Chapter 15: The Halloween Ball
The inhabitants of Hogwarts were all in a-flutter about the Halloween Ball. There was much to do and only two weeks to do it in. As always, the underground marketing of substances that were most likely banned for a reason was busy at work. Potions for glamour and beauty flew from hand to hand in the girls’ bathrooms and similar products made their way inconspicuously into the pockets of many a young man.
Everyone wanted to look their best, and in some cases, the most ghoulish that could be arranged on such short notice. Owls were sent the morning following the announcement to numerous families, asking for a certain this or a specific that, which would allow the student to whom the object should arrive to be the best dressed.
Even the boys, who scoffed at the girls and their flurry of activity over the Ball, were seen to nervously peer at a small piece of parchment tucked into a pocket in their robes from time to time.
Through all of it, Hermione kept silent on what her costume was. Despite Harry and Ron making absurd guesses of things like “ghoul” and “zombie”, Hermione was resolute. She didn’t even confide in Ginny, which she knew upset her friend at first, because she wanted in on the secret. But Ginny soon got over it and became cheerful in her own acquisition of her cat costume.
Finally, the Friday before the anticipated Halloween Ball arrived, much to the joy and consternation of the students. Ron seemed to be having a great deal of difficulty arranging his costume. He threw down the pair of pants he was desperately trying to crease properly in disgust and frustration. Hermione, Ginny, Ron, and Harry were gathered in Ron and Harry’s dormitory, the girls assisting the boys in organizing their costumes.
“I can’t figure out how Mum gets them so straight and flat!” Ron cried out, and he refused to touch the pants until after Ginny had picked them up, and with a small flourish of her wand, creased the pants to perfection. Harry looked up when Ginny passed him to sit next to Hermione on Ron’s bed again. Ron goggled at his sister as Hermione was studiously avoiding laughing, and Ginny seemed to be concealing giggles herself.
“How’d you do it?” Ron was amazed. “Maybe it’s because you’re a girl.” Ginny looked about to comment harshly in reply to his muttering, but he quickly covered it with,
“You just have a more natural talent for things like that.” His flattery settling Ginny complacently back on the bed, Ron looked to Harry.
“How’s it going there, mate? Looking decidedly spooky yet?”
“Erm…I can’t really…I’m not…” Harry sighed, then held up his costume. It consisted of a long black cloak, which had formerly been one of his older school robes. Hermione had helped him to lengthen it, and Harry had spent the past several hours arguing with the hem, as it would not fall flat. As he held it up for inspection, Ginny smothered more giggles. There were an entire five inches along the hem that was not even stitched in place, and it drooped rather pathetically onto the floor. Harry’s countenance fell. He was tired of wrestling with the needle and thread, and more frustrated than Ron even with his costume.
Taking pity on them, Hermione got up to help Ron affix the several patches to an old work shirt that was to be his top half, and Ginny went to arrange the hem for Harry properly.
And so they spent the majority of the afternoon assisting the boys in their preparations for the Halloween Ball. Ginny retired to her own room to finish her costume, and Hermione was left to attend to her own, miserable affairs.
Over the past couple weeks, Draco had been so attentive toward not only herself, but to Ginny and Ron, and on occasion Harry as well. It was obvious to Hermione that he was willing to make certain concessions in his company if it meant that he could share it with her. He was not the same headstrong and arrogant boy he had been. While still as obstinate in almost every account, he had settled himself into becoming a man of worthy esteem.
Hermione could not have been happier. She was made happier still when Harry resolved to “give Draco a chance”, and no longer fled the scene whenever the Slytherin in question would appear. While they would never be bosom buddies, they were at least civil to one another and quite happy not to talk to the other as long as they could avoid it.
It was perhaps not quite what Hermione had hoped for, but she was realistic enough to understand that they would never become good friends. There was too much bad blood between them, and Hermione sometimes wondered if Draco still harbored the thought that it had been because of Harry that Mr. Malfoy was in prison.
As she settled onto her bed, thinking of this and of the following night’s event, Hermione was sure that her costume was severely lacking. She was interrupted from her thoughts by Lavender and Parvati bursting into the room, giggling most heartedly. They stopped in an instant when they saw Hermione, then, quickly whispering to Parvati, Lavender addressed her.
“We heard that there was someone who was going to be a butterfly! Isn’t that fabulous? A ladybug, a bumblebee, and a butterfly! Wouldn’t it be so charming if we all came together that evening?”
“If only we knew who it was…” Parvati offered, smiling conspiratorily at Hermione. “I would love to see her costume.”
Hermione blanched, then said quietly,
“Why? You’ll get to see it tomorrow night, I’m sure.”
“Oh, there’s no doubt that we would,” Lavender explained, “But we want to see if it’s going to be any better than our costumes.”
“If it is, then we’ve got some improving to do. We wouldn’t want to be upstaged by some little Hufflepuff or Ravenclaw!” Parvati added in a stage-whisper.
“I do hope that it’s not that Millicent Bullstrode from Slytherin!” Lavender suddenly exclaimed, “She’s built like a brick wall and is just as pretty as one! No, I hope that she doesn’t attempt a butterfly!”
While Hermione did not necessarily disagree, she did feel it her duty to point out that it was a very uncharitable opinion of Millicent. Lavender and Parvati scoffed at her.
“Oh, but what would you know, Hermione?” Parvati said in an affected tone, “You aren’t any more interested in pretty fashions than Madame Pince!”
Hermione mentioned that she was not sure that it was a bad thing if it meant being unkind to someone whom she didn’t really know for no other reason than to be catty. Lavender laughed shrilly.
“Like we care what you think! Just go back to your dusty old books and leave us to our conversations then, if you disagree with them so much. I don’t think any of us would bother you to join us at the Ball! We might be catty, but we’d rather be catty and pretty, than uptight and not!”
Parvati added her agreement, and together the two pernicious snips left the room, thoroughly disgusted with Hermione, and vice versa. Hermione watched them leave gratefully. The two of them had been wearing on her nerves all week as it was. Between their constant goading about Hermione’s sudden absences after dinner, (for nobody but Ron, Harry and Ginny knew where she disappeared off to with Draco at those times) and their unceasing chatter on the Ball this and the Ball that and whose costume is going to be better than anyone else’s, it was all Hermione could do to not scream every time they entered the same room.
Hermione would have loved nothing better than to show up to the Halloween Ball looking as beautiful a butterfly as she could manage, but since Hermione knew she was not really beautiful, and could only barely scrape by on ‘pretty’ when she truly tried; there was a very small chance of that happening.
She locked the bedroom door, and opened the trunk at the foot of her bed, withdrawing from it her pitiful excuse of a costume. It was not very well made, but she had no idea what she wanted from it, and so could not effectively use her magic to make it as such. The fabric slid through the fingers of one hand to the other, it was so light and airy. It seemed to be the only thing Hermione could think of, transfiguring a long sheath style dress from a sweater that she had bought while on holiday in France. But looking at it now, Hermione was not at all pleased with what she saw.
The words “uptight” and “not pretty” seemed to race through Hermione’s head over and over again, until she could imagine that she heard them as clearly as if Lavender had been beside her, repeating them. And why shouldn’t Hermione want to be pretty? She was going to be meeting Draco in the Entrance Hall tomorrow night, and she wanted to see his impression when she floated down the stairs in a gorgeous butterfly costume.
Yet no matter how she turned the costume this way or that, there was no ‘gorgeous’ to be seen by Hermione. Gathering her wits about her, and picking up the pitiful thing, she hurried down the hall to Ginny’s room in search of a friend, and some help.
The Next Evening
When Draco Malfoy strode from the stairs leading from the Slytherin Common Room, he was amazed at the bustle and activity in the Entrance Hall. It was only twenty minutes before the Halloween Ball was supposed to start, and everyone was anxious to get inside and see the Great Hall in all its decorated glory. Draco was only anxious to see Hermione. She had not met him last night in the Prefect’s Bathroom, as she normally would have, and he hoped that she was not going to bale out on him tonight.
Staring at the room around him, he noticed a Vampiress headed his way, and tried to pretend not to notice and duck. But Pansy had caught his gaze, and tottered over on too-tall heels, in a too-tight dress and snuggled up to him in a too-familiar way.
“Oh, Drakey! You look so devilish! What are you supposed to be?”
Carefully dislodging her from him, he looked down over his costume. It had turned out better than he had expected, and by all accounts, he thought it was a very good shift. He liked how he had looked in the mirror, although it had taken several minutes for him to reconcile that it was him in the reflection. He was curious as to whether or not Hermione would recognize him at first, but was tugged away from his musings by Pansy tugging on his sleeve, and whining into his ear,
“Drakey, come on, let’s go somewhere quieter. You never seem to be around at night anymore.” She gave him a simpering smile, “I miss our nights together.”
If anyone had heard her, they would have suspected something more than the truth of her statement. For, aside from half a dozen clumsy and foolish attempts at getting to second base, there was nothing between Pansy and Draco in the way of history or relationship. Now Draco regretted even that if it meant he was going to be plagued by her for the rest of his time at school.
Pansy heard an exclamation on the other side of the Entrance Hall and turned her head to find the source of it. Draco looked too, curious to see if Hermione was near the commotion. He wanted to find her as soon as possible, not only to escape Pansy’s cloying perfume and attention but because he had missed her last night. He had not realized how much he depended on their late-night meetings until he had not seen her for one.
“Would you look at that?” They heard someone screech, and Pansy rolled her eyes.
“Gawd it’s that Lavender Brown making all the noise! When will she learn to keep her big mouth shut up?” But the distraction was enough to draw her attention, and Pansy tripped her way through the crowd to see what was going on. Draco let her go a few paces in front of him, and then followed in her wake.
It was indeed Lavender Brown and Parvati Patil at her side. Lavender was wearing some yellow and black striped mini dress, and Parvati’s was red with black spots. They would have looked cute, except that their skirts were too short to be considered tasteful, or even legal. Instead, they appeared more to be competing with Pansy in some imaginary battle for the most indecent possible dress for the night. At least Pansy’s covered to just above her knees, even if it was too tight for her.
But what took his attention was the girl that they were staring at. Hermione looked at them haughtily and was saying something too quietly to Ginny on her left to be heard by Draco. Harry had placed a restraining hand on Ginny’s arm, and Ron looked like he was about to hit Parvati as she laughed uproariously.
Hermione was wearing a light mint green dress and had a pair of incandescent wings. It looked soft, and it made Draco long to run his hands down it, and the body encased in it. She had done something to her hair, and while there was still quite a bit of it, it seemed less tangled and bushy. Draco smirked; she had tamed her hair for the night. He seemed to recall her doing something similar a couple of years earlier for the Yule Ball as well, but tonight it was left down, with the exception of a small portion, that was drawn off to one side with a sparkling clip of some sort. Settled on top of her miraculous hair was a pair of thin, sparkling antennae that seemed to shower glitter behind her when she moved her head.
Suddenly realizing, however, that Lavender continued in her abuse, Draco caught the end of her sentence.
“-can’t believe you thought you could pull it off! You’re never going to work that costume, and you know it!”
Hermione looked quite upset, but Ginny was more so, and now had both Ron and Harry holding her back. Draco took a second look at the youngest Weasley.
Ginny had endeavored to transform herself into what Draco could plainly see was a cat. She was wearing a bodysuit of red and orange, and it fit her like a second skin, but not in the same way that Pansy’s dress fit. This looked like it had been tailored to her, or as if she was not wearing a suit at all, and was truly a cat-girl. She had a pair of orange ears perched atop her ginger hair, and Draco thought he caught a glimpse of a tail when she struggled against her friends’ hold.
All in all, Draco thought that she was cute, but wondered if her choice of such a form-fitting costume had something to do with her hopeless crush on Potter. Draco was sure of it when he saw her dash Potter a look. Although there were plenty of scantily clad young women around, (obviously their attempt at sexy and alluring) Draco could not see the reason for such a big deal about Ginny’s costume, until Ginny pulled an arm free and brandished her wand in Lavender’s direction.
Having seen what Ginny could do in a temper, he jumped away from Lavender’s form as she continued to laugh and tease Ginny on her “attempt at becoming a pretty kitty”. Ron lost his hold on his sister’s arm, and Harry grappled with Ginny, trying to keep her in his hold. Hermione quickly snatched the wand from her friend’s hand, whispering fiercely.
Ron was glaring at Lavender and Parvati as they proceeded to move their censure and hilarity to not only his own costume but to that of Hermione’s as well. Hermione whipped around and, with a flash of movement, had cast a spell at Lavender and Parvati as they struggled to breathe through their laughter. Parvati screamed, but it was quickly drowned out by more laughing.
Draco could not tell what Hermione had done, but it was enough to cover his movement. He maneuvered himself right behind her, and when Ginny was still arguing with Harry, and insisting that he let her go, to which he staunchly refused, Draco whispered to Hermione,
She gave a small squeak of surprise but turned to flash him a strained smile. She was still trying to convince Ginny to be calm, but to little avail. Finally, she pinched Ginny lightly, to get her attention, then pointed at where Lavender and Parvati were lying on the ground, gasping and struggling for air through gales of laughter.
Ginny stopped pulling against Harry to see for herself. It didn’t appear as if there was anything out of the ordinary until the look of hilarity had worn off their faces, and still, they kept laughing. It was now obvious what Hermione had done, and no matter how much Lavender struggled to regain her composure, the laughter would not stop. Parvati managed better, but not by much. She was able to gasp out a few syllables of speech, though what she said was lost in a garbled mess, as everyone who had witnessed the scene had begun to laugh as well.
Draco looked at Hermione astonished and continued to gape at her, as she took a step forward and looked down at the two on the floor. Lavender was now gripping her side, gasping pathetically through her giggles, and Parvati could only stare at Hermione while her own mirth poured forth.
“I believe you are very wrong, Lavender. Ginny is quite capable of carrying off the costume, as I’m sure you would have found out, had she, not friends who would stop her from scratching out your eyes like the feline she is tonight. Furthermore, you owe her an apology, and I think one to Ron as well. You have no right to be so cruel and cold to anyone else, and I hope that you will learn your lesson the first time.”
Parvati gasped out something, but no one but Hermione seemed to be able to catch it.
“Oh, it will stop when you have learned better. Those who laugh first will die laughing.”
Horror-stricken expressions met Hermione’s fierce gaze, and Ginny was even impressed as her quiet, though opinionated friend stood up against two people who had always been both sweet and cutting, charming and churlish. Lavender stared up at Hermione and garbled out something.
“I would also remind you, that while I may not be beautiful, I happen to like my costume very much. And unlike yours, mine comes with grace and dignity…and a date.”
Then, leaving the fitful pair, she stalked over to Ginny. The doors to the Great Hall were thrown open, and the students began to gush forward into it. Hermione gave Ginny a censuring look and shifted her look to Harry with a pointed gaze. Ginny blushed and looked more the cat than ever, as she now matched her costume perfectly.
Ron’s ears were red, either from embarrassment or anger, no one could really tell, and Harry took Ginny by the hand, and the three of them moved with the rest of the crowd into the Great Hall. Hermione took a deep breath as she watched Harry lean in to whisper something to Ginny. Draco stepped up to her, and took her hand, tucking it into the crook of his arm. She gave him a look of surprise, and he merely smiled.
“You were absolutely beautiful just now.” He commended her. As they passed by Lavender and Parvati, who had now found the strength to sit up and try to breathe properly, Draco patted Hermione’s hand in a very soothing way, and lead her past their astonished looks. Hermione was pleased with how stunned they looked and hoped that they would remember to hold their tongues in the future.
“I am not beautiful, Draco and flattery will get you nowhere with me.” She scoffed at his idea, although secretly she thrilled that he had thought her beautiful.
“No, for once, Miss-Know-Ot-All, you’re wrong. You are always beautiful, in your own way, but especially when you get angry. Then it’s glorious!”
Hermione laughed outright at his description.
“You’re touched in the head if you think my getting upset is a thing of beauty.”
“I wouldn’t mind being touched by you.” He muttered.
“What was that?” She leaned into him closer to try and hear what he was saying.
“I was thinking that these pants are getting a little stifling in the crush of people.” It was only then that Hermione stood back and realized what he was wearing. A black satin shirt open at the throat, black bandana on his head, a black mask covering the top half of his face, a sword attached to his belt… and…
“Are you wearing leather pants?” She asked incredulously. He looked taken aback.
“Yes, and I’ll kindly remind you not to laugh at them. I think they’re very nice-looking, as far as leather goes. But as I have to wear them all night, I think I’d rather not be smashed between other bodies for the most of it.”
Hermione was about to say something further on this subject but was caught by the flickering of thousands of candles suspended in the air in the Great Hall. There was a band in the corner, and the normal multitude of carved pumpkins and Jack-O’laterns were outnumbered by at least fifty. The entire Great Hall had been so decorated, that it was very difficult to tell it was even the same room at all. The usual live bats that clung to every surface were there, and this year were joined by small beetle-like creatures that shone brightly, their tails alternating between red, orange, and yellow lights.
The band was playing something low and haunting, and it gave Hermione the impression of walking into the Haunted House that had been at a fair she had once visited with her parents when she was a child.
Draco took it in with some gratification, but it was nothing compared to the awe on Hermione’s face. He smiled indulgently at her expression and led her off to where Ginny was waving them, a small table about halfway across the Great Hall. He sat Hermione in the chair to the left of Ginny and took the one on Hermione’s other side.
“What are you supposed to be, Malfoy?” Ron asked, confusion spread across his face.
“Zorro.” Hermione and Draco both answered at the same time and smiled at each other in response. While Harry explained the concept of the masked swordsman to Ron and Ginny, for they had never heard of him, Hermione placed a hand on Draco’s sleeve, leaning in to whisper,
“You still have not told me what the second thing you wanted to discuss with me was. Is it something so distressing that you are avoiding it?”
Draco looked surprised.
“Not at all. At least, I don’t think so. My mother would like to meet you and is planning on a visit to Hogwarts this Christmas holiday. She wanted me to persuade you to join us for tea at some point on one of the days she’ll be here. I believe she said she was going to take up lodgings in Hogsmeade.”
Hermione looked at once pale and disconcerted, but in the dim and infrequent lighting, Draco did not see her change in demeanor. So, thinking her silence was acquiescence, he lifted her hand to his lips and placed a tender kiss on her fingertips. Unfortunately, this was seen by Pansy, who happened to be coming up on Draco from behind, trying to see who his companions were.
With disgust, she saw who he was not only sitting with, but kissing the hand of, and Pansy was not happy in the least! She flounced off, and resolved to get even with that little Mudblood bitch for bewitching her Draco!
With all the excitement prior to the Ball, Hermione half-expected to be somewhat disappointed in the actual thing itself. But Draco endeavored to make sure she was content the entire night. Never had he been so solicitous to her, and she wondered if it might have something to do with the fact that the one time he had left her side (to fetch them butterbeer) he had been accosted by Pansy Parkinson. He had come away from her and returned to Hermione within moments of her seeing this conflict.
Ginny and Hermione chatted happily throughout the entire night, and Harry seemed to be paying especially close attention to Ginny. When Hermione dared to mention this to her friend, she colored slightly, then confided in a whisper that Harry was keeping an eye on her so that she “could not get herself into more trouble tonight”.
Hermione wondered why Ginny should be so thrilled by this idea until she realized that Harry was not only watching and talking to Ginny more, it seemed to be her alone who could hold his attention. His vampire costume had come off quite nicely, and Ginny kept running her fingers along her neck from time to time, quickly glancing at Harry, and then away.
Ron looked a little sad, and quite miserable when he noticed that his sister was flirting with his best friend. When he looked at Hermione, his gaze seemed to say, “Well, what can I do anyway?” Hermione at once took pity on him and tried to strike up a conversation between herself, Ron and Draco. It took some managing, but when they finally stumbled upon the one thing that all three of the men at the table could ‘agree to disagree’ on, that being Quidditch, Hermione settled back in her seat to talk more with Ginny.
And so the night passed pleasantly. Hermione danced with Ginny to a couple of the faster songs played, but for the most part, spent her time in the company of her good friends. Draco had made it clear that he was not overly inclined to leave the table. At one point, Ron excused himself to go visit the loo, and Harry turned a quick glance to Ginny.
“Do you, um, would you like…Ginny, you wanna dance?” He stumbled over the proposal, but Ginny simply beamed at him and quickly assented. As they walked to the space cleared for dancing, Hermione watched them go with a wistful smile on her lips.
“Well, that wasn’t awkward for him at all,” Draco remarked softly, pressing Hermione’s hand into his own. “And it shouldn’t be so damned difficult to talk to a person he loves as much as he does that girl.”
Hermione gave him a side-long look. To her, it was obvious, and to Ron as well it would seem, but to have Draco notice it as well? How long had her two friends been in love before any of them had seen it? Hermione smiled at the pair on the dance floor again. They were so perfectly suited for each other. Just as Hermione was agreeing with Draco, he pulled her to her feet, and seeming to have to come to some internal decision, led her to the dancing.
He took her into his arms as a slower song started up, and carefully turned her around the floor until she found herself right next to Ginny and Harry. Harry looked a bit surprised to see them appear so suddenly near them, but Ginny was absolutely shocked to see Draco dancing with Hermione. She looked at her friend, who simply smiled and shrugged, sharing Ginny’s confusion at Draco’s sudden move.
“So, Hermione, have I told you how much I like your costume?” Draco asked, his voice quiet enough not to disturb the rest of the couples dancing, but loud enough for Harry and Ginny to hear him as well. Hermione looked at him in bewilderment, not only at his strange question but in the tone he asked it. It was almost as if he was trying to hint at something to her, but as to what that might be, she had no idea.
“Erm, thank you, Draco. Ginny helped me to get it ready in time for tonight. I couldn’t have done it at all without her.” At her response, Draco smiled, then looked at Ginny.
“You’re quite talented. Wouldn’t you agree, Potter?” He looked pointedly at Harry, who mumbled an agreement, then twirled a blushing Ginny away from them.
Draco watched as the song ended, and Harry quickly escorted Ginny back to the table. As he and Hermione moved in their direction, she commented on his subtlety, for now she could see his intention.
“Well, he wasn’t going to be able to openly compliment her on his own. Let’s face it, he’s not very smooth.”
Hermione laughed at the contrite look on her boyfriend’s face and agreed.
“While Harry may not be the best ‘ladies man’, I think you may have only succeeded in making them more uncomfortable with each other. Ginny may not be shy about much, but she’s an absolute wallflower when it comes to him. She always has been.”
“And he’s no better than she!” Draco retorted, self-righteous indignation making him defend his own actions. As they had reached the table now, Hermione could not respond to Draco’s observations, but silently agreed with him. She wanted her best friends to be as happy in love as she herself was, but it seemed that it would take quite a bit for that to happen anytime soon.
The rest of the night passed by quickly, and as the band announced their last song for the night, Hermione felt the events of the day drag on her. She and Draco got up to dance, and Harry and Ginny quickly followed. Hermione looked back at Ron, who sat carefully avoiding watching them leave. Placing a hand on Draco’s arm to stop him, she quickly looked around the rest of the Great Hall.
Hannah Abbot was sitting about 15 feet from where Hermione and Draco stood. She was laughingly waving at her friends to go dance while remaining at the table by herself. Pressing her lips together, Hermione watched as Hannah watched her friends walk off, then down into her own lap, before lifting her head again to regard the dancers with a soft, sad smile. Making up her mind, Hermione let go of Draco’s hand, much to his surprise, and walked quickly to where Hannah sat.
Draco watched his girlfriend lean down to whisper to the Hufflepuff girl. He followed their gaze over to where Weasley was sitting by himself, nursing a butterbeer. Draco had felt for the guy, as he had sort of been a fifth wheel, but he hadn’t been sure what to do, other than try to include him in conversations. His gaze flew back to Hermione as she talked quickly to Hannah, who stood up and smiled shyly at Hermione. Hannah’s long yellow gown fell to the floor, and it struck Draco as humorous that she was dressed like a princess as she made her way to the table to ask him to dance.
Ron seemed as surprised as Draco had been, but he smiled and quickly got to his feet. Hermione came hurriedly back to Draco’s side, grinning widely. Graciously extending his arm, Draco took Hermione to share the last dance of the night. Sighing contentedly, she leaned into his embrace and settled her head on his shoulder. He tightened his arms around her, and held her close, rocking slowly back and forth. He pressed a kiss and a smile into her hair and wondered if she was thinking the same thing he was.
This felt perfect.