“And in one fell swoop...” the young man paused for greater effect, smiling widely, grey eyes shimmering in pretend suspense, basking in the undivided attention the gathering dignitaries bestowed him, “BAM! She had him on the ground before you could say expelliarmus !”
The crowd erupted in raucous laughter—a few cameras flashed in the Ministry’s Atrium, which had been converted into a grand ballroom for the event of the year. Draco smiled at the reporters, expertly turning his head so they could capture his best angles.
Narcissa nearly scoffed into her champagne glass in mild amusement. She had perhaps taught him a little too well.
She took a discreet turn around the room, carefully avoiding the many conversation traps scattered about. The Malfoy dame was in no mood for small-talk. Her presence at this event was merely a favour to her son, who was being honoured tonight, along with his partner, for an incredibly successful mission in Argentina.
Yes, the capture and arrest of an international Death Eater ring was big news indeed all over the Wizarding World. Draco Malfoy and Hermione Granger were the talk of the town—and of all the tabloids.
Far be it from Narcissa to read such drivel—she was just happy to have them both back in Britain, safe and sound, where they belonged. But she could not help it when that harpy Francesca Zabini cornered her at Madame Malkins’, whispering conspiratorially .
“Do tell us, Cissy,” she had said, eyes wide as saucers behind her huge, gaudy golden-framed and bejeweled spectacles, “is it true that Hermione Granger and Draco are an item?”
Narcissa grimaced at the memory of her spluttering, immediate and rather inelegant response in the negative. What nonsense. But truly, she had no answer—she had rushed home to subtly interrogate Draco on the matter.
By the time she made it back home, she had calmed down considerably. Why had she worried at all? Francesca was nothing more than a gossip—an ill-informed, daft gossip. There could be no truth to that absurd, fanciful rumour.
Still, a voice in the back of her mind would not relent. She had to approach this carefully, lest she blow it out of proportion.
She asked Draco a rather innocent question about how he and Hermione had gotten along during their mission. Perfectly innocent, at an acceptable level of curiosity. Nothing alarming.
Narcissa had not been prepared to hear her son sing Hermione’s praises for the better part of an hour, or to nearly wax lyrical about the brunette’s abilities and skills. She had also been utterly unprepared to be struck dumb by his ominous question a few days later at the dinner table.
“Mother,” he had said pensively, in between servings of a magnificently cooked pheasant, “What do you think of Hermione Granger?”
His tone had given her pause. She knew this was no trivial inquiry.
“In what way, Draco dearest?”
Her son had shrugged—a bad sign, then stumbled over his words—a terrible, terrible sign.
“As... as a witch. A companion. A... partner, if you will.”
It brought Narcissa no small amount of shame, but what was she to do beside voice a quiet, adamant disapproval of the stunningly beautiful Ms. Granger? What was she to do besides say she did not quite like the girl at all, what with her stubbornness and generally strong temperament and her unwavering desire to please? What about her unnerving Gryffindor airs of superiority, or her daft impetuousness they liked to call bravery?
She could see how her words dismayed Draco, but again... what was she to do? She did not want Draco to have the stubborn Ms. Granger because Narcissa wanted the vexatious brunette all to herself.
Shameful, yes, but Narcissa was only human, and only a Slytherin out to protect her interests. She was merely a woman with a deep, inexplicable desire for a witch her son’s age.
Her strategy had backfired rather spectacularly. In face of her vocal disapproval, Draco became tight-lipped wherever Ms. Granger was concerned. And yet, he continued to see her socially—much to the delight of all the wizarding tabloids and to his mother’s eternal misery.
There was nothing to be done. In her despair, Narcissa had sabotaged herself. Not that she o ught to have held much hope for Ms. Granger to return her interest; ever since their return to Britain, the young witch had made no effort to speak to her again. Even a cordial invitation to tea had been met with a polite refusal—a refusal nonetheless, and Narcissa did not like to admit just how much it stung.
She became determined to come to peace with it, to be the foolish old woman pining—Merlin, how she loathed the word—over a much younger witch. It was painfully clear that the undercurrent of passion she felt during those torturous dance lessons was one-sided. Narcissa vowed to get over the beautiful brunette... eventually.
As she mingled half-hearted ly in this dull ballroom packed with even duller witches and wizards, Narcissa came to realize that ‘eventually’ was to be a long time coming.
There she was, the woman of the hour. Draco’s jubilant voice announced her grand entrance to the waiting crowd; the whole room turned to see Hermione Granger descending a magnificent staircase, her body draped in red and gold.
Narcissa frowned as Gryffindor’s Golden Girl made her way down, exuding confidence in her every elegant step. Hermione had changed dramatically over the course of their lessons and through the Argentina assignment. She was another witch entirely; her very presence had changed. She radiated pure confidence and self-assuredness with practiced elegance and poise.
She had to turn away as Hermione took Draco’s hand, allowing him to lead her through the crowd. She couldn’t bear to see Hermione turn that beaming smile at the gaggle of witches and wizards like some expert socialite. Narcissa cursed herself for teaching the Gryffindor anything at all, for ever giving her the tools to charm and cajole and seduce whomever she pleased.
The Malfoy widow chose to remove herself to the balcony. It was apt timing, for now Draco led the breath-taking young witch in a slow waltz across the dancefloor, backlit by a multitude of camera flashes that followed their every move. Seeing Hermione accompany her son so effortlessly and gracefully in a beautiful waltz stung; it stung to see what a gorgeous couple they made; it stung to see the tender look in Draco’s eyes when he directed his gaze to the brunette.
Narcissa cursed the day she taught Hermione to dance. It hurt to see her so at ease in another’s arms. She wanted to be happy for Draco, but her heart was not in it.
She was almost out the doors when an intense hazel gaze fell upon her, full of questions at the turn of the waltz. Narcissa’s eyes met Hermione’s for a single moment across the dancefloor; Narcissa raised her champagne flute in silent, defeated acknowledgement... and left.
“Madam Malfoy, Madam, you’s got a visitor, Madam!”
Narcissa’s eyes left the page she had been trying to decipher. She wondered who on earth would call on her here. It certainly would not be Draco—he had announced his intentions of moving out and promptly packed up his things to a ritzy new flat in London. Narcissa tried not to think about it too much.
“Who is it, Bapsy ?”
The house-elf's ears shook wildly with her forceful nodding.
“Miss Hermione Granger is at the gates, Madam!”
Narcissa felt her jaw clench involuntarily. “Absolutely not. She must not call upon me unannounced ; that is a breach of propriety. Send her away.”
Bapsy turned on her heel and popped away in a cloud of puffy purple smoke. Narcissa allowed herself to take a deep breath in an attempt to calm her wildly beating heart. Over the past few weeks she had tried her hardest to not think about Hermione Granger. She had avoided the tabloids and Francesca Zabini , and that went a long way in helping her cause somewhat .
She had just managed to find her calm again when Bapsy popped into existence once more, looking rather nervous.
“Madam, Bapsy’s tried, but Miss Granger will not leave! Bapsy told her Madam would not like to see her, but Miss Granger says she must speak to Madam! Bad Bapsy !”
Narcissa gritted her teeth, dismissing Bapsy with some other task before the elf worked herself into a fit. She had half a mind to just let Hermione Granger languish on her doorstep for the rest of the afternoon.
Of course, she did no such thing. Despite not wishing to see the brunette, her manners were stronger than her conviction. Blasted be that proper Black family upbringing.
Hermione waited patiently in her porch, looking absolutely lovely in a white summery dress.
“Ms. Granger.” Narcissa greeted her coolly, as coolly as she could muster it.
“Hello, Madam Malfoy.” Hermione greeted her back, with that insufferably wide smile that crinkled the corners of her eyes with its sheer intensity. It stirred terrible emotions in the pit of Narcissa’s stomach.
“To what do I owe the pleasure of this visit?”
“May I come in? I’d like to discuss a few things with you, if that’s alright.”
Narcissa opened her mouth to utter some polite refusal, but Hermione did not wait for her reply. Instead, the brunette confidently made her way in, leaving Narcissa behind, shrouded in the soft scent of Hermione’s jasmine perfume as she strolled into Narcissa’s home.
The nerve of that girl.
Before long they were both situated on separate armchairs in Narcissa’s private sitting room, with a full serving of tea and all kinds of biscuits. Narcissa had no idea how she found herself there—she had no idea why she hadn’t just told Hermione to come another time —like never.
“Hm, these are delicious,” Hermione remarked upon trying some of Bapsy’s biscuits. Narcissa wanted to scoff or do something equally rude, but she was distracted by Hermione’s tongue darting out of her lips to catch a rogue biscuit crumb and how it made her thighs clench inexplicably.
All she could do was smile, crossing her legs in a practiced slant to try and calm the unwanted quivering of her muscles. Narcissa gazed briefly over her own teacup, ashamed by the delicate ripples of the brew that gave away just how tremulous her hands were.
“What is it that you would like to discuss with me, Ms. Granger?” she spoke deliberately, putting her teacup down before those ripples became waves of nervousness she could not hide.
Hermione nibbled away on the biscuits, oblivious. “These are very good,” she repeated, patting her plump lips ever-so-delicately with her napkin. “As you may be aware, Madam Malfoy, the Ministry is holding another gala in a few weeks.”
“Oh?” Narcissa prompted, trying to quell the twitch of her eyebrow. Every trick her mother had ever taught her to maintain an impassive mask seemed to be failing her. She did not, in fact, know of this ‘other gala’, as Draco would have been the one to tell her, and her communications with her son had been rather strained as of late... courtesy of one damned Hermione Granger.
“Indeed,” the bane of her existence continued. “We are welcoming the Austrian Minister of Magic and his entourage for a diplomatic visit, and... I would really appreciate your help.”
“And how...” Narcissa began, getting momentarily distracted by the flash of skin of Hermione’s thigh as the brunette’s dress drifted when she crossed her legs. She gulped, cursing the day she ever accepted Draco’s request to teach her. “How may I be of assistance, Ms. Granger?”
Hermione leaned back, blind to Narcissa’s struggle. “I would like your help with the Viennese waltz.”
Narcissa was glad she had put her teacup down—she might have dropped it entirely with the absurdity of the request. Her eyes narrowed as she regarded Hermione pensively, flashes of the brunette’s flawless dancing with Draco at the Ministry gala weeks ago inundated her mind. Hermione’s seamless, elegant movement was fresh in her memory... as was her beaming smile, the utter happiness of being in Draco’s arms as they swirled about the dancefloor in perfect tandem.
It was not a happy memory.
“If memory serves me right, Ms. Granger,” Narcissa began, her voice cooling considerably. “You’re already perfectly capable of dancing something as simple as a mere waltz” she said icily.
Hermione was unfazed by the change in her tone. “Well,” she continued, taking another abominably sinful bite of that damned biscuit, “you taught me the tango incredibly well. Thank you for that, by the by.” Her eyes met Narcissa’s icy blue gaze, brave and unflinching, and her mouth pulled into a smirk. “But I do think my Viennese waltz needs brushing up.”
Narcissa felt her jaw clench. “My teaching must have been sorely inadequate indeed... if after months of complex tango you cannot manage to perform even an elementary waltz.”
She wasn’t sure what she meant to accomplish with the colder tone and glare—maybe she expected to fluster Hermione, to stun her into silence or even into giving up on her silly endeavours with sheer arrogance.
Narcissa didn’t expect the hurt she saw in those brown eyes. They changed like an eclipsed sun, brown pools darkening with an anguish she had not seen there before. It surprised her, bewildered her even, to see the brightly confident young woman who had strolled into her living room change into that fearful creature she now saw cowering on one of her plush armchairs.
“What I mean to say,” she said after a rather inelegant cough, bringing her teacup back to her lips and taking a hearty sip before continuing, “is that I am sure you are more than capable of dancing a Viennese waltz.” The rest came to her as a complete afterthought. “If you’re having doubts, I am sure Draco would be more than willing to help you brush up on your steps.”
To Narcissa’s eternal befuddlement, Hermione’s expression soured further, her eclipsed confidence making way to a silent tempestuous rage to show in her gaze. Before she could make sense of it, it was all over, and the corners of Hermione’s mouth were once again tugging into a cheerful smile.
“Oh, no, Narcissa,” she said, her gaze narrowed as she took a long sip of her tea. “I would much rather have you teach me.”
She had agreed to it.
Why, in Merlin’s name, she could not say. But she had agreed to it, and now she waited, pacing through her empty ballroom with her stomach in knots. The heavy rain and occasional thunder outside drowned out the echo of her heels clicking anxiously over the floor, yet they did nothing to silence the thundering of her own heart.
This was utter foolishness—an absurdity borne out of the boredom plaguing her life, perhaps. Or worse; perhaps it was—she shuddered at the mere thought, at the nonsensical implication—perhaps it was some sort of midlife crisis. Maybe she was just going insane—surely the Black family was so critically inbred it was only a matter of time. Yes, that had to be it; the clutches of insanity finally had her within their grasp. She was not the first Black to succumb and she surely would not be the...
She nearly screamed when Bapsy the House-Elf popped into existence right in the middle of her warpath of anxious pacing. She could have sworn she had just felt her heart attempt an escape via her throat, and because of that, it was rather difficult to keep her composure.
“What is it, Bapsy!?” she hissed, sending the Elf a withering glare.
“Ms. Granger is at the door, Ma’am! Should Bapsy let her in?”
No, Bapsy. Leave her out in the rain; maybe I’ll manage to keep some of my sanity this way.
“ Madam Malfoy, Madam? What should Bapsy...”
“Send her in, send her in, of course! That’ll be all!”
If Bapsy looked at her like she had completely lost the plot, Narcissa chose to ignore it. She had much bigger problems to deal with than a gaggle of House-Elves that potentially thought the Lady of the House had gone insane.
The biggest, most worrying of her problems just came strolling in, wearing a beautifully bright yellow dress that was really an atrocious choice considering the horrible rainy weather they were having.
And yet, it was like the sun peeked out of the clouds in the middle of the thunderstorm the moment Hermione Granger sauntered into her ballroom. Narcissa couldn’t decide whether it was Hermione’s dress or her beaming smile that lit up the room.
“Hi,” the brunette said bashfully, eyeing Narcissa from under batting eyelashes. “Sorry I’m late.”
Narcissa felt her throat go dry; it served to confirm her conclusion that it was definitively Hermione’s smile that lit up the room. Her dress did other things.
“You’re not,” she croaked out, amazed at how one look at this insufferable woman reduced to some barely-intelligible troglodyte. It was unfortunately too soon to throw out the midlife crisis theory. “You are right on time.”
How was she supposed to do this? It was one thing when she was teaching Hermione tango. Then, she had the upper hand; the girl was clay to be moulded by her hand. Back then it was a game—she had sensed the effect of her touch, the little breaths that escaped the brunette whenever her hands dipped just a tad further down her waist, or when Narcissa spun her back so they were face-to-face, bare inches apart and sharing the same air.
She had drunk those little sighs and gasps with a voracious hunger because...
Because Hermione Granger was a puzzle; an entertaining little enigma Narcissa took great pleasure in solving. And by Merlin, how easy it had been to push her buttons. Gryffindors were always so easy.
It had been easy, too easy to touch her just so, or to provoke her just enough to cause a reaction, a burst of confidence and an electrifying defiance as Narcissa guided her steps, her twists and her turns just right. It had been so easy Narcissa found herself caught up in the game, and suddenly it was not a game anymore.
The game ended the minute she began to spend her nights awake, planning exactly the songs, the rhythms, the very steps to be taken over that very ballroom where they now stood, creating that chase, the push and pull of their distinctive tides over the lively sounds of the bandoneon.
It ended, truly, when she gave Hermione that first dress to wear as they danced. It ended when she saw the green of jealousy in the brunette’s eyes as she danced with Pierre, and it most certainly ended when she found herself utterly overtaken by that brave little lioness, the last day before the mission.
It surely had not been any kind of game when Narcissa laid awake at night, worried for Hermione, or when the Gryffindor’s pretty brown eyes plagued her every waking moment until her return to Britain.
Then, that balance Narcissa thought they had was utterly shattered—along with all her hopes—when Hermione refused that invitation to tea. When she began to appear at all Ministry functions, happy and dancing the night away with a confidence that seemed innate.
And yet... here they were, for another dance lesson. Except this time, Narcissa had no idea where to begin. If she could go back to the way things were—if she had that fearful, timid Hermione to build up again, she would know where to go from here.
It was another creature altogether that interrupted her thoughts—a confident, dauntless creature who took her by the hand and led her to the enchanted gramophone.
“So,” she said in an upbeat tone that was almost a musical tune of itself. “What have you got for us today?”
Narcissa was a little lost in that smile, in those eyes; as lost as the balance they had so painstakingly worked for in their previous lessons.
“Ah. Well. I’ve got... Franz Lehár . Something a little more... subdued, but I thought it would be a good place to start.”
“Very well. Lead the way, then.”
Narcissa did, with great reluctance. A half-hearted swish of her wand made the sound of violins fill the room over the crash of thunder outside. Hermione’s right hand still held her own, while the other found its way to Narcissa’s shoulder in a delicate touch.
Had her touch always felt this decadently warm? Narcissa did her best to tune it out s they began a slow waltz—one that Hermione seemed to have no problem in following, but that was a detail that Narcissa chose not to mention.
After a little while, Hermione leaned in a little closer. Narcissa was about to inform her on the correct way to carry her posture for the dance when she was interrupted.
“I like this waltz,” Hermione said absent-mindedly. “What is it called?”
“The Merry Widow Waltz. A bubbly little piece by Lehár—suitable for a beginner to learn a Viennese waltz.”
Hermione laughed; the sound was bubblier than the waltz itself. “The Merry Widow, huh?” she waggled her eyebrows good-naturedly. “And do I have the pleasure of dancing with a merry widow?”
Most-assuredly not, Narcissa thought, miffed by the absurdity of the question and wishing to call Hermione out on that little fact. “Conversation is generally frowned upon during formal dances,” she said instead.
“Could have fooled me,” Hermione continued, unfazed. “Draco is always awfully chatty whenever we dance.”
Narcissa did try to school her features, but she felt the pressure of her brows furrowing into a displeased expression. She did not want to talk about Draco and how much dancing he did with Hermione; not when she had her in her own arms.
“In fact,” the brunette insisted, either oblivious or blatantly ignoring Narcissa’s sour expression, “he has been awfully chatty in general ever since we came back from Argentina.” Her eyes met Narcissa’s gaze. “He’s actually... asked me out dancing quite a few times.”
Narcissa felt her grip on Hermione’s hand and waist tighten involuntarily. So that’s what this was. A ham-fisted attempt on the Gryffindor’s part to befriend her, only to tell her ‘ oh, by the way, your son and I are seeing each other socially, I do so hope you’re alright with it given that with the way Draco is weirdly intense about things like this you may end up becoming my mother-in-law, toodles. ’
“If we could concentrate on the lesson, Ms. Granger,” Narcissa said through gritted teeth, “that would be greatly appreciated.”
“Of course, of course,” Hermione conceded. “But if I may,” she paused their dancing rather abruptly, causing Narcissa to nearly stumble into her in surprise. “I would like to lead.”
Narcissa had no time to retort, because in one artful spin Hermione had managed to switch their positions. The young witch’s grip upon her waist felt positively possessive, and the fierceness with which she led them through the dancefloor was ill-fitting to the gentle waltz Narcissa had selected.
“This is highly unconventional,” Narcissa tried, getting a little lost in the intensity of the brunette’s gaze.
“So is chatting during formal dances, apparently,” Hermione countered, spinning them in place. “And switching positions in tango, as I came to observe in Argentina.”
Narcissa felt her cheeks redden. “That was merely a training exercise.”
“Naturally,” Hermione conceded, not sounding like she meant it at all. “I am really glad you taught me that way, too. Draco was certainly surprised; back in Argentina...”
“Ms. Granger,” Narcissa interrupted, not liking how Hermione’s touch made her feel when all the brunette wanted to talk about was Draco. “I would appreciate it if we could concentrate on your lesson as opposed to my son.” Her gaze narrowed considerably. “Lessons you don’t even seem to need, as you are leading this dance remarkably well.”
“You really think so?” Hermione asked, spinning Narcissa in place again simply to show off. She stopped the spin and brought Narcissa close, much closer than was appropriate for a waltz, and leaned in close. “It’s all because of you. You are an exceptional teacher.”
Narcissa felt a shiver run down her body with the increased proximity. She struggled to regain her composure.
“Well,” she swallowed, feeling the heat of her cheeks giving her away. “You were an exceptional student.”
Hermione’s smile was infectious. It almost made Narcissa not mind being led around the ballroom in those delicate, swooping paces and well-timed swirls and spins. At some point, it ceased to be a waltz and it became just... a dance, without much rhyme or reason, just a natural flow they seemed to follow subconsciously. It was, Narcissa conceded, very nearly blissful.
Hermione had to shatter that near-bliss with the tact and grace befitting an Erumpent in heat.
“Have I mentioned that Draco has asked me out a few times?”
Narcissa felt her lips pulling into a tight line of displeasure. Why, in the name of Merlin’s wiry beard would she...
“I always refuse,” Hermione continued, without giving Narcissa the chance for a retort and effectively knocking the air out of her lungs with the nonchalant revelation.
“Oh?” Narcissa gasped, unable to contain the reaction. Hermione only smirked, spinning her in place one last time before closing the distance between them to such a degree a proper dance became nearly impossible. Instead, they were merely swaying—Narcissa wasn’t sure if they did so to the rhythm of the waltz still playing from the gramophone or the soft rumble of raindrops and thunder.
Hermione’s grip on her waist never wavered; it was soft and fierce at once, and its warmth on her skin made what the brunette had just told her immensely difficult to process. She did try her best.
“ So. .. you mean you and Draco...?” she tried, because she needed the confirmation, she needed to hear it from Hermione.
“No,” Hermione said with a smile, shaking her head as she leaned ever so close. “Never.”
There it was, that beaming smile that lit up the room despite the thunderous weather outside. That laughter, more musical than the symphony of violins that enveloped them.
Narcissa couldn’t decide between confusion or elation when Hermione leaned even further, brushing their lips together. In the end, as both of Hermione’s hands found their way to her waist and she felt the heat between them rise and rise, elation won out.
This was what they were dancing around; the outlet for that tension that had filled them ever since their tango lessons all those months ago. Narcissa smirked oh so smugly against Hermione’s lips when the brunette twirled them in place, dipping her to a daring angle close to the floor. She had taught her well.
Hermione laughed and Narcissa held her face in her hands, drinking in that laugh and those sighs as her brave little Gryffindor gently laid her on the floor of her grand ballroom with the rain around them, following suit after her artful dip and coming to hover above her.
The rain and the music drowned out sounds Narcissa would have very much liked to hear, but it was enough to see Hermione’s flushed cheeks above her, the gleaming of her eyes and the rise and fall of her chest as layer after layer of garment was peeled away.
It was enough to feel the quivering of Hermione’s thighs and the trembling of her arms around her, to feel the fierce grip of her hands on her blonde hair.
When the music had stopped and the sun finally peeked through the dark clouds after the rain ceased, the only sound in the ballroom was the muted hum of their mingled breaths. Narcissa felt lost in a labyrinth of hazel, and she had no will to find her way out, because it was enough.
It was more than enough to watch the great Hermione Granger rise and fall with her, and to finally hold her in her arms with the unending satisfaction that this beautiful creature was all Narcissa’s, hers and hers alone to cherish in this unending dance.