February 15, 2016
Author's Notes: In which everyone who died during Deathly Hallows is alive! (Except for, you know, Voldemort and such.) I usually don't do this because I like to stick to canon as much as possible, but it's a Valentine's Day story, okay? Gotta show the love to our dearly departed! And Ginny's dancing advice is brought to you by DG author Ginocide, as well as the 2005 hit movie Hitch, starring Will Smith. :) Reviews appreciated!
~* A Valentine Masque *~
The Weasley twins' Valentine's Day party was the worst-kept secret of the year—and for good reason. Fred and George knew that the best way to generate publicity and get people talking was to make them think that the subject of the gossip should never have been spoken of in the first place. That's how their carefully crafted rumor that they were having "a small gathering in a private location on the 7th floor" had actualized into an exclusive blowout with more than 200 guests in the Room of Requirement. It seemed curiosity over the twins' return to Hogwarts and the excitement of a party had been enough ammunition to spread the word like a Wildfire Whizbang.
"I had thought when you'd left Hogwarts that we would have seen an end to your shenanigans!" Hermione said in disapproval upon seeing the twins standing guard on either side of the door to the Room of Requirement.
Instead of scolding them, Ginny hugged her brothers, greeting them with more delight than her authoritative friend.
"Aw, come on, Hermione. We know you missed our shenanigans," Fred said with a wink over his sister's head.
A laugh escaped Ginny's lips as Hermione's cheeks tinged pink.
"What are you doing here? Do you have permission from the headmistress to throw this party?"
"It's easier to ask for forgiveness than permission," George said sagely.
"I can't believe it!" Hermione ranted on, only to be interrupted by the approach of a timid third-year, apprehensive of intruding on the argument.
"Password?" Fred asked.
"Weasley is King."
"Excellent. Don't forget your mask!" Fred handed the boy a simple, blue mask that covered the top half of the wearer's face—typical for a masquerade.
"Welcome to the party," George said as he threw the door open with a grandiose gesture.
The third-year scurried inside while loud music, laughter, and chatter leaked out. Multicolored lights strobed around the room, and flower petals rained down from the ceiling on top of a dancing horde, but the noise was silenced as soon as the door closed behind him again.
"What's the mask for?" Ginny asked.
"They're enchanted to hide one's identity," explained George. "You won't be able to recognize each others' voices, facial features, or hair colors. Nifty, eh? We're thinking of selling them in the shop, but we needed to test them out first, and what better way to do that than at a party?"
Hermione frowned, all disapproval still. "So that's what you're doing here? Using our students as guinea pigs?"
Fred threw his arm around her shoulders and drew out her name. "Hermioneeee. Don't think of it like that!"
"Then how should I think of it?"
"This is a business opportunity. We're trying to get some exposure, test the waters. We'd like to open another shop in Hogsmeade, and since Hogwarts students will be our best customers, we need to find out what kinds of products they'd like to purchase and show them what we have to offer. We're conducting market research!"
"We're being responsible business owners!" George added as he sidled up to Hermione's open side.
"This is unacceptable," Hermione said, completely unbending. "Let me inside. I need to make sure you're not testing your jokes on poor first-years."
Fred's grin widened. "Password?"
Ginny slid the red mask on her face and was surprised by how comfortably it molded to her features. It was so lightweight, she could hardly tell she was wearing anything, and it stuck to her skin with a gentle adhesive spell. No ribbons or strings to bother with.
The enchantment Fred and George had used on their masks was also incredibly impressive. As she moved through the crowd, no matter how hard she tried to examine other physical features her eyes immediately focused on the masks everyone was wearing. Clothing was free of the effects of the enchantment as well, and Ginny smiled at the array of attire: from jeans and jumpers to school robes to dress robes and formal Mugglewear. Most of the school seemed to have heard the rumors about the party, but no one had been informed about a dress code.
The Room of Requirement looked like the inside of a disco ball, which was appropriate because disco balls of various sizes floated in the air, spinning slowly or quickly depending on the music playing. The walls of the room were mirrored and multifaceted, and the room itself was even slightly dome-shaped, just like the fixtures spinning above the guests' heads. The bright, multicolored lights bounced off all the reflect surfaces to create a dizzying light show.
As Ginny made her way to the refreshment table, she saw Verity, Fred and George's employee, giving demonstrations to a group of interested students. She held up a Patented Daydream Charm, and though Ginny couldn't hear a word Verity said over the music, her sales pitch seemed to be working. The girls to which she presented the product had almost literal hearts in their eyes, and their smiles stretched across their faces in excitement.
Colin Creevey bounced around the room, his younger brother Dennis in tow, as he took enthusiastic photographs of the venue and the party guests. She was glad and relieved to see him look so animated. He had had a difficult recovery from his injuries at the Battle of Hogwarts, and since his return to the castle at the beginning of the first term, he'd displayed despondency more than any other emotion. The party seemed to revive him to his former exuberant state.
In fact, Ginny hadn't seen most of these students look so happy in over a year. Perhaps Fred and George were wrong to sneak back into Hogwarts in order to throw a party to promote their business, but in Ginny's opinion, the reward of laughter and smiles was worth their violation.
Distracted by her ruminations, Ginny walked straight into another student's back, knocking the male she'd stumbled over to the ground.
"Watch it!" he snapped, his voice recognizably altered by the mask's enchantment.
"I'm so sorry!" Ginny said, reaching her hand down to help him up.
She couldn't see his hair color or his facial features, but he wore a silver mask that sparkled with the colors of the lights pulsing around the room. As he shunned her hand and stood back up on his own, she noted how tall he was as well, and the fact that he was wearing a set of black robes, though not the school-issued one all students wore to class.
"You should be sorry. You could have injured me. I could have been trampled!"
His hysterics could have been an exaggeration, but considering how wild and festive the dancing students were, he was actually quite correct in his hypothetical statement.
Still, his attitude was uncalled for. Today was a day for love and kindness. He could save his rudeness for another holiday.
"I already apologized. No need for the theatrics," she said, her hands on her hip. "You weren't even dancing; you were just standing there like a nuisance."
"I'm the nuisance?" His hand lifted to his chest in outrage. "You weren't dancing, either! You should have gone around the edge of the room instead of cutting through the middle like you owned the place!"
Ginny's ears heated, and though the idiot she was talking to wouldn't be able to tell through his mask's enchantment, she knew her face had turned as red as the rose petals falling from the ceiling. "It's my brothers' party! I practically do!"
His demeanor instantly changed, though Ginny couldn't tell exactly how. The outrage had disappeared, but without being able to see his facial expressions, she couldn't tell what the emotion had been replaced with.
"I'm so sorry your highness," he replied with a sweeping bow. "Clearly I was at fault for standing in your very important way."
He then disappeared into the crowd, and after a moment of frustrated confusion, Ginny continued her trek through the dancing mass, her original destination forgotten.
Ten minutes later, after circling the room twice and getting caught in the midst of a mosh pit at least four times, her parched throat reminded her that she had been searching for the refreshment table earlier, before bumping into The Rude Prat. To her dismay, The Rude Prat was monopolizing the finger sandwiches when she found the table.
"You again," she said, clearly irritated to have stumbled upon him once more.
"Me again. Thanks for not knocking me over this time. See how easy it is to talk to people when you don't shove them to the ground first?"
She rolled her eyes—hard. Then, ignoring him, she grabbed a mug and ladled some punch into it from the bowl at the end of the table. Unfortunately, The Rude Prat followed her.
"So if this is your brothers' party, you must be Ginny Weasley."
"Your deductive reasoning skills astound me," she said after slaking her thirst. She deposited her empty mug onto the table, only for it to disappear with a faint pop. Presumably it had been sent back to the kitchens for washing. Hermione would not like the fact that the school house-elves were hosting this get together.
Surprisingly, The Rude Prat ignored her sarcasm. "I've never seen anything like these masks before. Are they new?"
"A prototype, so I'm told." She contemplated the array of sandwiches before her, trying to decide if she was hungry enough for food yet or if she wanted to stick to punch.
"They're interesting," he continued. "Look around the room and you'll see Slytherin students dancing with and talking to students from other houses. For the first time this year, they aren't being shunned."
Ginny frowned and scanned the crowd, but The Rude Prat was actually The Observant Rude Prat, and he was right. She hadn't noticed before because she'd been so focused on the decor and the masks, but students wearing Slytherin patches on their robes and scarves were intermingling with Ravenclaws, Hufflepuffs, and Gryffindors as if no one noticed or cared.
Perhaps that had been Fred and George's intent. They didn't care who bought their joke products as long as the potential customers had money, and some Slytherin students had more money than most people. If all the students were getting along, the focus of the party would be the products Fred, George, and Verity were demonstrating. The masks kept identities hidden, eliminating prejudice and bias.
"I hadn't noticed," she said, her voice soft in wonder. "It is nice to see. Who knew Fred and George would be the key to interhouse unity?" She laughed at the very thought.
Ginny decided against a sandwich and turned to face the crowd, her foot tapping along to the beat of the music.
"Do you want to dance?" The Rude Prat asked.
Her eyebrows rose in incredulity. "With you?"
"No, with the Minister of Magic."
Instead of irking her, the sarcastic comment made her lips twitch in a reluctant smile.
"It is Valentine's Day, so why not?"
His hand was large and warm as he took hers, and Ginny couldn't help the shiver of delight that wracked her body at his touch.
Dancing with The Rude Prat was as much fun as it was frustrating. His movements were stiff and awkward, as if he didn't know how to loosen up, as if he kept trying to use practiced moves that didn't match the music. Ginny laughed when he stumbled on his own feet or when he bumped into her, but she could tell the lack of grace was unusual for him and unwelcome. Even though she couldn't see his facial expression, his limbs grew more stiff as he failed dance after dance, until Ginny put her arms on his shoulders to stop him.
"Look, you don't have to try so hard," she said with a soothing grin. "Just move your feet from side to side like this."
She demonstrated, swaying back and forth, shifting her weight from one leg to the other, and then she picked up the pace by lifting her feet and taking small steps left and right.
"See?" she said. "That's all you have to do."
"Then what do I do with my arms? Or my hands?" he asked in exasperation.
"Well, I do this."
Ginny shifted her weight from one foot to the other in time with the music, and then her hands traced the curve of her body upwards, until she tangled them in her hair, lifting it off her neck and above her head before releasing it and following the line of her body back down. She repeated this procedure two more times before stopping.
"I am not doing that."
"No, silly," she said with a laugh. "I was just trying to say you can do anything with your arms. Look at Luna over there."
A few feet away, Luna Lovegood danced by herself, spinning in a continuous circle with her arms raised, her hands moving as if batting away an invisible, flying predator.
"I'm not doing that, either," he grouched.
With another roll of her eyes, Ginny said, "Fine. Then just keep your elbows tucked in, arms bent at ninety-degree angles." She demonstrated the simple move for him, and he copied her skeptically.
"Or," she said with a wicked grin he probably couldn't even see, "we could do this."
She stepped into the space he created between his arms and adjusted him so that his hands were now on her waist. They stepped left and right in time with the music and each other, their faces only inches apart, and when Ginny felt daring, she threw some body rolls in to unsettle him and repeated her first move, with her hands moving to her hair and back down.
He slowed his steps down until his feet hardly moved, and hidden behind the enchantment, she imagined him gulping.
But his hands tightened on her waist, and then his steps became more confident, moving with a purpose.
"Yes, this is a much better use of my arms," he murmured, his words only discernible to her because of their proximity.
She smiled and wrapped her arms around his neck, continuing their swaying until she reached up on her tip-toes to press her lips against his. There was something about the anonymity of the mask that made her feel daring, and only after they parted for air did she remember that he knew exactly who she was. Still, she couldn't bring herself to care. They may have started the night out on rocky footing, but his awkwardness endeared him to her, making it easier to forget his earlier rudeness.
"Do you want to get out of here?" she asked, eager for more of this closeness, for more kisses, no matter his true identity.
"Are you sure?" he asked, uncertain.
The fact that he asked at all only made her want to spend more time with him, so she nodded and grabbed his hand, pulling him along behind her through the middle of the dancing mass.
They passed Colin, who pointed his camera in their direction, the light from the flash blinding them for just a moment.
They passed Verity, who now appeared to be going over the merits of Kissing Concoction with sighing, lovelorn students.
They passed Fred and George as they exited the Room of Requirement, and the twins howled after them in appreciation.
Finally, they found themselves in an empty classroom located down an adjoining corridor. Ginny leaned against the door after she closed it, her heart racing in her chest. She hadn't snogged anyone since Harry, long before the Battle of Hogwarts, and she didn't even know the identity of the person she was with now. That should have made it harder to step away from the door and approach him, but it actually made it easier.
He stood his ground, waiting with his hands by his sides until she was just in front of him, their bodies inches away from each other.
Her hands rose to his face, and he flinched until she merely drew him down to her, her lips grazing his, nipping at them until he warmed up and became more responsive. She was drawn closer to him when his arms encircled her waist, the heat of his broad chest sending shivers down to her toes.
She pulled her head away just enough to break the kiss, and, gasping, she reached for her mask and pulled it off. Later she would marvel at how easily it came away from her skin, leaving no sticky residue from the adhesive spell nor any markings, but for now she waited nervously for The Not As Rude As She Thought He Was Prat to return the gesture in kind and finally reveal himself to her.
Instead, he hesitated.
"You already knew who I was," Ginny said, trying not to sound desperate while her heart thundered in her throat. "I want to know who you are."
"Why? You won't have anything to do with me as soon as I take this thing off," he said, seething, his jaw clenched.
"Because it's itchy against my face. And I doubt your snogging skills are going to decline with the mask off."
She raised her chin, stubborn to the end, and she wished she could see his facial features just so she could watch the progression of his thoughts across his face.
He removed his hands from her waist and raised them to the mask, slowly pulling it away from his skin. Then he blinked down at her with a stony expression, no haze hiding his identity anymore.
Draco Malfoy had mesmerizing, gray eyes, turbulent and cold in their depths. His hair, in desperate need of a cut if his past hairstyles were anything to go by, hung across his forehead and over his ears. Sleek, shiny, straighter than anything Ginny had ever managed with a spell or potion on her own wavy hair. His lips thinned as he waited, and his brow creased, defensiveness written all over his face. He expected rejection—she wouldn't give it to him.
Her fingers traced his cheek bones, following the line of his jaw down to his chin before pressing the indention under his lips. Finally, she ran her fingertips over the swell of his mouth and over his cupid's bow, and when she finished, her eyes darted up to his.
Stormy was the only way to describe his expression.
"I didn't even know you'd returned to Hogwarts," she said.
"Why would you? We don't have any classes together. But no one talks to me anyway. I've been shunned."
"No wonder Fred and George's masquerade interested you."
"I don't want your pity," he snarled, the mask crumpling as he clenched his hands into fists.
"You won't have it, then," she replied with an even more imperious tilt of her chin.
"So now what?"
"Now," she said with a wicked smile, "we snog. And when we're done, we'll see where this goes."
As his lips crashed down against hers once more, Draco was all too happy to oblige.
~* Happy (belated) Valentine's Day! *~