The night was going well, with the dance floor full. As soon as Draco left Hermione alone for a few moments, Ginny practically leapt on her.
"So, what was all that about then?" she asked. "You went running off and now you're all over each other."
"I don't think we're all over each other."
"Well, he's all over you!" Ginny nudged her friend. "He can't take his eyes off you!"
Hermione gave in and told Ginny a quick version of what had happened in Hogsmeade. Ginny listened intently before leaning close.
"It was Daphne?"
"Yes - I just had this feeling that he wasn't messing me around."
"Despite the fact it's Draco Malfoy were talking about?" Ginny asked, raising one eyebrow.
"I know you won't approve but I can't help it, Ginny. I really like him."
"But Hermione he can't be trusted. I'm not saying he hasn't grown up a bit but he's still the same person underneath." Ginny shook her head. "Plus, he's far too good looking."
"How can someone be too good looking?"
"Because, looking like that, you could never trust him. He'll have women always chasing him."
"I do trust him," Hermione insisted. "You don't know him like I do."
"How so? You're getting on because of the children - I get that, but once this is over, what exactly do you have in common?"
Hermione sighed. "I thought you weren't going to judge me - that you wouldn't keep on at me."
"It's Draco Malfoy! How can I not keep on at you?"
"Everything okay, ladies?" Harry asked, sensing a disagreement.
"No." Ginny answered at the same time. "She's making a stupid mistake and I'm trying to stop her."
"Draco?" Harry asked.
"He's alright..." Harry stopped speaking as his wife glared at him.
"I'm not saying he's not alright. Even I can see that he's changed but is he right for Hermione?" Ginny asked.
Hermione looked over at Harry. "Can you tell Draco, I've just popped outside if he comes back?"
"Yeh..." Harry looked a little concerned but let Hermione pull Ginny out of her chair and out into the hall.
Hermione pushed Ginny onto the bottom step of the grand staircase and bent down beside her. Very carefully and quietly, she told Ginny the whole story of what happened at The Lodge, leaving nothing out - even the parts that made her blush with embarrassment. Ginny's eyes widened at certain parts but she didn't interrupt. When Hermione had finished, right up to tonight's events, Ginny stared at her friend for a moment.
"That's terribly sad - the part about Astoria's clothes," she said.
"I can't imagine him feeling like that..." Ginny gave a little sigh. "Maybe...just maybe, he has changed. His is certainly letting you see every side of him and help him with his children - I wouldn't have imagined that the Malfoy pride would let him do that..."
Hermione gave her friend a little smile. "I know you're only looking out for me but now do you understand?"
"Yes...I suppose I have to trust your judgement..."
Ginny got up and gave Hermione a hug. The two girls held each other for a few minutes and then Ginny stepped back. "And, let's be honest, he is rich, good looking and stylish...I guess it could be worse!" Ginny laughed and Hermione shook her head at her friend.
"You're a bad girl, Ginny Weasley."
"You wouldn't have me any other way." Ginny nodded towards the doors. "Have you spoken to Krum yet?"
Hermione shook her head. "No, not yet."
"Come on then...time to face your terrible past."
Hermione had little choice about speaking to Viktor because as they opened the large doors, he was standing right behind them.
"Hermione!" he said, getting her name almost right.
"How are you? You are looking beautiful."
Hermione smiled. "Thank you."
"Would you like to dance?" Viktor held out his hand to her and Hermione had little choice but to take it and let him lead her to the dance floor.
The dance was a fairly pleasant affair, Viktor wasn't a bad dancer and there was little opportunity to speak. Hermione glanced around for Draco - wondering what he must be thinking but she couldn't see him. At the end of the dance, Viktor went to dance again but Hermione extracted herself.
"I'm sorry - I have to go and find someone," she said.
"I saw you with him - why are you with him?" Viktor asked. "He will not do you good, Hermione."
"We're just friends," Hermione said. "Thank you for the dance."
"You are welcome - I shall see you later." Viktor was unendingly polite, if a little surly. He stepped away and nodded his head to her. Hermione caught Ginny's eye immediately and her friend was pulling faces. She walked over to her.
"Have you seen Draco?" she asked.
"No - but I saw you and Viktor," Ginny pronounced his name with a foreign accent. "How was it?"
"It was okay, actually. He's nice enough..."
"Quite handsome now, if I may say so."
"Is that all you think about?"
"No - but it helps."
"You're a married women, Ginny Weasley."
"You have to stop that - how, in the same sentence, can you remind me I'm married and yet call me by my maiden name?" Ginny asked.
"Ginny Potter doesn't sound right...sorry," Hermione explained. "You'll always be a Weasley to me." She looked around the room. "Where has Draco gone?"
She scanned the room again and saw a familiar mop of blonde hair. She headed over towards him but as she got nearer she realised he was engaged in conversation with someone. Pansy.
Hermione stopped walking and debated if she should go over or not. She then heard a snippet of conversation.
"I'm not interested." Draco's voice came to her.
Hermione stepped closer, making sure they couldn't see her. It then occurred to her that she was listening in on one of Draco's conversations again but this was different.
"I want you to know that I forgive you." She heard Pansy say.
"Well, that's great - but it was years ago. Shouldn't we both just be getting on with our lives?"
"Exactly. That's why I want us to give it another go. I know you've changed and won't cheat on me again..."
"I didn't cheat on you."
"I think you'll find you did - but you're right about moving on," Pansy lowered her voice. "The seven years we shared can't just be dismissed and forgotten. What we had was special and all the things we went through together..."
"Pansy - we were school children..."
"What's going on with the Mudblood?" Pansy's tone changed.
"Don't use that word."
"I know we're all supposed to be getting on now but I can't believe you agree with all this reconciliation. I mean we're purebloods for a reason..."
"Pansy! Stop it!" Draco sounded frustrated and Hermione could understand why. "I'm flattered, of course, but you and I just wouldn't work."
Pansy stepped forward and Hermione could see her. "That's a pity."
Hermione didn't like the tone of her voice and decided to interrupt.
"Hi, Pansy," she said, as if she'd just walked up.
Pansy raised one eyebrow. "Yeh, hi Granger."
Hermione ignored the use of her surname. She turned to Draco. "I think Ella wants you."
"Oh...okay..." Draco sounded a little confused.
"Ella? Your daughter?" Pansy asked. "She's in with a chance of winning I think...if her scores remain high enough..."
Hermione stared at Pansy, her tone was strange, sort of threatening. Draco's eyes had narrowed.
"Well, I think she's in with a good chance," he said.
"Scorpius is your son, right?"
"Well, I'll have to make sure I remember that tomorrow."
Draco stepped closer to her. "What are you trying to say Pansy?"
"Just that if you re-consider what we were talking about," Pansy glanced at Hermione, choosing her words carefully, not knowing that Hermione had overheard them before. " I mean, just give it a go - then maybe that will help me remember how to score your children."
"You bloody well dare do anything...I mean, anything to affect the children...and I'll kill you." Hermione could hear the fury in Draco's voice.
"Calm down! I didn't say that."
"You implied it."
"I'll score fairly, of course I will," Pansy's voice sounded innocent. She glanced again at Hermione. "But if you want to think again about what we've discussed, I'm sure it won't do your children's score any harm at all."
"I don't respond to blackmail," Draco said.
"Mmm," Pansy looked directly at Hermione now. "I think Draco would prefer it if we had this conversation in private."
Draco put his hand out to Hermione. "No, stay there, Hermione. You can talk about whatever you want in front of Hermione," he said to Pansy.
"Hermione?" Pansy questioned the use of Hermione's first name. "Times have changed, haven't they? I still think you might prefer if we continued this in private."
"We don't need to continue do we, Pansy?" Draco said. "I think you've said what you wanted to and I've answered you."
Draco turned and put his hand very lightly on Hermione's back, going to walk away but Pansy stepped around them until she was next to Hermione. She looked her up and down and then across at Draco.
"Don't tell me this isn't just to do with her being your children's professor?" she asked Draco. Her ugly nose, creased up at the thought of it. When neither Draco or Hermione answered she shook her head. "Bloody hell! I'm right, aren't I?" She leant closer to Draco. "You're holding out on me, for her?"
"Excuse me!" Hermione snapped. "She has a name and she's standing right here!"
She turned to Hermione. "Well, you've done alright for yourself, haven't you Mudblood?" Pansy sneered. "Bagged yourself a nice, handsome, rich pureblood."
"Call us all the silly names you like but you must score the children fairly," Hermione tried to keep her voice calm.
"Why? Because you're telling me to?"
"Because they've done nothing wrong and they're just children."
"My heart bleeds!" Pansy leant forward. "I'll score as I like and there's nothing you can do about it."
"Draco will report you to the judges if you don't treat all the children fairly."
Pansy pushed her still not attractive face towards Hermione. "I think you'll find that Draco can speak for himself, Mudblood. As for reporting me, we vote anonymously."
"For Merlin's sake, Pansy!" Draco said."Why can't you just take no for an answer? Aren't we all grown-up's now?"
"Try telling your girlfriend that! She's the one threatening me!"
"She's not threatening you..." Draco began.
"Yes I am!" Hermione interrupted him and he rolled his eyes.
Pansy lowered her voice again, her whisper menacing. "Well, you may want to think twice before you do that, Granger because I could ruin your boyfriend." Pansy stepped back triumphantly having seen the surprised look on Hermione's face. She smiled at Draco. "So, I can discuss anything in front of Hermione, can I?" she said, her words laced with meaning. "Anything?"
Draco was staring at Pansy and Hermione glanced at him. For the first time during this argument, Draco looked uncomfortable. He blinked rapidly and then seemed to straighten his shoulders.
"Just leave us alone and we'll leave you alone," he said, but not before Hermione had noticed his hesitation.
"I can't do that," Pansy said. "I've waited for this chance, Draco...I know I can make it work between us again." She glanced over at Hermione, no longer bothering to hide her request to Draco. "Especially now I've seen who the competition is!"
Hermione was fed up now and annoyed. "Don't rise to it, Draco - let's go."
"You under her bloody thumb then, Draco?" Pansy spat out the words. "What the hell are you doing? You're father would be turning in his grave..."
Draco did as Hermione suggested and started walking away but then Pansy spoke again.
"Astoria would be turning in her grave...oh, and while we're on the subject of Astoria..."
Draco stopped walking and Hermione felt him tense. She stared at him but he was looking straight ahead.
"I don't know what you did and frankly I don't care," she said, to reassure him. It wasn't entirely true because this threat was giving Hermione an uneasy feeling but Pansy didn't need to know that.
Draco looked awkward. "Other people might not be so understanding," he muttered. Hermione felt a little sick at his words. What had he done? "Hermione, I just need a few minutes..."
Hermione gaped at him. "What do you mean? You can't seriously be considering her request?"
"No, of course not. Just give me five minutes."
Hermione glared at him. "You've got to be kidding me?!" She heard Pansy chuckle and widened her eyes at Draco, trying to convey a message without speaking. If he dared to agree to anything!
"Just a few minutes...please..." Draco didn't meet her eyes and Hermione wanted to hit him. What the hell was he doing? Nothing that Pansy knew could be bad enough to make him want to agree with anything she suggested! Not after all these years? And what did it have to do with Astoria? Astoria was dead so nothing that Pansy announced now could affect her.
This thought lead directly to another one and it was this that made Hermione bite her tongue and not continue to argue. Whatever it was that Pansy was threatening Draco with couldn't affect Astoria, but she'd mentioned her so the only conclusion that Hermione could come to, was that it would affect the children. That would be enough to make Draco react how he was.
With a supreme effort, Hermione nodded her head, slowly. "Okay." She walked off, not even glancing backwards, feeling sick to her stomach. She wasn't sure what to think and she wasn't even sure if she was angry at Draco or not. What she did know was that whatever happened now, it wasn't going to be good.
Aah - just as they were getting it all sorted...x