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
Chapter Two: Meeting Again
Draco didn't see her again for weeks.
It wasn't for lack of trying. He threw himself into the party circuit, stirring up gossip and the hopes of more than one ambitious mama. He scoured the crowds at the theatre, at lavish dinner parties, and at the endless balls to no avail. He was half-convinced that she was a figment of his imagination, and that even if he did find her again, she would undoubtedly be as disappointing as every other girl he had ever met.
Or so he told himself.
Currently, he was holding up a marble column in Lady Parkinson's grand ballroom, studying the dancers. He supposed that he should ask the dame's daughter for a dance. But he had known her at Hogwarts, and remembering the way she clung to his arm he thought better of it.
He scanned the crowd again, unconsciously searching out a half-remembered face, and sighed. I'm chasing a ghost, he thought, fingering his wand absently as he watched the bodies weave around each other in elegantly dignified patterns. The swirl of brightly colored skirts contrasting with the stark black of the gentleman's' dress robes absorbed Draco's attention. He briefly longed for the ability to be swept up in the romanticism of the music, to be brought to some high of emotion by a pair of fine eyes…
Abruptly, he turned his back to the dancers. Time to give up this nonsense.
He shouldered his way through the ballroom, politely nodding at acquaintances as he went, studiously ignoring the fresh, eager faces of the young debutantes as he passed.
As he exited the large room, there was a palpable drop in temperature and Draco took in a deep breath of cool, refreshing air. The finest cooling spells galleons can buy can only do so much in the face of so many elite crammed into such a small space.
Meandering towards the card room, he noticed Blaise and Goyle involved in an intense game of baccarat and his mood soured at the thought of an evening frittered away at the gaming tables. In no mood to wager his money to try and fill the emptiness inside him, he indulged himself in a short game of billiards with Theo Nott before making his way back to the ballroom for a last appearance.
Making idle chitchat with Theo went against his nature, so thankfully the man was in a chatty enough mood for the both of them. He was in no temper to entertain. After a half hour so occupied, he said his farewells to Nott and made his way back the ballroom one last time to bid his adieus to the hostess. He scanned the room out of habit for one particular face. When he realized what he doing he diverted his eyes from the crowds. She's not here. Stop being a soppy idiot.
Quickly spotting Lady Parkinson, he wound his way through the crowd towards her skillfully, eager to take his leave.
And was spotted by just about the last person he wanted to see.
Narcissa Malfoy gracefully extricated herself from a crowd of other matrons and glided her way to her son, a smile firmly in place, her eyes cool.
Draco's smile thinned.
"Darling," she said, smiling. Lady Narcissa Malfoy was a beautiful witch.
"Mother." Draco bent and pressed a dry kiss to her perfumed cheek.
"What a lovely surprise," Narcissa said mildly. "I didn't expect to see you tonight."
Most would take this at face value. Those people had not lived with a professional manipulator for twenty-five years.
Draco had. As a survival mechanism (a man could only go to so many boxed luncheons before going insane), he became an expert on his mother, and his mother's often-cryptic speech. For instance, he knew, by her raised brow and the slight puckering of her lips, that she meant to say: Your presence is surprising, which displeases me. It displeases me because you've been avoiding me for weeks, you ungrateful child.
Narcissa's bright blue eyes pinned him with a mild look. "Your father was quite shocked to see you at Lord Pucey's rout last week. We were not informed of your attendance." Your father was apocalyptically furious. I would not advise a repeat experience.
Draco sighed and put on his best chagrined expression. "My apologies, mother, I have been distracted of late. Business, you know." I've been avoiding you with all of the skills I possess. I only regret being caught.
Narcissa's brow puckered slightly. Draco knew that his mother was not fooled in the slightest. "Lady Parkinson's daughter was quite amusing yesterday at luncheon."
"How… diverting." Draco's smile took on aslight edge. I have no interest in your friends and their intolerable daughters.
"I'm hosting a small gathering tomorrow afternoon. Just a few friends and their… children…" Narcissa paused, her face a picture of innocence. You will attend or there will be consequences. Painful consequences.
Draco held onto his smile with the perfect control. I would rather be vivisected. "Of course I will attend."
Narcissa's blood red lips curled in a cat-like expression of satisfaction. She kissed his cheek in farewell and said, "I will expect you tomorrow for tea."
Draco grumbled softly, annoyed. Lady Parkinson had disappeared. I need to get out of here before legions of other relatives fall from the palm trees. Turning to leave, he glanced at the dancers one more time-
His heart stopped.
There she was, in the arms of another man.
At first, he couldn't quite believe his eyes. But there she was- the girl from the garden. The same sleek figure. The familiar profile. Her hair was barely contained in an elegant coiffure, a few springy dark curls rebelling and teasing the creamy skin of her nape, ruining the elegant impression. Her skin was just a shade too tan to be fashionable, her eyes just a little too bright, too intelligent.
She was dancing the waltz with Nott, laughing at something he said, showing too many teeth, her eyes crinkling a little. Her robes were stunning, a light periwinkle blue, modesty cut and baring less skin than was the fashion, but still very becoming. There was something about her, something… different.
Draco wove his way through the crush, stalking her movements with his gaze. He spotted Blaise loitering by an outrageously ridiculous arrangement of palm trees and faux tropical flora. The arrangement partially hid his friend while still giving him an excellent view of the dance floor. Perfect.
"Malfoy," Blaise nodded languidly. He gestured to the floor with his crystal goblet and smiled. "Not dancing, I see. How unusual."
After the pleasantries were dispensed with, Draco said, with forced casualness, "Who's the girl standing up with Nott? I can't say I've seen her before."
Blaise squinted at the dancers, and hummed a little under his breath. Spotting the girl, his brows rose, an expression of surprise quickly fluttering over his features before he schooled his face into his customary expression of blasé amusement.
Draco, eyes sharp, caught the flicker of emotion and pounced. "Ah, so you know the girl?"
Blaise nodded slowly, taking a sip of wine. "Miss Granger? Yes, we've been introduced before."
Granger? Draco's brows furrowed as searched his memory. Had he heard the name before?
"I'm surprised that she merited an invitation."
Draco sucked in his breath sharply, and held himself very still. "Really?" he drawled, drawing out the word slowly, hoping to sound uninterested.
Drawing himself further from the dance floor and the other partygoers, behind the foliage, Blaise smiled in the malicious way of the ton, when one had juicy gossip. "Quite so. She is quite the little scandal in the making, actually."
"Oh?" Draco controlled his voice to show the right mixture of boredom and curiosity, eager to learn more about the girl.
"She's a mudblood," Blaise said, his voice dripping with disdain.
Draco felt the impact of the dirty words like a punch to his gut, and his eyes slid to the slight figure in blue as if by a magnet. "What?" he hissed.
"Her father, her muggle father," Blaise spat, "Is very wealthy and travels in the highest muggle circles, with close connections to the muggle Royal family."
Draco hummed a little, lost in thought. "She is about our age. Why don't I remember her from Hogwarts?"
Blaise snorted, "Her father, once hearing of her magical heritage, disapproved. He was apparently relying on her to make a fantastic match in the muggle world, you see. The rumor is that she started to have more and more magical 'accidents' that couldn't be explained away, so he sent her to school. He packed the family away to France for seven years and sent her to Beauxbatons while the rest of the family passed their time in the French Court."
"That doesn't explain her presence here." The Parkinson's were infamous in their prejudice.
"She's a good friend of the Potters, and you know how unconventional they are. And how much influence they have."
"I suppose," Draco said, his brows drawn together in an impressive scowl.
"She's powerful, you know."
"Powerful?" Draco blinked. "That little chit?"
Blaise chuckled. "Magically powerful enough that a few French Counts offered for her to strengthen their bloodlines." He nodded towards the dancing couple, "Nott may have heard of her exploits. He's unconventional enough that it may have crossed his mind."
Blaise shrugged languidly and drained his glass. "But, in all honesty, she's more suited to be someone's mistress. A shame to waste all that power on a by-blow, but that's the way of things."
Draco nodded absently, his eyes never leaving her graceful figure. Granger… Why does that name sound so familiar?
A/N: Yes. I've been away for a long, long, long while. Working 70-80 hours a week and having an infant will do that to you. I am still alive, barely. What little free time I have, I spend with my family, usually. I haven't abandoned any of my writing projects; I am just waiting for my RL to get a little less hectic. Thanks for understanding.