“Here is your newest assignment.”
A stack of parchment landed onto the table with a dry slap. Sitting by her side, the one and only Draco Malfoy let out a loud whistle.
“Well, that’s a skinny dossier, isn’t it?” He quipped sarcastically.
Hermione rolled her eyes. Indeed. The pile was at least eight inches tall. “What do we know about these idiots?” she asked, eyeing the pile with distrust. Kingsley cleared his throat, spinning his chair to face them more directly across his desk.
“You’re a big reader, Hermione. Why don’t you read the file?” He said, his voice lacking any real malice.
“Yeah, do that, Granger. Get me the summary later?” Draco tried hopefully. “Never mind,” he added immediately upon receiving her responding glare.
“We’re on the lookout for three highly sought-after individuals with Death Eater ties in Buenos Aires. They’re all fairly well-connected within the Argentinian Wizarding community,” Kingsley continued. He looked at his two best agents with a shred of doubt in his dark eyes. “How’s your Spanish?”
“ Kingsley, ya sabes que lo hablo perfectamente bien.” Draco drawled off in an instant, accent beyond reproach.
Hermione reddened as Kingsley’s gaze found hers. Why couldn’t this mission be in France?
“Eh... peor que mi francés ... un poco ?” She tried, stumbling over the tricky rolling r’s that her tongue simply could not produce.
“I guess that settles your backstories,” Kingsley laughed, and Hermione lightly punched Draco’s shoulder when he made the mistake of looking a little too smug. “Draco, you’ll be the point man – orphaned and sent to school in Britain, returning home to Buenos Aires to take over the family business. Hermione...” the Minister smiled. “You’ll be his French fiancée.”
“ Oh, la la !” Draco hummed, earning another punch. “Yeow!”
“Cut it out.” Kingsley quipped, now turning his attention to the pile of parchment and leafing through it. “You’re a young, wealthy wizarding couple and are interested by the agenda you’ve heard from the Mortifagos – that's what the Death Eaters taking shelter in Argentina call themselves. I’ll get you set up with a meeting with Maria Castillo del Prado – our intel tells us she may be the one financing some of our Death Eater friends in one of her mansions.”
“ One of her mansions?” Hermione quipped, looking over the massive file.
Kingsley stopped short upon looking at one of the leaves of parchment. His eyes narrowed and his lips pressed together into a thin line. Hermione and Draco shared a look – it didn’t look good. They waited, impatiently, for several moments until the Minister spoke again.
“How’s your tango?”
“This is nuts. Nuts!” Hermione moaned as they walked through the cobbled paths of a little-known village in Wiltshire.
“ En español , por favor.” Draco intoned smugly. “You might as well practice, since we’ve got a whole two months before the drop.”
Hermione’s eyes narrowed as she shot him a glare. “You’re a real comemierda .”
He simply laughed. “I regret teaching you the naughty stuff. That’s the only thing you remember.”
“Hey, I took French in school!”
“ Et malgré tout, vous le parlez comme un crapaud .” He quipped.
“Shut it, Malfoy! Stop trying to distract me from the real problem here.” Hermione seethed, annoyed by how effortlessly those foreign tones rolled so easily off his tongue.
“What seems to be the problem?” Draco asked as they walked, hands deep into his pockets and shoulders fully relaxed, not a hint of the tension Hermione felt consume her very soul. “How often does this happen? We basically have a wee little holiday before the mission starts. Take the win, Granger.”
“A holiday?” She barked. “Maybe to you. I have to spend every minute learning tango. I don’t see the need!”
“Then you’re dumber than you look,” Draco tutted in that way of his, the one that was full of bite but no real ill-will. Hermione called it ‘tactless honesty.’ It was a thing she had to get used to, working with Draco. “We’re going to be mingling with Argentinian Wizards, and their little soirées are the place where business happens. Business and tango.”
Hermione groaned audibly. “Fine. But why do I have to learn from your mother?”
He smirked smugly, and she wanted to whack him upside the head.
“How did you think I got so good?”
“Then why don’t you teach me?”
Draco quirked an eyebrow playfully. “We’d kill each other. We’re already going undercover together. Take the win, Granger.
Hermione had thought it strange when Draco told her his mother had basically retired to a small cottage around Wiltshire. She thought it even stranger when she found out that ‘retirement’ for Narcissa Malfoy basically meant being a dance instructor to the Wizarding elite.
Of course, as soon as they arrived Hermione realized that she and the Malfoys had wildly different definitions of the word ‘cottage’. It was more like a summer mansion than anything else, but Draco seemed to think it counted as ‘cosy’ and ‘homey’, which made her snort.
The imposing doors immediately swung open upon their approach. Almost as soon as they hit the foyer, Hermione could hear music coming from within – violins, maybe accordions, and something else? She had never had the greatest musical ear, but it was a rapid-paced melody that was admittedly infectious, with tentative rises and falls that made it all the more intriguing.
“Mother, your newest student is here!” Draco bellowed, leading Hermione inside without waiting for a response. The music grew louder as they turned a corridor, finally arriving at a large ballroom on the ground floor, illuminated by a window that covered almost the entirety of the far-side wall.
The massive, beautiful room and the captivating sounds coming from the enchanted gramophone didn’t quite capture Hermione’s attention – her eyes were glued to the couple twirling across the dancefloor, spinning and turning in a flurry of complex moves.
Narcissa’s blonde hair, held up in a high ponytail, whipped with her sure, dexterous moves as her dance partner, a young-looking wizard with a head of brown curls, mirrored and complemented her movement with practiced ease. The older witch wore a simple, navy blue dress that flared only slightly at the knees, and despite wearing heels, her steps barely made a sound. Hermione was fixated on the dance, in how they pushed each other apart only to pull back into a loose embrace and then immediately turn sharply and fluidly away once more.
The song ended, and with a last twirl, the young wizard dipped Narcissa – tendrils of her ponytail grazed the floor at this new angle. She saw Hermione and Draco, looking childishly happy as she peered at the new visitors upside down.
“Draco, darling, you’re early.” She said, regaining her posture and distancing herself from the wizard. “Very well-done, Pierre – do watch your feet on the uneven walk – I'd rather not trip over you.”
“Thank you, Madam Malfoy.” The wizard said with a respectful nod as he swiftly made his exit.
Narcissa made her way to Draco, pulling him into a motherly embrace. “Look at you, darling! What on earth are you wearing?” she said, tutting at his dark wash denim and trainers. “Barely a year away from home and you’re already dressing like some sort of delinquent.”
Hermione tried hard not to let out a bark of laughter. Who knew the latest in Kenneth Cole’s casual collection was delinquent-wear.
“And Miss Granger, how delightful to see you again.” Narcissa continued with a wide smile, and Hermione could detect that tone of over-the-top politeness. She was used to it.
“Madam Malfoy. Always a pleasure.” She replied in kind.
“What can I do for you two?’' Narcissa asked, tactfully directing her gaze back to her son.
“We’ve got a mission coming up in a little while, in Buenos Aires,” Draco began to explain. “And two-left-feet Granger here needs to learn how the tango – the vertical kind, I’m assuming she’s got the horizontal covered.”
Hermione wanted to punch him again, but luckily Narcissa gave him a little whack on the shoulder. “Draco! I taught you better than this,” she hissed, brows furrowed in slight annoyance. When Draco looked unrepentant, she turned to Hermione. “How long do you have before your mission, Miss Granger.”
“I see. And what, may I ask is your previous dance experience?”
“I can cha cha real smooth.” Hermione joked, only to be met with two nearly identical deadpan expressions. “ Y’know what,” she backtracked, feeling her cheeks redden. “Let’s say zero. Zero dance experience. Zero.”
Draco and Narcissa exchanged a confused glance, and Draco shot Hermione a funny look. He turned back to his mother, brows raised in befuddlement .
“Good luck, Mum.”
“For today, I would just like to see what we’re working with. Your sense of rhythm, your dexterity, your footwork.”
Hermione grumbled as Narcissa clicked away towards the gramophone. The blonde wore a deep green dress today, also slightly flared, with simple ¾ sleeves and a modest neckline. Hermione, for her part, had rolled out of bed with a great unwillingness to make a fool out of herself, and the best she could do in that early morning petulance was find a pair of leggings and a ratty old t-shirt in the back of her closet.
Narcissa had eyed the get up – particularly her well-worn trainers – with immeasurable disdain, but said nothing of it.
Soon the soft, beginning lilts of a tango filled the room. It was much slower than the one she had heard when Narcissa danced with Pierre; the soft melody of an accordion gently lifting into an arhythmical crescendo.
“That’s a pretty sound.” Hermione commented, because it was the truth – it was intriguing, and not quite like anything she had heard before.
“Bandoneon,” Narcissa supplied helpfully. “A type of concertina, essential for the traditional sounds of tango.”
The volume increased, and Narcissa approached, her expression shifting to concentration as she eyed Hermione appraisingly.
“The invitation to a dance, in tango, is done by a discreet head nod,” she spoke softly as she demonstrated. “The tango is danced in tandas , or sets of songs – usually three or four. Should you accept an invitation, you ought to finish the tanda . Breaking the set is incredibly impolite – I would rather not risk it, especially in the upper circles of Wizarding Buenos Aires. They take dancing etiquette quite seriously.”
Hermione huffed, trying to commit all that information to memory. “And are you familiar with the upper circles of Wizarding Buenos Aires?” she asked.
“I’m familiar with upper Wizarding circles nearly everywhere” Narcissa said, coming closer and putting her hands on Hermione’s shoulders, her gaze narrowing in dissatisfaction. “Goodness, your posture is utterly disgraceful. Shoulders back.”
Hermione opened her mouth to retort, but Narcissa’s hand deftly pushed her chin to close it. “No talking, Miss Granger. Listen.”
Hermione clamped her mouth as Narcissa made a big show of adjusting her apparently disgraceful posture. The blonde pushed her shoulders back, straightening her spine in one swift move – Hermione could swear she heard something crack.
“That’s much better. Now, follow my lead.”
Sure, it had only been a day, but Hermione was certain she could not go on. Since she was a little girl, Hermione had known her talents lay beyond the athletic or even the graceful – she was known for her mind, not her dance moves or athleticism. It simply wasn’t part of the package called Hermione Granger – dexterity clearly hadn’t come with her brains.
She groaned remembering the missteps of the previous lessons with Narcissa. It seemed that the entire lesson had been one misstep after another after another – her legs tangled at the simplest movement; Narcissa’s most elementary instructions and demonstrations got lost in Hermione’s head, and Hermione’s rhythm was... well, it seemed to be inexistent.
She walked into the ballroom with more trepidation than she could ever imagine. Did the mission’s success really hinge on her learning this blasted dance? Wasn’t pretending to be Draco’s girlfriend bad enough?
A daintily cleared throat interrupted Hermione’s pessimistic musings. Narcissa walked in, this time wearing a tight-fitting black dress with a slit revealing one of her thighs, clicking confidently through the ballroom dangling a pair of strappy heels on her fingers. Hermione blanched.
“No.” She said. “Absolutely not.”
“I refuse to teach you in those... whatever those are,” Narcissa said, pointedly turning her nose at Hermione’s ratty trainers. “It is undignified. Put these on.”
“Madam Malfoy,” Hermione pleaded. “Haven’t I stomped your feet enough as is? Do you really want to put yourself in that kind of danger?”
“Put. These. On.”
Seeing that the battle was lost before it ever truly began, Hermione snatched the heels from Narcissa’s hands, aware she sounded like a petulant child huffing in annoyance as she pulled them on. She felt rather ridiculous wearing heels with her running shorts and t-shirt .
Narcissa sniffed. “I’ll be happier once you decide not to dress like some street urchin. But for now, this will do.”
“Marvellous,” Hermione yipped sarcastically. “What now?”
“Given your deplorable performance yesterday, I suppose we ought to start with the basics. You won’t be able to dance in heels if you can’t walk in them.”
“Keep in mind, you must mirror and complement your partner’s movements,” Narcissa continued on, completely unfazed at Hermione’s indignance. She took two steps in Hermione’s direction and pulled the brunette into a sudden embrace.
“The old style of tango uses a closed embrace,” Narcissa kept on, pulling Hermione by the waist and taking one her hands. Hermione instinctively held onto the woman’s shoulder. “More contemporary styles use an open, more elastic embrace that gives more room for flair and improvisation.”
Hermione gulped, feeling the heat of Narcissa’s hand upon her waist, but held captive by that no-nonsense blue gaze. “I don’t think I’m anywhere near improvisation,” she quipped dryly.
“Evidently not,” Narcissa agreed with a smile. “For now, I want you to follow my lead.”
It had been a week of basically walking back and forth. Back and forth. Back and forth. It wasn’t even a waltz, much less a tango. Hermione would admit that at least she could follow Narcissa’s lead without stumbling or stomping the blonde’s foot, but it still seemed like rather slow progress considering their tight deadline.
“Shouldn’t we be trying something new?” Hermione asked as soon as the sounds of a lively bandoneon began to fill the ballroom.
“Absolutely,” Narcissa said in her approach. “How fast can you walk?”
“What?” Hermione raised her brows, puzzled. “What do you...”
“I think I’m getting the hang of it,” Hermione dared say after her third or so successful completion of a new step. It was nothing more than adding a side to side motion to that previous, simple back and forth, but given how uncoordinated she really was, she felt it was nothing short of a miracle.
“Indeed. What you lack in grace you at least make up for in accuracy.” Narcissa quipped.
Hermione laughed. She had grown used to Draco’s unusual brand of acerbic humour, so it wasn’t too hard to acclimate to Narcissa’s. Even if the blonde’s blunt observations occasionally embarrassed her, the overachiever in her used them as motivation to prove the Slytherin wrong, so really, she could use the quips to her advantage.
“Yay,” Hermione hummed. “Time for something new?” She tried, ever so desperate to move things along.
“Hm, perhaps. I believe we can now practice the moves with the traditional embrace.” Narcissa said pensively.
“I thought this was the traditional embrace?” Hermione pointed out, shrugging her shoulders to motion towards their current positioning as they diligently moved back and forth, side to side, and back again. Narcissa laughed.
“Oh, goodness, no, not quite. This hold is more reminiscent of a waltz’s; I thought it would be a good place for a beginner to start.”
Hermione frowned. Now it felt like her progress was not quite real. “Well, what’s the traditional embrace, then?”
“Your left hand,” Narcissa said, stopping their movement to gently take Hermione’s hand and direct it into position. “Will go past your partner’s right shoulder, around their neck and back to come and rest upon their left shoulder.”
Hermione felt her fingers gently graze the exposed skin of Narcissa’s arm and shoulders – she wore a red dress with rather thin straps – feeling the warmth that radiated from her alabaster skin.
“Your arm shall rest above their right; hold the tension – they should not feel any weight. With a straight back, I want you to lean against me at a sharper angle, that’s it.”
Inexplicably, Hermione felt her cheeks begin to flush, particularly when Narcissa took a determined hold of her hipbone so as to angle the Gryffindor’s body against her own. Their hips were nearly touching, and Hermione had to concentrate to keep her body in position.
“Your face may touch your partner’s,” Narcissa continued, and Hermione swallowed dryly as the blonde approached her face to mere centimetres from her own – Hermione could feel the heat from Narcissa’s cheeks. “At the very least, they will be very, very close.”
The whisper coming from Narcissa’s parted lips tickled Hermione’s skin, and the brunette found herself shivering involuntarily.
“Remember your steps.”
The new positioning was giving Hermione some trouble.
It wasn’t like the steps were any different than the first few that Narcissa had taught her. Sure, it was a bit more difficult to keep her footwork in mind when they were so close, but Hermione had come to the realization that it was the proximity that was – literally—tripping her up.
It was something about Narcissa’s voice – it turned silkier when they were close, as she never needed more than a whisper to direct Hermione’s movements. It was something about the warmth of her hands as they positioned Hermione and guided her through some gradually more complex movements. It was something about Narcissa’s scent, how she smelled ever so faintly of jasmine, but how it was intensified with their increased contact.
Granted, Hermione had yet to make any major mistakes like stepping on Narcissa’s foot like she had those first few days, but the proximity just made her feel like she was about to trip at all times, and it was horribly distracting.
“I believe your figure eights need some work,” Narcissa said, breaking Hermione out of her nervous line of thought.
“Uh...” Hermione began to mumble, doing her best to try and follow Narcissa’s quickening steps.
“One, two, three, four, watch your posture, that’s it, now turn and step and turn!”
Narcissa’s directions became muddled in Hermione’s brain as the blonde’s grip on her waist tightened ever so slightly. Hermione stumbled and tried to recover, but Narcissa deftly spun the both of them around before the brunette could trip. In an instant, Hermione found herself practically touching the floor as Narcissa improvised an artful dip.
“My, my. You’re distracted, Miss Granger.”
The first thing Hermione saw when she walked into the ballroom for the day’s lesson wasn’t the enchanted gramophone or Narcissa, but a dress. There, floating still in the air, a simple maroon dress with a modest, square neckline and short sleeves. A pair of shoes with a slightly taller heel than she was accustomed to waited on the floor beneath the dress.
“Ah,” came Narcissa’s voice from behind her. “There you are. Take this and go change; I won’t have you dancing in that deplorable getup any longer.”
Hermione furrowed her brows, motioning to her leggings and tank-top. “But this is comfortable! And I’m already wearing heels.”
“That is barely a heel. Go on now, your calves will need the practice.”
Hermione grumbled, taking the floating dress and shoes and marching down the corridor to the guest bathroom.
She was surprised to feel how comfortably the dress fit her, as if it had been made for her. The shoes were a bit taller than what she deemed safe, but thanks to Narcissa’s lessons, Hermione managed to walk confidently back into the ballroom just as the now familiar sounds of the bandoneon lifted to a lively tempo through the empty space.
“I better not fall.” Hermione said as Narcissa took her position. The blonde merely smirked.
“I wouldn’t worry. I’ll hold you.”
Finally, there was progress.
For the first time since her lessons with Narcissa had started, Hermione felt tangible proof that she had learned something. The small, incremental, seemingly disconnected steps Narcissa had painstakingly taught her had finally begun to click into place as parts of a larger, more complex thing, and Hermione could honestly say she was even having fun.
No longer was she simply struggling to walk back and forth or trying desperately to keep to a foreign rhythm. Now, despite the simplicity of her steps, she finally felt like she could actually dance, not merely mimic her partner’s movements like a senseless robot.
Hermione was thoroughly happy with her progress, but Narcissa was over the moon. It was as if seeing Hermione flourish in her movement gave the Slytherin permission to be a little more daring – to add a spin here, a kick there, a graceful twirl when Hermione least expected it – with the full confidence that Hermione could now, at least, keep up to a certain degree.
In truth, Hermione had taken the opportunity to be daring as well – with more spring to her step, a bounce to her movements, and the confidence to push herself. She analysed Narcissa practiced movements with eager interest to replicate them now, not simply a begrudging acceptance of her need to learn them.
How captivating it was, to watch Narcissa move. Hermione had thought it fascinating that first day when she watched the blonde dance with Pierre, but now that she could more or less keep up with Narcissa, Hermione found her absolutely enthralling. Narcissa was graceful and commanding all at once, elegant and fierce, dainty and decisive. It was a perfect mixture, a perfect harmony to the slow tempo of a wistful song or the upbeat rhythm of a buoyant melody.
“Remember your posture,” Narcissa admonished gently. Hermione immediately straightened – she had unwittingly hunched over as she concentrated on some new footwork Narcissa had just showed her. The blonde’s hand drifted over her shoulder blades, reminding her to keep a straightened back.
Hermione contained a little gasp as she felt Narcissa’s hand graze the bare skin of her back – the dress Narcissa had left out for her today left a good portion of her back exposed, and while Narcissa touching her wasn’t exactly new, the contact s was still unexpected. Unexpected, but as Hermione came to find out, not... unwelcome.
It was... intriguing, that was the word Hermione had settled on. Somewhere along the line where Hermione started having fun with this blasted dance, Narcissa’s teaching became gradually less clinical, less rigid. Even her trademark caustic jokes were tempered by general good humour, a laugh and a knowing glance or two sent Hermione’s way. It was like they were in on something together, which made lessons far more enjoyable but also... intriguing.
Intriguing like how Hermione now didn’t need to devote so much attention to memorize simple steps and turns – instead she found her focus shifting to smaller details she wasn’t so sure would help with tango at all. Details such as the graceful slant of Narcissa’s neck, or the exquisite dexterity in Narcissa’s movement, or even the elegant stretch of her lithe limbs before they danced.
Hermione sighed deeply as Narcissa repositioned her arm. She hoped this... intrigue wouldn’t become a problem.
After very short moments of deliberation, Hermione came to the conclusion that she was indeed in some kind of trouble.
Trouble of the type that left her a little breathless whenever Narcissa moved a little too close – which, given their circumstances, was all of the goddamn time.
Hermione could swear, however, that the blonde was finding more and more excuses to teach her... physically. Narcissa found or seemingly made more and more opportunities to touch her and guide her as they danced, and the Gryffindor couldn’t quite figure out if those fleeting touches had anything at all to do with learning the tango.
For instance, it was one thing –one perfectly innocent thing – for Narcissa’s arm to softly, ever so gently graze her own as she repositioned them.
It was quite another, however, for the Slytherin to practically plaster herself to Hermione’s back, bringing their bodies flush together as she held Hermione at the waist, redirecting the angle of her hips and the tempo of their swaying.
“Can you feel the rhythm, Ms. Granger?” Narcissa breathed, right at the shell of Hermione’s ear, sending an unfamiliar , pleasant shiver down the brunette’s spine.
“I... uh.” Hermione nearly hissed, acutely aware of the goose bumps erupting all over her skin. She stumbled, so afflicted she was by Narcissa’s husky tone, her touch, her soft breaths tickling her neck.
“ Oop . There, there, now.” Narcissa quipped playfully, deftly repositioning Hermione with a firm grip on the brunette’s hips, bringing their bodies together once more.
Hermione could only swallow dryly as the bandoneon started up again, in a slower tempo, and Narcissa circled her body like a lithe panther, facing her once again.
“Shall we try some dips this time, Miss Granger?”
There was another surprise waiting for Hermione once she arrived at the ballroom early that morning. It wasn’t a dress this time, as Narcissa was prone to do, but something else entirely. Or rather, someone.
“Ah, Miss Granger, you’re here. Wonderful.” Narcissa drawled from behind her, starting the gramophone with a lazy flick of her wand. “You’ve met Pierre, yes?”
“I have,” Hermione deadpanned, taking in the image of the young, well-dressed wizard that sported a head of brown curls and a billowed black shirt. He did not speak, but gave her a polite nod of acknowledgement.
Hermione couldn’t fathom what the wizard was doing there, but Narcissa was quick to clarify her unvoiced question.
“I wanted to show you what we are aiming for – Pierre will assist me. I want you to watch ver, very carefully.”
“Oh,” Hermione murmured, inexplicably feeling left out. “Alright.”
“Good.” Narcissa said, already taking her position in front of Pierre, settling into a loose embrace as the music increased in volume.
Hermione felt awkward as she stood motionless in the ballroom, sticking out like a sore thumb while the pair before her gracefully began to move in perfect, elegant unison.
She was no stranger to how Narcissa moved—they had been having lessons every single day for over a month now. But now, seeing the refined woman dance so freely and fluidly with Pierre made it very Clear that Narcissa had been holding herself back during her lessons with Hermione.
The Gryffindor stood, transfixed by the ease with which the pair moved. She could now recognize some of the simpler steps Narcissa had taught her; they were present, though buried in a flurry of complex turns and pivots, spins and dips and rapid swirls laden with dramatic flair and an artistic improvisation Hermione thought well and truly beyond her.
Hermione knew she was supposed to watch how the pair functioned together as they mirrored, mimicked and completed one another’s steps in perfect synchrony. However, she found her attention wavering as an unfamiliar, unpleasant coil wound itself tightly in her chest and abdomen. It tightened even further as her gaze tunnelled onto the firm grip of Pierre’s hand upon Narcissa’s waist, at how their faces were so intimately angled at a hair’s breadth away.
Instead of a learning opportunity, every step, every dip, every movement of Narcissa’s body became some kind of torture for Hermione.
Was this... jealousy? She tried to physically shake off the notion. That was absurd. What was there for her to be jealous about?
Nothing, she told her foolish mind, even as her jaw clenched when Pierre artfully dipped Narcissa, practically dragging her taut body in a languid, sensual semicircle across the floor.
Hermione gritted her teeth and forced herself to watch their movement more analytically. Forget about the sensuality of Narcissa’s exquisite movement as she draped her limbs over and onto her partner. Forget about the breathless instant in which she spun, almost as if she were to fall, only to be caught again. And definitely forget about that the undeniably sensuous move in which Narcissa’s leg draped over Pierre’s waist.
Hermione tried to hide her grimace.
“I would like to have you lead, this time.” Narcissa said before Hermione had even strapped her heels.
“Uh?” She blurted. The question caught her by surprise—she was still privately bemoaning the day before, where she had done preciously little besides irrationally fuming over the jealousy-inducing display Narcissa and Pierre had given her.
Narcissa rolled her eyes, hand at the waist and impatience evident.
“You, leading this time. I think a change of perspective may be beneficial.” She drawled as Hermione struggled to catch up.
“Oh. Okay. Am... Am I ready to lead?” she asked, uncertain, but already feeling the rhythm of a familiar tango filling the room as Narcissa spelled the gramophone to work.
“Not even remotely,” the blonde admitted with a smile, already taking her position. “But I think if you know what the lead does, you’ll find it easier to... adjust.”
Hermione nodded, stepping up towards Narcissa, feeling her throat suddenly go dry.
“Hand at my waist,” the blonde commanded, and Hermione immediately obeyed, feeling a bit out of place in this new position. Her back involuntarily arched as Narcissa’s arm grazed a path along her own, coming to wind around her neck and resting upon her shoulders.
“And do not forget the angle of the face,” Narcissa continued in a breathless whisper, closer than she had ever been, her breath a soft caress upon her ear – too soft, too sensitive. Hermione visibly trembled, and Narcissa stepped back ever so slightly.
Hermione could feel her cheeks flushing. “Ah! Yeah, um, I’m just...” she grimaced in embarrassment. “I’m just ticklish.”
Narcissa smiled, resuming her position and once again angling her face just so. “I’ll keep that in mind,” she said, purposefully giving her husky whisper a little more force, just enough to make Hermione tremble once again.
Leading, as it turned out, was much, much harder than what Hermione had been doing this entire time. It was a valuable exercise that taught her to anticipate her partner’s steps in creating a more complex dance, but it was a tremendously difficult one.
Not because the steps themselves were more complicated, or the tempo faster – Narcissa had, in fact, chosen tangos far slower than their usual for Hermione’s benefit.
No. The problem was that now, Hermione was more exposed than ever to the full power of Narcissa’s elegant sensuality. Not being in the lead gave the blonde ample opportunity to showcase just how sensual she could be – directing Hermione in long, leisurely circles around the room, turning her back to the brunette in a theatrical, exquisite show of artistry, leading Hermione to mimic her every movement.
It was long, it was languid, and it was... intense. There was a heat between them that had been a faint ember while they danced before, but now, it was different. Hermione felt it burn her every time Narcissa turned in her embrace, every time they pulled apart only to converge in a sensuous twirl.
She felt it burn like the sun when Narcissa allowed herself to be pulled into Hermione’s chest, draping a leg over the brunette’s hip like she had done with Pierre a few days ago. The bandoneon fluttered out into silence, and still Narcissa held their position; Hermione felt her heart beating out of her chest, blood pounding in her veins with the heat pooled between them.
Narcissa’s knowing gaze was playful and defiant all at once. She smirked rather smugly, bringing her face impossibly closer to Hermione’s. Her whisper caressed the shell of the brunette’s ear, bringing another of those familiar shivers to run down her shoulders and arms.
“Now thats more like it, Miss Granger.”
Hermione was sure she would combust at any second now. It was partly because she was still leading today, partly because Narcissa wore a downright scandalous dress, a crimson one with a plunging neckline that could only stay in place by magical means – or so Hermione surmised.
It was pointless to deny it – that ‘intrigue’ was really just raw and unbridled attraction, and she was now certain Narcissa was not only fully aware of it, but was using her knowledge for evil. Evil being, of course, toying with Hermione at every chance she got. Every little step became a game of seduction, and Hermione was woefully unprepared.
Now Hermione was sure tango itself didn’t warrant as much touching – not the slow drags upon her skin or the pressing against her chest, or the firm grips upon her waist and shoulders. There was no way people could actually dance like this.
“Watch, Miss Granger,” Narcissa would often say in a sultry tone, ripping Hermione’s attention away from whatever distraction was in her way – usually the blonde’s hips with their tantalizing sway. All the Gryffindor could do was gulp and try to redirect her gaze, though Narcissa never admonished her when she was unable to do so. She knew full well what Narcissa meant to say.
Watch me, her gaze said. So Hermione did.
She had never felt so confident on a dance floor, and she had to give credit where it was due, it was all because of Narcissa. They had been alternating between leads for the past few days, and Hermione had been nearly ecstatic when she surprised Narcissa once or twice by breaking into a more complex step, adding kicks and dips and slow drags to her step for a more... artistic flair. The blonde was impressed, even if she never really said so out loud.
It had become almost natural, this routine. Before, it had been a source of dread and embarrassment – Hermione never looked forward to being clumsy and uncoordinated dancing alongside Narcissa’s unparalleled grace. Nowadays, Hermione hopped out of bed eager for another lesson, eager for their subtle and not so subtle touches that were disguised within layers of intricate choreography, glances that exchanged through several fleeting moments of heat, too intense for mere dance partners.
“Dance is not simply movement; it is a story” Narcissa spoke softly over a gentle tango that lulled their languid, slow movements. The ballroom was dark – the sky outside was overcast, and the rain created yet another layer of sound to the gentle bandoneon. “A pursuit – perhaps a conquest.”
Hermione listened, twirling Narcissa in her arms in a now well-practiced move. The blonde flowed through and around her arms like water, a leg winding itself onto Hermione’s hip.
“You want me” Narcissa whispered, impossibly close, making Hermione want to turn her face towards her. The Slytherin immediately pulled back, turning her own face away, arching her body away from Hermione’s. “You cannot have me.”
Hermione gulped, wondering if they were speaking metaphorically about the tango or... She dared not finished the thought.
“I want you,” Narcissa continued with an elaborate spin, her voice breathless with the movement and something entirely different. She rested her hands upon Hermione’s shoulders, pushing slightly, and the brunette took the hint, taking an artful step forward, as if Narcissa were pushing her away. “But I cannot have you.” Narcissa finished, holding on to Hermione’s hand just before the Gryffindor was out of reach.
Hermione pulled onto Narcissa’s arm, deftly twirling her into a new, closer embrace. It limited their steps somewhat, but she needed to see Narcissa’s devastatingly beautiful blue eyes up close.
“We’ve been alternating leads,” Hermione quipped, surprised at how husky she sounded to her own ears. “So, in our case,” she continued with a gentle spin, “who’s conquering whom?”
Narcissa’s responding smirk was smug and full of mirth. In the span of a second, she took a more forceful step, forcing Hermione to take a half-step backward. Hermione recovered without stumbling, but not before Narcissa had inverted their positions, taking the lead and artfully dropping her close to the ground in a graceful dip.
Hermione gasped at the sudden change in position; Narcissa’s hand was warm on her back, and her smile was full of playfulness.
Narcissa leaned forward as she brought Hermione ever so slightly up. Before Hermione could react, she felt the blonde’s teeth gently grazing the skin of her neck below her earlobe. The puff of hot air as Narcissa murmured against the sensitive spot made her shiver all over again.
“I think you know, Miss Granger.”
The bandoneon this time was lively, accompanied by a flurry of violins and a flutter of piano keys that dictated a bright, animated rhythm that Hermione could finally keep up with.
It was almost furious – not like a story, but a battle, as she and Narcissa continuously alternated leads in a manner that was, admittedly, wildly unconventional and yet thoroughly invigorating in its challenge.
It was enthralling, to finally be able to match Narcissa’s dexterous steps, her convoluted twirls and graceful spins. When Narcissa pulled one way, Hermione was able to pull the other, when Hermione pushed, Narcissa pushed her right back.
Their steps had become frantic and wild; they would have been almost violent were it not for the grace and artistry required to pull them off.
Hermione was panting, but she was glad to see Narcissa was not unaffected. The blonde’s cheeks were tinted red, and her eyes were bright with something Hermione saw mirrored in her own gaze. The music lulled them back and forth like the moon to their tides, it swayed them and spun them in a whirlwind of touches that Hermione wished would never end.
She didn’t think about the mission tomorrow. She didn’t think about Draco or the Death Eaters, or her job at all. All she could focus on was the feel of Narcissa in her arms, or being in Narcissa’s arms, such was their frenzied fight for dominance in this dance. Hermione’s off-white dress billowed to give way to Narcissa’s black skirts as their clothes fluttered and ruffled with a movement punctuated by the delicate sounds of their heels in their decisive taps onto the floor.
Narcissa spun, just out of reach, and Hermione brought her twirling back; she pushed forward while Narcissa pulled backwards, in a mocking, futile escape, only to come kicking and spinning right back, delicately and decisively dragging Hermione back.
Hermione was aware the song was coming to a close, and with it all of her time with Narcissa. It was unfathomable – the prospect of waking up and not going to Narcissa’s grand ballroom filled her with dread and sadness.
The brunette let go of the lead, allowing Narcissa to set the pace, following in perfect synchrony only to suddenly surprise Narcissa by using the blonde’s signature move.
There was a hiss and a gasp when Hermione wound her leg around Narcissa’s hip. Victorious, the Gryffindor used her leg to pull the Slytherin closer still, taking in Narcissa’s surprised expression; her dilated pupils, her flushed cheeks and shining eyes.
As the last notes of the bandoneon filled the room, Hermione felt Narcissa let her guard down. Taking advantage of the last notes that prolonged the sad ending of a song, Hermione suddenly inverted their positions, looping her arm around Narcissa’s waist.
There was another gasp, and Narcissa’s eyes widened in surprise as Hermione took charge, dipping her so low her golden hair skimmed the floor. The sounds of their mingled breaths accompanied the dying sounds of the tango until the bandoneon died, leaving only ragged breaths to echo in the empty ballroom.