"Sometimes masquerades are more entertaining than reality. Sometimes they're safer. That's why we have these parties, isn't it? To be entertained? And to feel safe? When no one knows who you are, you don't have to worry about being caught." "And what would you be caught for?" "Beguiling the heir to the Malfoy fortune." A one night stand with a masked gypsy at a Halloween Masquerade leaves Draco wanting more. But what happens when the girl behind the mask is someone he never would have expected?
Warnings: Explicit language, explicit sexual situations, alcohol consumption
"Masquerade! Burning glances, turning heads."
"Masquerade", Andrew Lloyd Webber, Phantom of the Opera
The Malfoys had simply outdone themselves that evening; everyone said so as they arrived to the Masquerade and beheld the long, tall ball room in which the party took place, gasping in awe of the soaring three-story cathedral ceiling and marble floors. Candles hovered overhead and chandeliers clanked into each other every once in a while as they revolved slowly in the empty air above the guests. Cloaked tables sprawled out at the edges of the ballroom, each housing their own array of Halloween-themed treats. House elves that served food were dressed in clean, orange towels (and some even in orange scarfs, socks and jumpers; though whether they were at the receiving and of a publicity stunt or a true show of the Malfoy's restored honour was widely debated), Jack-o-Lanterns lined the edges of the dance floor, and black drapes hung over the windows that shot down the side of the west wall.
The sky was the colour of dreams that night—a rich, smoky blue that unrolled across the sky like silk cloth. Thousands of small holes seemed to have been punched into the fabric, letting the light of the stars shine through in pinpricks. The air outside was cool and crisp, with the faint whisperings of winter riding on the breeze, and the cloaks of all the witches and wizards that attended the Masquerade were clasped tight against the chill.
Some arrived on broom, others through apparation, and a few who were truly in character arrived on horseback, or in majestic drawn carriages, or perhaps in boats that were pushed like gondolas along the small river that bordered the east side of Malfoy Manor. Draco Malfoy himself, though, simply walked out of his bedroom and descended the grand staircase that strolled elegantly down to the ball room.
Though he had followed the traditions of the Masquerade, donning a mask and costume so as to be nearly unrecognisable, to not recognise the young Malfoy would have been near impossible, for his white-blond hair shone whiter than usual under the glare of the candlelight, and his posture and mannerisms gave him away easily. He descended the steps in a slow, unaffected manner that reeked of poise and power, and his grey eyes were partially hidden between the slight, lazy, and arrogant droop of his eyelids. The guests of the Masquerade (all wearing their own glittering masks and elaborate costumes), acknowledged him politely as he passed, giving him small, respectful greetings or (in a few brazen females' cases) suggestive smiles. He dismissed them all.
Sweet Salazar, how he hated this. The Masquerade was too reminiscent of the galas and balls his parents were infamous for back in what his mind had dubbed "the good days"; however, the title was a vast overstatement, but deserving, considering the most recent era of his life. Though tonight this Masquerade was organised by the Ministry (his parents had offered to host as a sign of friendship and faith since their... unfortunate discretions during the war), the expensive decorations and cutlery sent echoes of the tedious, tiring parties from his youth rebounding inside Draco's skull. He had already made up his mind to say as little as possible over the course of the night, social niceties be damned.
Instead, he surveyed the attendees and all of their costumes, some better-hidden than others. Many were dressed as muggles (dresses from the Victorian Era, suits and fedoras from 1920s America, celebrities and the like), while others dressed as famous witches and wizards of the ages, and some were even disguised as magical creatures and beasts. He spotted a Weasley (though Draco would never have been able to tell which one), face hidden beneath a sparkling half-mask with a woman on his arm that Draco suspected to be Hermione Granger, though her usually-wild curls had been tamed into a demure, attractive coif. And perhaps that was Theo Nott, dancing toward the centre of the room with an unknown witch, and dressed as a prince right out of a muggle fairytale, complete with the shining crown and sash scaling down his torso. And there was Minister himself, made obvious by the tall, domineering figure and dark-chocolate-coloured skin, speaking to a man and swathed in the white fabric of an Ancient Roman Senator.
"See anyone you recognise?"
Draco turned around, immediately becoming annoyed at not having noticed the presence behind him. But he knew the voice instantly—the pretty drawl of Astoria Greengrass, a blonde who had apparently taken a liking to Draco since speaking to him at the Ministry a few times when their paths had crossed. Perhaps he would like her, as well, in time—he admired her physical appearance and the fact that she chose to work after she left school, instead of living on her parents' fortune.
"A few, here and there," Draco answered, eyes skimming down Astoria's costume, a gleaming masterpiece of flowing fabrics and ruffles from an earlier century. He considered asking her to dance (no doubt his parents would be overjoyed to see them on the dance floor together), but at the last minute he rejected the idea. Astoria was an adequate match, not an exhilarating one. No use leading her on if their parents decided they weren't so suitable after all. Perhaps they would just give up, in time; the Malfoy heir was nearing twenty-two, his age unheard of in the realm of pure-blood bachelors and betrothed.
Astoria continued on the conversation, although Draco would have sworn she'd read his mind, or at the very least, his expression. A mild-mannered girl, Astoria was, unlike other Slytherin witches he knew (ahem, Pansy, ahem ahem), and much more agreeable because of it.
"It's sort of entertaining, the couples that think they can get away with their dates simply because the pull on a paper mask." She gestured toward the Weasley Draco had noticed earlier. "That's Ron Weasley," she said, voice lowering considerably, and Draco realised she was gossiping to him. "Some think that's Hermione Granger there on his arm, but it's not. It's Lavender Brown."
He was surprised. Brown? The flirtatious, bubbly Gryffindor from their year who had barely the amount of brains that Crabbe and Goyle had had put together?
"And Granger is coming," Astoria continued, "but alone, without any date at all. No one has seen her yet, and everyone I've talked to doesn't think she's even arrived yet."
Rumours were never Draco's greatest subject of interest, even though most Slytherins thrived on gossip, so he simply nodded politely. A somewhat intriguing tidbit of information, Astoria had shared with him, but nothing especially life-ruining. As a Slytherin, one learned to pick out the most delicious of all the lies and half-truths swimming from ear to ear, and Draco knew that this hardly passed for scandalous.
"Good evening, ladies and gentlemen!" The blond looked up to the front of the room, where his mother and father stood on the landing of the grand staircase, the Minister on his father's left side. Narcissa had spoken, her saccharine yet strong voice swooping over the ball room without any charms at all. "I would like to wish you all a magnificent All Hallows Eve, and thank you all for attending tonight's Masquerade. We hope you are enjoying the evening insofar. And now, for a little entertainment!"
The front doors, which had been shut tight for the past few hours, burst open with a dramatic bang. All heads swivelled toward the dark double doors.
A parade of revellers and minstrels poured into the ballroom, playing instruments from every time period and region of the world (Snare drums, bongos, pan flutes, clarinets, accordions, guitars, banjos, maracas, lyres, mandolins), all in brilliant, shining costumes made of the most vibrantly-coloured of fabrics. African tribal masks, Chinese monkeys and dragons, the iconic Super-hero figure-eights, and glittering Carnevale masks were all tied onto the faces of the troubadours, dancers and instrumentalists that strolled through the main doors and weaved in and out of the guests.
There was a collective gasp of surprise and delight as the procession wound about the room, musicians serenading their audience as another round of strolling players made their way into the ball room—bare-chested fire-eaters projecting great jets of flame from between their lips; acrobats whirling and twirling and flipping over the heads of guests and into the air; jugglers with a dozen knives cycling above their heads and some with torches blazing from hand to hand; animal tamers leading in tigers and hippogriffs who strode into the ballroom, free of any ropes or chains anchoring them to their masters.
And finally—a court jester and a gypsy, the jester dancing around the gypsy with a grinning mask hiding his face and the bells of his hat jingling merrily. Guests laughed as a he passed by, performing acrobatics and pulling glitter out of thin air, but jaws dropped and air jammed in throats as they caught sight of the gypsy.
While the court jester was the picture of good fun and innocence, this gypsy was all darkness and sin, golden-brown skin draped in sashes of black and red that were placed strategically to hide certain areas, yet showing more skin than was proper. Not that any of the male guests were complaining; even Draco.
Her mask (black with gold and red designs swirling near her eyes) covered her entire face, save for her eyes and pouty, blood-red lips that screamed kiss me, and curls upon curls of dark hair bounced and shivered with each hypnotising move she made.
Draco found himself captivated by the gypsy as she danced her way into the ball room, hips swaying rhythmically and feet moving with impossible agility. She wielded the tambourine in her hands like a weapon, the tiny cymbals running down the rim jangling in time with the music of the other minstrels, calling even more attention to herself. Draco could not tear his eyes from her, and what felt like liquid flame pooled in the tips of his fingers and at the pit of his stomach.
The strolling players dispersed among the crowd, still playing the most exhilarating melody Draco had ever heard, while their audience kept their eyes solely on the gypsy girl.
It took the former-Slytherin much too long to realise that she was making her way towards him, but when he did, Draco's mouth became suddenly dry, and his forehead mysteriously wet. Am I sweating? he found himself thinking. How utterly pathetic.
It felt as if he was standing in the middle of a stage, a glower of a spotlight glancing off his shoulders, as the gypsy slunk closer and closer to him. At some point in time (Draco would never remember exactly when), Astoria had disappeared from his side, leaving him alone with the gypsy and surrounded by masked guests, eyes peering through holes in each mask.
The music pitched forward in a dramatic crescendo, pressing against the walls of the ball room and climbing toward the ceiling, although Draco hardly noticed. His eyes had found the gypsy's, which were the lightest brown he had ever seen, flecked with yellow and gold and traced with kohl. He found himself bewildered as she latched onto him, pressing her body sensuously against his and running her hands up his sides and through his hair. Arousal ran like wildfire through his veins and short straight to his groin, and Draco thanked the stars for robes, or else his erection would have been painfully obvious.
She grinned roguishly, her ruby-hued lips parted to reveal dazzling white teeth, her eyes luminous through the holes of her mask, as she continued to "dance" with him, various parts of her anatomy brushing various parts of his in a decidedly erotic fashion, and Draco could do nothing but stand as frozen as an idiot, all thought vanished from his head and all blood relocated to his groin.
All too soon, though, the music was dropping, and she was walking away, dancing through the crowd that was soundlessly making way for her, and bowing low to Lucius, Narcissa, and Kingsley, who were still standing at the foot of the stairs.
"My friends and I thank you for letting us participate in such a lovely Masquerade," she said, her voice as clear as angel wings and as smooth as devils' horns. "You are quite the wonderful hosts."
"Thank you for joining us," Narcissa said graciously. "Welcome to our home. Please, stay and enjoy the night. Your friends have performed beautifully." The gypsy smiled and bowed again, turning toward the side door with the rest of the minstrels all trailing behind her. All the eyes in the room burned into her retreating figure, including Draco, who had just gathered enough of his wits to try and tamp down his erection.
There was a heavy silence as the last of the revellers—the Jester—walked through the door and shut it with a heavy thud behind him. Many seconds passed before it was finally broken, shattered as the ball room chattered and buzzed at the entertainment.
Draco turned turned around to see Marcus Flint walking toward him, a glass of wine perched rather precariously in his hand. "You goddamn lucky bastard," Marcus said, slinging an arm around Draco and nearly spilling his drink over himself. "How come you always get the birds?" he mock-complained.
"I guess it's just the Malfoy charm," Draco replied, now able to form coherent sentences. "All-natural, you know, so there's no hope for you, I'm afraid," he said, faux-apologetically.
Marcus laughed. "What do you say, Malfoy? Give an old mate a chance at a fit bird?"
Even though Draco had never even shared a word with the gypsy, and so such a reaction was inexplicable and uncalled for, a monster of jealousy growled and bared its teeth, prowling behind his ribcage.
"How about the next one, Flint," he said, attempting to keep his tone light-hearted. Apparently it worked, because Marcus winked, already so drunk that it looked like a mild seizure.
"It's a deal then, Draco," the other former-Slytherin said, clapping him on the back before stumbling away. Draco shook his head, smiling faintly. Marcus had been a bit of a drinker back in school, too. Thank Merlin he was the happy sort of drunk.
Draco turned around (for what seemed to be the umpteenth time that night), to find the source of the lovely voice that had called to him. His heart all but stopped as he saw that it was the gypsy who had found him. Gone was the revealing costume she had worth earlier, replaced by a long, flowing dress of the same black and red she had worn earlier. The back was open, exposing more of her gorgeously tanned skin while making up for the high neckline, and part of her hair was pulled back into a thick braid, with rebellious curls falling about her face. She was smiling slightly, the corner of those beautiful lips tugged upward in an almost… apologetic fashion. He found himself pleasantly surprised.
"Would it be bothersome of me to request a dance?" she said politely, in a voice so soft and sweet, a complete contradiction of her suggestive dancing and revealing outfit she had worn just a few minutes ago.
"No, of course not," Draco said, even though he had told himself earlier that he would try and avoid dancing with anyone at all costs. Bruised toes or brazen propositions were usually the results of such dances, and he'd grown weary of them. But he ignored his promise to himself, taking her by the hand and waist and leading her to the centre of the ballroom floor. From there, he guided her into a simple waltz, one that she should be able to easily follow so they could carry a conversation or simply gaze into one another's eyes…
"You must forgive me for my… earlier error," she said, breaking him from his reverie joltingly. "I was only just informed that I'd made you, our generous host, part of the show, and I regret it if it made you uncomfortable."
Draco shrugged, attempting to make himself appear more nonchalant. "No worries, miss," he told her while hoping to Salazar that his face was not as red as a he imagined it to be. Even though it wouldn't matter much, given the mask, it was only a half-mask, and he had a longer face than most. The rouge of a blush made a rather harsh, unattractive contrast against his pale complexion. "It's all show, isn't it?"
"Sometimes I'd like to believe so, yes," she answered cryptically, but Draco chose not to question her more on the subject, for she seemed like the secretive type.
"You are a wonderful dancer," he complimented. "And I think most of my guests would agree."
She laughed. "We haven't even known each other for five minutes, Mr Malfoy, and you're already flirting with me. How delightful of you."
If he hadn't been blushing before, Draco certainly was now. "Flirting? What a childish term," he replied, trying to keep his expression unaffected. "I prefer something more refined. Like beguiling, or enthralling."
She laughed again, and damn if that wasn't a beautiful sound. Like Christmas bells and birdsong.
"Oh, Merlin, he has wit, too. In books, that is a sure sign I'm going to fall desperately in love with you in the next twenty four hours. Perhaps I'll even lose my left shoe."
Draco stared at her quizzically. The last part confused him.
"A muggle reference," she explained. "I suppose it wouldn't do to use much of those around you, considering—"
"Considering I'm a bigoted pure-blood supremist?" he finished, raising an eyebrow.
"Considering you haven't had all that much exposure to muggle fairy tales," she corrected, looked more amused than annoyed, which Draco was grateful for as he mentally slapped himself for being such a prick.
"You obviously think the best of people," he said. "I admire you for that."
"You don't have to try and beguile me anymore," she told him, her voice light and teasing. "Remember, I'm already to fall in love with you in the next day or so."
"Oh, yes, right, how could I forget? Forgive me for my poor memory, miss," Draco said, laughter bubbling like champagne in his mouth.
"Honestly, Mr Malfoy," she said with an exasperated sigh. "I don't know what I'm to do with you."
"You can call me Draco," he told her. "If you'd like."
"But that wouldn't be fair," she replied. "You don't know either of my names, and now you're giving me two of yours."
"Why don't we make a trade, then?"
She shook her head. "I can't. Or else I would just take off the mask right now and do away with all of the mystery."
"So why don't you?"
"I have a secret identity," the gypsy replied, her brow jumping and her eyelids dropping momentarily to give a look of exaggerated mystery. "I've got to keep it all hushed up."
"Surely you can make an exception."
"No, no," she said. "You parents don't even know who I am. Lovely people, they are. Lovelier than I expected. And no, not just because they're pure-blooded supremists," she added with a wry smile.
Draco fought off of another blush. "I apologise for that careless comment."
"Such an apology is unnecessary, Mr Malfoy," she assured him. "I'm sure any other in my place would have thought it, though I regret the fact."
"Thank you, miss," Draco said. "You are too kind."
"No," she argued. "I'm simply logical. And I have a heart."
The blond smiled (an expression that took him by surprise), and blurted, "I think you are having much more success beguiling me than I am, you."
She laughed. "Oh, this really is turning out to be a wonderful night. It seems I have out-flirted Draco Malfoy!"
"Out-beguiled," he corrected, trying to keep smooth and sharp, and she chuckled again.
"Surely as some sort of consolation prize, a name is in order," Draco said. He wasn't quite sure where the curiosity was coming from, but his mind was begging him to find a name to match the girl with.
"Names are rather unimportant things, wouldn't you agree?" she asked. "The words and actions of a person do so much more to define them than a name."
"Well, I can't well call you the gypsy all night long, now, can I?"
"My lack of name is part of my masquerade, Mr Malfoy," she replied through a chortle. "It's just another form of disguise, and what is a good story without a disguise?"
"But we aren't living a story," he argued. "This is reality, where not everyone needs a mask."
"Sometimes masquerades are more entertaining than reality. Sometimes they are safer. That's why we have these parties, isn't it? To be entertained? And to feel safer?"
"I don't quite catch your meaning," Draco said.
"When no one knows who you are, you don't have to worry about being caught."
"And what would you be caught for?"
"Beguiling the heir to the Malfoy fortune," she replied with what Draco imagined to be quite the Slytherin Smirk.
To Be Continued
Hi guys! I'd just like to start by giving a huge thank you to everyone who read "Eyes Open", and especially all THIRTY of you lovelies who reviewed, I can't believe so many people liked it that much! I posted it on H&V, guys, and guys, I nearly had a heart attack because both Dramione13 and RZZMG dropped a review! ASDFLKJADSFLKJ;LKJ Okay, moving away from that...
Currently, I have about five different one-shots hanging around my flashdrive, a hardcore angst/war WIP that I busted out about 15k words for but haven't worked on since picking up this story, Delicate, and three other chaptered fic ideas that have yet to get past page ten. I hope to finish them all at one point or another, so *crosses fingers*
I aim to update this fic less than once a week, and maybe even finish it before Halloween. That's not a promise, though, because unfortunately my life is sorta crazy right now and I'm probably going to fail one of my language exams this week because I couldn't resist working on this story. It's going to be a little ficlet, maybe 5 or 6 chappies, and I'm halfway through number four. Thanks to anyone who leaves a review/alerts/favourites already, you are all fantastic!
Happy early Halloween!