Bellatrix, the eldest of the three Black sisters, was wearing a black dress. It was a modest fit and cut, but one that still managed to give her a darkly enchanting look, a look that she usually had about her anyhow – but the dress enhanced this fact quite a bit. Her black hair was done in a grand knot, her gray eyes were shadowed by dark make-up, and poised on the arm of her equally dark and enchanting fiancé she was quite the sight.

Narcissa, the youngest of the three, sparkled and shimmered in her dress of the palest pink. Blonde strands had been crimped a little and molded into a bun atop her head, her pale skin glowed under the bright candle-lights, and her smile dazzled all she flashed it to – she had just come of age, but many of the men present had been inspecting her already.

But it was Andromeda whom his attention instantly focused in on. Andromeda, standing next to sisters who did indeed twinkle, positively dazzled. Though the brunette possessed the same refined and haughty features as her sisters did, she looked as different from them as possible just then. Her dress was not a deep, polished shade such as Bellatrix's, nor a pale pastel like Narcissa's – rather, it was a radiant shade of yellow, one that who have looked gaudy on most, but not her, not his Andy: on her it looked perfect, it looked as though she and the dress had been created for each other. The material was long-sleeved, and even the neckline did not plunge very far, but the silk yellow was still very unique and risky, just as she always was. Most of the respected pureblood females attending had their hair up in traditional up-dos, but Andromeda had opted to let her long brown waves fall loosely down her shoulders and back, her face shinning even without much cosmetics.

He approached her, feeling almost unworthy of intruding upon such a beautiful person's presence with his own suddenly shabby-looking one. He bowed before her, offering his hand. "May I have this dance?" he inquired, his head lowered but his eyes fixed on her own steadily, as they looked back into his.

"Yes you may," she said, and – ignoring his outstretched hand just as she always did, even in such a formal situation – proceeded onto the dance floor. He met her out there. She curtsied, he bowed, and then they joined hands; he slipped his other onto her waist as she rested her remaining hand on his shoulder. And then they danced.

"Have you not been practicing, Andromeda?" Lucius murmured as he bent his head to hers, for her footwork during the waltz was as fumbling as ever, though she did her best to look as though she knew exactly what she was doing.

"You know I hate this sort of thing," she mumbled sourly. "All these 'respectable' purebloods gathering together to pretend they are better than everyone else, to see who is the wealthiest and the most dignified and the best dancer and best musician and best Merlin-only-knows-what – it's disgusting."

"I find them enjoyable, myself," he returned, as he twirled them both around, she narrowly avoiding trodding on his foot. "One must keep up their image."

"That's all it is, though, an image – a façade, a mask, it's just all meaningless," she said with clear agitation.

"Shh," he censured, "you draw attention to yourself." She looked up at him scornfully. "Perhaps images and appearances are a material thing, Andromeda, but they are important nonetheless. And why show up if you find them so tedious?"

"I'm at odds with my family as it is," she said begrudgingly, "and I don't want to make it worse. Mother and Father love to parade their little trophy daughters around, so as a good child it seems only fair that I do them this service." She fell silent, contemplating this, and they spun around without speaking for a length of time while the music soared around them. When the song ended they danced through two more sequentially, then breaked to retrieve glasses of champagne.

"So your parents have finally found Bellatrix a suitable husband, have they?" Lucius inquired as they idled together by the far wall.

"Yes," said Andromeda, nodding at her older sister, who was conversing with Rodolphus Lestrange. "You noticed, then, that our wedding date had been put on hold?"

"It was hard not to notice."

"I'm sorry," Andromeda offered, stirring the wine in her glass. "Her being twenty-one and still not tied down – well, my parents were becoming very concerned as to how long she would remain pure, and made her marriage a priority and put ours towards the back until a more appropriate time so – "

"Andy, as long as you are my bride, I do not care when our wedding takes place."

"Do you really mean that?" she asked quietly, meeting his eyes.

"Of course."

"And what of your parents?" she questioned. "I doubt they feel the same."

"They were quite understanding when your parents wrote saying the date needed to be postponed a year or so, actually."

"Really?" she said skeptically. "They're all right with it?

"Well, in all appearances, yes," he replied, and she grinned, though with a bit of reluctance. "They are a bit anxious to see their only son married off somewhat soon before he taints the family name – "

"You, taint the family name," Andromeda repeated back with a laugh. "You are the last person who would dream of doing such a thing. And if they are worried about that little concept, perhaps they should take a closer look at your fiancée."

"You," he murmured swankly, moving closer to her and putting a hand on the small of her back, "are far too perfect to taint anything."

"And you," she replied, stepping away from him swiftly, "must be reaching a rather high level of desperation if you expect me to fall for that sort of hogwash."

He chortled demurely. "It has worked before, darling."

She tossed him a vexed look and seemed about to respond, when a tall young man swept over to them, bowing before her. "Will you dance with me, my lady?"

Andromeda's eyes dulled, but she said, "Of course, sir." She threw an apologetic look to Lucius, but he nodded to show his understanding: he knew she was obligated to dance with whoever requested it of her. And so the other man led her off to the dance floor.

Soon after he had let her go, however, Lucius sorely regretted it. Once on the dance floor, his fiancée was pushed from dance partner to dance partner; and, bound by her family obligations, she danced with each of them. Song after song went by; he remained by the wall, waiting for her return, trying not to drink too much champagne or lose sight of her. Unfortunately, after ten songs – or perhaps twelve – or maybe fifteen songs (dear Merlin, perhaps he had taken in too much champagne if his simple counting abilities were this horrid) songs – he lost track of her. It wasn't as though he didn't think her capable of handling herself, he knew she could keep up her image when she needed to – it was just that a part of him still twinged with jealousy as he watched her dance with these other men. Yes, she was his, but – well, what if she found herself liking one of these other males and wandered off with them?

Mentally cursing himself, he grabbed another small cup of champagne, downed it in one swallow, then put the glass on a nearby table and began strolling the perimeter of the room. He stayed close to the wall, his eyes scanning the spacious floor space carefully, but she was nowhere to be seen. When he was passing the doorway a voice distracted him from his search.

"Looking for someone, Mr. Malfoy?"

He started, and looked around to find his fiancée reclining leisurely in the doorways leading outside, smirking at him.

"What are you – "

"I had to get away from them all," she whispered. "They're like a pack of dogs, and just when you think you've interacted with them all another bounds up begging for attention. Come on, let's go."

"Andromeda, we can't – "

"Just to the gardens, Lucius," she pleaded in soft tones. "I need to escape the crowds."

"Appearances, Andy," he said beseechingly.

"Oh, damn the appearances, we'll be back before they know we've gone. Please, Lucius."

He had never been good at saying no to her: he relented, and followed her out into the darkened gardens. They trudged down the cobbled stone walk way for some moments, then finding a secluded bench she flounced down onto it.

"Finally, quiet," she groaned. He sat himself next to her, and she placed her head on his shoulder. "Good Merlin, I don't know why Cissy likes all that dancing, it's enough to drive anyone mad."

"Perhaps Narcissa is a better dancer than you are," he suggested slickly.

"And do you speak from experience, Lucius?" Andromeda returned, craftily as he.

"I dance with no one but you, love, and my toes bear the bruises to prove it."

She laughed, her head bobbing light on his shoulder with the movement. "Maybe we should have you take off your shoes to prove it . . ." she mused teasingly.

"What, take them off here? I am ruining my image as it is, Andromeda, surely you cannot ask more of me now."

"You and your image," she said with clear dislike.

"If it were not for my image, darling, you and I would have never become engaged in the first place," he reminded her.

"I'll give your bloody image credit for that, then, but nothing else," she said with tones of finality, wrapping her arms around him fiercely, and he gave a low chuckle as he returned the embrace.