Hermione dropped the coin and handed Neville a mint. He thanked her as they exchanged nervous glances.
Alexa and Mikhail walked over to show off her ring.
"It's enormous!" Hermione exclaimed.
"An envoy arrived this morning and he had the power to approve the match!" Asta said happily.
"An envoy?" Dumbledore sounded surprised.
"The esteemed Prince Mithrax Starfall of Jotunheim and Petra Petrova!"
Hermione looked up to see Mithrax with a pretty girl. He wore robes of gold and purple brocade, and his shiny black skin shone in the light. The serpents in his hair were calm and wearing little gold collars.
The dark-haired woman was in white and silver and smiling. Her hair was swept up and she wore glass slippers on her feet.
Mithrax's eyes scanned the crowd until they found Asta. He tipped his chin at them before descending the stairs with his partner. Instead of taking her hand he swept her off the bottom step, twirled her, and set her gently upon the ground. People applauded as she turned red and breathless.
He smiled at her and Hermione saw white pointed teeth instead of a bloody maw.
"Lord Pieter Titov of the Mystic Brotherhood and Lady Anna of St. Petersburg!"
"Good to see you, Mithrax," Dumbledore said as the Titov's descended the staircase.
"You as well, Dumbledore," Mithrax said in a received pronunciation dialect, surprising Hermione. "Have you met Petra? She's Lady Titov's sister."
"How do you do?" she asked politely, in a thick accent like Anna's.
They were exchanging hellos when Pieter and Anna joined them.
"Do we have a balcony yet?" Pieter asked.
"Yes," said Blaise. "Fifth floor, east."
"Blaise Zabini—" Hermione began introductions.
"Are you related to Aractus Zabini?" Anna interrupted.
"He's my great-uncle!" Blaise looked surprised.
"He had quite the form in broomstick polo," she said admiringly.
Blaise laughed. "He'll be happy to know someone remembers. He keeps reminding us every chance he gets."
"I don't suppose he's single?" Anna asked casually. Her sister looked as if she were going to faint.
"He's seventy!" Blaise laughed.
"I assure you, the lady doesn't care," Anna assured him as she took his arm and began steering him away, Draco trailing behind them.
"What is she doing?!" Petra squeaked out at Pieter.
"You a favor." His eyes twinkled at her before he sped up to join his wife.
Petra swooned and Mithrax caught her. "Are all humans so indirect?" he asked.
Severus cleared his throat. "Yes."
Hermione elbowed him. "Not always."
"This from a girl that send a flock of birds after a boy that didn't know he rejected her." Severus tsked.
"Did he eventually understand why?" Mithrax asked, fanning Petra.
"No," Hermione said.
"Thank God," Severus said under his breath.
"We're going up. Will you be joining us?" Hermione asked Mithrax.
"Unfortunately, we must preform several ambassadorial duties," Mithrax apologized with a bow as he took Asta's arm along with Petra's. "We'll join you later."
Hermione watched Anna wheel Blaise around the room introducing him to people and using it as an excuse to interrogate him while Draco followed, snickering.
Mikhail used this opportunity to join a small group of men from the Brotherhood.
Hermione and Severus wound their way up staircases and passed through wide glass double doors out onto a beautiful tiled terrace.
Silk couches, poufs, and beautiful flowered filled vessels were scattered around a table fireplace. The air was perfumed and warm despite overlooking a beautiful winter scene.
Severus closed the doors once they were all outside. He pulled on a gold rope and an embroidered tapestry fell so no one could see them.
"What do you know?" Dumbledore asked Pieter.
"Not much," Pieter said darkly. "He showed up today—"
"Showed up where?" Severus asked sharply.
"My house." Pieter looked irritated.
"Why would he go to your house?" Dumbledore asked.
"To raid his tea supply again," Hermione snorted.
Pieter opened his mouth, and then closed it. "They were eating cake when I came down the stairs."
"I bet that's when Anna mentioned the wedding."
"Are you telling me you trust them?" Severus frowned.
The balcony door opened, and Anna joined them, beaming.
"Have you finished your meddling?" Pieter asked.
She just raised an eyebrow at him. "And what are you talking about?"
"Meddling," Hermione answered.
"It would be helpful to know his real reason for coming here," Pieter grumbled.
"The Shards in Jotunheim have been acting strange," Anna said, surprised. "They wanted to know if Hermione's Shard is throwing off any weird readings, and if it was, to propose a joint project with the Ministry and the Brotherhood to study the phenomenon." She sipped at a cup of punch.
"And to get some tea, of course," Hermione snickered.
"Mmm," Anna agreed. "He wanted to make sure he was at his best, so he came to our home first. That's when we told him about the engagement."
Pieter looked stunned.
"It's amazing what you find out when you ask," Anna sniffed.
"Has the Shard been acting strange?" Severus asked Hermione.
"I've been keeping it transfigured." Hermione touched the ring of moss and flowers adorning her neck.
"It's part of your costume?" Severus looked alarmed. "What's going to happen if it morphs? When did these changes start? When was the last time it was in its true form?"
"Weeks ago," Hermione admitted.
"This is neither the time nor the place," Dumbledore said gently. "We will discuss this later."
"The Ministry and the Brotherhood?" Sophia looked angry.
"We already have access to the Amazons through Asta." Hermione diffused.
Sophia opened and closed her mouth. "How can we be sure?"
"It's no secret if Anna knows," Pieter reasoned, earning a slap on his shoulder from his wife.
"You could always ask," Neville said quietly.
There was a tap at the door and Alexandra slipped in. "Ask what?"
"Jotunheim wants info on Hermione's shard," Neville filled in.
"I thought you knew about that," Alexandra frowned.
"How do you know about it?!" Sophia demanded.
"You'd know about it if you'd bothered to come home last night." Alexandra cocked an eyebrow at her parents who had the decency to blush. "Mithrax has a sister. She's in the Tower browsing the library."
There were groans all around.
"We should have had a meeting this morning," Pieter grumbled. "Our information updates are a catastrophe."
"Well, we've never done this at a major social event," Hermione grumbled.
"You haven't." Severus sniffed.
"Baron Jacob and Baroness Anastasia Snape!"
The announcement was muffled over the music and closed door. Severus groaned all the same. Hermione tried to hide her amusement and failed. He gave her a cross look.
"If you want to know everything, you should ask Stacie," Anna nodded.
"Why?" Severus asked suspiciously.
"She's the only one that saw everyone this morning and you know how she is," Anna gave Severus a knowing look.
"My mother, the great interrogator." Severus looked tired.
"She's effective," Pieter said reluctantly.
"She's nosy," Severus corrected him.
"What time is it?" Alexandra asked.
"Still time before transformations," Neville assured her. "Want to dance?"
"That would be lovely."
"If you need us I have my coin," Neville reminded them as he rose.
"Have fun!" Sophia called after them.
"How long have you known about this?" Dumbledore asked her.
"Since I had to talk her into writing that silly letter in the first place." Sophia sighed as Alexandra blushed. "They grow up too fast."
Severus let out a strangled sound. Hermione laughed.
"You two stop that! You should have never gotten married in the first place! You're just children!" Sophia opined with a sniff.
"I suspect I got the better end of the deal on that one," Hermione laughed. She glanced at Severus who looked stunned. She leaned to kiss him on the cheek. "I have a lab now," she whispered in his ear.
He snorted, but she saw a corner of his mouth twitch.
"We should go find your parents before they come looking for us," she warned. He groaned. "Oh, stop being a baby and come on."
"If anyone had told me about this six months ago I'd have sent them to the medical wing," Neville muttered as he held the tapestry aside for Alexandra.
Severus scowled, but let Hermione pull him back to the crowds of people dancing.
"There he is!"
Severus winced as he heard his mother calling out over the din.
"I thought we were supposed to lead the first dance?" he asked.
"We were until Xenophilius Lovegood showed up with a lute playing centaur," Jacob Snape sniffed. "He always did know how to steal the show."
"One less thing to worry about." Hermione sounded relieved.
"You have to dance anyway. Go." The look on Anastasia Snape's face brooked no nonsense.
They went to the dance floor and did as they were told. Severus was a superb dancer, as his mother had claimed, and Hermione smiled through the steps as her feet levitated inches above the ground.
He sat her gently on her feet afterwards and he led her to a long table full of nibbles. He pointed at little displays of food and things floated onto small plates for them to take. An enormous gold fountain cycled liquid that looked like falling crystal. Severus filled up amber glass cups for them.
Hermione sipped at hers. "Water and sushi. Like our first date."
"It wasn't a date."
"Then why do you know what I'm talking about?" She smiled sweetly.
They rotated among small groups and Hermione was introduced to far too many people than she could be expected to remember. They danced a few more times and then fanfare played out.
"It's the countdown!" A girl nearby shrieked in delight.
People began fussing with their costumes, getting ready for their transformations.
"Ronald Weasley and Harry Potter!"
Hermione's face lit up as she saw Harry and Ron at the top of the staircase.
There was a break in the crowd as Ginny pushed through it as the countdown started.
Hermione felt her gown growing tighter, her hair levitating and the hem splaying around her. She laughed as a butterfly flittered by and she raised her hands to feel small blossoms and leaves in the tendrils of her hair.
"A dryad. Lovely." Severus looked at her tenderly as people cheered around them as their costumes transformed them into unrealistic expectations.
A cloud floating nearby opened large blue eyes. "Watch Ginny."
Ginny was on fire. Her hair and dress flared to life as she became a fire nymph, and she ran.
Harry was running down the staircase to meet her, his body going transparent as it turned to water.
When they came together there was a great cloud of sizzling steam.
There were wolf whistles as they came apart, slightly damp and breathless.
Ron descended the stairs rolling his eyes.
"How long do you think they've been planning that?" Severus asked casually.
"Harry threatened to murder the footman if anything went wrong," Luna said as her cloud became more solidified.
"He didn't really!?" Hermione was shocked, then realized she shouldn't have been. "Oh, never mind. I really don't want to know."
There was a scene beginning in a circle of members of the Brotherhood. Severus strained to look, then started over with a frown on his face.
"What are you doing?" Hermione hissed.
"I'm security detail. It's why I don't have a costume," he said as he made no effort to slow down.
She reigned in her costume, so she could move easier and followed him.
She was so very glad she did.
Nicolai was so angry his face was purpling. She was thankful he had taken the youth potion for surely, he would have given himself a stroke.
In front of him a gorgeous, pouting Mediterranean woman stood in a revealing red costume, red wings of flame bursting from her back and small horns protruding from her forehead.
"I thought you said I was a succubus? This should come as no surprise!" she said haughtily.
Hermione recognized Nyssa's voice and pulled Severus back. "Don't you dare!"
"This is an outrage!" Nicolai roared.
"How?" A member of the Brotherhood even older than Nicolai looked as if Christmas had come early. "It's a lovely costume, dear. May I have this dance?"
"You may not!" Nicolai looked apoplectic. He pulled the cloak from his shoulders and tried to cover her up.
She snatched it from his hands, threw it on the ground, and stomped on it. Then she slapped his face and stalked away. He looked stunned. So, did the others.
There was half a moment before he picked up his cloak and went after her.
"What happened?" Hermione asked Severus.
"He initialized a mating ritual by giving her his cloak."
Hermione was horrified.
Severus started laughing.
"What's so funny?!"