After breakfast, I went to freshen up for my dress adventure with Narcissa. I was curious to see my options. I had seen pictures of the larger soirees the Malfoys had held in the past; the gowns the women wore were breath-taking and I couldn’t imagine the time it took to create such a vision even with using magic.
I met Narcissa at the foot of the staircase with our “handlers” for our excursion. Crabbe and Goyle Sr. were an exact age regression of their sons. I tried to hide my shudder of repulsion at the image created in my mind.
“Are we all ready?” Narcissa asked.
I smiled, ready to get the show on the road. The four of us made our way down the drive, past the gate. Crabbe Sr. held Cissa to his side as Goyle Sr. did the same to me. The familiar sensation of being squeezed through a tube was over as soon as it started. We had apparated to the courtyard of the ice cream parlor. Diagon Alley was almost deserted other than the Weasley’s joke shop. I hadn’t realized what my father’s climb to power meant for the witches and wizards outside of our circle. What a beautiful cocoon I wound around myself.
As we approached Madame Malkin’s, I focused on the task at hand. Find a gown, but with my new found sight I decided that dazzling grandeur made me nauseous. Besides, isn’t less more? The bell above the door tinkled as Narcissa pushed open the door. She nodded to the men and they waited outside. I giggled at the thought of the two hulking figures trying to squeeze into the cramped shop.
“Artemis! Back so soon? Did your robes fit properly?”
“Of course! Everything was perfect as usual.”
“Actually, Madame Malkin, we’re here for something special today.”
“Ah, Mrs. Malfoy! How lovely to see you! What kind of ‘special’ are we looking for?”
“We were hoping you had one of your marvelous ball gowns on hand. We’re hosting a celebration on Friday in honor of the children’s final year.”
“Oh splendid? As it turns out, I do have few on hand and we can always alter it; I would think three days is enough time.”
“I don’t want anything extravagant. I’m really thinking that a simple style would be more appropriate.”
“Simple? My, a lady of my own heart. You must be so proud Mrs. Malfoy.”
Narcissa gave a small smile and nodded. I looked around the shop, wondering where in the world Madame Malkin could be hiding her special occasion garments. Madame Malkin made her way to the back corner of the shop where the outline of a door appeared. We followed her through to another room that had large mirrors arranged around a large circular platform, with two dressing stalls on the right side of the room. On the left side of the room were four pristine gowns. The first gown was a burgundy organza dream with crystal beading outlining the sweet heart neckline and accentuating the waist. The next was a deep purple A-line dress made from chiffon. Silver beading circled the waist and decorated the single strap. It reminded me of an elegant toga. The third dress was emerald green chiffon and sleeveless. the V-neck dipped to meet the gathering under the bust. The final gown was navy blue taffeta with silver appliques placed at gatherings around the poof skirt and up the corseted bodice. As I took in all the beauty around me, my eyes kept drifting back to the emerald green confection.
“This one,” I stated.
“Don’t you want to try them all on, to see their shape?”
“No disrespect, Madam, but this is my dress,” I said dreamily as I ran my hands over the fabric.
“Alright, let’s get you fitted.”
The fitting went by as fast as it started. Pins inserting themselves where the dress needed to be taken in and chalk marking where the seam could afford to be let out a bit. By the end, the fabric held me close from the waist up and skirts flowed around my legs. I had never felt more excited about an article of clothing until now.
We left the shop with promises of having the gown delivered by Friday morning. As we walked away, I felt eyes watching. I subtly turned my head and noticed I had two shadows.
“Do you think we could stop for some ice cream?”
“I don’t see why not. Crabbe, Goyle, we have one more stop.”
“Yes ma’am,” Crabbe replied in a low voice.
The ice cream parlor was almost as deserted as the rest of the alley. Only two families, each with small children, sat with small smiles enjoying what could easily be the last ice cream cones they have at the parlor.
“I need to excuse myself,” I said suddenly catching the motioning shadows by the restrooms.
I casually made my way over, my smile growing larger and larger as the shadows filled with color. Two days in a row I was able to see my best tricksters.
“You tow really like pushing the envelope don’t you?”
I gave George then Fred a quick hug, knowing our conversation was a timed one.
“We decided the safest place to send your letters and packages this year is the Kitchen.”
“Yeah, to Dobby. He’ll hide them in his socks until you can get them. Pretty brilliant, yeah?”
“Bloody brilliant! He’s a free elf so he can go to you directly,” I giggled, clapping my hands at their genius.
“I have message for you. Draco was given another mission this year and my help is mandatory.”
“Tough break. Do you know what he’s doing?” Fred asked.
I nodded, looking sad. Hopefully, they could help. I hated the thought of betraying anyone.
“We’re to be looking for Harry’s supporters. How is he by the way?”
“You mean you haven’t heard?”
“No,” my stomach knotted at George’s tone.
“Harry, Ron, and Hermoine took off at Bill’s wedding. We have no idea where or how they are.”
George reached up to where his ear had been cursed off this past summer. I remember how angry Father had been after he failed to kill Harry. Fred sent me word of George’s injury and I cried myself to sleep. Now this.
“I-I-I have to go. I’ll write as soon as I get to school,” I stammered, trying to keep my emotions in check. I hugged them again and returned to the table where Narcissa sat waiting.
“Is everything alright? You look a bit peaky.”
“I’m fine, just nervous about this whole ball thing.”
“Artemis, it’s nothing to fret over. Invitations have been sent, you found a dress, all that needs to be done are the decorations and I will have the house elves start tomorrow.”
I nodded, wondering how she could be so calm. I suppose it comes from having been bought up to find those different from you to be lesser as well.
“We should go. Your father may need our companions.”