere along the way, my feelings changed," she rationalized. "Are you trying to say that you like Malfoy now?" the voice in her head asked again. She felt her jaw drop - for the first time in 4 years, Hermione Granger didn't have any answer to a simple question. Not so long ago, she used to despise him with every fibre of her being. And if by chance he popped that question to her before, she would have laughed her heart out and tell him a flat out no. She let that thought sink in, her mind whirring with how things have changed in such a short period. She fell back on her bed, "When did this happen?" she asked loudly.
"Hermione, are you alright?" Lavender Brown asked as she approached her.
She cleared her thoughts before turning her face to the side, "Y-yes, of course" she answered.
Lavender moved towards the foot of the bed and sat down, "Do you already have a date for tomorrow?" she asked.
She fought the urge to wince, "No, how about you?" she asked as she sat up.
A large grin curled on Lavender's lips, "I have, actually. You won't believe who asked me..."
She smiled because she already knew that Ron was planning to ask the blonde beauty to the Ball. "Who?" she played along.
"Ron - Ronald Weasley!" Lavender squaled, her brown eyes twinkling with excitement.
She leaned forward and patted her friend's hand, "I'm happy for you Lav, I know you'll enjoy the night" she sincerely said.
"Thank you Mione!"
Hermione sat between Harry and Ron, feeling miserable and defeated. The Ball will be held tonight and yet she's still dateless. Nobody seems to want to take her and the only boy who came close to asking her didn't even bother approaching her again. She bowed her head and threw an inconspicuous glance towards the Slytherin table, quietly watching Draco interact with his friends. "At least someone feeling peachy this morning," she thought bitterly as she saw him laugh with Blaise Zabini. She was about to tear her eyes away from the happy picture when something caught her eye. The sophomore boy she just deducted 10 points from for bullying a freshman earlier approached the laughing Slytherins. He took out a rolled parchment and a small box from his satchel and handed it to Draco. The blonde boy's face lit up as he accepted the package before turning to his side. He pushed the small box towards Pansy and cheerfully kissed her cheek, mumbling something in her ear. The pug-nosed girl's face turned scarlet as she playfully swatted Draco's arm, making him laugh again. She swallowed the lump inside her throat as she lowered her eyes to her lap, "Explains why he didn't bother trying again" she thought sadly.
"Mione? Are you okay?" Harry asked.
She lifted her eyes, meeting his concerned gaze; "I'm fine Harry," she lied.
Harry stared at her intently, "You look paler than the usual, are you feeling sick?"
She shook her head, "No, just a little headache" she lied.
"Okay, if you say so" Harry replied. "Oh, I forgot to tell you. I already asked Ginny to the Ball and she said yes," he added as an afterthought, his excitement radiating off of his body.
"Glad you finally found your balls, mate" Ron interjected with a teasing grin.
Harry adjusted his glasses, "It was not missing, I just took my time - I wanted it to be special."
"Right on!" Ron lifted his hand for a high five that Harry eagerly slapped. "Touch her anywhere inappropriate and you'll lose a finger, got me?" he said as he squeezed his best friend's hand.
"Crystal," Harry replied evenly.
"Good" Ron said as he released the other wizard's hand.
She can't help but smile at the display. Ron has always been protective towards her and Ginny and for her, that' has always been his redeeming quality. She was about to open her mouth to speak, but a loud giggle from the other table stopped her from doing so.
"Oh, Drakeypoo! You shouldn't have!" Pansy squealed with delight.
She froze, her gut twisting painfully with Pansy's words.
"Argh! She's so annoying!" Ron huffed.
Harry followed Ron's gaze and wrinkled his nose with distaste, "Yeah, got that right" he grumbled.
"That's it!" she said to herself, ending her internal battle. She pushed away from the table and shot up from her seat, knocking her pumpkin juice all over, attracting curious glances. "I'm sorry" she mumbled as she grabbed her bag.
"Where are you going?" Harry and Ron asked, their eyes wide in surprise.
"I'm going to the infirmary, I may have contacted something after all" she replied before storming towards door. "You're pathetic Hermione, really pathetic," she thought as she pushed the heavy oak open. She slipped the strap of her bag on her shoulder as she took a sharp turn to her left, she made a bee line towards the first pillar she saw and hid behind it. She curled her hands into tight fists, fighting back the tears that seem to appear out of nowhere. "Damn it! What the hell is happening to me?"
"Oh Drakey! You really shouldn't have!" Pansy shrieked as she hugged Draco's arm.
Draco winced as he removed his arm from other eager witch's grasp; "Err - you're welcome."
"Looks like someone is upset"
Draco followed his friend's gaze, "Whose upset? Who are you talking about?"
Blaise nodded towards the Gryffindor table, "Trouble in paradise, Granger just stormed out of their table."
He narrowed his eyes at Pothead and Weaselby, "What did they do?"
Blaise shrugged, "How should I know" he replied. He then swivelled on his seat to face his friend, "Why do you care?" he asked with a quirked brow.
"I don't" he lied as he grabbed his goblet.
Blaise studied his face for a moment before turning his attention back to his breakfast.
"What the hell happened?" he thought, his mind racing with different scenarios.
It was almost noon when Ginny decided to check on Hermione. She knew that the older witch was more upset than ill earlier, so she gave her wide berth before asking her what's wrong. She slowly pushed the door ajar, knocking three times to announce her presence. "Mi?"
"Yes?" Hermione replied as she sat up from the bed.
"Are you still feeling sick?" Ginny asked as she approached the bed.
She gathered her hands on her lap, "No, I'm feeling much better" she replied with a small smile.
Ginny sat down at the foot of the bed, "It's almost time for the Ball, want to share the loo? I can help fix your hair and you can do my make-up."
"I don't feel like going Gin, I think I'm going to stay in tonight" she replied timidly, her eyes straying towards her hands.
Ginny shifted closer and nudged the brunette's leg to get her attention, "I saw you, you know."
"I saw you crying behind the pillar."
Her cheeks started flushing beet red, "I - I was not crying - my eyes were just itchy" she stuttered.
Ginny fought the urge to roll her eyes, "You're really not a good liar" she mused.
"I'm not lying!"
"That's what I'm talking about. Your voice turns shrilly and you have this guilty look on your face every time you lie," Ginny pointed out.
She crossed her arms on top of her chest, "Whatever Gin, I'm still not going."
Ginny recognized the petulant look on Hermione's face so she decided to try a different tactic. She's not even sure if there's really "something" going on, but she's willing to risk it. "This might be your last chance, are you sure that you want to pass on it?"
Her head snapped to the side, her brows furrowing with confusion. "What do you mean?"
"Aha! Looks like I'm on the right track after all" Ginny thought gleefully. She lay on her side, propping her head with her hand, "Really now, you're going to make me say it?" she challenged with an arched brow.
Her eyes widen in shock, "She knows" the voice in her head said loudly. Her heart starting picking up its pace, making her speechless.
Ginny noticed the shift on her friend's demeanor, making her feel guilty. She moved her other hand on the comforter, drawing patterns with her pointer finger. "I'm not blind or dense like Harry or my brother Hermione. I maybe younger than you but I'm still a girl, I notice these things."
She swallowed back the lump in her throat, "W - what do you know?" she asked shakily.
Ginny took a deep breath before she plunged on, "I saw you talking with him in the Library."
"Oh hush! I didn't hear a single thing. I just saw you, period" Ginny clarified. She then shifted her hand on her stomach, her eyes meeting Hermione's intently, "I know something is going on between you and Malfoy, you've become friends. And before you panic, no I'm not telling Harry or Ron and I also won't judge you. I know for a fact that you have a good head on your shoulders, so if you deem he's an alright kind of bloke then I will support you."
She licked her lips, "Really?'
Ginny nodded, "Really, it's not my secret to tell anyway" she said.
Ginny sat up and frowned, "And I also know what happened last week, is that the reason why you've decided to forgo the Ball?"
"It might have something to do with that" she admitted. She let her arms fall to her side as she leaned back on her pillows, "He was going to ask me, I know it. He just didn't have the chance because Harry and Ron appeared out of nowhere" she pouted. "Your brother and his foolish wand waving threats" she added.
Ginny frowned, "That's not what I've heard."
"I'm not surprised" she replied dryly. She then let out a dejected sigh, "But that doesn't matter, he didn't ask me again. It was just wishful thinking I guess, maybe he really doesn't want to go with me and he's just being polite because he knows that no one asked me yet" she said, her voice filled with hurt and a tinged of bitterness.
"Are you sure about that?"
She nodded, "Positive" she replied, her mind going back to the scene she witnessed earlier.
Ginny cocked her to the side, "I really don't think that's the case Mi. I see the way he looks at you when he think nobody is looking. There's something more than friendship there, I should know, that's the exact way I look at Harry" she said, the apple of her cheeks heating up with her admission.
She shook her head, "I don't think so Gin, I think he's with Parkinson - I saw him this morning, he kissed her cheek and he look so happy" she said sadly.
"Harry kisses your cheek. My brother does that too. Does that mean that you guys are together?" Ginny asked cheekily.
She sat up straight, "Of course not! They're like my brothers!"
"Point made then."
She started fidgeting with her hands, mulling over Ginny's words.
"It's not too late Mi, you - me, we still have time" Ginny said. "The Ball doesn't start until 8 and its just 3, I'm sure that's enough time to get ready."
She bit her bottom lip, "Will you help me?" she asked shyly.
A large grin curled up Ginny's lips, "I thought you'd never ask, bloody Gryffindor pride" she teased as she hopped off the bed. "Mission accomplished," she thought happily.
She sat on her haunches and flung her arms around the younger witch, "I don't know what I'd do without you Gin, thank you!"
The common room was almost empty when Draco arrived; he just got done with Quidditch practice and now it's time to get ready. He made his way towards his room and started gathering his toiletries. He went straight to his ensuite bathroom and took his time with the shower. After almost 30 minutes of scrubbing and preening, he slipped into his best dress robe and made his way back to the room. He walked towards the full length mirror and stared at his reflection, he straightened his bow tie before running his fingers through his hair. He was fixing his cravat when he spied the small velvet box perched on top of his bed, he stared at it for a moment before moving his eyes back to his clothes.
Great Hall: 8 P.M
The bell chimed loudly, signalling the start of the Yule Ball. Students started arriving in pairs and large groups; whispers and surprised gasps filled the room as the Great Hall unfolded itself magically. The once large rectangular tables that used to occupy most of the space in the room were transfigured into small rounded tables. It was lined with elf weaved gossamer fabric and topped with intricate crystal vases, bearing a variety of floras. It was scattered strategically around the room, giving enough space for the students to glide through them with ease. Iced kissed Fir trees decorated by colorful baubles and lit by candles were erected on each side of the Teachers table. Garlands and pine cones dipped in silver-white paint were wrapped around the tall columns. Strings of fairy lights were hung between the pillars, emitting a faint light that gives the room a more enchanted look.
Draco walked in, his eyes taking in his surreal surrounding. He slipped his hand inside his pocket to make sure he didn't forget the small velvet box before he made his way towards Blaise, "Hey" he greeted.
Blaise turned around, "Hey, you arrived on time" he said with a smile.
"Just finished practice" he replied, his eyes searching for the bookworm he failed to ask.
"Where's your date?"
He shrugged, "I don't have one" he replied. He pulled his hand from his pocket and turned to meet his friend's gaze, "How about you? Where's your date?" he asked.
Blaise grinned, "I'm going stag. I wouldn't want these ladies to feel lonely, you know" he said while wiggling his brows.
He can't help but grin back, "You're one of a kind Zabini - one of a kind."
Gryffindor Common Room:
Hermione worried her bottom lip as she stared at her reflection.
"You look wonderful dear, now go on, you don't want to be late" The enchanted mirror encouraged with a smile.
"Okay, I can do this" she said to herself. She slipped her wand inside the hidden pocket before stepping out of her room; she walked towards the stairs and carefully made her way down.
Harry and Ron seem to hear her footsteps because they both stood up from their perch, their eyes wide like saucers when they spotted her.
"How do I look? Do I look hideous?" Hermione asked nervously.
Harry cleared his throat first, "You look gorgeous Mione" he said with an approving smile.
She can't help but smile back, "Thank you, this is all Ginny's work" she replied bashfully.
"Blimey Hermione! You sure clean up well" Ron blurted out.
Harry dug his elbow on his friend's rib, "Forgive Ron, you know he's really not good with words."
She rolled her eyes, "Don't worry about it Harry, I know him well enough to not be offended with his callous words."
Ron's cheeks turned bright, "I'm sorry Mione, I didn't mean it to sound like that" he apologized.
"Don't mind my brother Mi, he normally puts his foot in his mouth" Ginny said as she fell into step with Harry.
Harry turned to face his date, his emerald eyes sparkling with admiration, "You look stunning Gin, really beautiful."
Ginny blushed, clearly not used Harry complimenting her, "You don't look bad yourself" she mumbled.
She felt a tiny bit of jealousy watching the couple, "I wish I had someone too" she sighed wistfully.
"Come on, Lav is already waiting for me" Ron said as he trudged towards the door.
"RONALD WEASLEY! I'm appalled at your horrible manners! You're supposed to escort her to the Great Hall and not meet her there!" Ginny harped, her voice closely resembling their Mother's.
Ron looked confused, "Really?"
She shook her head as she pushed Ron forward, "Some things will never change" she mumbled.
When the quartet arrived, all eyes were on them. Hermione shifted on her feet, clearly uncomfortable with the attention they're getting.
"Loosen up Mione, you look like you're ready to faint" Ron whispered with a smirk.
She pinched his arm, "I can't help it! I'm not used to this" she whispered back.
Ron tugged her hand and gave it a comforting squeeze, "Don't mind them, save me a dance later?" he asked.
"Do you promise not to abuse my toes?" she teased.
"Ha, ha, ha, you're bloody funny.'
She can't help but smile at his snarky response, "Fine, I'll just cast a numbing spell on my feet then."
Ron smiled at her, "Do that. I have to go and find Lavender, she's my date after all."
"Go on" she replied. She waited for Ron's back to disappear in the crowd before she turned towards Ginny, "I'll just go get something to drink" she said.
"Do you want me to go with you?" Ginny asked.
"No, I'm good, I'll see you in a bit?"
Ginny stared at her for a second, "You sure?"
She nodded, "Yes."
"Okay then, we'll just find you later."
She squeezed the other girl's arm before walking towards the refreshment's table. She was half way through when she suddenly felt a familiar tingling on her spine. She halted her steps and took a deep breath, she knew it was him - he's the only one who can elicit this type of reaction from her after all. Slowly, she turned around and found herself looking straight into his silver grey eyes.
Draco felt restless. It's already quarter past 8 and he still hasn't seen her. He placed his empty goblet on top the table, "I'm going to get some fresh air, I'm feeling a little light headed - too much perfume here" he said.
Blaise tipped his goblet towards his friend, "Sure mate, I'll just be right here" he replied.
He nodded towards the Italian before standing up from his seat; he shoved his hands inside his pockets and lazily worked his way through the raucous crowd. He was about to head to the double door when a distinct figure walking towards the refreshment's table caught his eye. His heart started picking up its pace, "Hermione" he breathed out once their gazes met for the first time.
An angel, that's the first thought that crossed his mind when he got a clear view of her. She was wearing a white silk empire cut dress capped with short sleeves, revealing a decent portion of her rosy white skin. Her once riotous curls was tamed into soft locks that's embellished with tiny diamond like studs, making her hair glimmer under the dimly lit room. He shifted on his feet, his eyes moving back to her face. "God's she's so beautiful," he thought.
Hermione felt her cheeks flush with the way Draco is looking at her. She folded her arms under her chest as she let out a small smile. She felt a thrill of surprise crawled up her spine when he started to move towards her, "Merlin's beard is he really-"
"Good evening Ms. Granger, you look breathtaking tonight," he said with a small smile.
Her heart skipped a beat upon hearing his compliment, "Thanks, you don't look bad yourself."
Slowly, he held his hand out, "May I have this dance?" he asked.
Before her mind can come up with a thousand reasons why she should say no, her hand slid into his.
He bowed like the true gentleman and placed a chaste kiss on her knuckles. He laced their fingers together before steering her towards the dance floor.
"Are you sure about this?" she asked.
He shifted her hands on his shoulders, his arms going around her waist, "Never had been this sure in my entire life," he replied.
She smiled shyly, "If you're really sure..."
He pulled her closer as they swayed with the music, not even a bit daunted about the attention they're receiving from the other students.
She felt herself relax in his arms, her feet following his steps fluidly.
Ginny witnessed the whole scene and she can't help but feel happy for her best friend, "Finally! They really look good together" she thought.
Harry noticed the mischievous smile on his date's lips, "What are you looking at?" he asked as he skilfully reversed their position. He scanned the direction that she's looking at and spotted them almost instantly, "Why is the ferret dancing with Hermione?"
She tightened her hold around his neck, "It's the Ball Harry, let them be" she replied.
"I knew it! She really has gone barmy! And why the bloody hell is Malfoy suddenly interested in her? Is he planning something?" he asked, his voice dripping with suspicion.
She rolled her eyes, "Stop being a git and let them be. They're just dancing for Merlin's sake! It's not as if they're snogging" she said with exasperation.
His gaze snapped back to Ginny, his eyes wide in surprise.
"After this ball we don't know what will happen. The Dark Lord is getting stronger and we...we don't know if all of us will live to see another day..."
"I'll do everything I can to protect all of you, you know that, right?"
"I know that, but doesn't mean I'm less scared" she admitted. She shifted closer and rested her cheek on his chest, "Just give this night to her, please?"
"What do you mean by that?" he asked, his voice less stiff than before.
"Time to take off the blinders," she thought. "Sometimes, it makes me wonder if Hermione is really right."
He chuckled, "She's always right."
She pulled her face away and arched a brow, "So you agree that boys have an emotional range of a teaspoon?"
"Not all of us" he grumbled, his cheeks turning pink with embarrassment.
She placed her hand on his cheek, her eyes twinkling with mirth. "Are you an exception to that connotation then?"
"What do you think?" he challenged.
"Well, you did take notice of my feelings" she mused.
He pinched her waist playfully, "That I did" he grinned. "Now, about what you said..."
Her face turned serious, "It's really not my story to tell but let me give you an idea. Look at Hermione right now, does she look happy?"
He shifted his eyes back to his best friend and saw her laughing, "She does look happy-" he paused and wrinkled his nose with distaste. "-even if she's dancing with the ferret,"
She pinched his chin and turned his face to meet hers again, "She's happy Harry, and for some bizarre reason it has something to do with that ferret. There's got to be something there,"
"I know, I don't trust him too" she interjected. She then clasped her hands around his neck, "But we trust Hermione, right?"
"Of course, she's our best friend" he admitted grudgingly.
"Then it's settled. Give them tonight then we'll go from there, deal?"
"Deal" he replied. He then moved his eyes back to the unlikely couple, "You really think there's something more between them?" he asked, studying his enemy's face.
"You see the way he looks at her?"
"That's the same way I used to look at you - still look at you" she replied.
He turned is face back to gaze into her eyes. He knew exactly what she meant, so he decided to let it be, for now. He leaned forward and pressed his lips to her forehead, "Okay"
She relaxed into his arms, her eyes closing with pleasure, "Do you even have an idea how much I love you?"
He rested his cheek on her temples, "I know and I love you too" he replied. "And if you want to know how much, let's just say that this lifetime won't be enough to measure the depths of my feelings for you."
She choked back her tears as she hugged him tightly, "You really know how to make a girl swoon,"
"I'm good at that too" he replied cheekily.
"Looks like Harry and Ginny are having a good time," Ron mused as he watched his sister and best friend dance.
Lavender smiled, "Happy and smitten, that's what they are" she said. She then pointed towards the other couple she spotted earlier, "Even Draco and Hermione are dancing - Yule is really a season for miracles."
He followed her gaze with utter disbelief, his face turning bright red.
Lavender didn't seem to notice the abrupt change in his mood so she kept on babbling, "Who would've thought that they'll look good together, huh?" she paused to look at her date. "Don't you think?"
"Has she gone mental?! What the hell is she doing fraternizing with the enemy?" he blurted out, his hands flexing on his side.
Lavender threw him a disapproving look, "It's the Ball and we're supposed to dance with whomever we want, give it a rest."
He looked horrified, "How can you expect me to give it a rest? He's a stupid prick and sodding git, he doesn't deserve to dance with her! Did he curse her or something? Just wait till I get my hands on him, I'll wring his bloody neck!" he seethed as he made his move.
Lavender grabbed his arm, "RONALD WEASLEY! Are you leaving me here for Mafloy?" she asked with feigned shock.
His face burn even brighter, "I'm not leaving you for him, I'm going to strangle him!"
"She's no longer a kid Ron, she's old enough to know what she's doing" Lavender said. "If she deems him well enough to want to dance with him, then you should respect that" she added with a voice that left no argument.
He pursed his lips, still not convinced with her rationalization.
Lavender shifted closer, "And besides, we both know that Hermione can handle herself. She's quick with a wand, one wrong move from him and he'll end up on his arse."
He felt his muscles relax with her words, she's right - Hermione can definitely take care of herself.
Lavender squeezed his arm again to get the red head's attention, "Dance with me?"
He threw his other best friend a look, and when he realized that he didn't mind. He pulled Lavender's hand from his arm and kissed her knuckles, "Let's go then," he relented.
Lavender smiled as she let him lead her towards the dance floor, "Crisis averted," she mumbled with a relieved sigh.
Draco was having a jolly good time, all because of the girl in his arms. He took a step back before spinning her into an elaborate twirl, making her giggle. He then tugged her back, swaying them from side to side. "Having fun?" he asked with a grin.
Hermione squeezed his hand, "More than I thought I would," she replied honestly. "You really are a good dancer."
"I'll make sure to pass the compliments to Madame Leroux" he replied.
"You should, you did her proud to today" she replied.
"You're good at dancing too, is there anyone you wish to pass the compliment too?"
Her cheeks flushed with embarrassment, "Err - my Mum insisted that I take a couple of dance lessons when I was young, guess it paid off too."
"It sure did, you're a very good dance partner" he complimented as he twirled her into another spin.
Hermione was having fun. When Ginny convinced her to go to the Ball, she didn't expect that she'll end up having Draco as her first dance. Yes, she hoped that they'll get the chance to speak, but never as far as dancing. The way he looked at her right before he held out his hand for all to see still makes her heart pitter-patter, "Viktor Krum, who?" she mused.
She snapped back to reality, "Yes?"
He furrowed his brows in concern, "Are you getting tired? Do you want to sit down?"
"I'm fine, but is it okay if we sit down for a while?" she found herself asking.
He stopped swaying them and smile, "Of course, want me to get us some punch?"
She can't help but smile at his thoughtfulness, "That would be great, thank you Draco."
"You're welcome" he replied as he led her towards the vacant seats. He helped her sit down before kissing her knuckles, "I'll be back in few" he said before turning on his heels.
She sighed dreamily as she watched him weave through the crowd. She waited for his back to disappear from line of vision before she stared fixing her hair.
"So many times, I thought I held it in my hands but just like grains of sand love slips through my fingers. So many nights, I asked the Lord above please make me lucky in love, to find a love that lingers. Something keeps telling me that you could be my answered prayer, you must be heaven sent I swear..."
She froze; her mouth turned agape, "NSYNC? Really?" she thought with incredulity. She let her hands fall to her lap, her eyes moving towards the Music Booth, "Well that explains it," she concluded once she saw who sat behind it - Justin Finch-Fletchley. She leaned back on her chair, her mind unconsciously drifting back to what Ginny told her a few hours ago. Is there really something special between them? Does he see her more than a friend? She worried her bottom lip as she started to dissect their every encounter. "He does seem to stare at me more than the usual" she surmised. Her eyes then began searching for his familiar blonde head, only to find him talking animatedly with Pansy. She felt her heart drop to her stomach as her earlier musing crumbled to dust. She shot up from her seat just as Pansy placed her hand on his arm, "You're bloody mad for thinking it's more than what it really is" she said as she tore her eyes away from the scene. She wrapped her arms around herself as she weaved through the throng of students.
"Mione! Where are you going?"
She halted her steps and turned her face to the side, "The loo, I'm just going to freshen up," the lie easily escaping her lips.
Harry furrowed his brows, "Are you alright? You look pale?"
She let out a forced smile, "I'm alright Harry, don't worry about me. Where's Gin?"
Harry pointed towards the dance floor, "She's dancing with Neville, want me to get her for you?"
"No, I'm good. Be back in a few" she said.
"Okay, we'll wait for you here" Harry replied with a small smile.
She nodded before walking towards the door. Once she's outside the festivities, she let her shoulders drop. She took her wand out of her pocket and casted a warming bubble on her whole body. She waited for the charm to seep through her skin before she made her way out of the castle. She hugged herself around her waist as she trekked the icy path towards the Black Lake. She almost slipped twice, but she was able to catch her bearing before her arse hit the snowy ground. She sighed in relief when she caught sight of "their" boulder; she took her wand from her pocket and whispered Tergio. She carefully hauled herself up; making sure that the hem of her dress is neatly tucked under her. She then folded her elbows on top of her knees, her eyes straying towards the frozen waters. "They're probably dancing their hearts out and he won't even notice me missing..." she mumbled sadly. Tears blurred her vision as she replayed the scene in her head all over again. "Silly girl! Why are you hurting yourself? You have no right to feel that way, he's just being nice to you and that's it! He didn't even ask you to go with him tonight remember? So why assume and expect more?" she scolded herself. She buried her face in her palms as she surrendered to coldness that's seeping through her skin, hoping against all hope that the chill can somehow numb her aching heart.
"Okay, have fun," Draco said as he pulled away from Pansy.
"Where are you going?" Pansy asked with a pout.
He wracked his brain for an excuse but he can't seem to come up with one.
"May I have this dance?"
Pansy turned around and saw Theo standing behind her. She let out a giggle as she slipped her hand in his, "Always the gentleman Theo," she purred.
Theo winked at a dumbfounded Draco before steering Pansy towards the dance floor.
He nodded his head in thanks before turning on his heels. He walked towards the place he left her but he she's not there. He placed the goblet on the table and began searching for her. He caught sight of her friends but she's also not with them. He braced his hands on his waist, his brows furrowing with annoyance. "Where is he?" he grumbled. He then started circling the crowd, checking if she's with the other Gryffindorks but also came up with naught, "How can she leave without even saying goodbye?" he seethed. He shoved his hands inside his pockets as she trudged out of the Great Hall, "That's really rude of her" he puffed out. He walked towards the large oak doors that lead towards grounds. He leaned heavily on the frame, his eyes straying towards the Black Lake. He was about to shift his eyes towards the starless sky when a movement caught his gaze, he squinted and tried his best to get a better look. "Hermione..." he breathed out for the second time, his hand automatically reaching for his wand. "Accio winter coat!"
-End of Flashback-
Draco snapped back to the present when he heard something crack. He hastily turned around, expecting Hermione to be there, but he saw no one. His eyes moved towards the flock of birds flying away from the Whomping Willow and realized that the crack came from the old tree. He took a deep breath and started walking towards his boulder, "You're acting like a nervous teenage boy, loosen up" he said to himself as he hefted himself up. He pulled the necklace from his pocket and lifted it to his eye level, his mind drifting back to his earlier musing.