Disclaimer: In its use of intellectual property and characters belonging to JK Rowling, Warner Bros, Bloomsbury Publishing, et cetera, this work of fiction is intended to be transformative commentary on the original. No profit is being made from this work.
Summary: During a ball, a boy meets a mysterious girl. Lord Malfoy certainly wasn't expecting his life to change with a simple introduction. A story in a series of short scenes. HP AU. Draco/Hermione
A/N: This is AU. As in it takes place in a universe OTHER than JK Rowling's, but uses her characters. If this isn't your cup of tea, sail on!
Chapter One: Introductions
"A pleasure to make your acquaintance, Lord Malfoy."
The elegantly dressed girl curtseyed perfectly, her delicate pink lace fan fluttering enticingly over her corset-enhanced bosom. She smiled winsomely, showing off a set of perfectly straight teeth and a pair of dimples.
The man she so diligently tried to impress smiled thinly. "Likewise, Miss Brown." He returned to his uninterested study of the lively cotillion and Lavender pouted attractively. Her mother caught her eye from across the crowded room, and insistently tilted her head towards her companion.
I know. I know, Lavender thought acidly. I'm trying mother!
"Quite the crush, don't you think? Lady Potter always throws the most spectacular parties," Lavender said, her high voice artificially cheery.
"Mmmm. I suppose." Lord Malfoy sipped his lukewarm punch, and the awkward silence resumed.
The chatter of the other members of the small circle suddenly became louder, as if noticing her failure, making Lavender more nervous. Lavender desperately groped for another topic of ladylike conversation. "The weather has been unseasonably warm for April, has it not?"
Lord Malfoy's smile soured slightly, but his reply was unfortunately interrupted by Lavender's next dance partner claiming her hand. Lavender took leave of the tall, handsome blond with a sigh of regret.Mum going to murder me later tonight…
As he watched the girl wind her way through the crowd towards the dance floor, Draco breathed a small sigh of relief.Damned parties and damned debutantes. Utterly boring! Draco leaned back against a cool marble column and turned his attention back to his circle of friends and acquaintances.
"If you didn't act so cold and distant, perhaps they would stop viewing you as their personal Everest." The amused voice of Blaise Zabini drawled. "Why don't you ask one of them to dance and put them out of their misery?"
Draco's thin lips quirked into a snide smile. "I don't possess your gift for feigned interest in every trivial conversation about fashion or the weather. If my mother wasn't so determined to marry me off, I wouldn't even bother with females at all."
Blaise arched a brow. "At all?"
Draco suppressed the urge to growl at the implication. "If you weren't my friend I would have to call you out for that."
"A good thing I am, eh? I don't fancy getting up that early for my exercise." Blaise sipped his punch, and nodded at the crowd. "You had best move along, if you don't want to be trapped in another eternity of boredom, then."
Draco shifted his gaze along Blaise's trajectory and spotted several other eager young female gazes and their even more eager mamas headed his way. Quickly, he said his farewells to his hapless mates and made his way out of the ballroom. However, the foyer was not the ideal place for privacy, and certainly not a place where Draco could relax his guard.
Fortunately, the Potter Manor house was one that Draco with which was familiar. His mother and Harry Potter's mother would often take tea together, and they would leave their young sons to play. When it became evident that Draco would rather push Harry into a stream than play nicely, and vice versa, Narcissa had stopped bringing him for elaborate play-dates. So while he didn't get along with the current Lord, he did know the handy escape routes. Quickly weaving his way past guests in various states of stupor, he made his way through the labyrinthine corridors to the back parlor. Opening the French doors, he smiled as the cool, fresh evening air hit his face.
As he walked onto the springy lawn, he felt the built-up tension eased from his shoulders, and Draco felt his annoyance with the world, his mother, and with women in general, slip from his mind.
The Potter Manor was famed for its fountains. One of the past Lords was rumored to love his wife so much, that he hired the best artists in all of Europe to portray her likeness in every artistic medium. London Society was scandalized when he hired a famed sculptor to carve statues of her in the Greco-Roman fashion for display in the gardens. The centerpiece of the display was a gigantic fountain, depicting the former Lady Potter as Aphrodite, half-naked and surrounded by sea-foam, her open arms beckoning to her lover.
The London misses thought it was quite romantic. Draco thought it was rather a waste of money.
Breathing deeply of the heavy scent of early-blooming flowers, cut grass and damp, Draco sat on the edge of the fountain. He didn't dare loosen his cravat, even though it chafed fiercely against his sweat-soaked neck. He settled for shedding his jacket and gloves, carefully placing them next to him on the clean marble. Draco dipped a hand into the cool water, longing to splash some on his heated face.
"Lovely night, isn't it?" A cool, feminine voice, clipped and precise came from the shadows, startling him with its nearness.
Draco started, the heavy cotton of his sleeve dipping into the water. Swearing under his breath, he righted himself before he could fall into the water and really be embarrassed.
The light from the great house didn't reach this part of the garden, but the moonlight was bright and the night was cloudless, lending a hazy, eerie quality to the landscape. Draco squinted, trying to make out the intruder of his peace.
The girl was of average height, and dressed in formal wear. A guest, then. In the moonlight, he couldn't quite make out her coloring- just pale, pearly skin, dark hair piled up in curls, and pitch-dark, fathomless eyes.
She looked like a goddess.
He shook himself, annoyed with his fanciful musings. She was obviously a silly girl out here without a chaperone, something that no proper girl would do. And to speak to a stranger without being properly introduced? Deplorable behavior. Yet as his mind calculated her faults, his eyes greedily drank her in, his body tense with anticipation.
Her eyes widened slightly, perhaps recognizing her faux pas. Slender white-gloved hands covered her mouth. "Oh! You're not who I… Oh! Well, Forgive me sir, for startling you. I will leave you to your privacy."Hm. A lover's tryst? Draco thought, strangely dissatisfied with the obvious conclusion.
With an efficient, yet strangely elegant curtsey, she turned to leave.
"Wait!" The word was out before conscious thought and Draco could have kicked himself as she turned back, one dark eyebrow arched in question.
No use for it now. Putting on his most charming smile, Draco said, "We haven't been properly introduced."
The girl's brow shot even higher, but his statement must have tickled her fancy as her full lips quirked into a half-smile. "I'm not sure that is entirely appropriate."
At that, Draco's smile widened genuinely. "Certainly not. But as we are quite alone, no one will ever know about our unorthodox introduction, will they?"
Her smile deepened, showing a flash of white teeth. "But sir, how can I trust your acting skills are to the task?"
Draco smirked. "I assure you, if I can pretend interest through twenty conversations about the weather, I can pretend not to know you."
The girl gasped in mock outrage. "But if we cannot talk of the weather, whatever is there left to discuss?"
"Anything else," Draco said with feeling. Enjoying the novel impropriety of the introduction, and feeling a little wicked, he took her hand. The moment his fingers brushed hers, a spark of warmth travel to his gut at the contact. Without gloves, he was able to feel the heat of her skin through the thin satin. Caressing her slim palm slightly, carefully, he suddenly wished he could feel the texture of that skin, and wondered if it was as silky as he imagined.
Bowing over her hand, he introduced himself. "Draco Malfoy, Earl of Wiltshire, at your service, Miss."
When there was no reply in return, he looked up to see his companion's complexion leached of color. "Are you well?"
Her expression closed, unfathomable marble in the cold moonlight, she nodded. "I seem to be developing a slight headache. If you will excuse me."
She pulled her fingers from his hastily, as if leaving them too long in his would burn them. Curtseying quickly, she was across the lawn and into the bright manor before Draco gathered his wits enough to protest.She never even told me her name…
Draco sat on edge of the fountain heavily, feeling strangely bereft.
A/N: Thanks to my lovely beta Ravyn for taking a look at this and making it readable. I've been absent from writing for a long time, through a combo of school, writer's block, and a broken arm. But I've been inspired lately, so let's see what I can do!