The following weeks passed pretty much uneventfully. Draco had shared his list of known Death Eaters that were still at large. Harry had managed to find connections between Hermione and all of them. Despite much time and thoughts spent on the issue, they did not seem any closer to figuring out who had sent the letter. Since no more letters had arrived, and no one had made any attempts on Hermione’s life, they had agreed that it may have been a prank, and agreed to let it go for now.
Draco and Hermione spent most of their time together, along with Harry and Ginny. Since Hermione and Draco were taking more subjects than the others, they had some time away from the other two as well. They spent every possible moment together, so much in fact, that the other students had almost stopped staring when they saw the two of them enter the room hand in hand, almost.
Ron had even become slightly less frigid towards the idea of Draco and Hermione being together. He would at least spend an occasional hour or two with the others, but only when Cho Chang was able to join him as well. It was not quite like old times, but even Ron knew that things were different now.
This particular evening found Ginny and Hermione, along with the rest of the Gryffindor girls, squeezed together, attempting to share a giant mirror that someone had conjured to replace one entire wall of the Gryffindor common room. They were a mess of wands flying everywhere, some applying makeup, while others were casting charms on their hair, creating beautiful masterpieces. Others still were performing slight alterations to dresses, lowering the front, or shortening the bottom, in order to provide the desired effects.
Tonight was the much anticipated Halloween Ball, and the girls all wanted to look their best. While the Headmistress had issued a rule that all students were required to wear costumes, most of the girls used that term loosely and settled for very short dresses with certain extras that classified them as a cat, bunny, or other cute animal. Hermione, uncharacteristically going with the flow, had decided to go as a black cat. She wore a dangerously short black dress, that hugged her curves, fishnet stockings, and tall black high heeled boots, that came just past her knees. She also wore the obligatory headband with pointy black ears. She couldn't help but chuckle at the resemblance to the cat she had accidentally become with polyjuice potion during her earlier years at Hogwarts. She could barely walk in her shoes, but Ginny taught her a spell to make her shoes more comfortable, as well as adding a balance spell. Once Ginny helped her apply the makeup and applied a few curl-taming spells, even Hermione was impressed with the results. Harry and Ginny were going as a prince and princess. Ginny wore a spaghetti strapped, floor length pale blue gown, made of the softest silk with a sparkling tiara on her head. As she was nearly the same height as Harry, she chose to wear ballet type slippers on her feet, so as not to push her any higher.
“We have to get going! I need to make sure everything is in order out there! Come on Ginny!” Hermione was in a panic about tonight’s ball. Therefore, knowing she would not be able to shut Hermione up any other way, Ginny took one last twirl in the mirror, and followed her out of the common room, into the hall. The boys had been ready hours ago and had decided to go down to the Great Hall to get away from the primping girls.
“Ok, so Pansy and Blaise were supposed to make sure the band got set up." Hermione listed as she absentmindedly pointed towards different areas of the castle. She was more talking to herself than Ginny, but Ginny listened anyway. "Ernie Macmillan and Susan Bones were supposed to ensure that the house elves were clear on the menu. Cho and Luna were in charge of the last minute decor, and Katie Bell and Ron were supposed to be in charge of the voting table for best costume. Do you think I should have done more myself? What if Ron forgets what to do?” While this was a valid worry, Ginny knew to just let Hermione ramble on. It was how she dealt with stress. Hermione continued streaming questions, not waiting for responses as she and Ginny made their way to the Great Hall.
As they made their way down the stairs towards the entrance to the hall, Ginny smiled a huge smile. Everything looked wonderful. The decorations were simple, but stunning from the real spiders suspended mid air throughout the entrance and hall, to the glow coming from the spell cast upon the candles that lit the great hall, giving off an eerie yellowish light. There were more spider webs than usual hanging from the ceilings. The band was setting up at the front of the hall, and students had begun to filter in from their respective houses. Ginny was happy to see that Professor McGonagall’s hopes of inter-house unity were being upheld. There was much intermingling between the houses, to the extent it was nearly impossible to see who was from which house. The exception, of course, was Slytherin. Most of the boys and girls from Slytherin were gathered together, away from the crowd. Other than them, everyone seemed to be enjoying themselves.
Ginny spotted her prince across the room. “Hermione, there’s Harry, I’m going to go talk with him. I’ll see you around ok?” She began to walk away. She stopped short and turned to say, “And Hermione, everything looks perfect.” Hermione nodded, giving her friend a thankful smile. Her mind was still frantic, focused on the different aspects of the dance and who needed to be doing what.
All of her worry seemed to fly from her mind, though when she felt two strong hands wrap around her from behind. She could smell the distinctively Draco smell and closed her eyes as the smell relaxed her body and mind.
“You look absolutely breathtaking.” He whispered into her ear, so that no one could hear but her. Hermione’s heart melted feeling his arms around her, and hearing the words he spoke. She turned around and stepped back to look and see his costume. She almost screamed when she came face to face with familiar round glasses, and dark hair. She immediately withdrew in embarrassment before taking a better look. She began to laugh hysterically when she realized that Draco had in fact come dressed as none other than Harry Potter.
She continued laughing so hard she had to double over and hold her sides. Draco stared at her, a smirk across his face in amusement at her reaction. "Like my costume?" He asked, laughing with her.
"You are dressed as Harry? Thank you so much for that. As usual, you have been exactly what I needed right now. " She finally gained control over her laughter and took in his costume more thoroughly. His blonde well groomed locks had been transformed into black, messy cut. He wore a fake scar and perfectly round glasses. If it weren't for the smirk and the obviously more developed physical appearance, he almost might be able to pass for a twin. "Has Harry seen you yet?"
Draco shook his head. They looked at each other conspiratorially before setting off to find Harry. It did not take long until they were laughing once again, this time accompanied by Ginny, Harry, and Neville, who had come dressed as a mandrake root. Everyone thought Draco's costume was hilarious, and he was secretly relieved. He hoped Harry would see the humor, but was worried he may think it more of an insult, coming from him.
After the laughing had subsided, Harry turned to Draco and Hermione. "Everything looks great you two. I mean it, you did a great job of organizing this event." Ginny nodded in agreement as she looked around, once again at the great hall and everyone enjoying themselves.
Draco took Hermione's hand and led her onto the dance floor as soon as the music began. He held her close and they moved together. He loved being able to hold her like this. As they swayed to the music, it suddenly hit him just how much things had changed since arriving back at Hogwarts. He and Hermione were closer than ever.
For the first time in his life, he felt like he needed to share his relationship status with others. He had dated before. He had dated Pansy back in first year, and Astori Greenhouse as well. Both had been relationships that he was expected to be in. Both women were purebloods and his father had expected that he would marry one of them. Because of this, he had never felt the need to make it “official”. They were just expected to be together, so they were. This was so different. He was with Hermione because he wanted to be, because he loved everything about her, and more importantly, he could see himself living happily with her.
He looked down at Hermione, who gazed up at him dreamily. "Hermione, I was just thinking. I would like to introduce you to Blaise and Pansy. I mean you already know who they are, but I mean as my girlfriend." He waited for her reaction. She seemed to contemplate the idea before nodding.
"I think that is a very good idea, Draco. I would love to meet them, well meet them again." She giggled as Draco's grin spread across his face. "But, can we dance a little more first?"
"Of course." Draco pulled her close against him once again as they spun around the hall. After a few songs, they took a break and made their way to a table, where Hermione sat next to Harry and Ginny, while Draco went for drinks.
"You two look really good together." Ginny smiled at Hermione. Hermione blushed, but couldn't agree more. They just seemed to fit together, and now it seemed they were a real couple. Moments later, Draco returned with the drinks. They sat and chatted while they drank with their friends. Draco looked up to see Blaise and Pansy heading out the doors, apparently in need of some air.
"Hermione, can you come with me for a second?" She followed his eyes and nodded, nervously. He stood, taking Hermione's hand, and helping her up from the table. He led her out the door that he had seen Blaise and Pansy go through. They caught up to them quickly, as they were sitting just outside the doors on the steps. Draco took a deep breath, pulling the refreshingly cool air deep into his lungs before sitting down next to Blaise, pulling Hermione down on the step in front of him, between his knees. Blaise and Pansy looked up, surprised.
"Um, Hey Draco. Everything looks really great. Awesome job planning all of this." Blaise didn't look at Hermione.
"It was mostly Hermione." He said, looking down at Hermione. "She is the one with the great ideas." She smiled up at him.
Blaise looked at Pansy before turning back to Draco. "So, what's the deal with you two? Are you like together?" His voice didn't sound accusing, just curious.
"Ya, we are. Hermione has found it in her heart to forgive me for my stupidity in years past, and I have never been happier." Draco purposely avoided Pansy's glare. He knew that she and Blaise were now together, but still knew she would take it as an insult that he was happier with Hermione than he had ever been with her. Blaise, however, looked genuinely happy.
"Now that you finally told us, you think you two could sit with us every once in awhile too?" Blaise looked at Hermione for the first time.
"Of course we can." Hermione looked at Blaise and smiled. She loved spending time with Draco, but hated that he never got time with his own friends anymore.
Pansy stood up, readjusting her dress. "When you are all done making new friends, Blaise, I would like to dance." She stared at him until he stood up. He gave Hermione and Draco an apologetic smile before turning and following him back into the castle.
"Don't mind Pansy. She is just jealous that I am happier with you than I was with her." Draco stood up, and offered his hand to help Hermione up. They headed back into the castle as well.
All of the students danced the night away together. Everyone seemed to have taken the obligation to dress up seriously and there were costumes that ranged from vampires to werewolves to fairies and angels. Much to his surprise, Draco won best costume, and grinned widely as he accepted his award.
After many hours, the hall started to clear out as the students headed back to their dorms, feeling good for having attended the event. Many of the students were in pairs as they retreated to the common rooms. The restriction that usually only let house members into their own common rooms was lifted for the evening, in the spirit of inter-house relations, but only for tonight, and only it only included the common rooms, not dorms.
Draco and Hermione stayed until the last of the students had left the great hall. "Let's go get a good night sleep, we can come clean this up tomorrow." Draco saw Hermione's shoulders relax in apparent relief, as she sighed. It had been a very long day, and she looked dead on her feet. Draco took Hermione's hand and led her back to the Gryffindor common room. Hermione groaned with each step, the comfort spell on her heels having worn off. As they approached the entrance to the hall, Draco leaned down and picked Hermione up, lifting her through the hole and carrying her to a dark red couch across the room. They were met with many looks from other students who were scattered throughout the room. Draco did not care, though. He was just happy for this opportunity to follow Hermione into this usually off limits area.
After laying Hermione on the couch, he paused to admire his surroundings. It was so different than Slytherin's common room. Where Slytherin’s was cold and dark, here it felt warm and cozy, a product of both the roaring fire in the fireplace and the warm reds and golds that emblazoned every inch of the room. Draco could not help but feel more relaxed here.
Hermione laid back on the couch, watching Draco's expression as he took in his surroundings. It felt so intimate to have him here. It almost felt like having him in her home. She leaned over and removed her shoes. Her feet were sore. She began absentmindedly rubbing them when she felt Draco's hands on hers. "Here, let me." He lifted her feet and sat down on the couch, placing her feet on his lap. He began massaging her feet. A small groan erupted from the back of Hermione's throat.
"You are quite good with your hands, Draco." She wiggled her eyebrows at him.
"Oh really? You would be amazed what I can do with these hands." He allowed his hands to travel from her feet up her legs, squeezing the muscles as he went. She laid her head back and closed her eyes, feeling the muscles in her legs loosening at his touch. He stopped when he got to the hem of her skirt and looked up at her face. Hermione had raised her head to look at him, an intense look on her face as her cheeks went red and her breathing quickened. She removed her feet from his lap, sitting up. She leaned towards Draco, taking his face in her hands.
"I love you Draco Malfoy." She said without thinking, then blanched at the moment of honesty, waiting for his reaction.
He could not believe he had heard her right. LOVE? Had she said she loved him? He was scared to death, but knew without a doubt that he loved her too. "I love you too, Hermione." He pressed his lips to hers. The kiss was full of the intimacy of the recent confessions. As his tongue caressed hers, her hands slid down from his face to his neck, pulling him closer still. He wrapped his hands around her waist and pulled her body against his.
Then, all of a sudden, Draco pulled his lips from hers, leaning his forehead against hers. They stared at each other in silence as they waited for their breathing to return to normal. "Wow" It was all Hermione could manage. Her brain felt completely scrambled.
Draco's trademark smirk crossed his face as he leaned back and sat up, Hermione couldn't help but smile back at him. "Do you think it would be ok if I stayed here tonight?" Draco looked at Hermione hopefully.
Hermione looked pleased. "I think it would be perfect. I am going to go change out of this dress, though." Draco looked at her, disappointed.
"I rather enjoy you in that dress.” He raised an eyebrow at her. “You have amazing legs, you know that?" He placed his hand on the outside of her leg rubbing upwards until his fingers were once again just under the hem of her skirt.
Hermione playfully slapped away his hand before heading towards the girls dorms. "The bathroom is right over there." She motioned with her head. "Maybe you could de-Potter-fy yourself?" She smiled as she turned and continued up to the dorms.
Ten minutes later, she returned wearing an oversized t-shirt and flannel pants. Her makeup was gone, and she had let her hair down to fall in soft curls around her shoulders and down her back. She looked down to the common room to find Draco, Ginny and Harry chatting on the couch. Draco had apparently borrowed some night clothes from Harry. Hermione could tell they were Harry’s because the t-shirt was extra tight. Hermione looked at him, an expression of appreciation in her eyes at the way the shirt fit tightly around Draco's muscular chest and shoulders.
Draco and Harry looked up at Hermione as she came down. Harry glanced at Draco, and noting the admiration in his eyes, decided to leave the love birds alone. "Gin, want to sit over by the fire with me?" Harry winked at her and Ginny nodded. "'Night Hermione, Malfoy." Harry said and Ginny waved, grinning at the two.
"Goodnight." Hermione was grateful for good friends. She went over to the couch and sat facing Draco. "So what do you want to do now?" She was exhausted, but was nervous about how exactly this was going to work.
"Oh, I could think of a few things I would love to do." Hermione's face flushed once again into what had become its almost constant blush. "But, I think you are exhausted, we should probably try to sleep." He stood up, pulling Hermione with him. He pulled his wand and with just a few movements, converted the couch into a full sized bed complete with privacy curtains on all 4 sides. He pulled back one of the curtains and held his hand out to usher Hermione in. "After you, love."
Hermione did not hesitate, she climbed onto the bed and watched as Draco gracefully climbed onto the bed, and under the covers. He pulled back the covers and patted the bed next to him. Before climbing in, Hermione cast a silencing charm around the bed as well, just in case. Then she climbed under the covers, her back to his front. He wrapped his arms around her and kissed the back of her head. “Goodnight my love.” Draco whispered into her hair as he closed his eyes. A single happy tear slid to Hermione’s pillow. They both fell into an almost immediate deep sleep.
Thanks so much everyone for reading!!! Please take just a moment and let me know what you think of this plot. Is it too slow? Too fast? Any feedback is helpful!
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