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“You’re not getting another dress for the ball tomorrow Hermione?” Lavender inquired as they waited at Kings Cross for the train.

Hermione, adjusting the black box in her arms, replied awkwardly, “Well most people here haven’t seen this one yet.”

“‘Mione, you were all over the front page of the prophet. Everyone has seen it.” Pavarti pointed out.

“Well not in person.” Hermione said, turning towards her parents.

Their relationship had grown extremely strained after she had restored her memories, and the talk of Hermione being in the newspaper just exacerbated to the Grangers just how little they knew about their daughter.

Hermione had spent the days between New Years and Spring term with her parents, and she had been forced to tell them about her Order of Merlin when the numerous owls started to draw attention to their home. She showed them the prophet articles, and showed them her medal. Her dad had seemed quite proud, if not fully aware of exactly how important an Order of Merlin was.

As the Hogwarts Express rolled in, she hugged her parents, and retreated into the safety of one of the compartments.

“They’ll come around ‘Mione.” Neville said.

“I know, I just hate that they feel like I lied to them.” Hermione sighed.

The train ride was over quickly, and Hermione sadly patted the Thestral on the nose before hopping into the carriage for the ride up the hill.

Dinner was loud, with everyone excited about the ball the following day. Classes were cut short in the afternoon, so everyone could prepare.

As she was heading up to her dorm to get ready, McGonagall caught up with her in the Hallway.

“Miss Granger!” She called. “Miss Granger, if I could have a word.”

Hermione followed McGonagall up to her office.

“Miss Granger, I was wondering if you are planning on attending the ball this evening with anyone in particular?” She asked.

“You mean like a date?” Hermione clarified.

“Yes, precisely.” McGonagall confirmed.

“No, I was just going to come down with Ginny and Luna.” Hermione said.

“Ok, well I was wondering if there is anyone you would prefer to dance with for the opening ceremony?”

“I have to dance the opening ceremony?”

“Well yes dear, the ball is partially in your honor.”

Hermione paused. There was only one person she wanted to dance with, and there was no way he would even show up unless forced.

“Professor, I don’t want the spotlight to be on me. What if we opened the ball with all the Seventh Year prefects dancing. We can show school unity!” Hermione suggested slyly.

“That’s quite a good idea Miss Granger!” McGonagall said, “I’ll inform the house heads at once.

“Professor.” Hermione continued. “You know, I think if you had Gryffindor and Slytherin dance together, it would make the biggest statement about unity.”

“And you lot wouldn’t kill each other?” Minerva said, only half joking.

“I think we can survive for one dance.” Hermione laughed.

“Very well, off you go.” Minerva said, knowing very well why Hermione had made such a suggestion.

Upstairs in Gryffindor tower, the girls had all gathered in the Seventh Year dorm to do each others hair and makeup.

“Ok ‘Mione, I can’t promise this charm will turn out the same as when Fleur did it.” Ginny said, tentatively aiming her wand at Hermione’s head.

“HOLD IT!” Parvati yelled.

“What?” Ginny and Hermione said together.

“Ginny, let me do it. The last thing you need is for Hermione to show up at the party bald!” Parvati exclaimed.

“That sounds like a good idea.” Hermione said.

“Do you want it to look the same as it did at the Ceremony?” Parvati asked.

“It doesn’t have to.” Hermione admitted. “Just… better than it’s usual mess would be preferable.”

“Ok, let’s try something else.” Parvati said, flicking her wand around Hermione’s head. “Your dress leaves your right shoulder bare, yes?”

Hermione nodded.

“Ok, I’m going to balance the look a bit.” Parvati said. After a few more minutes of swishing and muttering charms, she said. “Tah dah!”

Hermione hurried to look in the mirror. Parvati had intricately braided the left side of Hermione’s head, so that all of her hair twisted around to a bun on the right side.

“Oh Parvati! That’s perfect!” Hermione gushed.

“And here, let me do your makeup.” Parvati said.

Hermione nodded, trusting Parvati’s skills after her hair turned out so well. “How’d you learn all this?” She asked.

“Witch Weekly.” Parvati said, with a smile.

“I think I might need some tutoring in that department.” Hermione admitted.

“Anytime.” Parvati said, flicking her wand at Hermione’s lips. “There. I went a little more striking than you did at the Ceremony.”

“Striking how?” Hermione asked, ducking back to the mirror. She almost didn’t recognize the person looking back at her. Parvati had defined her eyes with thick, dark lashes and black liner, and given her a deep red lip.

“Wow ‘Mione, you look incredible!” Ginny gushed.

“It’s not too much?” Hermione asked, nervously.

“Not with a simple gown it’s not.” Parvati explained. “Besides, this whole look is based on muggle style from the 1940’s. It’s actually pretty traditional.”

“Okay.” Hermione said, nervously looking at Ginny.

“Oh, you’re fine ‘Mione.” Ginny said, with a wink. “People are going to love it.”

Hermione nodded, and went to put on her dress.

“Parvati! What can you do for a Ginger?” Ginny called, enlisting Parvati’s help herself.

“I can’t believe McGonagall made you wear that.” Ginny said, pointing to Hermione’s medal.

“Yeah, I tried to get out of it.” Hermione sighed, adjusting the sash and brooch so they sat straight on her left shoulder.

They were waiting outside the Great Hall for everyone to go inside, and all the Seventh Year Prefects to arrive.

“Ladies and Gentlemen.” McGonagall said, hurrying out of the hall and clapping her hands for attention. “Now you are all going to be the openers of the ball, as Seventh Years, you represent the entire school. You will walk in with your partner, dance the first dance on your own, and then the second dance you will stay together as the rest of the school joins in.”

Hermione nearly squealed with delight. Two dances with Draco. Then she noticed that he hadn’t arrived.

“Now, do we have everyone?” McGonagall asked, counting the students, “No, who are we missing?”

“We’re missing Malfoy.” Neville pointed out.

“You’re not missing me, I’m here.” Draco said, coming down the stairs at that moment.

Hermione held her breath, Draco looked fantastic in his dress robes.

“Excellent.” McGonagall said, distractedly. “Now, we are trying to promote inclusion and house unity, so as such, Gryffindors will be dancing with Slytherins, and Hufflepuffs with Ravenclaws. Head boy and Girl, you dance together.

Professor Flitwick poked his head out of the door and waved to McGonagall.

“Here we go everyone, Heads, you lead the processional!” McGonagall said to Ginny and Neville.

All ten students matched up with their partners, Draco and Hermione bringing up the rear. Draco didn’t say anything, just offered his arm to Hermione, who took it and smiled up at him.

As they entered the hall, the students applauded politely, and when Hermione reached the door, some cheered.

Taking their places on the dance floor, Draco put a hand on Hermione’s waist and pulled her close to wait for their cue.

“You remember how to do this?” Hermione asked nervously, “I haven’t really danced like this since fourth year, and we’d just had lessons.”

“I know how to dance,” Draco said, “But not from the Yule Ball classes.”

With that the music started, Draco proved that he was in fact, quite a good dancer. He twirled Hermione around the floor, lifting and spinning her at all the right moments. She didn’t have to think about what her feet were doing, or where to put her hands. They easily looked better than those around them.

“Wow, Draco… where did you learn to dance like this?” Hermione asked, as Draco turned her in close, and then twisted her back out.

“Pureblood, remember.” Draco said with a smirk. “I’ve had a thorough training in all snobbery, waltzing included!”

Hermione didn’t want the dance to end, but the music changed all too soon, and McGonagall invited the rest of the students onto the dance floor.

“I don’t remember dancing with Viktor to be this easy.” Hermione commented.

“Well, dancing is a wonderfully sexist formula.” Draco pointed out. “If the man knows what he’s doing, the woman can just stand there and let him lead.”

“I guess.” Hermione said, as Draco lifted her up.

They turned a few more times, and then Draco said, “You look fantastic tonight, by the way.”

“Oh,” Hermione blushed scarlet. “Thank you, I had a bit of help.”

“Ginny?” Draco guessed.

“No, Parvati.” Hermione corrected. “Although she went a bit darker than I would have on the makeup.”

“Well, I should thank her.” Draco said, so quietly Hermione wasn’t sure she actually heard him.

“I had a bit of help with the dress too.” Hermione said, trying to look Draco in the eye, but he chose that moment to twirl her away from him.

“Yes, I saw all those designers were trying to get you to pick one of their creations.” Draco said.

“Yes, well. This was the only one that really felt like… me.” Hermione admitted.

“Yes, it’s better than that orange one you got in the post.” Draco agreed.

“Much better.” Hermione said, once again trying to meet Draco’s silver gaze. “It’s as though someone picked around inside my brain for the perfect dress.”

“It does fit you very well.” Draco said, wearing an expressionless mask.

“Yes it does.” Hermione said, quite sure of herself now. “Thank you for it.”

Draco’s carefully crafted mask broke. “What?”

“I said thank you.” Hermione repeated. “For the dress. And the brooch. I know they came from you.”

“Now why would I send you a dress and a brooch?” Draco stumbled, quickly spinning Hermione away from to try and buy himself a moment to compose his face. She wasn’t supposed to know they were from him.

“I don’t know.” Hermione admitted. “But I’d like to think, it’s because you know how stressed I was about this whole Order of Merlin business, and wanted to help.”

“You don’t know I sent them to you.” Draco insisted. “It could have been anyone.”

“Anyone who quotes Diary of a Young Girl?” Hermione asked.

Draco was now panicking. The dress was meant to help her with the ceremony, not draw her closer to him.

“Well, maybe whoever sent them to you was trying to tell you to move on and be happy.” Draco exclaimed.

“Maybe I don’t want to.” Hermione whispered.

“Merlin Hermione.” Draco said, as the music came to an end. “We can’t do this!”

“I say we can!” Hermione insisted, as Draco dipped her low to finish the dance.

Everyone cheered and the music switched from formal waltz, to more popular contemporary music and the students began jumping around, abandoning the traditional dance.

Draco grabbed Hermione’s wrist and pulled her out the doors of the great hall, and into an empty classroom.

“Hermione, we cannot go down this road.” Draco insisted, once they were alone. “Don’t you get it? I’m a Death Eater, and you’re a bloody Order of Merlin decorated war hero! This is way beyond Romeo and Juliette’s families not liking each other.”

“Oh you know I don’t want this stupid thing!” Hermione shouted, tugging at her sash.

“That’s not even what I’m talking about Hermione!” Draco said, grabbing her by the shoulders. “I’m not good for you, you have to see that!”

“I don’t have to see anything.” Hermione responded stubbornly.

“So what’s your plan then?” Draco demanded. “Start dating, tell everyone I’m reformed? They’ll think I potioned you, or worse.”

“We could figure it out!” Hermione insisted.

“Hermione, I’m a Death Eater! Please grasp that!” Draco pleaded.

“I don’t think you are!” Hermione argued.

Draco looked flabbergasted. “Hermione, you’ve seen my bloody Dark Mark. It doesn’t get any more ‘Death Eater’ than that!”

“I think, that you got thrown in with some very bad people, you made some decisions that let you survive.” Hermione said still stubborn. “I don’t think you believed in any of it. What kind of Death Eater sends a girl a gown so that she doesn’t feel like a fool at a party because she has a horrible scar that everyone stares at.”

“The kind who isn’t allowed to do Dark Magic anymore.” Draco said sullenly.

“I don’t think so.” Hermione persisted. “You didn't want to do that curse, when we were in the room of requirement. Not because of your stupid probation, but for yourself. I saw it!”

“You don’t know what you’re talking about Hermione.” Draco said, suddenly angry. “Of course I didn’t want to do the curse! Of course I don’t want to be this way! But this is the the reality! Every day, I fight against the darkness. Every day, I fear that it already has too much of a hold on me.”

“That’s exactly what I mean!” Hermione yelled, refusing to back down. “No Death Eater in the world would follow the rules of his probation! He’d curse that talisman off his leg and take off! But here you are, following the rules and trying not to give in.”

Draco sat down on a desk, and put his head in his hands. “Hermione, no one is going to let us be together.”

“Then we don’t tell anyone!” Hermione insisted. “We keep it a secret.”

“Keep it a secret?” Draco asked, skeptically, “Like what, meet in broom cupboards and after curfew so no one sees us?”

“I was thinking the Room of Requirement, but sure.” Hermione smirked. “If you’d prefer a broom cupboard.”

Draco looked at her, the gorgeous creature standing in front of him, and dared to let himself hope. “You really want to date me, the Death Eater, in secret?”

“Stop calling yourself a Death Eater.” Hermione insisted.

“This can’t work!” Draco insisted, somewhat halfheartedly. “It’s the Lion and the Lamb!”

All the variety, all the charm, all the beauty of life is made up of light and shadow.” Hermione responded quietly.

Anna Karenina.” Draco responded, moving towards Hermione. “You know, next time I’m buying you a potato sack, because it’s impossible to argue with you when I’m distracted by how gorgeous you are.”

“Well, between your dress and Parvati’s tricks, it turned out pretty good.” Hermione blushed, as Draco pulled her closer.

“It’s not the dress.” Draco said, slowly backing Hermione up against the classroom door.

“And it’s not the makeup.” He placed a hand on either side of Hermione, and leaned closer.

“You’re just beautiful.” He whispered into her ear, giving her goosebumps.

Hermione didn’t know how to respond, no one had ever talked to her like that before. She was certain that she was blushing bright red. She took a deep breath.

“This is what you wanted?” Draco asked. “You wanted to date?”

He still had her pinned to the door. Hermione gulped, and nodded.

“Ok, but when this blows up in our faces, don’t say I didn’t warn you.” Draco said, capturing Hermione’s mouth with a kiss.

They kissed like that for a few more minutes, before Draco took Hermione’s hand. “Now, my Princess of Light. There’s still a party happening downstairs in your honor. You can’t get away with any more dances with me, but you shouldn’t miss your own celebration.”

“I don’t want to.” Hermione insisted, breathless. “No one will notice I’m missing, and I don’t want to dance with anyone else.”

“Well, then lets sit.” Draco said, lifting Hermione up onto a table at the back of the room. Her skirts bunched up, revealing the delicate shoes Draco had sent her. “Dang, I wish I’d bought you a short dress, I’ll bet your legs look amazing in those shoes.”

Hermione playfully smacked him on the arm. “I can’t believe you bought me muggle shoes.”

“Well, I wanted to get you something incredible that you wouldn’t buy for yourself.” Draco said.

“And you thought, a diamond brooch wasn’t enough?” Hermione pointed out.

“Well, I wasn’t sure I could get that finished in time.” Draco admitted. “But I am curious, what gave me away? Besides the quote I mean?”

“Honestly?” Hermione asked, “It was the sleeve. You and I discussed one sleeved shirts a long time ago, remember?”

“I remember everything you say to me.” Draco admitted, hoisting himself up on the table next to Hermione. “I heard you talking about Dresses with Ginny and Luna, and you were so worried. You were rubbing your arm.”

“Was I?” Hermione asked, curiously.

“Yes. And I feel like it’s my fault you have that scar.” Draco said, “I just wanted to fix it.”

“And the brooch?” Hermione asked.

“Ah, now that has a story behind it.” Draco said with a smile.

“Really?” Hermione asked, curious.

“Yes, did you know… that there was once a Malfoy who married a muggle?” Draco asked.

“No!” Hermione gasped. “Is that allowed?”

Draco laughed, “No, as it happens, it’s not.”

Hermione tilted her head, confused.

“This was generations ago, one of the Malfoy men was absolutely smitten with a beautiful muggle girl.” Draco explained. “He showered her with all manner of gifts, including a necklace with a Dragon.”

Hermione gasped, and her hand flew to the brooch.

“Yes, it was that very Dragon.” Draco said. “Unfortunately, my family being quite cruel from the start, they cursed her so she could never have children and ruin the family line. So all her things were left in the family vault when she died. I had that dug out and re-set.”

“Wow, but Draco, I can’t accept a family heirloom!” Hermione insisted.

“Don't worry Hermione.” Draco laughed, “It’s not an heirloom that anyone in my family would want, and it’s not valuable. It just makes me think of you.”

“So, because the pendant wasn’t valuable, you felt the need to surround it with diamonds and Goblin silver?” Hermione smirked.

“Well, the diamonds you deserve. And the silver… is from a knife.” Draco look at Hermione hesitantly.

“What knife, Draco?” Hermione demanded.

“I thought it would be appropriate.” Draco explained, “Remaking the knife into something to hold up your medal.”

“What knife Draco?!” Hermione cried.

“Bellatrix’s knife.” He admitted.

Authors Note:

The book quoted in this chapter is Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy.

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