A/N: FINE FINE MY DARLING FOLLOWERS, YOU SHALL HAVE ANOTHER CHAPTER! Sorry it took so long, explanation & apologies at the end, and so until then, here's chapter 9...
"Hermione, what in Merlin's name just happened?!"
"Nothing. Absolutely nothing." She replies to Harry, grabbing him roughly by the sleeve and pulling him in the direction of Grimmauld Place. The last thing Harry remembers is talking to Ginny in her bedroom at the Burrow. Ginny, who had been acting even more awkward today than usual. And then without warning, Hermione had burst into the room, slammed Harry's arm onto hers and apparated away with no explanation what so ever. She hadn't even bothered to apparate to the alley way they usually used – they'd arrived right in front of the house.
"Hermione!" Harry objects again, "You just apparated right in front of the house – the Muggles –"
"Yes, Harry, the Muggles." She says, so casually it scares Harry, as she opens the door.
"They could have seen!" Harry yells, in case she hasn't already understood the magnitude of her risk.
"We could have oblivated them. Now come inside!" She goes to shove Harry through the door, but at that moment a ginger head appears at the bottom of the road, running at full speed and yelling something angrily.
"Come back! I demand an explanation!" Yells a voice which Harry immediately recognises as George's. "RIGHT NOW!"
"George! Please! No!"
A second ginger head has appeared in pursuit of the first, a single female voice that is none other than Ginny's.
Harry glances at Hermione. She looks flustered and horrified, eyes avoiding Harry's with deathly precision. By this time, George and Ginny arrive at the boundary where 12 Grimmauld Place should stand. Confusion slowly washes over their faces.
"Where is it?" George says finally.
"I don't know." Replies his sister.
Then it hits Harry. The Vinerlope enchantment - the spell which Harry has put on the house to make sure nobody but a few select people could get in; and George and Ginny hadn't been put on that list yet.
"Harry?" Ginny calls awkwardly to the missing house.
Harry says nothing. For a long time, there is nothing but silence. Finally, George turns to his sister.
"Ginny? What's going on?" He says softly, putting a protective hand on Ginny's shoulder.
Ginny shakes her head at the floor.
"Ginny... What you and Hermione were talking about earlier..." He tries again.
"Not here." Ginny says quietly.
"Home?" George replies, casting a cautious look at 11 and 13 Grimmauld Place.
"Home." Ginny agrees. "We'll ask about that" – she motions to the missing house – "later."
"Back to the Burrow it is!" Says George with attempted cheerfulness, swinging his arm around his baby sister. As they walk away towards the apparition alley, they start to talk but Harry cannot hear what they are saying.
"Hermione?" He says eventually, turning to the worried looking girl in the open doorway.
"George knows." She blurts, blushing like a Weasley on a bad day.
"Knows what?" Says Harry, growing more worried by the second. It had been a fairly ordinary (as ordinary as it could get now) day at the Burrow. Well, except for one little detail – that evening he and Hermione were going to Draco's engagement ball. They had been sent an unexpected invitation a couple of days ago. They had accepted immediately of course, both Harry and Hermione hadn't seen the Malfoys since their last visit – they'd been very busy with the engagement (which was driving Harry quite loopy), and as much as neither of them would never admit they missed them, they very much did.
Although Narcissa Malfoy had always been very cold, and had looked positively disgusted by every little thing, that facade had worn off so quickly Harry has forgotten it was ever even there, and both Harry and Hermione – especially Hermione – have grown very fond of her. Harry secretly thinks it's because Hermione misses having a mother, as her parents were still in Australia (the wizarding world is still a mess and Hermione thinks that now was not quite the right time to deal with her parents).
And Draco – well Draco is a different question entirely. He and Hermione have managed to be civil to each other, but they seemed in no particular rush to be friends. Harry's relationship with Draco is far more complex. Since Draco's last visit, they had owled each other every day, talking about nothing in particular, nothing exciting, just run of the mill checkups on one another. Harry can't forget their moments of intimacy the last time they'd seen each other, but he also has no idea where they stand. It has been driving him half mad all day, wondering how Draco will act tonight...
"You know them" – Harry snaps back to real life as Hermione stops and flinches, a long and breathless moment as Harry flips to confusion – "George" Oh. Hermione had said them automatically before realising there was only one twin now, "George and his extendable ears. He snuck one into Ginny's room and overheard Ginny and I talking about the ball this morning and–"
"Ginny knows?!" Harry screeches. Hermione looks as if she's on the verge of tears, but Harry is furious. Now Ginny will think he's been lying to her! How long had Hermione been feeding her information behind his back?
Before he knows what he's doing, he runs out of the house, despite Hermione's little scream of Harry, no! and sprints at full speed towards the Weasleys.
"Ginny, wait!" Harry shouts. George spins around instantly, but Ginny turns on her rooted spot after coming to a stop, slowly, quietly.
"Could you? Could you do it?" She says softly, eyes gently filling up with tears, and Harry instantly knows Hermione has told her about Harry's feelings for Draco, too. "Could you spend your life with me? Could you come home every day and kiss me, could you still love me, after the years have passed in decades? Could you build a home with me, could you be happy with me, could you want me, after we've grown old and our children have had their own? Is it really me you've been looking for all these years?"
Harry doesn't even think.
"Yes!" He bursts automatically. Ginny is his girlfriend, he can't let her down, not now when she needs him most...
"Then why didn't you tell me you and Malfoy were... were..."
Ginny appears at a loss for the right word, and Harry panics.
"Friends." Ginny finishes. Relief floods through Harry. At least George doesn't know about Harry and Draco, because if he did, the rest of the Weasleys would surely find out too... Ron...
"Didn't think you'd approve." Harry breathes quickly.
"I don't." The girl bites back, "But it's better than being lied to."
Harry looks at the floor guiltily. He feels terrible. He feels like he's cheating on Ginny, even if he's done nothing about his feelings for Draco...
"If," Ginny goes on, "if you really wanted to go to Malfoy's engagement party, for whatever reason, why not just tell me?"
"I don't know." Harry says quietly.
Ginny just stares at him.
"Look, Ginny, I'm so sorry," Harry gushes, "I won't go if you don't want me to –"
"Go to your ball." She says solidly. "And have a long hard think about us. Look around at some alternatives while you're there, why don't you?"
Ginny stares at Harry intently, making sure the meaning of her words are sinking in, and George clears his throat, having grown silently confused during the conversation. Ginny sighs, nods at George, spinning on her heel as she walks away. Her brother follows her almost immediately, but not before throwing a dirty glance at Harry.
Harry just watches them walk away, until they vanish out of sight and until he hears the crack of apparition. He stands there a little longer, his mind at a loss of what to think.
Finally, he walks back to the house.
Hermione is still stood in the doorway, paralysed, the glistening trail of tears on her skin still wet enough to reflect the light. Harry just looks at her, waiting.
"He found me while you were with Ginny in her room." She says after a long moment. "He hadn't heard all of the conversation that morning; only a small part about you and I going to the ball tonight. As you can expect, he was really confused. He'd tried to make sense of it all day but finally gave up and went to talk to me while I was alone. I panicked, Harry. I just ran and got you. I couldn't think of anything to say for the first time in my life. Fred was killed by the... The people..."
"We'll be seeing tonight." Harry finishes for her, before issuing a correction: "The kind of people. Not the same. Everyone who is guilty is in Azkaban."
"Right." She says, voice so quiet the single word is nearly lost in the wind.
"Why did you tell Ginny?" Harry asks, trying to keep his voice calm.
"Because it needed to be done." Hermione replies.
"But why?" Harry presses, voice loosing it's cover of patience.
Hermione's brow snaps to an angry furrow.
"You were acting weird, and Ginny knew it! She thought you were going to break up with her anyway! All I did was tell her the truth so that when it all came out, it wouldn't be so painful or such a surprise! You're far too noble to tell her now anyway!"
"And you're not?! You know how upset she is over Fred! Why would you tell her?"
It doesn't make any sense to Harry – Hermione cares just as much for Ginny as he does, and yet she told her, even when she knew it would break her heart.
"Because she loves you!" Screams Hermione frantically, "Because she only wants the best for you! And for years, for years, she has loved you, just like Draco, she has loved you, and she would be willing to give you up if it meant you being happy. Even if it meant giving you to Draco Malfoy. And if she had found out in several months time that you had watched your happiness run off and get married to some pretty little Slytherin just because you were too afraid to hurt her feelings while she was in mourning, she would never forgive herself! Or me! Or you!"
Hermione is panting, such is the desperation in her words, and Harry feels the guilt washing over him again.
"But I –" Harry begins, unsure of what to say anyway.
"Shut up and go get dressed." She says.
Harry, with no idea of what to think, feel or do, obliges.
"Remind me, why, exactly, are Granger and Potter attending my engagement ball?" Says Draco, staring intently at his mother as she fixes the finishing touches on his robes.
"Mrs. Greengrass, my dear. She absolutely insisted!" Replies Narcissa delightfully. Draco eyes his mother suspiciously and Narcissa does her best to look innocent. The Greengrass mother had insisted... After Narcissa had dropped her the idea over a cup of afternoon tea a couple of days before. The other woman seems to be under the impression that Draco and Harry are absolutely fantastic friends, and Narcissa is not about to say anything to contradict her otherwise.
"What did father say?" Asks Draco.
"He twitched a little, but he's in no position to argue."
Draco sighs. His father cannot be in any way pleased with the idea that a mudblood and bloody Harry Potter were attending his otherwise strictly pureblood congregation, but with the Malfoy name currently in the dirt, associations with such heroes as Potter and Granger are priceless to Draco's father.
Draco sighs some more.
"And remind me why, exactly," he goes on, "Potter and Granger accepted? Surely they don't want to spend an evening locked in a room with several dozen angry –"
"Harry and Hermione are attending because we're helping them re-decorate Grimmauld Place." Interrupts Narcissa.
Draco groans audibly. He knows exactly what his mother is trying to do. She's trying to get him to spend time with Harry so that he won't marry Astoria. So that he changes his mind. So that he'll scream I just can't do it! I can't marry her! But Draco is stronger than that. It hurts more and more each time he sees Harry, but he can get through this. Once he marries Astoria, his family, and the Malfoy name, will be truly safe and secure once again. And not even Harry Potter is worth the risk of that. Not even Harry.
Besides, Draco is almost starting to like Astoria. Smart, clever and beautiful, she's a pureblood witch of talent any man would be overjoyed to have.
Especially, it seems, Harry Potter – Draco hasn't missed how he twitches uncomfortably in her presence or at her mention; the way he looks her up and down with badly disguised lust... Yes, Harry Potter would very much like to have Astoria Greengrass, and it pains him every time he's reminded that he can't.
Draco will have to talk about her more often in front of the saviour. In fact, Draco's mind is currently entertaining the idea of following Potter around all night, talking about the virtues and utter loveliness of his soon to be wife. Pain the Gryffindor a little.
Some might say this enjoyment that Malfoy receives is strange, and maybe in some senses it is, but for seven years Harry has had, has been Draco's every desire, and now the tables are finally turned. Even if Harry is continuing to mess with Draco's head (Draco has done everything in his human power to forget the kiss on the cheek Harry had given him the last time they met, without much success... or any at all if he's honest), Draco now has weapons to play with, too.
Every time Harry looks at Astoria, a dark depth is revealed in his green eyes. He wants her. Draco just knows. But the dear Astoria, an almost perfect embodiment of Slytherin aristocracy, is madly truly deeply in love with Draco.
And Draco never lets his ego forget that it look him barely took five minutes to charm her.
The Malfoy is still basking in his self-importance when Narcissa calls: come along dear, as the first guests start to arrive. He welcomes them each with beaming confidence and formality, and they beam back just as brightly – even a Dark Mark and the abandonment of the Death Eaters, a combination of which makes him a target for victims of both sides of the war, can't harm Draco's charm with these people, it seems.
And then, Draco's guest of honour arrives. He hasn't told his mother yet, although his father knows. See, his mother played dirty. She invited Harry and his bushy haired elf-lover. And so Draco was going to play dirty, too. If Harry was coming, then Draco may as well make the most of it – whatever that would entail. But that would mean Granger would have to be distracted.
"Viktor Krum," says Draco smoothly as he greets his guest.
"Draco Malfoy!" the other man replies, "congratulations on your engagement..."
The two chat brightly for a couple of minutes, but Viktor abruptly stops mid-sentence at the sight of a beautifully clad Hermione Granger, not that Draco has even so much as acknowledged her – he's too busy staring at the man from whose arm she is hanging.
The Chosen One looks straight back, and their gaze is only broken by Hermione clearing her throat in acknowledgement to Krum.
"Viktor!" she breathes, "I had no idea you'd be here!"
Viktor just about manages to nod moronically, and the two continue awkwardly looking at each other in silence. Draco risks a side glance to Harry, but the green eyes are already on him, which nearly makes his heart stop a million times all at once.
The four of them are saved from their strange limbo of staring by the arrival of Blaise and Pansy, both of whom look vaguely displeased with the entire arrangement of coming together. However, the moment their eyes set on the troupe of awkwardness in the doorway, their expressions change immediately. The aura around Pansy suddenly changes to something sly, mischievous, something very Slytherin, but Blaise looks more annoyed, and something almost angry.
"Why Potter," says Pansy with malicious delight and a few bats of her eyelids, "I had no idea you'd be here, what a pleasant surprise. Tell me, are you still seeing that Weasley girl?"
Draco immediately tightens up, but Harry is so hit by the unexpected attack that his muscles can't even react, he's just stood there like a dead jelly fish with a skeleton.
When nobody says anything, Pansy just breathes out, making an 'unintentional' noise far too sexualised for the comfort of anyone around her, and raises her eyebrows in amusement.
Draco coughs slightly, trying to act calm and collected as he draws the attention of the party to himself.
"The ball room is through that door," he says, gesturing Krum, Hermione and Harry to the obvious entrance, "I'll be right behind you."
Harry gives him a strange kind of look and Draco tears his eyes away instantly. The three of them set of, and the moment they disappear through the door, Blaise grabs Draco by the collar and drags them both into a room he knows will be empty. Pansy follows behind half-heartedly, dragging her heeled feet and shutting the door behind her.
"What is Potter doing here?!" Blaise hisses, "you know-"
"Yes, Blaise, I know!" hisses Draco back. "Do you really think he'd be here if I had a choice? This is my mother's doing!"
"Draco," Pansy moans in a bored tone as both boys ignore her, "I thought you were going to marry me."
Blaise sighs and pinches the bridge of his nose.
"For the love of Merlin, Draco," he says finally, "just keep yourself under control, okay? Public appearance is everything right now."
"My mother doesn't seem to think so!" Draco bites back. "She doesn't seem to understand how much it hurts to be around him!"
"I don't see why you had to go get yourself engaged to that skinny bitch!" Wails Pansy unhelpfully.
"Draco, keep yourself together," Blaise says firmly, "or else you're screwed."
"Our babies would have been beautiful." Pansy goes on.
Blaise and Draco carry on ignoring her.
"What's the plan then?" Blaise says, straightening himself up.
"Astoria. Very close. Practically slobber all over her. But elegantly." Draco replies.
"See I told you," Pansy says in the background, "I told you I would be bad."
Draco flinches at the memory of her asking Harry if he was still seeing Ginny, but Blaise might as well have never heard her.
"You better keep yourself on track. My mother will murder me when she finds out I came, because so much as an association with your name will damage mine..." Says Blaise, shaking his head.
"Don't be so naive, our name is not that bad."
"Really?" Blaise counters with unimpressed pursed lips.
"I'll take your name, Draco." Purrs Pansy.
"Pansy, shut up." Draco hisses, acknowledging her at last, "I know that you're bored, but would you stop taking it out on me?!"
"You don't understand," she moans, "I cannot find a single guy to seduce. Every man I decide to marry is either gay or already engaged, or extremely boring like Blaise."
"But it's true!" Bemoans Pansy, "If I married you, you wouldn't even have sex with me on the kitchen floor!"
Blaise makes a disgusted face, swiping a hand through the air in defeat and heading back towards the door.
"Keep it together, Pantsy." He says with his back to her.
"Oh mature." She says, following him, "this is exactly how a grown man should act."
All three sets of eyes in the room roll, before being composed with cold Slytherin intent once more, each set on their respective tasks of not fucking up entirely. And out they go into the night, to charm strangers and keep up the reputations of the names that they have always held with such pride.
Harry puts down what must be at least his fifth glass of champagne, eyes darting across the beautiful ballroom after the soon to be Mrs. Malfoy and her fiancé as they sweep across the floor in an extravagant dance. Harry isn't sure if he's annoyed by the gloatingly delighted look on her face or just the fact that she exists at all.
Her dress trails her beautifully, obviously tailor made and very expensive, and everyone who isn't dancing is stood aside and admiring her and Draco. They haven't torn their eyes away from each others for the entire song, and Harry is starting to despair a little. He's been watching them for the last few hours, and is pretty sure that nobody looks at someone else like that unless they have enough feelings for them to fill the Black Lake at Hogwarts.
Why was he even invited? This is torture.
Harry watches as the song ends and several people switch partners and others leave the floor. Draco and Astoria say locked together, talking gently, heads close together, looking fully intent dancing the night away in each other's arms.
"For Merlin's sake, stop torturing yourself!" Harry nearly jumps out of his skin as Hermione materialises beside him, fresh from her third dance with Krum. "Go have a dance, it's actually quite fun!"
Harry thinks for a moment. He knows exactly what Hermione means. Have a dance with her, or with some other pretty girl standing on the side, waiting to be asked. But something like that would require common sense, and that's not very much like Harry at all. He takes a leap of faith and a chance.
"May I?" he says, after slithering through the crowd and walking straight up to Draco and Astoria. Draco looks scandalised and murderous, but Harry keeps his smile happy and warm, if not slightly cheeky. Astoria giggles.
"Of course." Replies Draco coldly, slapping Astoria's hand into Harry's before storming away.
Harry raises his eyebrows at the girl before him.
"Jealous type isn't he?" he says, before spinning Astoria around as the song begins. He only receives another giggle as a reply. Harry spots Hermione across the room, staring at him with her mouth slightly open, but she's now stood next to Viktor, drink in hand, so Harry only raises his eyebrows at her, too.
The music speeds up and Harry suddenly remembers he hasn't danced since fourth year, and more over, he discovers he can't dance at all. The whole dance is basically Harry and Astoria half way hopping around each other with no rhythm, and half way through, someone finally loses it and bursts into giggles at Harry's pathetic attempt to dance. Soon, the whole hall is a hoard of laughter. Draco looks like he's having trouble holding back tears, and Pansy is actually on the floor in her hysteria, being picked up by Blaise, who appears to Harry to be attempting a look that suggests annoyance, but his lips are twitching with a smile. Astoria is laughing too, and Harry takes it all in his stride and only dances harder (more horrifically), and earning himself the status of comical hit amongst semi-Death Eaters.
As the song comes to a close, Draco swaggers back over.
"Well, I think we can all agree that Mr Potter has had one too many tonight!" he says loudly, and the crowd roars with laughter. His eyes flick to Harry's, holding the stare as he utters much more quietly: "Would you quite mind if I had my wife back now?"
Not bothering to wait for Harry's reply, he puts a gentle hand on Astoria's cheek and leans down to kiss her. Astoria's hands instantly drop from Harry's, who stands awkwardly before the passionately embracing couple with the smile wiped off his face. Realising that the people around them had noticed his sudden loss of enthusiasm, he improvises a wolf-whistle, and the congregation cheers. Draco finally pulls away from Astoria's lips, but Harry has already turned to walk away, heading towards the edges of the room and grabbing another glass of champagne from a platter floating by. Hermione catches up to him quickly, and Harry has trouble keeping his fake smile up and the sight of her unimpressed face.
"Harry!" she whispers.
"Hermione!" Harry whispers back, just as dramatically.
"What are you doing?!" she hisses.
"Competing for the affections of Draco's fiancé, obviously!" Harry laughs, "But then again, I could ask you the same thing." He replies, tilting his head in Krum's direction. Hermione blushes furiously.
"We're just friends." She says finally, holding her head high.
"Riiiight. Just friends."
Hermione casts him a deathly glare, and he takes another swig of champagne.
"How much drink have you had?" says Hermione, casting him a cautious look.
"Obviously not enough if you're still asking." He replies, finishing his glass.
"Harry!" his friend hisses as he picks up another glass from the table behind him, "you are drunk!"
Harry just shrugs. He doesn't know, and neither does he care. His eyes are fixed on Draco as he swirls around on the dance floor with Astoria, looking like the happiest man on earth. Harry clutches his glass a little harder.
"Harry, I think we should lea–"
At that precise moment, Hermione spots Viktor coming in their direction, obviously unable to leave his impromptu date alone for even a minute, and Hermione seems to entirely forget the rest of her sentence. Harry takes the opportunity of distraction to slither away.
The whole room seems to be closing in on him, a burning in his head, and he's already outside, in the cold and clear night before he realises he has no idea where he's going, and that there are tears escaping from his eyes. He wipes them away furiously – how could he be so weak? – and looks around. He's standing on the pathway of a garden, beautiful and preened, illuminated by the lights streaming from the windows of the mansion.
Malfoy Manor is rather beautiful when you haven't been dragged there as a prisoner with the entirety of your face blown up with a painful stinging hex.
Harry breathes deeply and heads for a secluded spot within a group of trees, hoping nobody will notice if he disappears for a while. The music is so loud that it is pouring out into the undergrowth – Harry can hear every note as he stands among the flora.
He absorbs the music for a while, trying his hardest not to imagine the kiss which Draco gave to Astoria, and failing miserably. Suddenly, there's a sound behind him and Harry instantly pulls out his wand. He waits, listening as the sound, like gentle footsteps, get closer and closer.
He prepares himself automatically for a duel, and as the source of the noise steps out from the bushes, Harry finds that he's nearly stunned a peacock. He lets out a long breath, turning around and nearly jumping out of his skin as he finds Hermione stood there.
"Don't you dare think about running away from me again, Harry Potter." She says, pointing a finger at him. "You have to listen to me. You can't go on torturing yourself about Draco like this! You have to do something about it, like tell him how you feel."
"You're the one parading around with Viktor like he's your boyfriend!" Harry shouts, not being able to think of any counter nor rationalize why he just can't tell Draco, and urgently needing to let his anger out.
"Ron is my boyfriend!" Says Hermione, confused and scandalised.
"Well you can't accuse me of anything – look at how you treat Ginny!" She yells, face furrowed in hurt.
"I never said I loved her!"
"And did I ever say I loved..."
She fades away, remembering that she has told Ron that she loves him. She's still for a moment, brows crumpling up for a split moment before she bursts into tears. Harry instantly throws his arms around her, something he doesn't usually do, but as its his fault that she's crying, its only appropriate.
"Hermione... I'm so sorry..." he whispers.
"No, it's me," she sobs into his shoulder, "I'm a terrible person!"
"No, you're not–"
Hermione only howls harder.
"I am! He needs me! He needs me now more than ever! And I – I..."
Harry clutches her harder, guilt rising like bile in his throat. Guilt for Hermione, for Ron, for Ginny, for all the Weasleys, the ones he's basically been lying to, deceiving, at their greatest hour of need...
"No." Says Hermione suddenly, pulling away from Harry.
"No?" Asks Harry as a reply.
"No." Repeats Hermione. "I'm not betraying Ron. I do love him. It's just Viktor..."
She sighs deeply and goes on.
"Viktor was the first person to ever like me. The first one who ever thought I was beautiful. The first one who ever wanted to kiss me, the first one who did. He's an international Quidditch star and yet... he was nervous about asking me – me! – out. He could have had anyone and yet... Well, it's just difficult to forget what that felt like."
Harry just nods, at a loss of what to say. Hermione pulls out her wand and casts a quick spell, her eyes suddenly changing from teary and smudged to clear and perfectly elegant again.
"I'm going to go back inside." She says, "And make sure Viktor understands where my loyalties lies."
"Would you like me to come with you?" Harry asks.
"No." She replies, "This is personal, and I have to sort it myself."
They look in understanding at each other for a moment and then Hermione walks away. Harry twists his wand between his fingers as he watches her dress trail behind her.
Harry nearly drops his wand. Draco's voice is both silkily and startlingly sober at the same time, like drowning in honey rather than wine.
"Malfoy." Harry says, trying to make his voice sound calm and confident. Draco walks around him and comes to a stop directly in front of Harry, far too close for comfort. His silhouette is as silky as his voice against the backlights of the Manor's large windows, rays of candlelight whispering through his hair.
"If," Draco begins slowly, "you do have the impertinence to dance with my future wife, could you first have the decency, and perhaps more over, dignity to learn how to dance first?"
"My dancing is just fine, Malfoy." He says. In truth, Harry knows his dancing had been disastrous, his waltz had been 95% trying not to step on Astoria's feet, but as if Harry was going to show his weakness to Draco of all people.
"Oh please, I've seen squids more elegant than you."
"Oh then pray teach me, great one!" says Harry, rolling his eyes and throwing his hands up as in defeat. As he brings them back down, Draco steps forward and takes one, placing it on his waist, holding Harry's other hand in his own. Both the material of Draco's robes and whatever angelic substance Draco's skin is made out of are both extraordinarily soft under Harry's palms.
"I'm going to teach you to lead." Says Draco calmly, resting his free arm on Harry's shoulder, "As I assume that most of the time you plan to dance with those of the opposite sex rather than those of the same."
To Harry's ears, it sounds more like a question than a statement, but Draco is already looking at Harry's feet, not giving Harry a chance to explore his eyes.
"Now, Potter, how is your footwork?" Draco asks, looking up again.
Harry makes a noise that is somewhere between 'ummm' and actual words, before remembering that breathing is something he had to do to live. He hadn't drawn breathe since the touch of Draco's skin on his, so gentle that it had caught Harry entirely off guard. Draco raises an eyebrow as Harry mobilizes his lungs again and – was that Harry's imagination or did Draco just pull him closer?
"One must actually move to dance, Potter." Says Draco with badly disguised amusement as Harry just stands there suddenly wondering if Draco only calls him Harry when he feels safest...
"Right." Says Harry, trying to move his feet, which seem to be glued to the floor as consequence to his proximity to Draco. The Malfoy talks Harry through the steps with a surprising amount of patience – one two three, one two three, no, no, not like that... yes, that's better... – correcting him with gentle nudges and encouraging him by speeding up the dance, and before long, Harry forgets where he is entirely and feels like he's never been so happy in his entire life.
They spin around, and Draco smiles in the same way he did when the birdy in the tree sang back to him that sunny day, the first time Harry had ever seen Draco truly smile, and he realises that Draco is giving him the rarest smile of them all. Heart racing, Harry lets himself smile back for all the life of him, praying that some moments would never end.
Harry curls up in his duvet covers even deeper, smiling in his half-consciousness, remembering. He doesn't know exactly how long he danced with Draco last night, and it doesn't matter, because the memory is playing on an infinite loop, like a broken movie that Harry never wants to fix.
After they'd finally stepped apart last night, Draco and Harry had looked at each other for a moment, eye to eye, and Harry could tell that Draco was looking for words to say: I have to go back now. Harry had just nodded to him with the same silence, having no intent of making his blonde say a single word, fingers lingering over Draco's open palm for the very last moments before he walked away. Harry hadn't the heart to go back inside and watch that same man dance with someone else, with his fiancé, his woman; instead Harry had chosen to go straight home, crawl into bed and replay everything in his mind a thousand times as he fell asleep.
Since waking up and going through the memory over and again, Harry is beginning to wonder if he can just stay in bed forever and do this. He opens his eyes a little, intent on reaching for his wand and checking the time and–
Stood over him is a very angry looking Hermione Granger, her arms folded across her chest and a rolled up news paper clutched in her hand so hard, her knuckles are white.
"How did you get in here?!" Harry half way screams, still in shock.
"Magic." She replies through gritted teeth, her gaze deathly.
"Why?!" Says Harry.
"You left me last night, you absolute bastard!" He says, thwacking him around the head with the newspaper. "I was looking everywhere for you!"
"Sorry." Mumbles Harry, rubbing the spot on his head where Hermione had hit him.
"Get up." She says, every word husky with anger.
"Look Hermione, I'm really sorry about last night, if I had known you'd be so angry I would have–"
"Trust me, there are people a lot more angry with you than me at the moment." She replies, turning her back and walking to pick up a t-shirt hanging over the edge of a chair, throwing it at Harry.
"Who?" Harry replies, eyebrows frowning. Hermione sighs deeply.
She taps her newspaper with her wand, and it flies over towards Harry, unrolling itself in front of his eyes as she leaves the room, a gentle click sounding as the door closes behind her.
Harry's mouth falls open.
On the front page is the biggest moving picture in the history of wizarding journalism: Harry Potter, arm around Draco Malfoy, waltzing around in the gardens of Malfoy Manor, his smile so big it could be seen from Pluto.
A/N: So in the past month I have moved to Hogwarts which is half way across Britain from where I live (because Hogwarts is in Scotland as we know) and have since been set criminal amounts of work by Flitwick, McGonagall and Snape which I have been working round the clock to complete. (Snape isn't actually dead, but that's spoilers for Harry Potter 8 which is obviously coming out soon.)
...So alright, I nicknamed my University 'Hogwarts' and the teacher who has ridiculously hard lectures actually looks like Santa Claus, but Santa is not technically in living existence either so... you know... good approximation... *fades into back ground awkwardly*... What I mean to say is I'm really sorry for this taking about four billion Hippogriff years (I don't know, how long are Hippogriff years?) but hopefully now that it's got going again, the chapters should come a little more often! I will try my best to update as quickly as possible, and you should all know I have no intention of ditching this story until it is done.
The real reason this update took so damn long is that I re-wrote the chapter three times before this final version, each one very different, and none of them felt right. I didn't want to give you a story that was only half way there, because that's not fair.
I know it's just fanfiction, but stories should always be written from the heart, because you need to tell them. And each time I tried to write this chapter it was always just so forced it turned out terrible.
One day I came home, sat down, logged on, and saw all your wonderful, beautiful, encouraging reviews. I genuinely think that it was because you warmed my heart so much that I needed to write the next part of this. Thank you so much for all your support, you have been indescribably lovely. It took a while to get it all into place with this chapter but I desperately hope you like it :)
I have a tumblr now, so if I take too long again you know where to come and harass me ;)
My URL is everythingisgayifyoulookclos ely. (I know you're judging me. Stop it!)
I love you all, thank you so much if you're still here! Please let me know if you liked this chapter and are still reading away! :3