Time glided by, and the leaves on the trees changed from green, to orange, to crimson, before they dropped.
October was upon them and Ball Season unavoidable.
Even with the primping and organizing, Hermione was still apprehensive.
Worried about hair frizzing, makeup running, strangulation by her magical masquerade costume…
A lot of bother happened because of Ball Season, and Hermione wasn't certain it was worth it, no matter what Neville had to say.
But he had pleaded and claimed he may require backup.
She didn't know what that meant, but staying home wasn't an option.
Normally, a handful of young witches and wizards were admitted into genteel society, but this year there were witches and wizards with fresh titles by the dozen.
Ginny and Luna met Hermione at the Russian Estate to prepare for the ball with Severus' mother. Their strategy had paid off, they were ready to go.
"That is the most interesting necklace I've ever seen."
A lanky older woman with golden hair and bright green eyes gaped at Luna's necklace enviously.
"Thank you. They're atomized pearls on spider silk."
The woman looked astonished and leaned closer. She whipped out a pair of decorative spectacles on the end of an ornamented handle.
"The braiding was the hard part." Luna admitted. "I only had to use two pearls."
"You created it?" A plump, coral-haired woman in emerald green velvet lay a palm to her breast. "Rolf! Rolf, dear boy, come look at this!" Her enormous tiara shook alarmingly.
A gangly youth with black hair and freckles appeared. When his eyes fixed on Luna he blushed.
"The necklace is spider silk. Look how skillfully it's woven! I thought of your project!" The tall woman spoke with a glimmer of playfulness in her eye.
The boy perked up and leaned in closer, the pretext of being shy cast away in the name of curiosity. "What weave is that?"
"I made it up," Luna told him. "It had to be hazy, so I had to improvise."
"That is…" he lifted a finger to pause while he found the words. "That may be the answer I'm looking for."
"What's the question?" She asked dreamily.
"I'm trying to catch an extremely powerful poltergeist. Been terrorizing the woodlands for over a century—I'm Rolf Scamander, by the way. From the USA. New Jersey."
"Nice to meet you," Luna replied. "I'm Luna Lovegood."
"Have you ever heard of titanium spinning orbs?" He asked as he extended his arm.
"The African spider breeding program?" Luna asked as she accepted it. "I understood that they were still experimenting."
He fluttered a hand dismissively. "That article in Monstrumologist Monthly was ages old! I think the writer walked back from Africa!"
"Well, Harold is prone to distraction." Luna sighed.
"You know him?"
"He's a cousin. The Phillywhits have always been scatterbrained. Their great-grandmother was tormented by devilkin moths." Luna shook her head sadly.
They drifted off to the punch bowl and Ginny chuckled. "That didn't take long."
"Scamander…" Hermione murmured. "I know that name…"
"You should. His family are famous magizoologists." Ginny said as she elbowed Hermione and nodded across the room.
"Count Blaise Zabini and Draco Malfoy!" A slight fellow in a crimson coat and black hair cried out to the congregation of bodies.
A few people turned their backs. To his credit, Draco descended the staircase as if nothing were out of sorts.
Hermione held a hand up to wave.
"What are you playing?" Ginny asked curiously.
"Blaise was my colleague. I'm not going to shun him and his companion." Hermione said innocently.
"You're so nosy." Ginny accused.
"So what?" Hermione hissed before Blaise and Draco got within earshot. "Blaise! It's so wonderful to see you! Hello!" She spoke too loudly.
"Laying it on thick?" Blaise asked her as they kissed cheeks and Ginny and Draco did the same for politeness' sake.
"Draco was exonerated and disowned. That's sufficient for everyone," Hermione said with a huff. "Someone has to act civil."
"How are you doing?" Ginny asked Draco seriously.
He looked as if he were going to answer flippantly, but then nodded and averted her gaze.
"Come on," she said as she led him through the crowd, leaving Hermione with Blaise.
"Nice dress. What are you going to be? A giant chocolate cream puff?" Blaise asked her as he eyed up her brown gown.
"You'll have to wait until midnight," Hermione said mysteriously.
"I cannot believe you brought him with you!" A thin older woman with dark hair gripped Blaise's forearm.
"He's still family!" Blaise hissed.
"He's not that close!" The woman grunted. Her tone dropped. "He murdered his own father!"
Hermione, who had not been privy to the minutiae of the battle and trials gasped.
The woman threw a look at her.
"Auntie Rosalind Zabini, this is Hermione Granger-Snape of the Russian-British Snapes," Blaise said with a short bow.
"I'm very pleased to meet you," Hermione said as if she hadn't heard the earlier discussion.
"And you as well, dear," the woman said absent-mindedly. Any effect Blaise thought would come from the introduction was swept aside, and he looked annoyed. The woman turned back to Blaise. "I understand you have impeccable ideals about family obligations, but you may have gone too far this time."
They peered over to Draco to see Luna introducing him to Rolf, who had no idea who the Malfoys were. The boys grinned at each other and Draco looked thankful.
"Oh, I'll think he'll do fine." Hermione smiled.
Fanfare sounded again.
"Head Mugwump Albus Dumbledore and Lady Sophia of the Amazons!"
They turned to see Dumbledore and Sophia. Dressed in splendid purple and black dress robes he held her arm as she descended the stairs in pink and white shimmer.
"You look great!" Hermione said as they reached the foot of the stairs.
"Thank you, dear." Sophia smiled at her and they kissed cheeks. "What's that lovely smell?"
"The roses." Hermione pointed to garlands strung high up on the arched ceiling. "They're different from regular roses, though. They're magically scented."
"Albus, teach me flowers," Sophia said in amazement.
"You should advise a year at Hogwarts," Albus suggested, as if he had done it before.
She opened her mouth to respond and fanfare went off again.
"Count Nicolai Galkin of the Mystic Brotherhood and Lady Nyssa of the Amazons."
The three of them turned. Hermione let out an altogether inappropriate noise.
Nyssa was seething. She gripped the hem of her red gown and stalked down the stairs.
On her arm was one of the handsomest men Hermione had ever seen. He was smirking.
Sophia swore in a language Hermione wasn't acquainted with.
Nicolai swept around Nyssa and bowed as her slippered feet touched the floor. She threw him a glare. He waggled his eyebrows.
Sophia had to turn away so Nyssa didn't see her giggling. It didn't work.
"He did it!" Hermione squeaked. "He found a youth serum!"
Nyssa stormed over to them as Nicolai raised his hand to greet someone else on the other side of the room and sauntered off.
"And what is so amusing?" Nyssa demanded.
"I don't think we need to explain," Sophia giggled.
"Who put him up to this?" Nyssa huffed.
"None of us," Dumbledore assured her.
"Well, someone did." Her eyes flashed around the chamber. She stomped away.
Sophia resumed giggling when Nyssa was out of earshot.
"Did you do this?" Albus asked.
"No, but I wish I had!" She had another fit of giggles as Nyssa grabbed the first Brotherhood member she could identify and whirled him around to terrorize him.
"I doubt he needed encouragement," Hermione snorted.
Champagne was taken around and gentle music started, steadily swelling in volume.
The dance floor was cleared of standing people, and couples took to the floor.
Severus suddenly materialized by Hermione's side.
"May I have this waltz?" He inquired as his palm brushed her shoulder.
"I should hope so. That woman nearly broke my legs whacking them with that stick of hers." Hermione scowled.
"You're still abysmal," Severus reminded her.
"I put levitation charms on my slippers," she muttered.
"Lord Neville Longbottom and the Lady Alexandra of the Amazons," a musical voice called out.
"I expect they finally stopped with the fanfare, thank Merlin," Severus snorted.
There was no reaction as Dumbledore and Sophia watched as their daughter went down the stairs.
"She looks so much like you," he said sincerely.
"Oh, but she has your hair," Sophia said proudly. She slid her arm around him and sniffled.
"Longbottom?!" Blaise Zabini exclaimed behind them.
Hermione chuckled despite herself.
Neville glanced at them cautiously as if expecting Dumbledore to run at him swinging.
Alexandra looked lovely in a dark green dress accented with glittering gold ornament. She waved one arm at a group of Amazons across the room. When they got to the bottom step, she kissed Neville and rushed off to join her friends, leaving him looking astonished.
Hermione, Blaise, and Draco laughed openly.
Dumbledore and Sophia still looked misty-eyed.
Neville stumbled over to them hesitantly.
"Well, that was smooth, Longbottom. I can understand why she thinks you're irresistible," Draco drawled.
Neville blushed crimson.
"Count Mikhail Korsakov of the Mystic Brotherhood and Princess Asta of Jodtunheim!"
"Princess?" Hermione blurted out.
"Interesting details have come to light," Sophia said mysteriously.
They looked radiant. Asta in black and red, and Mikhail in pearl. They were smiling at each other so much it was a wonder they didn't trip going down the stairs. She wore a gold ring with a massive pearl in it.
"Is that the Korsakov pearl?" A plump old woman gossiped to her friend who watched on with large eyes and nodded.
"What does that mean?" Hermione asked.
"They are engaged," Sophia said enthusiastically, clapping her hands. "Her family has granted permission! She found out this morning, and we have been invited to Atlantis for the celebration!"
Hermione exchanged glances with Severus.
This felt like an ambush.
But set up by whom? It was too elaborate for any known villains, and it couldn't be Harry. Severus exchanged glances at Dumbledore.
The headmaster put a hand in his jacket pocket and fumbled before clapping again.
Neville dropped a hand into his pocket and turned white. He placed a hand on Hermione's arm to steady her as she stepped back to make space for the happy couple. He held something in his palm and when she patted him on the hand she accepted it from him.
She opened her pocketbook and pretended to look for a mint. She opened her hand and felt her stomach plummet.
It was one of her ancient DA coins. It had a date on it.