Author's Note: This piece is a submission for the Dramione FanFiction Forum's Masquerade Fest in celebration of Mardi Gras. The prompt was anything based on Dramione and a masquerade ball. I hope you enjoy!
Disclaimer: I do not own any part of the Harry Potter franchise.
Hermione huffed as she glared, rather insolently, at the beautiful emerald green gown that hung before her. Begrudgingly, her fingers trailed over the delicate embroidery and beading on the bodice. It really was exquisite.
It wasn't that she didn't want to attend the second annual Harry Potter Day masquerade ball – Harry had groaned for months and the press had had a field day – being hosted at the Ministry in support of Hogwarts' extensive rehabilitation efforts, and held on May 2nd, the day on which Harry Potter had vanquished the Dark Lord.
Her gripe was with another aspect of the ball altogether.
A date auction. Whose inane, barbaric and utterly antiquated idea was that?
"Absolutely not!" she had exclaimed to Harry when he had brought up the idea, his tie crooked and hair disheveled.
"Please, Hermione?" Harry had asked, running a hand through said disheveled hair.
"I will not sell myself like some common street urchin!" Hermione had declared, chin held high even as she chewed nervously on her lower lip. How could the Ministry even think to condone such a thing?
"A street urchin, Hermione, really," Harry had said, rolling his eyes. "It's only for the evening. And if the bloke is a cretin, you'll never have to see him again because he won't even know who you are unless you tell him!"
Hermione had paused, considering that the masquerade element of the ball could indeed provide her that exact level of anonymity. And the event would be hosted at the Ministry and she would be surrounded by colleagues – not that she was unable to defend herself should the need arise.
"I don't care for the idea," Hermione said blandly, making certain her opinion was very clear.
"But won't you do it for the Hogwarts library, Hermione?" Harry had asked, those green eyes wide and pleading.
Hermione had folded her arms, huffing at him to make her great displeasure known. But the ire had left her stance, leaving her somewhat deflated.
"Great, thanks Hermione, I'll owe you one!" Harry had said rapidly, dropping a chaste kiss to her cheek before turning back toward the Auror department before Hermione had even been able to say another word.
Which brought Hermione to glaring at the most gorgeous dress she had ever seen – the colour of Harry's eyes, another of his bizarre requests. He had said he always thought green would suit her hair. Presumably a traitorous affinity due to the fact that he was now married to a former Slytherin.
As if her thoughts had summoned the girl, Daphne Greengrass came through the Floo unannounced, her blonde hair already tied into an elegant and graceful pile atop her head, her make-up flawless as usual, as she carried a large garment bag.
"Hermione!" the girl admonished, as she took in the brunette, still gazing vacantly at the dress in her sleep clothes. "You haven't even begun preparing for the ball!"
"I'm not overly concerned," Hermione said with a dismissive wave of the hand. Though it would be a shame to wear such a lovely dress without at least making a moderate effort on her hair and face.
She suspected part of the reason she was so put out by the idea was that Harry had been insistent she start dating again, ever since she had broken up with Ron shortly after the end of the war, almost two years ago.
She had been on dates, she had tried to assure him. It was simply that no one caught or held her attention. And it wasn't that she didn't want to meet someone; it was simply not at the top of her priorities.
"Well I am concerned," Daphne declared, taking in Hermione's wild mass of curls. "You will be recognizable by the entire room if you don't do something with your hair."
"Harry's sent you, hasn't he?" Hermione asked blandly. She didn't understand Harry's fascinating with this masquerade ball, other than the fact that his boss was spearheading the idea.
"I sent myself," Daphne said flippantly. "It's what friends do."
Hermione supposed she and Daphne were friends, now. Though when Harry and Daphne had first started dating, only months after Ginny had left Harry to pursue a career with the Harpies, the wizarding world had erupted in scandal. Harry and Daphne had taken it all gloriously in stride, and Hermione had developed a sort of respect, and then affection for the girl.
The girl was also highly adept with hair and glamour charms, and Hermione begrudgingly admitted she had a point. Her hair was far too recognizable to cast her with any sort of intrigue at all.
So she allowed herself to be pulled to the bed as Daphne sat beside her, waving her wand with an extensive series of non-verbal flourishes Hermione wouldn't be bothered to perform on herself daily, even if she knew the charms.
When Daphne finished her work and Hermione stood to look in the mirror, she could admit that she would be willing to learn the charms if this would be the result. Her usual disarray of curls fell softly about her shoulders and down her back. Highlights shone in the natural light streaming through the window, while lowlights added extra dimension.
Her make-up was minimal, her complexion smooth, a light dusting of rouge to her cheeks and her eyes were delicately lined with kohl.
"The charms will last all night," Daphne said lightly, "just in case."
Hermione rolled her eyes. "Right. I'm more likely to be purchased by some lonely, elderly member of the Wizengamot than someone I might actually be interested in. Seems my luck anyway."
"You never know," Daphne murmured sagely. "Now get into your dress and mask. We have to leave soon."
With one last glance at the way her hair looked, Hermione did as Daphne suggested.
The auction would be held at the beginning, and once all the dates had been purchased, the dinner and the ball would properly commence.
Hermione slipped into her dress, admiring the way it had been tailored to fit so precisely, the way the green skirts flowed without being stiff. Then she donned the golden mask, adorned with green vines and flowers to match.
"You look beautiful, Hermione," Daphne breathed, her green eyes wide. She was dressed in a long flowing gown of scarlet – with a mask of silver and black – and was breathtaking.
"As do you," Hermione said with a smile, allowing herself a moment to actually look forward to the blasted event despite her other misgivings. Daphne hooked her arm through Hermione's elbow. "Shall we?"
Draco Malfoy milled about the Ministry masquerade ball. Harry Potter Day. He still scoffed at the name. Could they have picked a more banal and indulgent name for the holiday?
Though he and Harry Potter were colleagues now, and had overcome the long years of animosity between them whilst being forced to trust one another in dangerous situations, Draco still found it to be hilarious. Most significantly, Potter's utter embarrassment about the whole thing. Which Draco frequently pointed out.
He adjusted his hat and mask, ensuring his identity would remain private. The shade of his hair was a giveaway and for once, Draco looked forward to not suffering the glares he was prone to receiving at these Ministry events, despite the strides he had taken to improve his family's name following his father's incarceration in Azkaban. Not the least of which were the significant contributions he made to causes such as this, and his undertaking in the DMLE.
Draco allowed a smirk to cross his lips. He wondered whose dunderheaded idea that had been. The things that could be done in the name of charity.
Draco had decided to attend the optional auction portion of the evening. If he could drive up the bids of some of those poor girls who had been roped into participating, he would consider the endeavour a success. And the benefactor was Hogwarts – even two years later, the damage to the school was still existent. Draco had enjoyed his time at Hogwarts, with the exception of his later years, and found it to be a worthwhile cause.
He waited casually in line at the registration table, observing the hall around him. The decorations were mediocre, the colour scheme poorly considered. But hopefully the evening wouldn't be unbearable.
He fidgeted idly with a small slip of parchment in his pocket.
Draco registered for the auction, received his numbered card – number seventeen – and took a seat in the hall to wait for the auction to begin.
Hermione fidgeted as she waited her turn in the auction with the other single girls who had been convinced, blackmailed or otherwise persuaded into being auctioned off. There were also a few disgruntled males whose evenings were up for auction.
From the sound of the magically amplified voice running the auction, the handful of women who had been already been auctioned had fetched a significant amount of Galleons. Hermione sighed. At least this would go a long way to helping Hogwarts.
She was suddenly struck with the mortifying thought that perhaps no one would bid on her. Or she would sell for a mere ten Sickles or something similarly embarrassing.
"Number five!" someone shouted in a stage whisper and Hermione was jolted from her thoughts. "You're up next!"
Hermione walked onto the makeshift stage, feeling for all the world like chattel as the bidders stared and judged her. She nearly turned and walked right back out.
For a long, petrifying moment, there was utter silence when the auctioneer asked for bids.
The finally a man, whose silver walrus mustache was plainly visible beneath his mask, raised his card at ten Galleons.
Hermione breathed a sigh of relief. Not ten Sickles, at least.
A figure clad all in black, including a mask and fedora, absently waved his card, as if only half paying attention. His legs were extended and crossed before him, his arms folded; he seemed incredibly bored.
Then a third person bid, oily black hair exposed above a horrendous orange mask.
The mustachioed man bid once more, followed by the oily man, back and forth. The person clad in black bid again, not even looking at her.
A fourth bidder entered the fray, a young man with golden-brown hair, from what she could tell. Hermione felt a blush creep to her cheeks as the bidding surpassed two hundred Galleons. She supposed the beautiful dress was working – or these men were incredibly lonely.
The mustachioed man bowed out, followed shortly by the young man. The man dressed in black and the man with black hair remained.
"Five hundred Galleons," the man with oily hair snapped and Hermione felt a shiver pass the length of her spine. Five hundred Galleons. The man in black would surely back down from that, although a part of Hermione hoped the man with oily hair didn't win. Something in his dark eyes made her cringe.
There was a long silence as the auctioneer called out the bid.
Then the man clad all in black finally looked up at her, for the first time that Hermione had noticed. He leaned forward in his seat, almost imperceptibly, and lifted his auction card.
"A thousand." It was soft and dismissive and Hermione didn't recognize his voice as she gasped. The crowd murmured loudly.
The oily-haired man glared across the room but the figure in black slouched back into his seat. The man huffed and left the room.
"Sold for a thousand galleons!" the auctioneer cried. It was by far the highest bid of the night. "To bidder number seventeen!"
As Hermione was escorted from the stage to await the culmination of the auction, she noticed bidder seventeen, the man in all black, slipped a small piece of parchment into a pocket. She wondered who he could be, that he might have that much money to spend on a dinner date.
She watched her bidder through the rest of the auction; the man appeared utterly disinterested once more, though he offered a few cursory bids on the other women. Perhaps he was simply trying to raise the bids and generate more funds for the cause. But then why had he bid so high on her?
One of the young men for auction had gone for five hundred Galleons, but otherwise no one came close to the sum she had collected. She caught Harry's eye as the auction wrapped up and he grinned widely. She smiled in return, the smile faltering as her bidder approached to escort her to the dining hall.
"Hello," she murmured, tilting her head.
The man merely nodded in return, holding out a hand. Up close she could see very little of his face other than his appealing mouth and strong jaw. His black mask covered most of his face, and the low hat and high collar of his dress robes obscured his hair.
"Thank you for your contribution," Hermione tried again. If the man refused to speak it would make for a long, dry evening.
"Of course," he murmured, those lips curving into a faint smile. "Anything for Hogwarts."
So he had gone to Hogwarts then. Perhaps he had been there at the same time she had. Hermione wanted to ask what had made him spend a thousand galleons on her but didn't know how to phrase such a question.
She placed her hand in his, silently glad she had remembered to glamour the slur scarred on her forearm. His hand was warm as it closed around hers.
"That is a lovely dress," the man offered as they walked, his voice still soft. She didn't recognize it.
"Thank you," she said demurely. She chewed her lip, unsure what to say to this cool, suave stranger.
"You're welcome," he said politely. His eyes swept the gown in a way that made her shiver rather than feel uncomfortable. "And you are lovely in it."
"A thousand Galleons lovely?" Hermione asked, a smile playing about her lips.
"Certainly," the man acquiesced. "Two thousand lovely. Three, even."
Three thousand Galleons. He couldn't be serious.
"Besides," he continued as they walked, nodding across the hall, "I couldn't have allowed Hendricks to win you."
Following his gaze with a twist to her stomach, Hermione recognized the oily-haired man who had been bidding on her. Allan Hendricks, a notoriously greasy character from the Department of International Magical Cooperation.
"I appreciate that," Hermione breathed. Well that explained why the bid had gone so high.
He withdrew her seat at his assigned table and Hermione slipped into it as he settled beside her, adjusting his napkin on his lap. He seemed to have impeccable manners.
"So are you employed at the Ministry?" the man asked as plates of food appeared on the tables. She was right – he made eating look like an art form. Hermione was suddenly conscious of her own subpar table manners.
"Yes," Hermione responded, though she did not want to give away her identity, at least until she knew the man better. He was incredibly mysterious. Thankfully, he did not press.
They ate in relative silence though not uncomfortably so. The man was sipping his wine, as if testing the vintage, before he turned to her again.
"I have to ask," he murmured, that scintillating half-smile from earlier crossing his lips again. "How exactly were you persuaded to auction yourself as a date for the evening?"
"Anything for Harry Potter Day," Hermione said with a forced smile that she knew he would see through. And he did, if the bark of amused laughter was any indication.
"Of course," he said, holding the glass of wine into a mocking salute. Hermione smiled and clinked his glass with her own.
The man chuckled softly before returning to his dinner.
Draco almost couldn't believe it. He was sharing a meal and conversation with Hermione Granger, and she hadn't said one nasty thing or leveled him with a single glare.
Despite his developed friendship with Harry Potter, Granger had always remained elusive, and rarely were they in attendance at the same gatherings. But here she was, smiling and being absolutely polite.
This had worked out better than he had even dared allow himself to believe. He would have spent ten thousand Galleons on her if it had meant he would have a shot.
And that green dress – when Draco had first seen her on that stage he had nearly lost it. He'd practically had to ignore her to keep his composure while bidding. As if he would have allowed anyone else, especially that creep Hendricks, to win her.
"And you?" she was asking, gazing at him with those beautiful pink lips curved into a smile. "What made you bid on a date? Surely you must have been able to find one of your own."
If he didn't know any better, Draco might have thought she was flirting with him. The pink tinge to her cheeks suggested the same. Draco smirked.
"I find I have little interest in casual dating," he murmured, meeting her chocolate eyes through the gold mask she wore. "And the cause, of course, is a good one."
"Of course," she said, leaning away as if embarrassed.
"But," Draco leaned in, moistening his lips with a flick of his tongue. "I certainly seem to have been lucky in landing the most beautiful woman up for auction tonight."
The flush deepened as her eyes met his again. Draco thought he saw something like a flash of recognition in her eyes and he casually averted his gaze.
He hadn't decided whether he wanted her to know it was him. He supposed that would depend on how the evening went. If it went poorly, he could simply walk away at the end of the night and she would never know otherwise.
Hermione found herself growing more flustered with the man as the meal went on. She was increasingly drawn to this dark stranger.
He was most assuredly a Pureblood. His etiquette and manner of speech suggested an aristocratic household. And obviously, the wealth. But she couldn't think of anyone who she knew from Hogwarts who might have been like that, and who was also charming.
Most of the Purebloods she knew were snobby and rude, especially the Slytherins. But of course – he didn't know who she was. So he could have been any of them. The thought sent a chill down her spine.
But the conversation flowed smoothly and wonderfully and Hermione found herself having a better time with her mysterious bidder than she could have imagined.
Following the end of the meal, the tables were magically cleared and moved to the side to reveal the expansive dance floor. Hermione swallowed as she looked her date: he was watching her intently.
"Dance with me?" he asked, extending a hand.
"You paid for it," Hermione said, attempting to make a joke, which she suspected missed the mark by the tremble in her voice.
"I wouldn't force you to, even so," he said quietly.
Hermione slipped her hand into his in response and he grinned, revealing perfectly straight, white teeth. Her parents would have loved him.
Then he drew her close and Hermione's heart began to race in earnest as she felt the warmth of his solid chest against her, his strong hands holding her.
Hermione melted into him, her arms wrapped around his neck as they danced to the slow piece played by a string quartet.
When the music picked up, he knew all the dances and led her flawlessly, gracefully, through the waltzes and he spun and swung her with ease, Hermione laughing as her heart raced with the exertion.
And he drew her back in at last, when the music grew slow again. His stark black mask gazed back at her, even as his lips tilted into that beguiling smile once more.
"This is nice," Hermione breathed, meeting his grey eyes.
"Yes, it is," he agreed, and Hermione's gaze flickered to his mouth, settled with a smirk. Her eyes widened as they darted back to his. Grey eyes. Smirk.
"Draco Malfoy," she said, the recognition suddenly dawning on her. She didn't know why it had taken so long, except for the fact that he hadn't sneered or said one scathing remark to her all night. She supposed she didn't recognize his voice when he wasn't using it to throw insults.
She made to draw away but his grip had already tightened just slightly on her wrist.
"Hermione Granger," he clipped in return, gazing unflinchingly down at her.
"You knew it was me?" she asked, bewildered. Why had he been so polite if he'd known?
"Yes," he said simply.
"For how long?" she asked, torn between anger, embarrassment and surprise. She had actually found herself interested in the man who had bid on her. She had found him attractive and beguiling and utterly fascinating.
"A while," he responded, ambiguously. He lifted a hand and tugged on one of her curls. "I like your hair like this."
Hermione froze, lost for words. It suddenly occurred to her they were still standing in the middle of the dance floor, staring at one another.
"You're okay with this?" Hermione asked, her brow furrowed beneath her mask as she suddenly felt extremely hot. "Did you know when you were bidding?"
"I suspected," he said calmly. His lips set with a flicker of annoyance. "Of course I'm okay with it. I'm not a sixteen year old prat anymore."
"I know that," Hermione tried, the words seeming weak on her lips.
Her head spun at the bizarre turn of events. He was still staring at her, his hands warm as they grazed the length of her bare arms, goosebumps erupting on her skin.
"Are you going to leave?" he asked quietly. "Or will you keep dancing with me?"
There was something in his tone, something hesitant and vulnerable, that Hermione had never heard before. It made her mind cease its endless analysis.
She cautiously reached for his mask, though he made no move to pull away. She traced his mask and his eyelids fluttered when her fingers grazed his face. But she left the mask in place, pulling her hands away.
"Let's step outside?" she asked and he nodded once, his throat bobbing.
He walked with a hand to her back as she led him from the ballroom onto the terrace, kept magically warm and lit by thousands of fairy lights. The terrace was far more private and Hermione swallowed as she turned to him.
Then Hermione steeled herself as she removed his mask. He merely gazed at her, his grey eyes guarded, his expression carefully blank.
"I don't regret bidding on you, if that's what you're wondering," he said quietly. "And I hope you don't wish it wasn't me."
"I'm glad it was you," Hermione said with equal softness, and she found she meant it.
Gently, he reached for her mask and she didn't stop him. His breath caught as he stared at her, as his fingertips traced her cheekbone. He set both masks on a nearby bench.
They could still hear the music, faintly. Hermione drew herself close to him, finding herself warm and safe once more in his arms. He pulled her closer still, so that she could feel his heart beating beneath her cheek, and the insistent rhythm of it made her eyes slip shut as she melted into his embrace.
When Hermione looked up at him again, he was gazing absently into the gardens beyond, his face neutral. She found herself staring at that mouth, those delectable lips she had found herself wanting to taste earlier.
His eyes flickered to her and his lips curved into a smirk when he noticed her staring.
"You know, Granger," he began, eyes filled with mirth as he gazed at her.
But whatever he was about to say was cut off when Hermione leaned in, catching his lips with hers. He froze in shock, only for a moment, before he was kissing her back in earnest.
His lips on hers felt amazing, soft and warm, and when his tongue swept hers Hermione fought a whimper at the sensation. Her hands fisted in his collar and his dug into her curls as he deepened the kiss, drawing her nearer.
Hermione forgot to care if people were watching, her heart racing as she kissed him with fervour and he caught her lower lip between his teeth, groaning as he trailed a hand to the bare skin of her back.
The action shot a bolt of desire through Hermione and she tore away, staring at him, each breath coming heavy. He merely stared back, his eyes heavily lidded. He ran a thumb over her bottom lip.
"A kiss wasn't required as part of the auction, you know," he drawled, smirking.
Hermione rolled her eyes and drew him in again.
Draco bit his lip as he gazed at her when she drew back again. He wondered if she could tell how fast his heart was racing.
She was heart-stoppingly beautiful. He knew it before, but when he had removed the mask, it had been confirmed ten-fold. She was simply exquisite.
He was incredibly grateful Potter had convinced her to participate in the auction.
He found himself staring at her lips and quickly looked up to meet her eyes, dazed, as he was certain his were as well.
"Can I get you a drink?" he asked, close enough for his breath to mingle with hers, his fingers entangled in the curls at the base of her neck. He wanted to grab her and ravish her and run his hands all over her. Wanted to peel her out of that dress. He swallowed the sudden lump in his throat.
"Yes please," she breathed, "a glass of water would be lovely."
Merlin, the way she was looking at him had him on fire.
He shoved his hands into his pockets to keep from touching her again. Then he quickly withdrew them, in a delayed attempt to maintain his posture.
With a somewhat jerky nod, he turned to walk back inside.
Hermione bent to pick up the small sheet of parchment that had fallen out of his pocket, the same one she had noticed him tuck away when her auction had ended.
Despite herself, curiosity won out and she found herself unfolding the slip of parchment. Her eyes widened as she read the short missive in a familiar script.
Emerald gown, gold mask. You owe me for this one, Malfoy.
Hermione blinked. It couldn't be.
But yet, Harry had convinced her to wear the green dress. He had convinced her to participate in the blasted auction at all. He had insisted.
Malfoy hadn't merely suspected it was her. He had known it was her all along. He had, to some extent, orchestrated this. Which meant…
It was the only way she ever would have talked to him long enough to give him a shot.
Hermione swallowed. Her heart fluttered.
Malfoy walked back outside, clutching a glass of water in each hand. His eyes widened and he froze when he noticed the parchment she was holding. His lips parted in surprise, maybe in explanation, but he just stared blankly at her.
"Thank you," Hermione said baldly, taking one of the water glasses from him and sipping it slowly.
"You're welcome," he said, uncertain. His eyes flickered again to the missive she still held. There was something fascinating about seeing Draco Malfoy completely thrown off, Hermione decided. He didn't touch his glass of water.
Hermione set her glass of water on the bench, crumpling the bit of parchment.
She walked closer, shoving the parchment into his hand. His fist curled around it and he slipped it back into his pocket, still eyeing her warily.
Hermione wrapped a hand around the back of his neck, finding the fine hairs between his hat and collar. She pressed her lips to his once more before drawing back a sliver.
"You planned this."
"Yes." The word came out solid despite his lacking composure.
"Isn't it obvious?" he murmured, his hand sliding around to her lower back.
"One more question," she whispered, her lips grazing his.
"Mmhmm?" He hummed, kissing her once more.
"Are you ready to leave?" Hermione breathed, summoning all of her Gryffindor courage.
She took his hand and Apparated them both to her flat.