I don't own HP. Wish I did, but I don't.
Points of Change - Tom Marvolo Riddle was either never born, or died at birth.
October 31st, 2003
Soft music swept through an elegant ballroom filled to capacity with people. Colorful leaves swirled in the air, dancing among magnificently carved pumpkins lit from within by sparkling fairy lights.
Draco forced back a yawn as his eyes scanned the swirling dancers. His mother would give him a possibly well-earned lecture if she caught him looking bored at what was supposed to be the event of the season. Likely as she had spent the past three months planning out every detail.
Down to the each hand-picked feather adorning his mask.
He was just terribly bored with it all.
He sometimes wondered if he would be so bored if he had gone to Hogwarts rather than Beauxbatons. From what his childhood friend, Theo, had said there were no dances there. Well, with the exception of the Yule Ball, but as a fourth year he'd been too young to be considered as a competitor. If he had gone to Hogwarts he could have at least watched the tournament.
But, no, his father had been disgusted with the Hogwarts Headmaster and his mother had declared Durmstrang to be too far away.
So to Beauxbatons he had gone.
Gone and flourished, truth be told. But, contrary to what many thought, flourishing did nothing to combat ennui.
He snagged a flute of something fruity and alcoholic from a tray floating by.
He surveyed the crowd once more as he took a sip.
If his mother really wanted him to find someone and start giving her grandchildren then organizing a masked ball to celebrate Halloween was not the way to go about it.
How could he be attracted to someone if he could not see their face?
He had yet to see a single witch he'd be willing to dance with. Either they were in costumes more suited to a muggle party or they had no couth.
Like that bimbo hanging on the arm of a red-haired man as he attempted to hold a conversation with someone all in black, with a mask that resembled a skull.
He had to give the wizard credit, coming as Death was a unique idea.
Much better than the peacock inspired costume he wore. Every time he looked in the mirror he felt like he should start preening himself.
Just as he began to raise his glass to take another sip a soft form was pushed into him by the growing crowd.
He barely avoided spilling his drink. He scowled and looked down, preparing to scold the imbecile.
Soft brown eyes looked up at him; framed in a mask that was a delicate mix of oranges and browns. Almost as intricate as his own blue and green one. Though she sported a pair of lifelike cat ears that twitched in time with the music.
He felt his breath catch in his chest as he looked below the mask and saw a perfect set of lips formed into a circle of surprise.
He had the urge to lean down and kiss them. His scowl softened and he felt confused. He had never before had such a reaction to any witch.
The girl pulled back and nervously looked down as he began smoothing her robes. Robes that continued the color pattern introduced by her mask as they hugged her delicate figure in all the right places.
"Pardon me, I'm not used to such a crush."
Her accent only told him that she was British and from a middle or upper income family somewhere around London.
Likely the daughter of some Ministry official. Invited to keep them happy as his father continued to entertain himself by playing at being a politician.
Sensing a cure for his ennui he adopted the accent many of his classmates had when they spoke in English.
"It ez all right. At Beauxbatons ze dances can become quite crowded. One learnz to adapt."
Her eyes widened at his accent and then she gave a brilliant smile that made his heart lurch.
"Oh! Parlez-vous le Français!"
He was grateful for the mask to hide the shock at her near-flawless (just a bit of an English accent) French, even if she was being a bit formal. He responded back to her in French that was as close to perfect as one could get after seven years of studying magic in the language.
"Oui, I lived in France for many years. And you?"
"My parents have always enjoyed going on holiday there. When I was six we went to this lovely village near Marseille and I fell in love with the country. I convinced my parents to get me a language tutor. When I entered Hogwarts I continued my studies when I had time."
"May I ask why you went to Hogwarts? If you spoke French, Beauxbatons would have been perfect for you."
She grimaced and looked uncomfortable, "My parents...well, let's just say they preferred me being close to home."
He put on his best smile and looked her up and down, "I can see why. To let such an English rose escape... Tell me, are you here with someone?"
She shook her head, "Non, I came on my own."
"Well, then may I have the honor of requesting a dance with you?"
Through the mask he could see her eyes widen just a fraction.
She hesitantly raised her wrist and took off her dance card.
When he took it he cursed every other male in England for being a complete idiot.
The card was entirely empty.
Feeling mischievous he touched each slot on the card and whispered, "Monsieur Peacock."
He was not going to risk her learning who he was. He had already had some dark-haired chit dressed like a green snake go all odd when she learned his name.
Apparently Hogwarts students knew of him and his family, even if he didn't know them.
Rather unsettling when compared to the near anonymity he'd experienced at Beauxbatons.
He handed the card back to her with a small bow and a flourish. She took it with a shaking hand.
"What...this is a joke, isn't it? Lavender put you up to it, didn't she? She's still convinced I want to steal her boyfriend. As if I would touch Ronald with a ten-foot pole!"
She lapsed into English halfway through her rant and his smile turned into a frown.
"I don't know who those people are and I can assure you this is no joke. I want to dance with you."
Her brown eyes hardened in suspicion and he was suddenly fearful of her turning and walking out of his life. He didn't understand why he felt such an instant connection with this witch but he was not letting her get away before he had fully explored it.
"Well, you're beautiful," she scoffed in disbelief, but he pressed on, "you are also polite and well-spoken. It is but a bonus that you speak French; though the fact that you began learning it at six and then continued shows you are also intelligent and persistent. And I have always admired those two traits."
Her mouth was hanging open - just a bit - in surprise. He had the sudden desire to lean down and kiss her again.
This time he took it.
Just a small brush of lips. As soft as a peacock feather on the skin.
She gasped and he pulled back, a lazy smile sliding onto his face.
"I swear I am speaking the truth." She nodded mutely and blinked rapidly, obviously trying to regain control of her ability to think.
His smile widened and he held out his arm.
"Dance with me?"
She nodded once more and slipped her arm into his.
Once they were on the dance floor Draco was sure that he was falling in love.
She moved with an innate grace that could not be learned; fitting in his arms like she was meant to be there.
They danced in silence at first, but by the second set they were conversing.
He learned that she had obtained near perfect scores on her NEWTs and that now she worked at the Ministry in an entry position. They discussed things that would make his father shiver in disgust. Things like house elf rights, proper introductions to the magical world for muggleborns, and creating equality on the Wizengamot.
For once he wondered if he might be better off at Beauxbatons, rather than Hogwarts. After living in such a traditional, and yet honestly liberal place as France he couldn't help but see his little cat's side of the argument. What did blood purity really mean, or even race?
Madam Maxine was a truly competent and rather terrifying headmistress, possibly because of – rather than in spite of - the giant blood he was sure ran through her veins.
Besides, if he did as his parents wished and married a pureblood girl he would be forced to forget the adorably intelligent cat in his arms. And that would be a true shame.
She was much too passionate about her causes to be a pureblood. Unless she was a Weasley, he'd heard they were rather passionate about things that other purebloods considered beneath them.
He gave his cat a twirl and watched a few tendrils of curly brown hair escape from whatever contraption was holding her hair up.
No, definitely not a Weasley. He'd heard they all had bright red or orange hair. Like the man he'd seen early talking with Death.
By the end of the sixth song he could see her steps were beginning to falter. And her endearing cat ears were beginning to droop.
"Would you care for some refreshment?"
She nodded and smiled, her little cat ears perking up a bit.
He led her off the dance floor, easily sidestepping Death and his red-headed dance partner (had to be a Weasley) as the two of them fumbled their way awkwardly through the dance.
He winced when he saw Death tread on the- he paused, what was her costume? As far as he could tell it was merely dress robes and a mask.
"That has to be Harry and Ginny Weasley," his cat murmured in French after they were off the dance floor.
Draco frowned, why did the name Potter sound familiar? "Potter?"
"Ah, yes, the name would be familiar, even if you don't know them. Harry Potter is the son of James and Lily Potter. A rather scandalous marriage between a pureblood and a muggleborn. James Potter is a wealthy pureblood, but he found the life of wealth to be rather boring. He, along with his best friend - Sirius Black - funded a joke shop back in the mid-80s. Yes," she said upon seeing his raised eyebrows, "Sirius Black, as in the Most Noble and Ancient House of Black."
She said it as if she had heard those words spoken just a tad too many names.
He wasn't surprised, he'd spent many a Christmas with his cousin, Scorpius Black. According to his mother the brat was a carbon copy of his father - Regulus Black - at the same age.
One of the few good things about not going to Hogwarts was the fact he hadn't had to share a house with that prat for seven years.
There was no doubt in Draco's mind that he would have been a Slytherin if he had attended Hogwarts.
"Well, they opened a store you may recognize - Marauder's Mysteries. I hear they're planning to go international soon. Or at least license their products. They're in the papers quite often."
"You certainly know a lot about them," he felt a bit of jealousy that she knew so much about another man. He knew it was irrational, but he didn't care.
"Oh, Harry is in my year and we're both in Gryffindor House. Sadly, he's great friends with that nitwit Ronald, but aside from that he's good people. He agrees with me on many of my causes. Partly because of his mother, but also just because he has a good heart. Also, another one of his father's friends is a werewolf. He helps them run the business, it caused a lot of controversy at first."
"It's widely believed at Beauxbatons that Madam Maxine - our headmistress - is part giant. I've always wondered if that is part of the reason she's such a competent witch."
They reached the refreshment table and he handed her a plate. Once they had selected a variety of delicacies he made sure to find them a table far from the crowds.
When he found the table he had a strong suspicion that his mother had tampered with it.
His eyes found it much too easily and it was partially hidden from view. There was even a deep orange curtain that, with a flick of his wand, could completely shield them from view.
His little cat gave him a look that he was sure would be better appreciated without the mask.
Hopefully he could keep her with him until midnight, when the unmasking would occur. He was really curious about what those interesting expressions of hers looked like without a mask in the way.
"I would not be surprised if she does," his cat said once they were seated. "The Care of Magical Creatures professor at Hogwarts is nearly the same size as Madam Maxine and he once told me his mother was a giantess."
"Is he a good wizard?" Draco asked as he popped a small piece of chocolate pastry in his mouth.
"He's very talented, though he often forgets the rest of us are not half-giants like him, but he truly knows the material. Though he thinks – for some odd reason – that dragons are cute. You should have seen him cooing during the first task of the Triwizard Tournament."
Draco snickered at that, "I can't say my old headmistress has any similar quirks, but she certainly can be intimidating."
His cat smiled and shook her head, making the ears flatten in annoyance as the mask was jostled. "Oh, Professor Hagrid looks intimidating, but he's really just a giant teddy bear. I actually took a NEWT in Care of Magical Creatures as I enjoyed his class so much."
"That's high praise."
She nodded and they grew silent after that, both silently eating. Draco waved at a passing tray of drinks and it drifted over.
He was nearly halfway through his drink when she spoke again.
"You are an odd wizard, Monsieur Peacock."
He smirked at her name for him, "And are you not an odd witch Miss Cat?"
She shrugged, "They certainly thought me odd at Hogwarts. I was a terrible know-it-all. The professors loved me, but my classmates..."
She began to nibble at her lip and he was entranced, so much so that he almost didn't hear her next words.
"Well, children can be cruel. Did you know I've never actually enjoyed Halloween before?"
There was such sadness in her voice that he looked up and met her eyes. It was hard to see in the dancing candlelight - no bright pumpkins floating here - but there was such sorrow in her voice...
"Growing up, my parents refused to celebrate Halloween. They believed it lead to unhealthy habits. I was so excited my first year at Hogwarts. The Great Hall was decorated almost as well as this ballroom. I heard older students speaking of the feast and I could hear the excitement and eagerness in their voice. But then, in the afternoon, Ronald," she spat out his name, "said something nasty to me. It was too much, I ran off and spent the evening crying in the girl's bathroom. No one ever came to look for me. Not until a prefect did a head count and went out to find me. Funny that it was Ronald's older brother, Percy, who comforted me. You see, he'd also had trouble with people not accepting him. He's been a wonderful friend to me over the years, even helped by putting in a good word for me when I applied for my job. But I never could make myself go to the Hogwarts Halloween Feast after that. Not even to hear who the Triwizard Champions were."
Draco reached out and took her hand in his. It felt so soft, he wanted to touch more of her skin, see if it was even softer.
"I too had trouble when I started school. You see, my father is a very important man, and I believed that made me important as well. It took a number of detentions and getting beat up by other students for me to realize I had to prove myself. My father's name meant nothing to my classmates or professors."
She winced, "No one ever hit me, and things did get better once I toned myself down in class. It just took a few years. But, by then my reputation was already set in stone. No boy would date me for fear I would nag him to death about homework. Well, except for one, but he was a Durmstrang student. When I went to the Yule Ball with him I think multiple people lost their minds from the shock."
She chuckled wryly and he took the moment to slide closer to her on the curved bench.
When she once again looked up they were much closer. He heard her breath catch as her eyes widened behind the mask. Even her little cat ears went completely still.
He leaned forward slowly, giving her a chance to back away if he had misread the situation.
She didn't move and he felt his heart soar.
Their lips met and Draco felt like he was flying.
He flicked his tongue over her lips and she opened them. He took the chance to deepen the kiss. When she moaned he wrapped his arms around her and pulled her closer,
Soft breasts pressed against his chest and he felt an instant response. Her hands moved up and tangled themselves in his hair.
Merlin, she was perfect.
How had his mother managed to find such a witch? Granted, she didn't fit his parents' requirement that she be a pureblood, but that was alright. He'd rather be happy than following a dusty tradition.
Time slipped by, they only stopped long enough for him to close the curtains.
He was breathing hard and about to ruin his pants when his mother's voice cut through his lust.
"Witches and Wizards, I would like to thank you for your attendance. We are now a minute away from midnight. As such, I would ask that you prepare to have your mask removed. You will be able to reclaim it upon exiting the ballroom."
His cat gasped and reached up to touch her mask. He noticed with some satisfaction that her lips were swollen and her hair was hanging around her face in a gorgeous tangle of curls. Hopefully after the unmasking he could once more get his hands in those curls.
His thoughts were abruptly derailed when she stood up so suddenly the table fell over into his lap.
She took off running and he stared after her in shock for a moment. He couldn't believe she would run from him. Hadn't they just been having a magnificent time?
He almost let her go, after all, it was never smart to chase after an unwilling woman.
But, no, he wanted answers!
He shoved the table away and took off running after her.
The other guests were beginning to count down.
He shoved past Death and his Weasley. The two of them had their lips locked and seemed completely oblivious to the crowd around them.
He almost gagged at the sight of the snake witch that had encountered him earlier. She had her fangs sunk into his cousin. And Scorpious was such a nitwit he appeared to be actually enjoying it!
He saw a pair of cat ears over the head of some blonde chit in a rainbow-inspired costume.
He sped up and then felt himself go flying after his feet hit something.
He heard laughter, but ignored it as he dragged himself to his feet again.
It took a moment to orient himself again. The crowd was growing thicker.
There! Not ten feet away!
He shoved a tall rather plainly dressed young man out of his way.
Almost there! He could see her, right by the doorway!
As he watched she shoved the bimbo of a witch he'd seen hanging on the red-haired man earlier out of the way.
She passed through the doorway just as Draco felt his mask disappear.
He leapt over the witch knocked down by his cat and tore through the doorway - just in time to see his cat disappear into the fireplace, leaving only green flames in her wake.
He cursed and stamped his foot.
She'd been perfect! He'd felt like they understood each other! True, he'd led her to believe he was French, but that wasn't important! She hadn't discovered that. Besides, that could be explained away as part of the masquerade experience.
He whirled around, preparing to storm up to his rooms in a huff.
That was when his eye caught the wall and all of the masks displayed on it. There, sitting beside his peacock one, was the cat mask, its ears beginning to droop.
He raised his wand and summoned the two masks. As he looked down at them in his hands he felt a sense of determination come over him. He knew the basics about her. And it took some talent to make a mask like that. He'd figure out who she was - and just why she didn't want to acknowledge the obvious chemistry between them.
After that, he would ask her to dinner.
Author's Note: I finished the next few chapters of Brightest Black and just desperately needed to write something that wasn't life or death. Plus, Halloween is coming up, so this seemed to work. I'll get the second part up in a couple days. It's almost done.