Paper Faces on Parade

Rating: M

Pairing: Hermione / Draco

Summary: Draco pursues his mystery girl after a ball that's arranged to marry him off. What follows is a dark plot involving switching sides, backstabbing, and perhaps a bit of romance?

Disclaimer: I don't own these characters. The chapter names are credited to Jasmine Ash, a wonderful singer. Much love.

9/1/06 – Sketchy Cannabis

Chapter One – I am not alone

Draco sighed. His mother was still going on about the damn masquerade. Draco covered his eyes with his hand and muttered lowly beneath his breath, not caring whether she heard him or not, "Please, you stupid cow, SHUT UP." His last words were spoken prominently and clearly, his teeth grinding as he resisted lashing out physically.

His mother promptly cut her ramblings short and busied herself in her own room, preparing her outfit. Lucius, however, only gave a low grunt, and looked to Draco from his chair. "Be nice, boy. You know she's just doting in her own way."

Draco bared his teeth at his father and snarled his words out, "I haven't been a boy in years, father." He stood, stalking from the room and just walking, wanting to get out. His 'father' hadn't ever been a father, so Draco thought he was doing well, at least.

Now a full grown man, Draco stood at a good height, his frame still lithe and svelte from quidditch. Though it'd been years since he'd been on a formal team, he still played often enough to reap the benefits from the sport. He was 22 now, just tasting the freedom of adult hood. Though he'd never moved from his parents, he still held his own domain within the household.

The war had gone wonderfully, and Draco's father had managed to help quite a bit, once they'd gotten him out of Azkaban. Though he was admittedly denounced for his little 'boo-boo's, as Draco referred to them, Lucius had eventually delivered Potter and his minions to Voldemort. Potter was dead, as were many others from Draco's Hogwarts days. Not that Draco really minded – he'd never been close to many of them, anyhow. Snape, the traitorous bastard that he was, had redeemed himself as well, by killing off Dumbledore and helping in other various ways.

And now the Malfoy's owned the world, so to speak. They had major investments in all worthy aspects (and all aspects were worthy these days, because if they weren't, well, they were taken care of) and they had more influence and power than any other family. Pureblood, regal, pristine – they were the epitome of Voldemort's dream.

And the Zabini's weren't far behind them. Blaise's father had been… tragically… killed. Though that was never the word Blaise used. But that was how the current wizarding world had viewed it. Theodore Nott and his family had made out rather well, too. So the people that mattered to Draco had survived. Luckily, Pansy hadn't. Wasn't that just charming?

Still fuming and wanting to kill something, Draco stalked down the lushly decorated hallway. He was out to find his only trusted friend to discuss his mother's little masquerade party with. And by discuss, he meant break things.

Blaise rested languidly on a chair, his legs flopped out over the arm and his body slouching visibly down into the cushion. His room was plush, decorated in dark greens and silver tones. Blaise had always had such an affinity for Slytherin house colours. He glanced to Draco with his eyes half-closed as he nodded at him to come in. Blaise was used to Draco's sporadic and sometimes inconvenient drop-ins. Blaise's dark eyes peered at him with practiced study from behind strands of hair. His olive complexion and smooth skin were set off by his slightly feminine features and his brunette hair. He was Draco's opposite in many ways, but that made them an attention grabbing pair, which was okay for Blaise. He liked attention.

"The masquerade ball in full swing, I assume?" Draco had been fuming about that ball for weeks now, as his mother's own interest had raised. Draco grunted in return, and Blaise took that as a yes. Draco had soon flopped onto Blaise's bed, his eyes staring blankly at the canopy as he turned his head to look at Blaise. His pale blue eyes were flashing with something that made Blaise a little nervous. He shifted a bit and watched Draco, waiting to see what he'd do.

"You do realize what they're doing." Draco's voice was quiet as he looked at Blaise with some pain in his voice before his head turned and he was again looking at the canopy, his eyes lazily tracing the curves and contours of the fabric that billowed out so gracefully.

"Yes." Blaise knew well that they were playing matchmaker. Jealousy bit at him as he thought about it, but he knew why. Draco was at the age for children. He should be settling down into a nice, prearranged marriage with a lovely, submissive pureblood woman by now and frantically reproducing.

Draco lifted his fist before slamming it onto the bed in frustration. "I don't want them, Blaise. I don't."

Blaise, graceful and nimble, lifted himself from the chair and moved to Draco, his eyes showing a bit of pity, but none of the jealousy or pain that flickered in and out of him. Blaise curled up on the bed, near Draco, but not enough to be invading. He watched the rise and fall of Draco's chest, flashes of textures and memories running through his mind – pale and smooth, soft and sweet as cream, smells of sweat and quidditch, beautiful and scarred, oh so faint… But we don't talk of those. "I know." That's all he said, because, really, what else was there to say?

Draco looked over at Blaise, the reality of it settling in with each day that brought him closer to the masquerade, and his inevitable marriage. Because that's what this was all about. "Kiss me." His voice was choked as he watched Blaise.

Blaise complied, his lips soft and tender, one hand running through Draco's silvery hair gently. And Draco… well… Draco never wanted the moment to end.

Draco rolled over and cuddled into Blaise for a moment, nudging at his arm and managing to get under it. He didn't open his eyes, preferring instead to keep them closed and pretend that this would last forever. He knew though, that soon Blaise would wake up and they'd have to get up and be yet again just a pair of friends. Draco sighed in his head, pleased to feel Blaise's arm around him and the warmth that radiated from the other boy. Though it was a comfort that was always short lived, and was getting more tedious by the day. They both knew these little encounters would have to end eventually, and Draco was very reluctant to let them slip away. Blaise had been his first in so many ways. He didn't want to give up that innocence with him.

But he didn't really have a choice in the matter. His parents had assured him of that, not to mention Lord Voldemort. He knew his family line was too valued to be tossed away so easily. Too bad his mother couldn't reproduce anymore. Draco snorted at the thought of some little brat running around. Well. Then he'd have to feel sorry for it.

The masquerade ball plans moved forward steadily as the day came closer and closer. His mother was of course so proud of him for 'doing this for the family.' Draco had to refrain from throwing things at that damn bitch each time she said that. He was not doing this for the family. He was doing this to save his own skin. That's what mattered most these days. That's the only reason he'd leaned towards Voldemort's side in the end anyhow. They were winning. It would be in his best interest to be on their side, wouldn't it? Draco had the survival instincts of any Malfoy – strong. Very strong.

Draco was still pacing Blaise's room the night before the ball. Blaise had offered things, as usual, but Draco declined. He was so worked up even Blaise's occasional caress as he walked by did nothing to soothe him. Blaise was intrigued by this side of Draco that he'd never seen before – the nervous side. Draco reminded Blaise of a tiger he'd seen once. It'd been a white tiger, huge and graceful and so deadly. It'd been on a chain, a large chain, and it was pacing. Just like Draco. Both had had the same look in their eye while they paced… and maybe that's what made Blaise so nervous. It was the way Draco looked at things. The way his eyes flashed and twitched back and forth and how his muttering sounded so mad. It made Blaise wonder what exactly would happen at this little masquerade. Draco's parents really shouldn't underestimate their son, Blaise thought quietly to himself as Draco broke, and fixed again, the same vase that he'd been taking his anger out on all evening.

Draco turned on Blaise suddenly, asking him with a snarl, "You're coming too, right?" Though his words were angry, everything about him suggested differently. He looked beaten. Like the caged animal that had figured out what a gun was.

"Yes, Draco. I've told you that, many times." Blaise replied calmly.

Draco sighed and slumped into the chair next to Blaise's, leaning across it a bit to try and touch him some, just for the pure physical comfort. "I can't do this, Blaise. I just can't."

He sounds so scared, Blaise thought to himself. Blaise sighed and shook his head lightly from side to side. "We both knew it was coming." Blaise hadn't told Draco that his mother and Lord Voldemort were expecting the same thing of him. He didn't want to scare himself any more than he already did, and he could comfort Draco more with a level head. He didn't want to admit he was scared too. He'd never really liked women – too complicated.

"Yeah. I guess we did." Draco's voice was monotone, something that bothered Blaise more than outright anger. So he held his head on his shoulder, his fingers brushing through Draco's silky hair as they watched the fire. Tomorrow night, this ended, they knew.

Draco's mother once again went over his outfit, fretting with the finishing touches. She already had gotten dressed, her costume making her into what was supposed to be a swan. Draco had called her a stork earlier. Bitch, he thought caustically. Couldn't even give your only son a choice, could you? Of course not. You got what you wanted.

His thoughts were on this track for most of the evening that was spent preparing. Draco's mask was feathered attractively and outlined a wolf, his lips showing from under the curvy bottom of the mask. Currently, they were formed into a delicate sneer, making the wolf effect rather complete. Pale blue-grey eyes flickered behind the mask, shadowed slightly by the eyeholes. His mother fluttered about him some more, and Draco finally lashed out, pushing her away from him as he stalked from the room. He would go see what Blaise got himself dressed up as, he thought as he walked. The silver white cape he was wearing billowed out behind him, his tight shirt a silver colour, flashing and dancing in the lights as he moved. Merlin, could he use a drink.

Blaise swirled in front of Draco, eyeing himself in a mirror. Blaise's attire had him dressed as a red fox. Draco felt better in his company, his mask cast to the side with his cape, himself sprawled out on the couch as he watched Blaise. Blaise laughed, though it was forced, and bowed to Draco. "I suppose the Slytherin Princes should make an entrance, should we not?"

Draco smiled at Blaise, an actual smile as he stood. They'd referred to themselves as the Slytherin Princes in seventh year… until everything they'd known had turned upside down and life had been oh so different. Draco wrapped his arms around Blaise's waist and stood up straighter, looking Blaise in the eye as he said quietly and firmly. "I love you, Blaise Zabini. So do your damn best to pick the dullest, most dim-witted woman you can find." Draco kissed the slightly surprised look away from Blaise's lips and stepped back, putting his cape and mask back on with about as much enthusiasm as the coffin bearer at a funeral.

Blaise moved to wrap his arm around Draco's waist and kissed him a littler harder this time as he stared at Draco. "Okay. But you best do the same."

Draco snorted and brushed Blaise away as he stepped out the door, wondering just what was inside Pandora's Box this evening.

A/N: Well, there's chapter one. My beta loves this story, a lot. I've got a little more written on it, but, I guess I'll see how it goes, since this one I'm mainly writing to entertain myself, and putting it up takes more effort than I have time for these days. Anyhow, enjoy.