Draco marched down the stairs from the Astronomy Tower muttering a curse under his breath every other step he took. Usually the Tower was good for an amorous couple or two, but not tonight. It was taking every ounce of will to not rush back to his room and Hermione. He had been patrolling for over an hour, and he hadn’t gotten to deduct a single point from any house.
He had started to doubt his decision to leave the moment he had stepped out of their common room. They had been so damned close to a break though. Hermione’s stubborn shell had finally shown signs of cracking. Part of him had wanted to push it further, but then he thought it best to not push too quickly. He didn’t want her to turn around and claim anything she said or did was simply out of anger. The obstinate Gryffindor loved to think, so let her ponder the events of the evening for a bit. Perhaps, she would realize that Slytherins weren’t the only ones guilty of holding on to past prejudices.
“Look where you are going!” Draco growled as he rounded a corner and ran smack into another individual out for a stroll in the dim hallways of Hogwarts. He had a few more choice words, but a glance upward, and he thought it better to keep them to himself. “Sorry, Professor, I thought you were someone else.”
“That was obvious, Mr. Malfoy,” Snape agreed. “I did not realize that this was your evening to patrol.”
“It’s not,” he admitted, “but I thought I could give the Prefects a hand.”
“Draco Malfoy helping his underlings, how unusual,” the Professor replied thoughtfully. “Perhaps you are avoiding a certain young woman? Don’t tell me you have managed to upset Miss Wogelmuth again?”
“Again? That seems to be a constant state for her when I’m around,” he replied.
“Such an interesting development, a Slytherin concerned about the opinion of a Gryffindor,” Snape said thoughtfully, his thin lips tilted up at the corners in a close replica of a smirk. “I never thought I would see the day, and a Malfoy at that.”
“Yeah, I’m glad I could entertain you,” Draco growled. His gray eyes clouded over with irritation. He was used to Snape's cutting comments, but they were usually aimed at Potter and Weasley. Considering the way things were going with Hermione, he really did not appreciate the attitude. “If you’ll excuse me, Professor, I should finish my rounds.”
Snape made no attempt to move aside to let the Head Boy pass. “I had hoped you might spare a moment. I have something I wish to discuss with you. If you would join me in my office, this is not something I would rather not discuss in the middle of a dark hallway.”
“I really should get back to my homework,” Draco replied.
He was quickly becoming uneasy. It wasn’t like Snape to beat around the bush, and it wasn’t like the entire school didn’t already know about him and Hermione. If it was something that couldn’t be discussed out in the open, it couldn’t be good.
“While I appreciate your devotion to your academic pursuits,” the older man responded crossing his arms over his chest, his fingers which grasped his wand flexing impatiently, “but I believe this will interest you more, considering it pertains to the grand celebration your intended’s Grandmother is planning.”
“Oh, this is hopeless!” Hermione sighed tossing her book on the table next to her chair. She knew she would be berating herself later on, but she was just too frustrated to concentrate on the Great Pixie Round Up. How could she concentrate after Draco had said, actually admitted… Okay, Draco had implied that he felt something for her? Oh, and there was the fact that she was going to have to spend an evening with her grandmother and her Death Eater friends that nagged at her mind as well.
How could he say something like that and just leave like that? It wasn’t his night to patrol—not that she knew his schedule or anything. He only left to get to her. It was just like him to pull something like that. He probably thought it was quite funny to leave her…
“Hermione, are you listening?”
“I… What?” Hermione jumped as her brown eyes scanned the room and finally came to rest on the fireplace. Ginny’s face, looking both confused and amused, gazed out at her from the fireplace. “What are you doing there, Ginny?”
“When you didn’t come back to the library, I thought I’d stop in and check on you, but the old lady in the portrait wouldn’t let me in,” the younger girl explained.
“Of course, she wouldn’t!” a woman chimed in from the picture frame sitting next to Hermione’s discarded book. “It’s bad enough they won’t move you out of that awful Gryffindor house. You don’t need to be associating with them outside of class as well!”
“Oh, would you be quiet!” Hermione sighed as she tipped the little portrait face down. After a few muffled objections things were quiet once again. “I’m sorry, Ginny, I sort of got sidetracked.”
“Oh,” she laughed, her eyes beginning to sparkle. “Do you mean ‘sidetracked’ in a good way?”
“I don’t mean that!” The brunette smiled in spite of herself. “Draco wanted to inform me that dear Grandmother is planning to throw a party for me.”
“So I take it this isn’t going to be a cake and balloons type affair?” Ginny ventured.
“Not even pony rides,” Hermione sighed. “This will be more the mingling with snooty relatives and pleasant talk with Death Eaters affair. Apparently, my grandmother thinks I should be introduced to society, because it’s not like every paper in the wizarding world hasn’t done that already!”
“I’ve read about those,” the girl in the fireplace replied. “Some sort of pureblood tradition. I asked Mom about it once, but she said it was just a way for rich people to show off and waste money.”
“Well, I have to agree with your mom on this one,” she groaned, “but I don’t suppose I could interest you in going with me?”
Ginny’s laughter floated from the flames. “Um, shouldn’t Draco be playing the role of escort?”
“I’m sure he wouldn’t miss being at my side while I’m stuck in an uncomfortable situation, but I’d still like to have you and the boys with me for moral support.”
The redhead seemed to consider the idea for a second before answering. “I doubt having Harry Potter at a social event filled with Death Eaters would be the most comfortable evening, but I think for you, they’d be willing to be there. But don’t you think you should run it pass Draco first? We all know how well they get along.”
The stern look Hermione had while studying quickly returned. Even through the flames Ginny could feel the chill in her friend’s attitude.
"I don’t really care what he thinks,” she growled crossing her arms over her chest. She focused her gaze on the edge of the stone fireplace just to the right of her friend’s face. “It’s my party after all, and I’ll invite whoever I want.”
“Are we back to that?” Ginny sighed. “I thought you were going to try and get along.”
“I was,” Hermione replied with a snort, “but getting along with Draco isn’t exactly easy. He’s just so irritating and stubborn…”
“And they always said it was opposites that attract,” the girl interjected from the flames.
“I am not stubborn!” Hermione insisted leaning forward in her chair. “Well, I’m not irritating anyway!”
“So, I understand there is to be a party?” Snape told Draco as he settled behind his desk.
“Yes,” the Slytherin replied slowly, eyeing the teacher warily. It wasn’t like Snape didn’t already know about the party. They had served in the war together, but Snape had never shown any interest in Hermione, save for as a member of the Golden Trio. “Mrs. Wogelmuth has decided to present Hermione to society before the wedding. Should be quite an affair knowing her grandmother.”
The professor’s dark eyes flashed at the mention of the elderly woman. “I’m sure it will be, which is why I have asked you here. I find myself in a difficult situation, and I am in need of a favor.”
A favor? Snape was asking him for a favor. After the war, Draco owed his teacher quite a few favors, but it just caught him off guard to actually hear him asking for one. For a moment the room was silent as he pondered what Snape could possibly want him to do.
“I’ll do whatever I can sir, but what is it you want me to do?”
The older man relaxed visibly at his response. His dark eyes darted about the room as if expecting to catch someone listening to their conversation. His actions made Draco even more uneasy.
“Your fiancée’s party is going to be a grand social event,” Snape explained, “and I’m sure the security spells will be extremely strong.”
“Well, that goes without saying,” Draco agreed.
“Which is why I will need someone inside the party to help me get inside,” the professor continued quickly.
Draco’s eyebrow’s rose at the request. His professor wanted him to help sneak him into a party full of Death Eaters. After the final battle, the entire wizarding world knew which side Snape supported. This wasn’t an event that Snape was going to be particularly welcome.
“You want me to sneak you into a house full of enemies?” Draco repeated still not sure he truly understood what his teacher was asking.
“Exactly,” he sighed, tapping his fingers on the desktop impatiently. “I need to be at this party as well as some companions of mine.”
“You’re not planning on doing battle, are you, Professor?”
“I’m sure my appearance will cause a stir, Mr. Malfoy,” Snape replied, “but rest assured I am not planning on dueling anyone. Unfortunately, I cannot tell you anymore at this time. Can I depend on you?”
Draco seemed to consider for a moment. His father and Mrs. Wogelmuth would probably have his head for helping Snape disrupt the party, but he had saved Draco’s skin more than once during the war. He couldn’t bring himself to say no. “Fine, I’ll do whatever I can, Professor, as long as it won’t hurt Hermione.”
“You needn’t worry, Mr. Malfoy,” Snape answered, an actual happy smile curving his lips, “I sincerely doubt your fiancée will be hurt by my actions.”