A.N.: Written after Elia Sheldon challenged her LJ readers to write a masked ball story, where two characters kiss without knowing who the other is. (For the full details of the challenge, read her September 24th post). I chose to write the Harry/Hermione version of the story, and here is the result. Enjoy!

Swish and flick, swish and flick. Not a spell, just the sounds she made when walking.

Hermione Granger never thought she would see the day that she would be almost six feet deep in fabric, but here she was. It was the annual Ministry Masquerade Ball and Hermione had been forced to go by her friends after she had been given an invitation (Not just anyone got an invitation, but because she knew Harry, Ron, Ginny, and various other Hogwarts people, she always got on the short list for an invite).

Hermione walked slowly down the long hall to the ballroom. Swish of the fabrics, nervous flicks of the hair.

She handed her invitation to the elegantly dressed man at the door. He checked it against the list, and then cleared his throat. Baffled, Hermione stared at him until the man sighed loudly. "Your mask, please."

"Oh!" Hermione took it out of her bag. The man shook his head disapprovingly. He muttered a charm under his breath. The mask began to sparkle, and stayed like that once she put it on.

"Thank-" Hermione stopped. "My voice."

The man sighed. "It changes your voice. To help with the mystery." He shook his head, clearly worried about her ability to fit in with all the sophisticated people.

With the feeling that she was about to be thrown into a den of lions, Hermione walked into the ballroom.

Hermione Granger, age 26, with a fairly unremarkable life since she left Hogwarts. After Harry's destruction of Voldemort in her seventh year, she'd had her first real boyfriend, a Frenchman named Hector. It lasted six months, and after their tearful parting at the airport, Hermione had a string of different boyfriends. Some were serious, and others she knew were doomed from day (or more accurately, night) one.

At the moment, she was a writer. Mostly magical history books, with a few editorials in the Daily Prophet. The first thing Hermione did once out of school was to re-write Hogwarts, a History, to include the final battle at the school (well, that and a chapter on house-elves).

And as always, Harry and Ron were there. Through break-ups and book deals, they never left her side. They had lived all in one apartment for two years, but it eventually became too much, and Hermione moved out. She loved her boys, but they had never gotten around to learning how to clean up after themselves. But she still saw them every week, and she was grateful for their friendship.

As she walked into the ballroom, she wished that she had remembered to tell them what her dress looked like. There was no way they were going to find her in this crowd.

After Hermione had been invited to the ball, she spent the weeks leading up to the event counting down the days. It was all so exciting; getting fitted for a dress, buying a mask, having her hair done. She couldn't believe why she hadn't gone to the ball before.

But after two hours at the ball, Hermione knew why she hadn't gone. Hermione had hated every dance she had been to, and this one was no exception. She talked with a few people, she ate some good food, but really, it was desperately boring.

A wizard in long green robes came up to her halfway through. "Would you like to dance?" He asked shortly.

"All right." Hermione answered, still unsure about her fake voice. The man led her to the dance floor, with one hand on her waist and the other in hers.

"What's your name?" Hermione asked politely.

"We're not supposed to tell." He said, smiling.

"Oh, of course." Hermione said. "Did you come here with anyone?"

"Just some friends. And you?"

"I was supposed to meet some friends, but I'm not sure if they're here."

"Who are they?"

Hermione was about to answer, when she stopped. The entire point of this ball was to be someone else; so in her guise as Mystery Woman, she said "We're not supposed to tell."

Since she didn't want to reveal too much about herself, they didn't talk much. It didn't bug her, though. What was odd about the entire situation was how close she was to him. Not emotionally, but physically. She'd never been one to get all that cuddly or touchy with a boyfriend, much less some stranger.

But here, it was so different. Her body was so close to him, her hand gripping to his, the hand on her waist pulling her even closer. As the dance wore on, Hermione started to become more comfortable next to this man.

"So Miss. Mysterious," he said, "Do you have a boyfriend?"

"No," answered Hermione. "Not for a while."

"That's too bad for men everywhere. You're very charming."

"And so are you."

"Thank you." He was silent. "This going to sound very odd from someone who's only known you for half an hour, but I think I'm going to kiss you."

Before she could even think about it, Hermione found herself saying, "Okay."

Hermione had been kissed before. Maybe not as many times as some other girls, but she'd had her fair share of good kisses. This man blew them all away.

It started off very soft, almost hesitant. Then it started to heat up, fast. They were kissing harder now; Hermione had opened her mouth to let him in. His hands traveled up her neck and into her hair.

It was an amazing kiss. But then, she realized that she was in the middle of the Ministry Ballroom, filled with her friends, kissing a man she didn't know.

She pulled away. "I can't. I'm sorry." Hermione took one last look at him and started to run out of the room, her hair flying behind her. She ran out of the ballroom, into the hall, and to the Apparating point. She needed to get home.

Back in the ballroom, Harry Potter looked at the jewel-encrusted hairclip in his hand. "Huh."

"You just kissed her!"

Ron Weasley looked incredulously at him. Harry nodded. "Who the bloody hell was she?"

"I don't know." Harry ran his hands through his hair. "I don't why I did that, it was so stupid."

"No it wasn't!" Ron exclaimed. "Get a nice snog with a girl you won't see again. That's brilliant."

"I want to find her." Harry said.

"Why?" Ron asked. "So she can sell you out to the tabloids? I can see the title now: Harry Potter Took Advantage of Me. It'll sell nicely."

"Knock it off." Harry threw an apple at him. "I'll just try to track her down. I won't say anything to her. Though, I do need to return the hair clip."

"Use a locator spell," Ron chomped noisily on his sandwich. "That'll find her quick."

"Yeah," Harry said slowly, "Yeah, that will. I can just find out where she lives. It'll be easy." He got up from his chair. "I'll go do it now."

The spell was taking him to a nice neighborhood. Harry held on tightly to the hair clip. He knew this was where Hermione lived. He was approaching her building. He was planning on just walking past, but the spell directed him into the building. "Maybe Hermione knows who it is," he said to himself. He was on her floor. "Maybe Hermione can give the hairclip to her." Harry walked past her door.

The spell stopped.

Hermione blew a strand of hair out of her face. She looked around the room for her book on Henry VI. It wasn't on the bookshelf. She moved her laptop onto the table to hunt around the room. Hermione had told her publisher that she'd have the first chapter of her new book about magical influences on Muggle history ready by the next week. But how could she give an example of Unforgivable Curses during the War of the Roses without that book?

There was a knock on her door. Aggravated by the distraction, she went to the door. "What is it?" she threw the door open.

Harry was standing right there.

"Harry!" She said. Harry didn't respond. He just stared at her. "You look like death," she joked. Then she said seriously, "Is Ron all right? Is everything okay?"

"Ron's fine." He said in a dead voice. He handed over the hair clip. "I believe this is yours."

If it weren't for the fact that he was deathly afraid of her reaction, Harry would've smiled as he watched the realization dawn on her face.

"Oh God." She said. "Oh God. That was you?" Harry nodded. "Oh God." She stumbled back toward the couch with Harry following awkwardly behind her.

They sat next to each other in silence for a minute. "You're a very good kisser."

Hermione said quietly.

"Likewise," Harry answered. "I didn't know it was you."

"Same here." Hermione laughed softly. "I didn't know anyone there."

"I was looking for you." He said. "But Ron and I didn't know what you were wearing, or what your mask was, so it was hard to find you. I just didn't think that it was you that I kissed." He didn't say anything after that. There really wasn't anything to say.

"This is really awkward." Hermione told him. "Really, really awkward. I thought that I had just kissed some random guy I'd never see again, not my best friend."

Harry muttered, "And here I was, worried about tabloid headlines."

Even though the situation was dire, Hermione couldn't help it. The way he said it made her giggle. Harry just stared at her a minute and started laughing too. Soon, it was turning into those big, belly laughs that left them breathless.

"Oh God, this has got to be the worst thing-" Hermione wasn't able to finish her sentence; Harry's lips were in the way.

It was just a sweet, short kiss. But it was a thousand times more romantic than the night before.

"Do you want to try this?" Harry asked softly.

"Try what?"

Harry kissed her again. "This."

"I don't know."

"You always know." Harry smiled.

"I might not be right." Hermione said. "I'm not good at this sort of stuff."

"Have you ever thought about just trying something?"

Hermione thought for a moment. "Ron might be mad."

"I seriously doubt it."

"If it gets out that we're dating, the reporters will have a field day, and you hate that."

"I'm used to it. If anything, I'm more worried about you."

"What if we break up, and then we hate each other for ever. How would we deal with that?"

"Don't think about that."

Hermione looked at him anxiously. "I don't want to ruin our friendship. It's one of the most important things to me. I can't risk it."

Harry looked down at the clip in his hand. With a sigh, her put it in Hermione's hand. They weren't getting together. It would just be easier to get out while he could still save face. "Well, that's the reason that I came over. You have the clip back. I'll call you later."

He walked out the door. Hermione, surrounded by her books, sat deep in thought. She had done the right thing. The right thing. She kept on telling herself that. But she had kissed him. And that same, strange feeling that had led her to kiss him in the first place took over again. As she stood up, she heard the same noise from the night before again: swish of the papers as she went by, flick of her wrist as she opened the door.

Harry had told her to not think about it. And yet, here she was jogging out into the hall, already a plan in her head for what to say, an outline of what to tell Ron, and ideas for avoiding paparazzi.

He was already going down the stairs when Hermione yelled for him to stop.

She ran up to him. "I changed my mind. I want to try it."

A smile spread across Harry's face. "No objections?"

"None that come to mind." Then Hermione kissed him, and for the first time in her life, she didn't know what was going to happen next, didn't know the answers, and didn't care.