"I think a part of me was always waiting for you"
Tuesday, August 10th, 1999
*I hope this letter finds you well. I still haven't received a response from you or Father. I am worried. Please reply soon.*
Tuesday, August 24th, 1999
*Please respond. I know you and Father were angry with me, I do hope you understand. I just need to know you're safe.*
Tuesday, September 24th, 1999
*I don't know what to do without you. I am lost. Please come back. I don't even know where you are, but I hope this letter finds you. I miss you. You have always been there for me. I know I disappointed you, I hope you can forgive me. It's killing me to go on without you here.*
Tuesday, December 14th, 1999
*Im starting to lose my mind. Please come home. I have never felt this lonely. Are you even reading my letters? I'm so lost. I know I screwed up, but you have to know I wasn't happy. I attempted to go to the lighting ceremony, I know how much you loved it. I foolishly thought maybe I would see you. Mother, please, I beg of you, please come home.*
Tuesday, January 4th, 2000
*Happy New Years, Mother. I hope you are well.*
Tuesday, March 7th, 2000
*I don't know why I continue to torture myself so, week after week. You never write me, I can only assume you don't read any of my letters. I never knew you to be heartless, but you are slowly killing me.*
Tuesday, June 20th, 2000
*I am done begging. To save my sanity I am just going to tell you about my days. It's the only way I can survive. You have left me completely alone, I have no one.*
*I've begun working for the Ministry for Magic. Specifically in the Improper Use of Magic Office. I feel it is the best place for me, given my knowledge of Dark Magic and objects. I have also moved out of the Manor, I can not stand to be there any longer. Your memory plagues me and I am not strong enough to fight it anymore.*
Tuesday, August 8th, 2000
*This past week I was asked to consult on an auror mission concerning an old spell book they deemed to be suspicious. I was very nervous. I was assigned to work with Harry Potter. My smug confidence I used to have in my youth felt so wrong, given my current metal state of late. I felt the need to impress him with how much I have changed. Even though I can barely get through the days, it is important to me to show that I am an honorable man. I will not disappoint anyone else, I promise. I just want to make someone proud., .*
*It has been one full year since I have seen you last. I still miss you. I love you. I please ask that you come home,Mother. I need you.*
Tuesday, December 26th, 2000
*I hope your Christmas was well.*
Tuesday, February 13th, 2001
*I have started writing your letters at the Leaky Cauldron. She works at the Ministry as well. I did not know that previously, I should have known better. I have become friends with Potter. I'm not sure if you or Father would approve, but since you are not here, how much worse of a Son could I possibly be, I figured. She has drinks with the bartender, Hannah, every Tuesday. I find that odd since that is the day that I dedicate to you. I miss you. Looking at her makes me feel better and worse at the same time. Potter let it slip she comes every Tuesday like clockwork. I believe he knows of my affections, but has never said anything about it. I have no hope that anything will ever occur, I don't even know what hope is anymore.. . *
Chapter 1- The Ball. Tuesday, April 30th, 2002
Draco sat where he has always sat during his lunch break; in the Ministry cafeteria, fourth booth, second row. He liked even numbers he thought, there was always something so right about an even number.
"Potter. What, no Weasel?" He smirked as he said his old nickname for his childhood rival. They had long since buried that hatchet, trading it in for easy banter.
"Working through lunch. Can you believe it?" Harry said as he took a seat.
"No, I can't actually." And he couldn't. Weasel's obsession with food was ridiculous.
"So, going to the Charity Ball Saturday?"
For a moment Harry thought Draco looked nervous, but it was quickly replaced by that mask he always seemed to have up.
"I haven't been to one to date, why go to this one?"
"Oh I don't know, socialization, good times, a bit of drinking never hurt anyone! C'mon, everyone's going. You might actually enjoy yourself for once in your miserable life. Said only with affection of course."
"Of course." Draco sneered. " I don't know, I'm not really friends with everyone."
You worry too much. I know you received an invitation, I'm putting you on the guest list! No!" He said as Draco started to protest. "See you there... maybe you could wear a red tie?"
"... I'm sorry. What?"
" A tie. A piece of male clothing worn for fashion. Surely you weren't planning on wearing Slytherin green were you?!"
As opposed to Gryffindor red?! Laughable."
"Whatever Malfoy, see you Saturday." And as quickly as he came, Harry was gone.
Gryffindor red. *Please.* The Charity Ball. Draco never considered going. It wouldn't hurt he supposed. Not like he had anything better to do with his time. Guess he now had plans for Saturday.
He felt ridiculous. His nerves were definitely getting the better of him as he dressed for the evenings events. He couldn't help but admit he was a bit excited to actually have plans for once, even if it was just the Annual Ministry Charity Ball. He'd even went out and bought a red tie, if for no other reason than to aggravate Harry, Draco looked so much better in it. And he must admit it looked every nice with his choice of attire. He'd chosen all black, his suit made of cashmere. He loved the feel of it. Looking good only added to confidence, which he found he was in lack of these days. Where did that cocky twelve year old go? As he slid on his dress shirt, he caught sight of the Mark of this left arm. His Dark Mark was now slightly faded, and scarred from his desperate attempts to remove it; all fruitless efforts of course. Not wanting to look at it any longer, he quickly dressed and adorned his red tie. Here goes nothing he thought. He grabbed a handful of floo powder and headed to the Ministry.
Once he stepped out of the floo, he brushed himself free of any soot and headed to the atrium where the party was being held. He took a moment to look around, impressed with what they had accomplished. Cascading gold fabrics had been draped overhead, making the place look small, yet grand at the same time. Tables had been set up all around the perimeter with a dance floor in the middle. A bar was also along the far side, which made him smile in relief. He could use a little something to take the edge off. He walked over and ordered a firewhiskey. While he was waiting for his drink he turned to watch over the crowds of people, searching for anyone he knew. Well, anyone he knew that would tolerate speaking to him. Ever since the war ended, Draco had been trying to rebuild himself and his family name as trustworthy and honorable. Still, prejudice went both ways. He spotted Harry and casually walked over, as to not look desperate.
"Malfoy you made it! And what is that you're wearing?!"
"A tie, do I need to elaborate? Honestly I thought you were smarter than this? You're supposed to be The Chosen One after all."
"Gryffindor red no less!" Said Ginny, who had her arm around Harry. "I must say you wear it well."
"Of course I do."
"Ahh, there's the Malfoy I know." She said with a smile as she allowed him her cheek for a quick kiss.
"Oi there Mates!" Ron said as he walked up with Lavender on his arm. "Well I'll be damned." He said as he looked to Draco. "Red." He said with, what was that? Shock?
" Weasel. Mrs. Weasel" Draco said as he pecked Lavenders cheek.
" Honestly Malfoy, I'm surprised. Never thought I'd see the day."
"Yea, yea, thank Potter over here." Ron then handed Harry ten galleons. Draco let his confusion show on his face.
Harry smirked, but didn't say anything more to elaborate.
"Harry, which ones our table? I'm starved!"
"You're always starved Ron." Said Lavender with obvious affection.
The group made their way over to a table near the front of the room. Each table was set for eight. Draco wondered who the rest of the guests were going to be.
Draco mostly just listened to the foursome chatter about random things, offering a nod or smile when necessary. He was truly enjoying himself, he wasn't miserable or anything, just during moments like these he always felt like the outsider. He was lost in thought, and had barely noticed Neville walk up with Hannah Abbott and take their seats.
"Malfoy!" Neville said with... shock? That seemed to be the reaction of the evening. " Red! I never would've thought-"
"Yes, yes. Gryffindor red." Draco cut him off as he rolled his eyes. "Honestly it's just a bloody tie." As Draco said this Neville handed over Harry ten galleons.
"Seriously, Potter! This was a bet?! How many more people are making you money off me tonight?!"
Harry didn't bother to acknowledge Draco's outburst and continued to make small talk as if nothing were out of the ordinary.
That made seven. Still one seat... oh no. Her. Of course it's going to be her, how stupid can you be? He thought to himself. And the only available seat was next to him. He wondered just how rude it would be to ask to switch seats with someone, anyone at the table. Just as he was mentally cursing his stupidity he heard Ginny gasp.
"Well look who finally showed up." Harry said.
Draco was afraid to turn. However, out of sheer weakness he finally did, and oh my word did it make his chest hurt. His breath felt like it had been taken away instantly as he watched Hermione Granger walk towards them. She wore a stunning floor length red dress of chiffon that flowed effortlessly as she walked. One shoulder was strapless, while the other had a wide strap that made the dress hug all the right places. The dress had a high waisted cut, and also had a wide black lace overlay that surrounded her stomach just under her breasts, almost as a makeshift belt, making her waist look petite and her legs look endless; and he was sure it also made her ass look divine. He also noticed she was wearing black peep toe heels. She was simply exquisite. She walked right up to the only empty seat at their table and gave a smile that made him melt.
"Sorry I'm a little late!" She said breathless. "I was working until the last minute trying to get-"
"Hey! No work discussions tonight!" Ron butt in. "All that can start up on Monday, for now let's just enjoy the evening."
"Yes, of course. You're right." She said, with almost a forced smile. Draco wondered what that was about. Hermione turned her attention to him.
"Malfoy, what a surprise. I don't usually see you at these functions. Love your tie." She said with laughter.
"Yes, yes. Does that mean you owe Potter ten galleons too?" He said getting slightly annoyed with everyone's reactions to his bloody tie.
"What? No. Harry!" She said with playfulness.
The table burst into giggles, and conversations resumed to a comfortable banter. After a few moments Hermione asked if anyone had put in any bids for the auction, and if any items caught their eye.
"Auction?" Draco said to mostly himself.
"Yes. Auction. What did you think the purpose of a Charity Ball was?" Hermione answered him with a little giggle.
" I don't know, I just assumed the earnings from the ticket was enough?" Draco looked confused as she continued to giggle.
"Come on, I'll give you the grand tour."
Oh no, he thought. Alone. With Hermione Granger. He could do this. He put on the mask of confidence and slight boredom that he wore so well. He grabbed two flutes of champagne off a near by floating tray as they made their way to the other side of the room, where several displays stood full of items. He handed her a flute and willed himself not to down the whole thing at once.
"Thank you." She said, a smile on her face. " I really didn't mean to upset you earlier, I had no idea Harry had a bet going."
"All in good fun, I'm sure. No worries."
"And besides, we match. You did pick excellent colors." Hermione said with a smirk.
We match Draco thought. Yes we do. Like... dates. Dates usually match what their partner is wearing don't they? Then it hit him. Damn it, Potter. Draco glared in his direction, which amused Harry, and he gave Draco a little shrug with his shoulders. Uh huh, he wasn't fooling anyone.
Ginny noticed their little interaction and said to her husband "You know you're playing with fire."
"Seriously" said Hannah, "I can't believe she hasn't noticed by now. Every time he comes in to the Leaky I can tell he looks for her. He has to know her and I have drinks there every Tuesday."
"Well if he does then he's playing oblivious well." Said Lavender.
"Oh he knows." Said Harry. He's just to chicken to do anything about it. As much as he tries not to talk about her, she always ends up in our conversations at lunch."
"Weird though isn't it? Malfoy and our 'Mione?" Ron said to the group.
"So what am I to do here?" Draco said, trying to will his mind out of the nervous state it was getting into.
"It's called a silent auction." She answered. "If you find an item you want to bid on, then take a ticket in front of it and write down your name and what you would spend on that item. If your the highest bidder you win. It ends just before dinner is served, and if you won anything you make your donation at the end of the night."
"Huh. Interesting." They began to stroll around all of the items on display, casually looking at everything. He had his eye on a painting of a field of white and yellow flowers when she broke into this thoughts.
"So how come I've never seen you at one of the Ministry's functions before?"
"Oh, I'm not much for public outings I guess."
"That's a first. A Malfoy that doesn't like the spotlight?"
"Yea, well, I seem to be making a lot of firsts in my life as a Malfoy."
He looked almost sad, so she didn't prod him about how odd she thought his reply was.
"Do you like that painting?" She said, changing to subject.
Grateful, he answered " I do. I think I might place a bid."
"You should. Do you know what flowers those are?"
"No, I'm not Longbottom you know." He said with a smile.
"Oh, well their narcissus flowers."
"Oh." He looked on at the painting , almost longingly, and she wondered what was going on in his mind in that moment. He took a ticket, wrote his name and his bid and placed it in the bowl.
Sensing he was a little lost in thought she decided to break the silence. "Would you like to head back? The crowd is thinning out, so they might begin serving soon."
His head snapped up and he looked at her. "Yea, sure. Good idea."
They walked back to their table and seated themselves just in time for Minister Shaklebolt to rise up to the podium and make his speech. He thanked everyone for coming, and expressed his hope that everyone was enjoying themselves , and found all of the items donated for the auction to be satisfactory. He then announced that dinner would be starting monetarily.
A witch came over asking if anyone would like a drink order, Harry ordered a bottle of firewhiskey and butterbeers for the table. Dinner was actually quite pleasant, Draco thought to himself. He really was enjoying the evening, and he hadn't heard any whispers so far about his presence. He laughed at a few jokes, and helped himself to the bottle of firewhiskey, pouring a round for everyone. After dinner was finished, they chose their desserts from a floating tray and ate while a wizard Draco didn't know announced the winners of the auction items. To his surprise, he won the painting. Hermione clapped for him and in her excitement let out a little squeal. Draco did notice quite a few heads turning to see if *The* Draco Malfoy was really present. He let it go for now, as Hermione's laugh was infectious, and he smiled.
A while later, the orchestra in the corner started to play with charmed instruments, signaling that guests could now use the dance floor. No one from their table got up to dance immediately, so Ron went to get another round of drinks for the table. After they each had another drink, Harry asked his wife to dance, Ginny looking love struck as she accepted. Neville and Hannah paired off as well. Lavender got asked to dance by Dean Thomas, who shook hands with Ron just before leading her out onto the dance floor.
"Well 'Mione, fancy a dance?" Ron asked as he stood.
"I'd be glad to, Ronald." As she stood and put her hand in his.
Draco watched her spin around in Ron's arms with ease, and wondered why they never worked out. They obviously had love for each other, and they looked so bloody happy. He watched them dance for a few more moments, then Harry cut in. The three of them looked so happy together. Joking and smiling as Hermione started to then dance with Harry. The Golden Trio. He let himself wonder for a moment what that would've been like to have even a fraction of that love and respect in his life. He was so lost in thought that he didn't even notice Ginny and Lavender make their way back to the table and sit next to him.
"You get used to it." Ginny said to him, breaking him away from this thoughts.
"What?" He said in response.
"Them. The three of them." Lavender clarified. "They've always been like that. That close. Like brothers and sister the lot of them."
He flushed, knowing he'd been caught staring.
"Used to bother me" Ginny said, "But eventually you realize that that's just the way they are. No more, no less."
Draco didn't feel the need to respond, just turned back to glance at Hermione one more time. Ron was now dancing with Hannah. They were all close friends. Must be nice to have a close circle of friends.
Hermione returned with Harry and they sat down. Her cheeks were flushed from the dancing and the laughter, and he couldn't help but glance at her, trying to burn the moment into his memory. Everyone returned and took a break for a dance or two, when suddenly Lavender jumped up and said "Oh! It's our song! Dance with me Won-Won!"
Ron rolled his eyes, yet gave his wife a smirk as he let her lead him onto the dance floor. Ginny and Hermione both rolled their eyes with a shake of their heads.
"Seriously, no one likes that name! Why does she still call him that!" Ginny whined.
"Honestly I think because she knows it annoyed everyone." Hermione said.
Hannah giggled at that, mocking Lavender, "Oh, Won-Won!" at that table broke out in laughter, and even though Draco didn't really get the joke, I mean really it's just a nick name, but he laughed anyway.
He watched as Hermione danced with several other people, including one man who couldn't seem to keep his one hand off her arse. "Who the hell is that?!" Draco asked Ginny, a bit more forceful then he meant to.
"Ugh. McClaggen. Been after her for years. Ever since Hogwarts really. He has no shot, trust me."
Ginny watched him watch Hermione and she could see his jealously rising, so she asked him to dance, which he reluctantly said yes. He lead her to the dance floor, and began a simple sway and forth, conversation coming easier than he thought.
"You know, and tell me if I'm wrong, but I hardly ever am" Ginny said confidently. He gave her a smirk.
"I know you like her. I know you've liked her for years, and before you say it, no , Harry didn't have to tell me."
Draco didn't know what to say, so he just stayed silent.
"Maybe you should just ask her to dance, see where it takes you. The nights almost over, don't want to miss your chance." She said with a wink.
Draco hesitated. "I don't know if I can. If I dance with her, then I'll want another dance after that."
"So? Then have another dance after that. You're a Malfoy. Go get what you want."
"This, Ginny Potter, is why I like you most." He said as he kissed her cheek. He lead them back to the table and sat and waited for Hermione to come back.