The letters arrived at breakfast the second week of November. They looked fairly inconspicuous as they landed on everyone’s plates, but Harry let out a long groan as soon as she got hers open.
“End of the world then?” Ron asked, opening her own letter, which detailed exactly when and where all Hogwarts students would be taking obligatory dance lessons to prepare for the upcoming Yule Ball. “Ahh, worse than that, I see.”
“It wasn’t so bad fourth year,” Hermione said entreatingly. “I think it’s a good idea.”
McGonagall had announced a few months prior that they were having a Yule Ball, in the hopes that it would raise morale and promote inter house unity. Harry wasn’t exactly overjoyed about it: parties were fun but getting all dressed up was a bit of a hassle.
“Yeah well last time it happened you went with Victor Krum,” Ron replied, making a face at Hermione. Harry wasn’t sure if Ron was more annoyed by Krum’s attractiveness or by the fact that he had gone with Hermione and she hadn’t. Harry thought it might be a fair mix of both.
“The Patil twins were perfectly nice,” Hermione protested.
“Those were pity dates! Paavan only went with me because he was too chicken to ask anyone else,” Ron replied, then went a little red at the realization that she, too, had been too chicken to ask anyone else. “Regardless, I don’t want to dance with some slimy Slytherin just to make the big MG happy.”
“Maybe they’ll put you with a Hufflepuff,” Hermione replied.
“Or, more likely, they’ll stick Ron with Nott and me with Blaise,” Harry said, making a face.
“At least Blaise is gorgeous,” Ron said mournfully. “Nott’s face looks like a creative macaroni picture.”
“Cold,” Harry said appreciatively. “I’d just prefer to, you know, not touch a boy.”
“A fair criticism of ballroom dancing,” Hermione mused. “But they only make us dance a little, you can refrain from touching boys the whole rest of the night.”
“Small gifts this year at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry,” Harry said, giving the letter one more irritated glance, before tucking it into her bag and focusing on less horrible things, like breakfast.
Their first dance lesson fell on a Monday night, which was normally Quidditch practice, meaning that Harry was two separate kinds of keyed up and annoyed.
“Do you think I can pull the savior of the wizarding world card here?” Harry whispered to Ron, who shook her head.
“Don’t think McGonagills will be too into that,” she said, pushing her hair back with a headband. “Maybe we can convince ourselves that dancing is as constructive and fun as Quidditch.”
“And how are we going to manage that?” Harry asked.
“I’m not sure, it was mostly wishful thinking,” Ron replied.
“I was in the middle of homework,” Hermione added, sounding irritated despite her initial feelings about the ball. “I still have three readings left to do.”
“So glad you’ve come around to our side,” Ron said. “I knew you couldn’t stay so positive about anything that kept you away from your studies for too long.”
“It’s just a little annoying,” Hermione said, her own bushy hair already falling out of its ponytail.
“Good evening, eighth years!” McGonagall began from the front of the room, clapping her hands twice to get everyone’s attention. “While this year’s Yule Ball will be quite different than the one we hosted during the festivities of the Triwizard Tournament, I still expect all of you to learn to dance to the best of your abilities. I firmly believe that in all of you is the potential for beauty and grace, though you may not see it in yourself. I’m immensely proud of the progress all of you have made this year in making this school a home for yourselves and your fellow students, and hope that the Yule Ball with continue in this regard while also allowing you to have a bit of fun.”
McGonagall had a sparkle in her eye that suggested that perhaps she was enjoying this a little too much. Harry tried not to glower too hard, hoping fervently that she’d be partnered with Dean or Neville. Honestly, she’d even take Michael Corner.
“You will be partnered up on the basis of house and respective height,” McGonagall said, swishing to the front of the room. “If you could please line up by height, girls on the left wall, boys on the right. Any gender nonconforming students may pick whichever line they feel most comfortable in.”
Harry sighed, schlepping over to the left wall and beginning the process of measurement, eventually ending up next to Luna and Parvati, who looked mightily amused to see Harry.
“Think she’ll partner us up again this year?” Parvati asked, raising her eyebrows at Harry.
“It did go so well last time,” Harry replied jovially, teasing a laugh out of Parvati. “Sorry, again, truly.”
“It’s a shame Cho graduated,” Parvati whispered with a wink.
“It was fourth year!” Harry protested, though the point remained that if Cho ever decided to explore bisexuality, Harry would, most entirely, be her girl.
“Uh huh,” Parvati said knowingly. “No residual feelings there, got it.”
“I hope you get stuck with Goyle,” Harry replied, and Parvati just shrugged her shoulders as McGonagall began to pair students off.
Hermione, as it turned out, was paired with Blaise Zabini, earning her a maudlin look from Ron that sent her into giggles. Ron ended up with Justin Finch-Fletchley, who Harry remembered being a fairly good dancer if nothing else.
Harry, whose palms were beginning to sweat with nerves, was finally paired with Anthony Goldstein, which - while not ideal - was definitely far from the end of the world.
“Excited?” he asked, giving her a smile as they lined up.
“I could probably be more enthusiastic,” Harry replied apologetically. “I’m shit at dancing. No rhythm.”
“From what I heard you mostly just need to follow,” Anthony replied with a shrug. “I’ll try not to step on your toes.”
“That’s what I like to hear,” Harry replied, feeling slightly less doom and gloom about the whole thing. Anthony was truly not the worst, and Ron’s reactions to Hermione getting paired with Blaise would be funny for Harry if no one else. She was fairly sure no hexes would be cast and Hermione and Ron were at their most entertaining when they were teasing each other.
“If all leaders could put their right hand on their partner’s waist and if followers could put their left hand on their partner’s shoulder blade? Clasp your free hands together, and I’ll come around and correct your form,” McGonagall said, her voice ringing out in the old stone room.
Harry placed her hand carefully on Anthony’s shoulder as he moved his to her waist, both careful not to touch each other too much.
“Dancing is so awkward,” Harry mumbled, and he laughed, nodding in agreement.
“Could be worse, neither of us are gross,” Anthony said as couples around them were corrected.
“I’m very tired of these small blessings,” Harry said with a grimace. “I want a big blessing. Like a ‘not dancing’ sized blessing.”
“You could maybe orchestrate an injury?” Anthony suggested, earning himself points in Harry’s book for audacity.
“No Quidditch if I’m injured though,” Harry replied. “I see you trying to get me out of the game, Goldstein.”
“Wasn’t my original scheme, but might give Ravenclaw a better chance at the cup,” Anthony said.
“Almost Slytherin of you,” Harry replied.
“Creative: Ravenclaw,” Goldstein replied with a smile. “Plus, I wouldn’t actually push you down a flight of stairs so I think it stays in Ravenclaw territory.”
“Posture, Ms. Potter,” McGonagall said, her hands moving Harry’s shoulders up and back and adjusting her grip on Anthony’s hand. “I can assure you that getting just a bit closer to Mr. Goldstein will not be your death.”
“I’m not so sure,” Harry replied, but scooted forward obediently. “You better keep up with the mouthwash, Anthony.”
“Next time I’ll be more minty than you can believe,” Anthony replied.
“Much appreciated,” Harry said, glad at least that Anthony was proving to be less cripplingly awkward than she remembered him.
Near the front of the room, McGonagall was demonstrating the steps to the waltz with Michael Corner, who looked equal parts amused and terrified to be dancing with her. Harry and Anthony gave it their best go, doing a few stilted 1-2-3s as the music reverberated through the space.
It was a small consolation that the rest of their classmates seemed to be having just as much trouble as they were, bumbling into each other and yelping as toes were stepped on.
Harry thought she might have been about to get the hang out of it when she heard a commotion from the corner that sounded like it had her name on it.
“Ms. Malfoy what exactly are you doing to poor Ernie Macmillan?” McGonagall asked imperiously, and Harry swiveled her head to get a good look at the unfolding drama. It appeared that Malfoy had taken matters into her own hands, and was strongarming Ernie around the room with her hand on his waist and his hand on her shoulder.
“He was having trouble,” Malfoy said as she came to an abrupt stop, twirling her long blonde hair between her fingers as if her charms might have any effect on Mcgonagall’s unamused expression. “So I was demonstrating.”
Harry could see genuine irritation crackling under the surface of Draco’s facade and felt a brief rush of sympathy for Ernie, who looked entirely cowed.
“I see,” McGonagall said. “Do you think he has learned sufficiently?”
Draco looked as if she was torn between two spectacularly bitchy responses. In the process of trying to keep Draco in her line of sight and trying to continue dancing with Anthony, Harry nearly fell over before she could hear the next bit.
“He’s hopeless, Headmistress,” Draco said. “Would it be possible for me to have a new partner? One who has taken dance lessons?” It was said with a kind of temperate sweetness, as if she was attempting not to piss McGonagall off but couldn’t quite keep from being annoyed.
“Mcgills is gonna kill her,” Harry whispered gleefully, tripping once more over her own feet as she tried to watch.
“Unfortunately Ms. Malfoy, you will just have to make do with Mr. MacMillan’s dancing skills,” McGonagall said, looking as if she was trying particularly hard to restrain herself. “Perhaps you will be able to summon some patience for him as he learns.”
“Headmistress I-” Malfoy looked as if she was about to protest, but seemed to think better of it, her face falling into something far more subdued. “Yes, I think so.”
“Are we eavesdropping or dancing?” Anthony asked mildly, as Harry had essentially pulled them to a stop so she could listen.
“Eavesdropping,” Harry replied, but let Anthony waltz with her again, just as Malfoy and Ernie returned to their own dancing. “I think McGills is going soft on her. Not even one measly detention.”
“I don’t think Draco was trying to be nasty,” Anthony said kindly, glancing over at Draco, who had begun to dance with a very stilted Ernie.
“She just is, naturally?” Harry asked, wondering if perhaps she should play nice. Then, she thought about the way Draco screwed up her nose when she was trying to be catty, and decided that her response was completely justified.
“Something like that,” Anthony responded. “To be fair, Ernie is fucking hopeless.”
“You’re talking to the girl with two left feet,” Harry replied, feeling a little sorry for Ernie. She’d contended with the full force of Malfoy and her dramatics, and was entirely positive it was best to keep within a ten foot radius.
“You’re alright as long as you’re not being distracted,” Anthony said pointedly, and Harry felt the absurd urge to trample on his toes in retaliation.
“Malfoy getting in trouble is very high on my list of personal interests,” Harry replied loftily. “It brings me joy, like Christmas or chocolates.”
“Of course it does,” Anthony replied with an eyeroll, and that time, Harry really did tread on his feet.
The Three Broomsticks was already crowded when Harry, Hermione, Ron and Neville arrived, pushing themselves into a booth next to a fogged up window and taking deep breaths of the sweet warm air.
“Hufflepuff has no chance at the cup,” Harry said, slapping her hat down on the table. “Neville, stop letting Hannah Abbott tell you dirty lies.”
“She said they were practicing new playing strategies,” Neville replied with a shrug, pulling off a pair of meticulously crocheted gloves that Luna had made for him. They were delicately beaded and in a soft burgundy color that was lovely on him.
“Well what I saw during their match with Ravenclaw was all waiting around and no acting,” Harry replied. “They never put the pressure on, sometimes I’m not sure if I’m watching a Quidditch game or a casual garden broom ride.”
“Tell ‘em, girl,” Ron added, sliding into the booth next to Neville. “Although at least they play bloody fair, unlike some people.”
Harry faked a coughing fit, spitting out Slytherin in the middle.
“Are you sure you two were watching the game? Or were you too busy heckling?” Neville asked mildly, giving both of them a sly grin.
“You have to watch the game to heckle properly, mate,” Ron said seriously. “How else are we going to know what to heckle?”
Neville laughed despite himself as the waitress came and they all ordered butterbeers, leaving them to defrost as they waited for their drinks.
“You don’t happen to know how Luna got those beads on there, do you?” Hermione asked Neville, tapping the beadwork on his gloves. “I’ve been thinking about trying to do something like that but I can’t imagine how.”
Neville held his hands up for Hermione to inspect. “Not a clue. I’m sure they’d be delighted to tell you, I think they want to start a knitting club.”
Harry was about to suggest the both of them work together to make house elf hats, when Draco Malfoy, as was her custom, began to make a small scene. She, Goyle, Blaise, and Pansy had swished fairly close to their table and were talking quite loudly about their dance partners.
“I don’t know what I’ll do if the headmistress doesn’t switch me,” Draco complained, lounging against one of the tables. She was wearing a long cloak that looked thicker and more expensive than anything Harry had ever owned, with a fluffy collar that came up around her neck like a small animal.
“How many little white furry things died to make that coat, one or two?” Harry asked Ron, not entirely expecting a response.
“Four,” Ron replied absently, returning to her discussion of potentially explicit knitting projects without a beat of hesitation.
“I just can’t bear to dance with him, he’s the worst dancer I’ve ever had the displeasure of working with,” Draco continued, looking rather forlorn and tragic in her cloak. “I can’t follow if he refuses to lead properly.”
“Maybe he’ll improve,” Pansy suggested, looking as if nothing seemed less likely to her.
“Oh yes, and maybe Goyle will manage to pull an O in Divination,” Draco replied,
“I could have a secret third eye,” Goyle remarked, rather lamely, in Harry’s opinion, though Draco did give him an approving smile.
“And I could have a half decent dance partner, but it just isn’t in the cards,” Draco replied sadly, slumping against the table in a way that seemed very calculated to make her cloak fall open, revealing a rather short skirt and black tights.
“Do you think the Slytherins know that their interactions sound like a strange, unsuccessful soap opera?” Harry asks, remembering quite vividly the trashy television Aunt Petunia would watch when the Dursley men weren’t home.
“To be fair, you are watching them,” Hermione said, and Harry pretended she hadn’t heard.
“I do feel terrible for Ernie, he looked like he was going to pee himself with fright when they were dancing,” Harry said, turning very deliberately away from the Slytherins.
“He was always so intimidated around girls,” Hermione said, pausing to thank the waitress as their drinks came. “McGonagall probably would have done him a favor switching her.”
“I’m just surprised McGoggles didn’t slam her with a detention,” Harry said.
“That would have been my call, two days scrubbing desks for that kind of attitude,” Ron added, fist bumping Harry in agreement. “Calling Ernie hopeless is cold.”
“I’m sure she has some reason for not punishing her,” Hermione reasoned. “Maybe she’s hoping Malfoy will calm down if she lets things unfold naturally.”
“I don’t think Malfoy has been calm once in her whole life,” Harry countered.
“Do you think she scowls when she sleeps?” Ron asked.
“Maybe her face is stuck like that?” Neville added, and both Ron and Harry nodded in very serious agreement.
“I would believe it,” Hermione agreed reluctantly. “Someone should rescue Ernie though.”
“You go be the hero, Mione, I’ll take Blaise off of your hands,” Ron said, earning herself an elbow in the side from Hermione.
At their second dance lesson, Anthony had made good on his promise to arrive spearminty and clean.
“That’s a lovely mint, Anthony, great choice,” Harry told him as they waltzed around the room, nearly bumping into Neville and Hannah in the process.
“I thought so too,” Anthony agreed, smiling beatifically.
It was a cold November day, and even Harry’s chunky Weasley sweater let in the frigid dampness that was creeping in under the windowpanes. She thought she might be getting marginally better at the dancing thing, though whether that was due to practice or sheer dumb luck, she couldn’t be sure.
“Do you know who you’re asking to the dance?” Harry asked, letting Anthony guide her around Hermione and Blaise, and only stepping on the edge of her toe in the process.
“Not sure,” Anthony replied with a cheery shrug. “Hannah said that if no one asks her we’d go as friends, which sounds alright to me.”
“Friends?” Harry pressed, raising her eyebrows.
“Not too into dating,” Anthony replied with a careful smile. “You know how it is.”
“Gotcha,” Harry replied, giving him her best supportive smile.
“Any grand asking plans in your future?”
“If we were closer, my dear Anthony, you’d know that anyone I try to speak to romantically ends in embarrassment, not just for me, but for them as well,” Harry declared, nearly tripping in the process.
“Sounds dire,” Anthony replied sympathetically. “Perhaps an area for improvement.”
“I’ll probably just ignore it and ask Luna. They’re a great date, they smell like flowers and don’t really care if your hair’s a mess,” Harry said brightly, remembering the absolute shit show that had been both Parvati and Cho. Truly, the worst thing about the whole Yule Ball debacle was rehashing the most traumatizing romantic period of Harry’s life.
“Luna is lovely,” Anthony agreed. “They offered to let me use their healing crystals yesterday because I told them I wasn’t having a good day.”
“Classic Luna,” Harry agreed, about to contribute another Luna anecdote when she heard the telltale siren of Draco getting in trouble.
“Ms. Malfoy did we not address in our last lesson that Ernie should be the one to lead?” McGonagall asked, her voice sounding deliberately restrained.
Harry was fairly sure she saw Anthony roll his eyes, but she pointedly ignored him as she tugged him a bit closer to the unfolding scene.
“If I let him lead, we don’t go anywhere,” Draco said, stepping away from Ernie with a rustle of her skirt and a frown. “I am a good dancer. I am good at following but not when he can’t lead!” Draco had developed an angry flush of pale pink on the apples of her cheeks and had crossed her arms rather aggressively over her chest.
“Ernie, are you having trouble learning the steps?” McGonagall asked kindly, only making Ernie look even more like he wanted to flee the scene.
“I find dancing very difficult,” he replied, wiping his palms on his trousers.
McGonagall nodded. “Perhaps we can arrange for some separate lessons for you. I firmly believe that you are capable of leading Mr. Macmillan.”
“Would they um, would they be with, Malfoy?” Ernie asked, shooting a look at Draco, who glared right back at him.
“Dancing, Harry,” Anthony reminded her quietly, and Harry allowed herself to be danced around, though she tugged at Anthony when he tried to move her away from the conversation.
“I think one of your housemates may be able to help you in this regard,” McGonagall said, and Ernie gave a nearly audible sigh of relief. “In the meantime, I expect both of you to try your best. Ms. Malfoy, please do not terrorize Mr. Macmillan.”
“I did not intend to terrorize him,” Malfoy replied dourly, although she placed her hand back on Ernie’s shoulder without further complaint.
“I’m sure you did not, Ms. Malfoy,” McGonagall said evenly, turning to correct Paavan’s form.
As Anthony was guiding Harry back towards the other side of the room, she managed to catch Ernie’s eye and shoot him the best sympathetic look she could, hoping that one of his housemates would help him loosen up.
“You’re a little ridiculous about Malfoy, you know that, right?” Anthony asked mildly, as they continued their waltz.
“Oh don’t start,” Harry said, making a face.
“So you do know?” Anthony pressed, and Harry stepped on one of his feet.
“Did you know that first year she challenged me to a duel, and when I went to duel her, in my pajamas, she had the audacity to blow me off? She didn’t even show up to our duel! Also, would you happen to have a Potter Stinks button lying around at the bottom of your trunk, made by Draco Malfoy herself?” Harry said pointedly. “I am not the one with the problem.”
“You showed up to try to duel her in your pajamas?” Anthony asked, a smile trying very hard to twitch onto his face.
“After she challenged me!” Harry asked. “Do you remember the time she sent me a howler telling me that my clothes fit badly? Like, sorry we can’t all afford ten tailors!”
“Your clothing looks just fine,” Anthony said calmly.
“I know right!” Harry bit back, then took a deep breath. “Sorry. Draco Malfoy is my sworn enemy and her social demise is entirely my business, that’s what I was trying to get at here. Also I love extra large sweaters.”
“Large sweaters are great,” Anthony agreed. “I’m just not sure why Draco Malfoy continues to be your sworn enemy. When was the last time she was actually mean to you?”
“Well probably-” Harry paused, trying to remember the last time she’d actually interacted with Draco. It seemed like since they’d returned to Hogwarts, Draco hadn’t actually engaged Harry in any kind of sparring, verbal or otherwise. If Harry was honest, she hadn’t actually spoken to Draco since she’d pulled both of them screaming and terrified from the fiendfyre. “Anthony, I think Draco Malfoy is ignoring me.”
Anthony just stared at her, looking unsurprised. “You’d think that would be a good thing, considering that you’re enemies.”
“Maybe she doesn’t even think we’re enemies anymore,” Harry said, surprised to feel something genuine and heavy at the thought.
“You seem upset by this,” Anthony said uncertainly.
“I am!” Harry replied. Somehow, Draco not even considering her worthy of tormenting was worse than when she’d been determined to make Harry’s life hell. It had been different during the war, when they were both distracted and confused but everything was okay now, they should have gone back to normal. They hadn’t and Harry hadn’t even properly noticed.
Anthony seemed at a loss for words, opening and closing his mouth a few times before settling on a mild expression. “Maybe you should talk to her.”
“About what?” Harry asked, screwing up her nose. “‘Oh hi Draco, it’s Harry, I was just wondering why you stopped trying to punch me in the face?’”
“I mean, could use some work,” Anthony said. “But I like the sentiment.”
“I like you better when you’re not trying to give me life advice,” Harry said.
“I like you better when you’re not falling over yourself about Malfoy.”
“Sassy,” Harry replied, and tread on his toes for the fifteenth time.
Ernie Macmillan cornered Harry on her way to Advanced Defense Against The Dark Arts with a desperate gleam in his eye. “Harry, I need you to do me a favor.”
“What kind of favor?” Harry asked him, although seeing the blind panic in his eyes, she thought she might have some kind of idea.
“I was wondering if there was even the smallest chance you could volunteer to be my dance partner,” Ernie said. “It’s still inter-house unity and I think if you offered, McGonagall might not say no.”
“She’ll never go for it Ernie,” Harry said, trying to get through the crowded hallway. She was quite nearly late, and definitely didn’t have time to gently talk him down.
“Can you just try? Please? Draco’s going to kill me,” Ernie said, his voice pitching up a few octaves. “I know you know what’s she’s like, I saw you watching.”
Harry grimaced, suddenly regretting the sympathetic look she’d shot Ernie. “Would anyone else do it?”
“They don’t want McGonagall to hate them or they already have Slytherin partners,” Ernie said morosely. “And she likes you! Plus you’re like, you know, the hero of the wizarding world at all.”
“Doesn’t come with as many perks as you’d think,” Harry replied.
“So you won’t?” Ernie pressed, pushing his hair out of his eyes. He had a pinched kind of look on his already pinched face, and Harry fought down the stab of pity that wanted her to say yes. Anthony did not deserve to be stuck with Draco just because Ernie was struggling, and she wasn’t sure that Ernie would use mouthwash for her.
“No, Ernie!” Harry said firmly, then softened her tone when his face crumpled. “It’s not that I don’t want to help you, I just don’t want to stick Anthony with Draco and I don’t want to piss McGills off.”
“It’s fine,” Ernie said, looking as if he’d recently dropped an ice cream cone scoop-down. “Thanks anyway.”
Harry sighed, watching him slump off as she entered Advanced DADA and sat with a thump next to Hermione. “I think I just crushed the last of Ernie Macmillan’s will to go on.”
“Since lunchtime?” Hermione asked. “How did you manage that?”
“He asked to switch dance partners with me and I told him no,” Harry replied, unpacking her stuff. “Apparently he’s been bugging all the Hufflepuffs and they all told him no too.”
“Poor thing,” Hermione said sympathetically, smoothing out her paper and copying down the date at the top. “If I thought McGonagall would let Draco dance with Blaise I’d offer to switch.”
“Ron would probably like that better too,” Harry said with a laugh, picturing her face when Hermione had been paired with Blaise.
“You know, on the other hand, I am enjoying making her a bit jealous,” Hermione mused. “All in good fun.”
“All in good fun,” Harry agreed with a conspiratorial laugh.
“He really asked you to switch?” Anthony asked, when Harry told him about the conversation she’d had with Ernie. “I didn’t think he’d get that desperate.”
“I think he’s panicking,” Harry said, her waltz finally approaching something graceful. She was fairly sure that if she was in charge of leading it would be going much worse, but mostly she just had to trust Anthony not to smack her into anything, something he was doing a near perfect job of. “None of his friends would switch.”
“He really is dreadful,” Anthony said, glancing over to where Ernie was attempting to lead Draco around the dancefloor. No fighting had broken out and Draco seemed to be following, but even as they watched she paused to hiss something at Ernie when he tread on one of her toes.
“I know,” Harry agreed. “I would have maybe done it, but I also didn’t want to sic Draco Malfoy on you.”
“I don’t know, I think I’ve improved enough that she wouldn’t kill me,” Anthony said, giving Harry a cheeky little turn that she executed with a fair amount of wobbling but no actual falling to the floor. “Maybe just hex irreparably.”
“You haven’t stepped on my foot yet today,” Harry replied cheerfully. “I’m quite proud.”
“And you’ve managed to look over at Draco Malfoy at least three times without compromising our dance routine,” Anthony said, giving her a bright grin.
“Don’t speak so soon,” Harry replied, turning to find the source of the commotion.
“Have we not addressed in our previous lessons that Mr. Macmillan will lead and you will follow?” asked McGonagall, looking increasingly irritated with the both of them.
“We have, Headmistress,” Draco replied, her voice erring very far towards insolent. The flush of color had returned to her cheeks, and she was darting glances at Ernie that were verging on furious. “Ernie had said that he was going to practice and he has stepped on my toes thirteen times and I have run into my fellow classmates eleven.”
“Mr. Macmillan, have you been practicing?” McGonagall asked, and though Harry recognized her attempt to speak more softly to him, he still cowered.
“Yes, Headmistress, Hannah and I have been working in the common room every night and I have been getting better,” Ernie said, looking miserable.
“Ms. Malfoy, Ernie says that he has been practicing and I hope that you will find it in yourself to continue to be patient with him,” McGonagall said, her voice stern. Any student less pleased with herself would have cowered, but Malfoy only stared resolutely back, a muscle in her jaw twitching.
Ernie was scanning the room wildly, and Harry was halfway through wondering who exactly he was looking for when his eyes fell on her and he communicated to her an intense and panicked nonverbal S.O.S.
“Anthony,” Harry whispered, pulling them to the complete stop they had been working toward since the conversation started. “How much will you kill me if you have to dance with Draco.”
Anthony sighed deeply. “I’ll spare your life.”
Harry took one last look at Ernie’s despondent face and cleared her throat. “Headmistress!”
“Yes, Ms. Potter?” McGonagall asked, turning toward her with a forbidding swish of robes.
“Well I was thinking, maybe, since we’re in different houses and it would still be inter house unity, I could switch partners? Just to help out? Maybe?” Harry offered, forcing herself to power through despite attracting the attention of most of the room as well as McGonagall’s piercing stare.
“And Mr. Goldstein has agreed to this switch?” McGonagall asked, looking so calculating that Harry nearly backed out.
“Yeah, Anthony said it would be okay,” Harry replied, smiling brightly in the hopes that she would be spared.
“I think, that would be permissible. Ms. Malfoy, you’re going to be partners with Ms. Potter. Mr. Macmillan you will be with Mr. Goldstein to relieve you of the horrors of leading.”
Ernie let out an entirely audible sigh of relief that was not echoed by any of the other involved parties.
“Actually I was thinking that I could be with Ernie!” Harry said, as if McGonagall had somehow misunderstood. She had the overwhelming feeling that she had not.
“I am aware of what you were thinking,” McGonagall replied, that sparkle of amusement back in her eyes. “But now that you mention it, I think that partnering with Ms. Malfoy could be constructive for both of you. And Ms. Malfoy, you will be able to lead, as you had hoped.”
Harry thought that last time that she had almost died had merely been a dress rehearsal for this moment, in which she was actually dying, properly and entirely.
“Ms. Potter, are you alright?” McGonagall asked in concern.
“Yeah, I just thought I was,” Harry waved her hand around. “Like, dying.”
Anthony covered a snicker, as did the partially-dancing mostly-eavesdropping students around them.
“Really mature, Potter,” Draco snapped, her arms crossed defensively over her chest. She had her face screwed up in a scowl, although she wasn’t actively throwing a tantrum so she appeared to be accepting her fate.
Harry couldn’t think of any way to salvage the situation, so she just gave Anthony a little goodbye wave and took her place next to Malfoy, who was still glaring.
“It is my sincere hope that I won’t hear about any more problems from any of you,” McGonagall said, the steel in her voice making it sound like a threat.
“Yes headmistress,” Harry said, everyone but Draco echoing it back. Harry turned to look at her, finding her face irritated and closed off.
“Might as well get this over with,” Draco bit out, shoving her manicured nails into Harry’s side.
“Keep your claws to yourself,” Harry said, adjusting Draco’s hand as she placed her own on Draco’s shoulders. “Now you don’t have to suffer through Macmillan. You should be thanking me.”
“My hero,” Draco said, the comment dripping with such disparagement that Harry was reluctantly impressed. “Your grip is tentative.”
“Come again?” Harry asked, as Draco gripped her hand harder.
“Don’t put your hand in mine like a dead fish and expect me to just tolerate it,” Draco replied firmly. “And don’t schlump when you dance. I can already see your posture falling.”
“One scathing criticism at a time please,” Harry replied, making an effort to tighten her grip on Draco’s hand, only her survival instincts keeping her from trying to cut off Draco’s circulation as a way to be difficult.
“Okay 1. Posture. Terrible. 2. Elbows don’t point at the floor. 3. Don’t lean into me, I’m sure you smell awful.” Draco said, the list falling smoothly from her mouth.
“I smell nice,” Harry protests, trying to correct her posture and feeling like a class act idiot. “You’re a nightmare.”
“Correct,” Draco replied with a glare, pushing Harry into the first steps of the waltz without any warning. She had her right side pressed firmly up to Harry’s in a way that Anthony certainly hadn’t done and Harry found herself tripping over own feet.
“Why are you touching me so much?” Harry spluttered indignantly, mostly because she’d just realized that Draco smelled like vanilla, something she hoped she’d never get close enough to notice.
“It’s called proper posture,” Draco replied scathingly. “Stop getting distracted.”
“I will if you unclench your asshole for two seconds,” Harry bit back, and Draco’s hand tightened on hers in what appeared to be a violent twitch.
“If I thought McGonagall would give me Ernie back, I would ask in a minute,” Draco replied scathingly.
“Don’t act like this is my fault!” Harry replied, her voice rising in volume. “If you hadn’t terrorized Ernie then I wouldn’t have felt the need to try and save him!”
“You should have minded your own business for once!” Draco replied, their waltz growing more aggressive. It was only Draco’s near violent cornering abilities that kept them from bashing into other students. “Precious Potter waltzing in to save the day yet again.”
“I was just trying to help!” Harry half yelled, wrenching herself out of Draco’s grip.
“Well maybe I didn’t need your help for once! Maybe I was doing just fine when you were leaving me alone!” Draco screamed back, her face going blotchy again. “And your posture sucks!”
“GIRLS!” Headmistress McGonagall’s voice cut through their shouting match, and she looked distinctly unamused when she came striding over to both of them. “I expected much better from both of you. You will have detention every night for the rest of this week, and you will either dance together or you will kill each other trying.”
Harry could practically feel the Quidditch practices she wouldn’t be able to make slipping from her fingers. Draco was emitting nearly palpable waves of anger, and Harry thought that her lack of a snarky comment was truly proof that they were in the danger zone.
“You are dismissed for the day to take time to think about your actions,” McGonagall said. “I expect to see you back here at 8pm sharp.”
“Yes, headmistress,” Harry replied, and Draco let out a squeak that might have been approval.
As they left, whispers followed them out.
Harry was curled into the corner of the couch in the Gryffindor common room, watching the clock tick closer and closer to eight with growing dread. “I thought Ernie was exaggerating,” she said quietly. “I didn’t know. I could not have guessed.”
“I didn’t know she was so into dancing,” Hermione said, using her free hand to comb her fingers through Harry’s messy hair. “It seems to go beyond her normal melodrama.”
“Well she didn’t scream at Ernie,” Harry said morosely. “I don’t know what McGoggles thought she was doing.”
“She probably hoped that you two would end your ridiculous feud and actually work together,” Hermione said sagely. “Which you could do. That would be quite good.”
“She doesn’t even care about being my enemy anymore,” Harry complained. “She’s been ignoring me since we got back.”
“If I tell you you’re being absolutely ridiculous will it fall on deaf ears?” Hermione asked tiredly, still doing homework even as she talked.
“Yeah,” Harry replied sadly. “I don’t think she’s looked at me once this entire year.”
“Are you sure you really hate her, Harry?” Hermione asked, her quill finally stilling, so Harry knew it was serious.
“Loathe, despise, want vanquished,” Harry rattled back, her stomach twisting uneasily when Hermione met her eyes.
“What exactly does this hatred feel like?” Hermione asked slowly, her eyebrows high on her forehead.
“Burning,” Harry replied. “Tight in the chest. Like I could probably strangle her.”
“Don’t take this the wrong way, but is there any chance you might, maybe just a little, like her?” Hermione asked pointedly, startling a laugh out of Harry.
“Hermione, really? What do you think this is? Like, pulling your crush’s pigtails on the playground? She outright screamed at me. Screamed. With her mouth. At a volume. Where’s Ron, she’ll tell you you’re making things up.” Harry almost laughed again at the sheer madness of it. Harry couldn’t picture Draco having romantic feelings for anyone. The thought of Draco writing out a sappy love letter was almost enough to send her into hysterics.
“Ron agrees with me!” Hermione said, seeming just a little miffed at Harry’s laughter.
“Well then neither of you know what you’re talking about,” Harry replied. “Can you imagine her? Like, going on dates? Being like, romantic? What a riot.”
“I don’t think its funny,” Hermione replied curtly, and Harry tried to subdue her laughter. “And I didn’t ask about her, I asked about you.”
“Sorry its just, I don’t like her? I think she’s infuriating, sure, but it’s not the same thing,” Harry replied, glancing up at the clock to find it was ticking close enough to eight that she could flee. “It’s time for my dance lesson anyway. Let’s hope I come back with all my limbs.”
“Try and be nice,” Hermione advised, giving her a tired smile. “If you’re not back at 8:45 we’ll send a search party.”
“Hopefully you can find enough of my body to send home to Molly,” Harry replied, beginning the slow trek back to the practice room.
When Harry entered, Draco was already perched on a desk, her skirt arranged artfully around her and her makeup still flawless despite the late hour. Draco made a point of not looking at her, instead inspecting her emerald hued nails with a casually disinterested expression.
Hermione’s parting words echoed in her head as she approached: try and be nice.
“Hi,” Harry said awkwardly standing at the door. “Is McGills here?”
Draco pointed wordlessly to the blackboard, which read: ‘work on your dancing until eight thirty, at which time you will be free to go. - Headmistress McGonagall.’
“Okay, yeah, cool,” Harry said, taking a deep preparatory breath. “So should we, like, dance?”
Draco let out a long, irritated sigh, sliding off the desk. “Well I don’t suppose there’s anything better to do, is there?”
“Well we could skip the dancing and just scream at each other for the thirty minutes,” Harry joked, sighing when Draco made no response to her attempt at lightening the mood. “Silent treatment, awesome.”
There was no response from Draco, who pushed her hair back and cast a spell on the old phonograph, producing the crackly tune they’d been using to practice.
Draco grabbed Harry’s hand and pushed them into position in silence, already looking like she was close to smashing Harry into pieces. Harry wasn’t sure if this was better than when Draco was being snippy, as it made her feel like a piece of cardboard that Draco was reluctantly dancing with.
She thought maybe she was doing an okay job of it, making an effort to correct her posture as Draco whirled her around the room, even shoving her elbow back level when it drifted down. Though Draco had an frustrated glint in her eye as she guided them, she said nothing even as Harry tripped over her own feet.
Draco was a good dancer, which wasn’t surprising considering the fuss she’d kicked up. She had a subtle grace that Harry had never been able to master, and a strength to her movements that should have looked far more ridiculous than it did.
“You’re quite good,” Harry said tentatively, nicely even.
“I know,” Draco said, in a clipped tone. Harry couldn’t remember the last time she’d seemed quite so closed off. Draco Malfoy was a lot of things, but quiet and restrained was not her usual. It was probably good, but it just made Harry want to prod at her.
“Where did you learn?” Harry pressed, and Draco grit her teeth, her attitude finally wearing through her silence.
“None of your business,” Draco replied, correcting Harry’s posture with a furious hand.
“Sorry, I didn’t realize your fancy dance school was such a big secret,” Harry replied feeling a bit annoyed at being arranged like a doll. “Afraid I’ll go get myself some lessons and usurp you as queen dance bitch?”
Draco’s grip on her hand tightened, a warning sign Harry thought she might just ignore. “Did I not say that it was none of your business?”
Harry rolled her eyes, letting Draco march her around the room. As they took a rather sharp turn, Harry caught the smallest bit of Draco’s vanilla perfume. It wasn’t like the sickly sweet vanilla body spray Lavender and Parvati had loved so much in third year, but a warm almost exotic smell like vanilla straight from the bottle or something fresh baked.
Go figure that Draco would even smell expensive. Harry was fairly sure she smelled like the apples in her shampoo.
“Quit zoning out,” Draco snapped, and Harry found herself wrenched back into reality by the high pitched rasp of Draco’s voice. “You’re abysmal enough when you aren’t distracted.”
Harry sighed, trying to straighten her posture back out without seeming like she was trying too hard.
“Elbow up. It’s sagging. Again,” Draco criticized, her frustration apparently overriding her desire to freeze Harry out with silence.
“Sorry,” Harry mumbled insolently, sticking her elbow back up, only to have Draco shove it level to the ground. “Can you not fucking manhandle me?”
“Can you put your ungainly limbs where they’re supposed to be?” Draco snipped back, giving Harry a look that bordered on cruel.
“Can you not be a bitch all the time?” Harry replied, ripping herself out of Draco’s grip. “Like I’m serious, can you just be fucking civil to me for two fucking seconds?”
“I think we crossed that bridge a long time ago,” Draco snipped back, arms coming to cross over her chest.
“So you can’t even be cordial to me? You have to be fucking rude constantly?” Harry asked, knowing that her voice was approaching a yell even as she tried to keep it down. “We haven’t even talked this whole year! We haven’t talked since, I don’t know, I pulled you out of a fucking fire!”
“I didn’t want that either!” Draco shrieked back, her hands balled in fists as her cheeks went bright pink just like they always did.
“So you’d rather I’d just left you to die?!” Harry yelled, knowing that she was poking at old wounds even as she did so. Here she was, letting Draco drag her back into a feud they’d been feeding since they were eleven.
“I’d rather it wasn’t you! I wish it wasn’t always fucking you!” Draco replied, taking off at a irritated pace around the room. “I though this year I could finally ignore you and what do you do? You volunteer to be my dance partner!”
“I was trying to help Ernie!” Harry protested, wishing she could hit something. It felt like she was trying to fight a tornado, like the both of them were hurricanes smashing into each other.
“Why don’t you stop trying to help for once!” Draco yelled her voice breaking on the last word, and dropping low. “Even when I ignore you, you won’t leave me alone.”
Harry gaped at her, the frustrated tears gathering at the edges of her eyes and the defiant set of her shoulders and tried to fumble around for words. “You really want me to leave you alone?”
“How would you feel if I did want that?” Draco replied, stopping near the window with an imperiousness that Harry knew she’d never be able to achieve.
“I don’t know,” Harry replied honestly, thinking guiltily of all the times she’d watched Draco in the Great Hall, over homework, when she should have been doing other things. She wasn’t really sure what it would even be like to cut her out, to have a life that wasn’t in some way tangled with Draco Malfoy. “Do you want that?”
Draco closed her eyes, placing a hand gently on the windowsill. “I just want to get this dancing thing over with.”
“Okay,” Harry replied, feeling like she’d been punched in the gut even though Draco hadn’t even touched her. Try to be nice. Try to be nice. “I want that too. Do you think, maybe you could try and not bite my head off in the process?”
Draco didn’t look at her, her eyes locked on something just outside the window. “I just get really irritated.”
“I know,” Harry said, trying to sound empathetic. “I’m really trying, but I’m not a very good dancer. I’m better than Ernie, but that’s not very hard.”
“You are better than Ernie,” Draco said, sounding like it pained her to admit it. “And I can see you correcting your posture. Or at least trying to.”
“I am,” Harry replied, deliberately not lashing out at Malfoy’s insinuation that ‘trying’ was not yet good enough. “Do you think you could try and teach me?”
“I don’t want to,” Draco said, still gripping the windowsill with a controlled anger. “But I’m going to be stuck with you whether you’re shit or not so we might as well.”
“Thanks,” Harry said with only a small amount of sass.
“So we’re going to start with a box,” Draco said, going up to the blackboard and picking up a piece of chalk. “You could visualize it, but I truly don’t think we’re past chalk outline.”
“I appreciate your faith in me,” Harry replied, sitting down on one of the desks pushed against the wall as Draco sketched out feet and arrows designed to show her where to dance.
“Please don’t overestimate your dancing abilities,” Draco replied, returning the chalk to the blackboard. “Okay, stand on the feet with the 1 next to them.”
“Where are your chalk feet?” Harry asked, walking over and standing in the ovals.
“You don’t need chalk feet when you know how to dance,” Draco replied, brushing the chalk dust from her hands and coming to stand in front of Harry, who was fighting an eye roll with all of her strength. “You mostly just need to follow, but please don’t be sloppy about it.”
“As a committed slob, I will try my best,” Harry said, giving Draco a toothy smile.
“Merlin,” Draco said with a sigh, arranging them into waltzing position. “Are you ready or do you have a few more lame jokes to crack?”
Harry started to open her mouth, but was cut off by Draco. “Actually, forget I asked that, I’m sure you have more. Let’s just start.”
She waited for a good place in the music and then moved forward, repeating “Back, side, together, front, side, together,” to Harry under her breath as they moved. When she’d danced with Anthony she’d mostly just let him move her around, and while they’d done the counts of three she didn’t think they’d been moving in a box.
“I don’t think Anthony was doing the box thing,” Harry says uncertainly, nearly stumbling over her feet when she tried to talk.
“I’m sure he wasn’t,” Draco replied. “McGonagall hasn’t drilled that into us yet. She just wants everyone to get on beat and get the stance first. It’s frustrating.”
“It can’t be easy teaching a bunch of uncoordinated teenagers to dance,” Harry replied, unsure if McGills actually needed defending but feeling like it was her job.
“It’s not,” Draco said, giving her a look.
“Point taken,” Harry replied, glancing back down at the little chalk feet she was meant to be stepping in.
“Back straight, please,” Draco said as they moved, and Harry did her best to adjust, the addition of ‘please’ instead of a barked order surprising her. She had a feeling that Draco’s near constant tired berating was her trying to be nice. Harry wondered if she had any other settings, and was once again hit with the mental image of Draco Malfoy attempting romance and had to repress giggles.
“What are you laughing about?” Draco asked, her eyes narrowed.
“Nothing,” Harry replied, sure that the actual answer would not go over well.
Draco gave her a searching look but didn’t press, just continued to lead her through the steps, her head held high.
“I knew you’d come back alive,” Hermione said as Harry climbed through the portrait hole at eight forty, her messy hair up in a ponytail. “How was it?”
“Not horrible,” Harry replied, flopping back down on the couch. Ron had joined Hermione, and was laying on the floor with her homework splayed around her. “No one died.”
“And it looks like all limbs intact, nice!” Ron added, flipping her pencil in Harry’s direction. “Could you hand my pencil back?”
Harry bent down to get it and winged it at her. “All limbs intact. There was a bit of yelling but nothing out of the ordinary.” It only felt a little bit like a fib, with what Draco had said about leaving her alone hanging heavier in Harry’s memory. It wore at her a little, the idea that Draco really had been ignoring her, that Harry didn’t really know how to ignore her back. That maybe neither of them really wanted that.
“Did you learn to dance?” Hermione asked, darting her eyes down to her work and back up again as Harry took the place next to her on the couch.
“According to Draco, probably not,” Harry replied, pulling a blanket down on top of her. “But she said I was better than Ernie.”
“More small blessings,” Ron added, crumpling a piece of parchment and throwing it in the vague direction of the trashcan.
“Very small,” Harry said. “As opposed to the amount of homework I still have, which is very large.”
“If you can finish your transfiguration essay tonight I’ll edit it for you,” Hermione said, glancing over at Harry. “You won’t even have to bribe me.”
“I will absolutely hold you to that, Ms. Granger,” Harry replied, throwing the blanket onto Ron and making her way up to the girl’s dormitory to get her bookbag.
Her next dance lesson with Draco, Harry arrived just as the stroke of eight. It had been exceptionally cold that day, and she was in a sweater Seamus had gotten from his aunt three Christmases prior but declared far too itchy to wear.
“You look warm,” Draco had remarked at her entrance, and Harry looked down at the scarlet colored wool with a smile.
“Nicked it from Seamus,” she said, running her hand across the scratchy wool.
“Don’t reckon he’s missing it,” Draco said, reaching out like she was about to try and touch the knit and thinking better of it. “I’m itchy just looking at you.”
“That’s what the button up underneath is for,” Harry replied, flipping her collar up and down with a grin.
“I only wear cashmere,” Draco replied airily. “But it does look warm.”
“You look chilly,” Harry said, motioning at Draco’s tights and gray dress. “And monochrome.”
“The only colors I wear are plum, emerald, and neutrals,” Draco replied. “They look good with my skin tone.”
“I seem to remember you owning a lot of pink,” Harry said, recalling Draco flouncing around in a bright pink cloak in the winter of their first year. She’d been a bit jealous of it at the time, but in retrospect it was quite hilarious.
Draco flushed a pink quite a bit softer than the cloak had been, thrusting her chin high to try and trying to sound prim. “It was my favorite color.”
“What’s your favorite color now?” Harry asked, unable to stop herself from grinning.
“Green,” Draco said firmly, even as Harry rolled her eyes. “Are we here to dance or to make fun of the clothing choices of my youth?”
“Well I know which one I’m here for,” Harry said, but waited obediently for Draco slide off her winter cloak and stand in front of her.
“To make shitty jokes when I can’t run away, I know,” Draco said, sounding tired but also maybe like she was in on the joke too.
“So where are my chalk feet?” Harry asked, as Draco flicked the music on with her wand.
“I thought you could graduate to repeating ‘back side together, front side together’ under your breath for today,” Draco said, giving her an icy smile. “Think you can handle that?”
“We’ll see, won’t we?” Harry replied, letting Draco grab her hand and get her into position.
“You hand grip is better now,” Draco said clinically, like it wasn’t technically praise, as she fell effortlessly into dance position. It looked natural on Draco even when it felt gawky and ridiculous on Harry.
“I don’t know how you stand like this and don’t look stupid,” Harry grumbled, trying to keep her head up and hold herself at the stilted angles Draco held so naturally.
“Practice,” Draco said. “Ready?”
Harry gave a nod and Draco began to move them in the familiar box, whispering directions as they danced. With Anthony, Harry’d had the distinct impression that he was dragging her through the dance, but with Draco it felt more like they were dancing together, like Draco was just guiding her through the steps.
“Elbow,” Draco murmured, as Harry ticked her elbow back up and they continued to dance. It should have felt silly, the same moves over and over, and on some level Harry felt completely ridiculous, like she was a parody of someone doing a waltz, but Draco looked so elegant that she didn’t feel entirely like a farce.
The music continued, loud in the quiet room as they moved, something like peace coming over them as Harry realized that at that moment she wasn’t fucking anything up, that she was actually dancing with Draco and it wasn’t a complete disaster.
Without saying anything about it, Draco released her into a spin and Harry took it with a laugh, nearly tripping over feet but coming back into position with all the grace she could muster as Draco pulled her back into the steps.
“Haven’t gone over that in class yet,” Harry said, smiling because it felt like the right thing to do.
“No, not yet,” Draco said, her eyes not quite meeting Harry’s. It felt like an incomplete thought but she didn’t add any more, just danced until the song ended before dropping Harry’s hands. “I think I’d like a bit of a break.”
“Sounds good.” Harry shook out her stiff arms, going to get herself a hair tie. It was only after she’d pulled her hair back that she glanced at Draco, who was standing by the windowsill again, her forehead pressed to the glass.
Harry took a few quiet steps forward, peering out next to her. “It snowing?”
“Yeah,” Draco said, something not quite right in her voice.
“Are you crying?” Harry asked, sidling up closer. It was the bathroom all over again, it was 6th year and Draco was crying and Harry was always helpless.
“No,” Draco replied, even as Harry saw the tears staining her cheeks and the slow melting of her eyeliner under her eyes.
“Do you want, I can-” Harry rushed over to the desk, pulling out a bundle of tissues from the tissue box and running back over to present them to Draco, who was still staring out at the snow.
“Do you think the snow will stick?” Draco asked, reaching over to take a tissue from Harry’s outstretched hands and dabbing at her eyes.
“I hope so,” Harry said, unsure where was safe to tread. She didn’t know how to dance and she didn’t know how to talk to Draco but maybe if she could learn one she could learn the other. “First snow at Hogwarts is so beautiful.”
Draco nodded, hiccuping quietly. “Means it’s really winter.”
“Mind if I look too?” Harry asked, realizing only after she’d spoken that there were other windows she could have gone to, that just because they’d danced together didn’t mean that Draco wanted to be close to her even if she was crying. Maybe especially if.
Draco scooted to the right that Harry could squeeze in next to her, both of them looking out on the snow.
“I hate crying in front of people,” Draco sniffed finally, as they watched the white flakes begin to cover the grounds. The night was dark, only the lights of the castle reflecting on the shimmering flakes.
“I won’t tell, if that’s what you’re worried about,” Harry assured her, offering another tissue, which Draco used to delicately blow her nose.
“Well, you didn’t tell last time,” Draco said with a grimace.
“Last time was a bit different than this time,” Harry said, reaching over to hold onto Draco’s wrist in apology. She did it slowly so Draco could pull back if she wanted to.
Draco took Harry’s hand in her own, their fingers cold against each other in the winter light. “Haven’t even cried in front of Greg and you’ve seen it twice. I haven’t seen you cry, doesn’t seem fair.”
“Probably not,” Harry said, resting her forehead against the chilly glass and letting her breath fog up the window. “Still got time.”
“Indeed,” Draco said, dabbing again at the tears that finally seemed to have slowed.
Harry wished she could have asked what Draco was crying about, but felt that the way their fingers were intertwined went deeper than any questions she could have asked or any apologies she could have procured. She thought about pulling back and asking if she wanted to dance again so the moment would fade back out of seriousness. She held steady instead, watching the snow fall.
“Harry are you dancing with Draco Malfoy again tonight?” Luna asked, drifting by the table Harry was studying at. They were wearing a sweater that was distinctly longer on one side and a few strange vials on delicate chains. The comforting thing about Luna was that even though their whims changed and their curiosities varied, they would always arrive in a haze of sweet smelling positivity.
“If by that you mean, ‘do I have detention’, the answer is yes,” Harry replied, shoving her book to the side and giving them a smile. “Why, do you have grand plans?”
“I was just wondering if you wanted to come to our fiber art event tonight in the Ravenclaw Common Room,” Luna asked sunnily. “It’ll probably go from about eight to nine.”
“Fiber art?” Harry asked, trying to parse exactly what Luna was talking about.
“I think there will mostly be knitting and crochet, but I heard that Rosemary was going to be constructing a fiber art sculpture in the North Staircase,” Luna said, looking overjoyed about the whole thing. “Hermione told me she’d come and I think that means Ron too, I just wanted to make sure you got the invitation.”
“Sounds really interesting,” Harry replied with a smile, although she still wasn’t entirely sure what exactly a fiber art sculpture would entail.
“You can bring Draco too once you two are finished dancing,” Luna said. “I don’t know if she knits.”
“I can’t imagine that she does,” Harry said, though given her affinity for dancing, it wouldn’t exactly be surprising. She wondered how many secret talents Malfoy was hiding underneath her perfect blonde hair.
“Well we can teach her if she’d like to learn. You too, Harry,” Luna said, squeezing Harry’s hand before drifting back to the anthropology section of the library like a wandering butterfly.
During that night’s detention, Draco continued to snip at her and Harry continued to crack awful jokes, but it never crossed over into screaming and Harry thought maybe she could do this dancing thing. Harry didn’t bring up the crying and Draco seemed pleased to keep it that way, only correcting Harry’s posture every once in a while with gentle hands or a quick reprimand.
“You know, if I didn’t know better I’d actually think we’re getting along,” Harry said as they stretched, feeling like a complete knob as soon as the words left her mouth.
“Not killing each other isn’t getting along,” Draco replied, something almost amused in her eyes.
“You haven’t screamed at me since Tuesday,” Harry pointed out. “That’s really good. For us.”
Draco still hissed at her sometimes when Harry forgot her posture or gave her a look when she messed up the steps but it wasn’t seconds from boiling over any longer. Sometimes when Harry wasn’t trying so hard the banter almost felt friendly, like they were old mates joking around.
“I suppose so,” Draco said, sitting in a butterfly stretch and bouncing her knees a bit. “But it’s not as easy as just like, not fighting.”
“Why not?” Harry asked, leaning up against the desk.
“I don’t know,” Draco said, dipping her forehead down towards the ground. “Why should it be?”
“Why shouldn’t it?” Harry pressed, stretching her arms high over her head.
“Baggage,” Draco said on an exhale. “We have enough baggage to fill the holds of the Hogwarts Express five times.”
“So?” Harry asked.
“We can’t just be friends after everything,” Draco said, sounding like the words were hard to get out, her face deliberately facing the floor so she wouldn’t have to look at Harry.
“I said getting along, I didn’t say friends,” Harry said, feeling triumphant. “Unless you want to be friends.”
“You implied friends, that’s what your lame getting along comment meant,” Draco replied tiredly, stretching her legs out in front of her and bending to try and touch her toes.
“So maybe I did,” Harry said stubbornly. “Sorry I thought maybe what happened last night meant we might consider each other something other than enemies. Considering literally everything we’ve been through.” She knew the second the words came out that they were just a smidge too far over the line.
“You always push things,” Draco said, standing up with a sigh. She looked tired, tired like it was beyond her body and into her heart too. “Maybe I don’t want to be friends with you. Maybe you can’t just be friends with everyone.”
“Are you saying you don’t want to be my friend?” Harry asked, and then blundered on before Draco could answer. “Because last time I asked if you wanted me to leave you alone, you couldn’t answer me, and I want to be your friend. Fuck it, I said it. I want to be your stupid fucking friend. Because I think you’re funny sometimes and you are a good dancer and I don’t want to hate you anymore. It’s stupid. Our baggage is stupid.”
Draco was not looking at her like it was her job, and Harry tried to find more words, more words that would plug up all the feelings that were threatening to leak out of her.
“Draco Malfoy, will you be my stupid fucking friend?” Harry asked, digging her fingernails into her palms to keep herself from losing it.
Draco sighed deeply, standing slowly and taking two awkward pacing steps like she didn’t know what to do with her body before finally just standing there staring out the window. “As long as I don’t have to be nice to you when you’re being a knob.”
“You do not have to be nice to me when I’m being a knob,” Harry said seriously. “If you were nice to me then I would know that you were really out for my blood.”
“Not so stupid as you act then, are you?” Draco said, almost brittle. “Okay Potter, friends, I guess.”
“Whatever,” Harry said, unable to keep a smile off of her face.
“Eight thirty,” Draco said, glancing up at the clock. “Guess we’re free.”
“Guess so,” Harry said, pushing off from the desk and heading for the door. “See you Tuesday.”
“I can’t wait,” Draco replied, sounding as if she’d rather die, and Harry had to stifle a giggle as she headed towards the Ravenclaw tower to learn all about Fiber Art.
Harry didn’t get the full lesson on fiber art until she descended the North Staircase Saturday morning to find that it had inexplicably grown a small army of multicolored yarn pieces.
“Is that...?” she asked in confusion, pointing up at the slowly swaying masses of fabric and tangling ends with the business end of her broom.
“Rosemary’s art piece?” Hermione prompted, staring up at the blue and yellow yarn in bemusement. “I’m not really sure what’s she’s trying to accomplish but Luna and some of the girls seem quite excited about it.”
“Last night I was mostly paying attention to Ron’s penis sleeve designs,” Harry said, stepping around a particularly long strand of bright yellow. “I know I’m not exactly artsy but I really do not get it.”
“Apparently its a pretty popular art movement in the muggle world,” Hermione said, letting a long strand of bright blue yarn brush against her hand. “I don’t know anything about it, though my parents were never that into art either.”
“Do you think it’s done?” Harry asked as they descended the staircase and made their way out to lawn where Ron and a few of the others had promised a Quidditch pick up game.
“Probably not,” Hermione replied. “But who knows, I guess we’ll just have to wait until next week.”
“How thrilling,” Harry replied with a laugh, pushing open the doors and striding out onto the lawn. The snow had mostly melted but nearly an inch still coated the ground. Half the school was out taking advantage of it, whether by wandering around in the sunny winter day or hurling snowballs at the back of each other’s heads.
As they made their way out onto the lawn, Ginny bounded up to them, a wide smile on her face. “Neville asked Hannah to the Yule Ball!”
“You’re kidding!” Hermione exclaimed, looking pleased.
“I am so proud of that boy sometimes,” Harry added. “How did he ask?”
“Wrote it out in the snow with some fancy spell and then took her for a walk last night,” Ginny said, her hair blowing wild behind her. She was wearing half of her Quidditch gear and had her broom in one hand, her cheeks red with cold. “Too sappy for me, but they’ve been wandering around like lovesick puppies all morning so I guess it worked.”
“Everything is too sappy for you,” Harry teased, remembering the time that Dean had bought her a heart necklace and she’d held it up to Ron and asked ‘so like, am I supposed to wear it now or something?’
“What can I say, I’m a girl of simple needs,” Ginny said with a shrug. “They really are cute though.”
“I wonder who Anthony is going to go with then,” Harry mused as they walked over to the Quidditch-esque keep away game, dodging a stray snowball in the process. “He was thinking about going with Hannah as friends.”
“More importantly, who are you asking?” Ginny asked, elbowing her in the side.
“Why do I have to constantly remind everyone how embarrassing romance is for me,” Harry said. “I will third wheel Ron and Hermione and it will be glamorous and beautiful.”
“You could ask Anthony if he’s out a date. You didn’t seem to hate dancing with him too much,” Hermione said. “If he’s forgiven you for inadvertently sticking him with Ernie.”
“Not a bad idea, Anthony is cool,” Harry said. “He uses mouthwash and he won’t try to grope me, so definitely a strong possibility.”
As they walked, Harry spotted Draco and her cronies coming towards them, laughing as they kicked the snow up in fans of sparkling white. Draco was wearing that ridiculous cloak with the fur collar again and she looked chilly and bright in the snow, the tip of her nose pink.
They were friends now, Harry remembered with a start, they’d talked and now they were friends. In years past they might have stopped to say something rude to each other and in the beginning of that year that might have merely pretended not to see each other but it was different now, not that Harry knew what that meant.
Draco’s eyes went wide when she spotted Harry, something like panic in them when she doubtlessly realized the same things that Harry just had.
Harry raised her hand ever so slightly, giving a stilted wave that startled a laugh out of Draco as she raised her hand back, looking like she had no idea how exactly she’d been dragged into such an exchange.
“What was that?” Ginny asked, whirling on Harry as soon as they passed, looking as she’d just seen Christmas, New Year, and the end of days.
“We’re um,” Harry began, hand still hanging uselessly in the air. “Friends now?”
“How in Merlin’s Pants did that happen?” Ginny asked, as Hermione stifled a laugh.
“We had detention together? And we decided we could either kill each other or be friends?” Harry offered, shooting an offended look at Hermione as she broke down into laughter.
“Her face! Your face! Merlin, you two are ridiculous,” Hermione said, far too amused for Harry’s liking.
“I do think it’s quite funny that the only two options are friendship or murder,” Ginny said, joining Hermione in laughter. “That’s so Harry and Draco, like, if someone said that to me I’d be like ‘Yeah, I bet that’s Potter and Malfoy doing some dumb shit again.’”
“We are trying our best at civility!” Harry protested, even though she knew they were right. She’d always hated Malfoy but it had never been that simmering righteous hatred she’d felt for Umbridge or the ire she’d felt for Snape but something that bordered much more closely on obsession. It’s not like she didn’t know, but the fact that everyone else seemed to know and drew their own conclusions was unsettling.
“I’m sure you are,” Ginny said, narrowing her eyes at Harry. “I’m sure you’re trying quite hard.”
“I don’t know what you’re talking about!” Harry replied, because she had a bad feeling that Ginny was creeping towards what Hermione had brought up before she went to her first detention. She wondered in a panic if everyone thought that, if they were having secret Gryffindor meetings where they discussed whether or not they thought Harry liked Draco. Which Harry did not, even if they were friends.
“Sure you don’t,” Hermione said, though by this time they’d made it all the way to where Ron and a few other people were playing Quidditch and she was saved. “No one break anything, I don’t even think Madame Pomfrey can mend your bones before the Slytherin-Ravenclaw match tonight.”
“To be fair, the hospital windows aren’t the worst place to watch Quidditch from,” Harry joked, remembering the many times she’d been laid up there while the Gryffindor team played.
“I wish you didn’t know that,” Hermione replied, charming herself a warm place on the ground as Harry mounted her broom and hovered in the air.
“You and me both, Mione,” Harry replied, before zipping up into the air to join the game of keep away, her hair streaming out behind her.
The Slytherin - Ravenclaw match, which ended with a quite impressive snitch catch by Draco Malfoy herself, resulted in a Slytherin Common Room party that somehow, in the fray, everyone was invited to.
Harry wasn’t sure she could remember a single time that the post-Quidditch party had been an open event for anyone but significant others, but she thought maybe it was a sign of the times that most of the upperclassmen were packed into the common room as someone blasted the last ten years worth Now That’s What I Call Wizard Rock.
“This is ridiculous!” Harry yelled over the music to Ron and Hermione, Hermione half seated in one of the large green chairs by the fireplace and Ron in her lap. “How is this even happening?”
“Inter-house unity?” Hermione offered with a grin, a glass of wine nearly empty in her hand. “Not sure if this is what McGiggles had in mind.”
“McGiggles!” Ron repeated, looking like Hermione had just said something quite incredible.
“Probably not,” Harry said with a laugh, looking around at those dancing, drinking, or just standing around smiling. She even spotted a few Ravenclaws who seemed fairly unperturbed by their loss, including Anthony who was chatting with Seamus over by the punch.
Harry pushed through two Hufflepuff boys making eyes at each other to sling her arms around both of their shoulders. “Hello, my favorite boys!”
“Hello, drunk Harry!” Seamus responded, ruffling her hair with his hand. “What an absolutely lovely night it is turning out to be.”
“I am not that drunk,” Harry protested, because she wasn’t, just deliriously happy to see everyone finally looking so warm and together. “I just wanted to say hi.”
“How’s dance purgatory with your arch nemesis?” Anthony asked, a can of soda in his hand.
“We decided to be friends,” Harry said proudly, her arms still hanging around their shoulders. “And she said I was better than Ernie.”
“High praise,” Anthony said with a laugh. “And friends, really?”
“Ginny told me that Draco waved at Harry earlier today,” Seamus added conspiratorially, once again proving the sheer unstoppable force of the Gryffindor Gossip Mill.
“I’m so proud,” Anthony said with a laugh, giving Harry a very serious thumbs up.
“Anthony, have you found a date to the Yule Ball?” Harry asked, swerving the conversation out of Draco territory.
“I do not have a date,” Anthony said. “Not that I really mind, all the Ravenclaws normally go as a group anyway, even if there are dates involved.”
“Anthony Goldstein would you like to go as my friend date?” Harry asked, almost going down on one knee but deciding not to at the last second. “You are not a bad dancer and you use mouthwash so I think it would be great.”
“I think that would be lovely, tell me what sober Harry thinks,” Anthony said with a laugh.
“Mostly sober Harry thinks it’s a great idea,” Harry said, while Seamus pretended to swoon. “And this way, no can pressure me into actually asking a girl.”
“You could actually ask a girl, you know,” Anthony said. Seamus nodded in enthusiastic agreement.
“Nope, not a chance,” Harry said. “This will be so much less of a trainwreck. And besides, if either of us are seduced by beautiful witches at some point during the evening there will be no hard feelings.”
“Fair point,” Anthony conceded, toasting her cider with his soda. “Okay, ask me again in the morning and we’ll pick a color for our coordinating outfits.”
“How do you feel about teal?” Harry asked seriously. “I think it would like nice on both of us.”
“I do like teal,” Anthony agreed, beginning a conversation regarding what exactly they would be wearing that Seamus presided over like a partially inebriated referee. Eventually Anthony was kidnapped by a group of Ravenclaws who were having far too much fun for the losing team and Seamus ran off to join Ginny and Dean for an ill advised dart game, leaving Harry to wander in search of friendly faces.
She was just about to see if the dart game could use another player when a very drunk Draco Malfoy stumbled into her, grabbing Harry’s arm and shoulder.
“Harry, we won!” she said, once she’d looked up and identified her rescuer. Draco leaned up against her, resting her chin on Harry’s shoulder without preamble, as if this was something they had done before and not the weirdest thing Harry had ever walked into. “You are much better than the Ravenclaw seeker but you are not a good dancer and you are not funny.”
Harry tried to stifle a laugh, wondering what the best method for peeling Draco off of her would be. “Are you sure you don’t think I’m funny?”
“Quite sure,” Draco replied, her words prim and crisp even though she smelled like grass and alcohol and ever so slightly of vanilla. “Harry, I have something to tell you.”
“Okay?” Harry asked, patting Draco on the back awkwardly, which turned into stroking her hair, which was just as soft as it looked.
“You can’t tell anyone,” she said, her voice dropping to a whisper that Harry almost couldn’t hear over the music.
“Okay,” Harry repeated, unsettled at the way her stomach was tying itself in knots.
“My favorite color is still pink,” Draco whispered, directly into Harry’s ear so she could feel the heat of her breath. “You can’t tell. I just wanted you to know.”
Harry laughed helplessly as Draco detached herself from Harry’s embrace with a pleasant smile and went swishing over to Pansy, Blaise, and Greg, who were playing hand games near the other end of the room.
“What was that about?” Ron asked, throwing her arm around Harry’s neck as she watched Draco go.
“She told me her favorite color,” Harry said, trying to shake off the fog of bemusement without success. “I think she is spectacularly drunk.”
“She did win the game,” Ron replied, following Harry’s gaze.
“That she did,” Harry said, pressing her lips together so she wouldn’t grin.
“So what is her favorite color?”
“She told me not to tell,” Harry replied, thinking with great fondness of the bright pink cloak.
Sunday, after sleeping in until one and running down to the Great Hall to catch the last ten minutes of breakfast, Harry helped Ron set up the library wide scavenger hunt she was using to ask Hermione to the Yule Ball.
“Not making the same mistakes twice, eh?” Ron said, handing Harry the slips of pretty colored paper that they were supposed to be depositing in different books.
“How did you even manage this?” Harry asked, narrowing her eyes at the riddles on each slip of paper.
“Ginny helped,” Ron replied jovially, handing Harry the paper that dictated where everything should be placed.
“Ginny?” Harry asked, looking from the paper back to Ron in confusion.
“And Seamus,” Ron conceded, shedding a bit more light on the situation.
“Of course,” Harry replied, heading to the first book on her list.
After the scavenger hunt had been set up and Harry had sent a very sober owl to Anthony confirming that they would be going together and that they would look absolutely stunning in teal, she returned to the common room to finish up her homework in peace.
“This Yule Ball thing is not exactly making it easy to pass my classes,” Harry grumbled, fumbling through her papers as Parvati doodled something pretty on her paper. “Are you drawing?”
“Beats Arithmancy,” Parvati replied, turning the drawing so Harry could see it. It was a bunch of delicate butterflies. “Lav wants a tattoo so I’m doing sketches for her.”
“How is she anyway?” Harry asked, quite pleased that an excuse for a break had presented itself.
“Really good, I think. Cosmetology school has been awesome for her,” Parvati said with a smile. “She keeps owling me fancy makeup, it’s great.”
“Is she going to come to the ball?” Harry asked. “I heard that everyone from our year who wants to can come back.”
“I think she is, you know she can’t resist a pretty dress and a party,” Parvati said fondly. “And I need her to do my makeup, I still can’t put on fake eyelashes by myself.”
“Who can?” Harry replied, cringing at yet another terrible fourth year Yule Ball memory, where she had ended up with a lot of eyelash glue on her hands and no eyelashes on her eyes. It wasn’t quite as bad as Marietta, who had apparently stuck her fake eyelashes on quite permanently with a sticking charm gone too well.
“Fair,” Parvati said. “I heard you asked Anthony?”
“News travels fast,” Harry said, not sure how their drunken conversation had gotten all the way through Gryffindor house so fast, but fairly impressed by the speed.
“Seamus,” Parvati offered, as if that should explain it, which it did.
“Yeah, Anthony’s a good guy,” Harry said. “And we both look nice in teal.”
Harry didn’t see Draco until group dance lessons with McGonagall on Monday, leaving her plenty of time to wonder just how much of their encounter at the victory party Draco remembered. Harry thought about straight up asking her, but information on Draco Malfoy’s favorite color wasn’t something to bandy about willy nilly.
“Congratulations on your win Saturday,” Harry said when Draco finally made her way over, a beanie pulled over her hair. Hair that Harry knew to be quite soft, which was yet another bit of knowledge she probably could have gone without.
“Thanks,” Draco said, looking a bit pleased with herself. She still seemed a bit tired, which made sense, given Ginny’s intel that the victory party had stretched on until five in the morning.
“Good party too,” Harry said.
Draco pursed her lips, her eyes finding something very interesting over by the door. “You don’t happen to remember a conversation that we had during the party, do you?”
Harry fought a laugh, forcing herself to give a serious nod. “I do remember a conversation.”
Draco screwed up her face. “Damn it, I knew you were less drunk than me.”
“Unfortunately, I know your greatest secret,” Harry said with a grin. “Draco Malfoy’s favorite color in the whole world is-”
“Shut up!” Draco crowed, looking quite offended by the proceedings. “No one will believe you.”
“Sure they will, we’re friends now. Friends know each other’s favorite colors,” Harry replied with a grin. Draco frowned, crossing her arms over her chest until Harry relented. “I won’t tell, you big baby.”
“I’m not being a baby,” Draco said disparagingly. “I just did not intend to tell you, and I’m rather unhappy that you know.”
McGonagall chose that moment to call the room to attention, giving them a quick lesson on the under-arm turn they’d be working on that day, as well as the box step, so they’d move across the dance floor together instead of just tugging each other around.
“See, now that we’ve learned the turn I won’t fuck it up,” Harry said brightly as they got into position, and Draco rolled her eyes like she was fairly sure Harry would still find some way to fuck it up.
The music came on and Draco led her into the first steps, both of them falling into the easy rhythm of the dance. It was beginning to feel almost natural, all the hours of detention she’d put in beginning to make her arms stronger and her back stay a bit straighter.
“Ms. Potter you have improved quite a bit since our last lesson,” McGonagall said, not even needing to correct Harry’s form when she paused to watch them. “I am glad to see you both back here looking no worse for wear.”
“Malfoy’s a good teacher,” Harry said, mostly because she knew it would make Draco stumble, which it did. Draco stepped on her foot in retaliation, nearly sending Harry into a fit of giggles.
“Potter makes up for her lack of natural talent by sheer force of will,” Draco said.
McGonagall raised her eyebrows at the pair of them. “So I can see. Hopefully you two will not require any more extracurricular lessons.”
“That’s the plan,” Harry said, as Draco nodded pleasantly at McGonagall.
“I’m glad to hear it,” McGonagall said, making it sound distinctly like a warning as she went to check on other couples.
“I think we’re freaking her out,” Harry said, turning to watch her go.
“Focus,” Draco said, tugging at Harry so she wouldn’t get sidetracked. “I’m sure we are. Probably worried we’re hatching some kind of depraved plan. We do make a rather terrible team.”
“Gruesome twosome,” Harry offered with a smile.
Draco nodded approvingly, an expression Harry never truly expected to see directed toward her.
“So who are you asking to the ball?” Harry asked, after Draco had lead her through a few very rusty under-arm turns. It wasn’t quite as easy as just going for a spin, and Malfoy gave her a number of disapproving looks even though she was trying her best.
“More under-arm turns less prodding at my personal life,” Draco replied, adjusting their form once again.
“But your personal life is so interesting,” Harry pressed, letting Draco push her into an under-arm turn that ended quite badly. “I’m going as friends with Anthony, we’re going to wear teal.”
“I didn’t ask,” Draco replied, hauling her back into the dance.
“I’m offering up information about myself in the hopes that you will reply with information about yourself, it’s something friends do,” Harry said, giving Draco her sunniest smile, which was met with a glowering eyebrow raise.
“If you can perfect the under-arm turn by the end of the lesson I’ll tell you,” Draco said finally, like she thought the entire prospect unlikely.
“Promise?” Harry asked, wondering if perhaps she was overestimating her slowly burgeoning dance skills. Having shitty adoptive parents meant she hadn’t had the dance lessons that many of the other girls did, so she had a lot of gracefulness to make up for.
“Fine,” Draco replied. “Lets see your turn.”
It took close to thirty minutes for Harry to transform her stumbling mess of a turn into something Draco begrudgingly admitted was fairly good. In the meantime, Blaise and Hermione had blundered into them in the spirit of good natured fun, Ernie had managed to overturn a desk over by the wall, and Draco’d had to deep breathe for a solid twenty seconds after Harry had stepped on Draco’s toes.
“That was good!” Harry said, after her latest and greatest performance of the under-arm turn. “I executed that perfectly!”
“You executed something,” Draco replied dryly, looking distinctly unimpressed.
“Yeah, the turn, perfectly,” Harry shot back, unperturbed.
“I suppose you did do it,” Draco said. “One more time?”
Harry made a face, but let Draco spin her into the turn, which she completed with even more grace than the last iteration.
After a few more counts of silence, Draco seemed to realize she couldn’t win. “I’m going with Greg.”
“Really?” Harry replied, then tried to school her face into something that wasn’t abject shock when something dark came into Draco’s expression.
“Yes, really, I asked him last week,” Draco said sternly, avoiding Harry’s eyes again.
“Like, asked? Malfoy are you dating Goyle?” Harry asked, incredulous. For one thing, she’d always heard vague whispers that Malfoy was gay, and even if one were to be bisexual, there were plenty of Slytherin boys much more attractive than Gregory Goyle.
Malfoy, for her part, looked like she was dangerously close to getting upset, though whether she was going to scream or cry Harry wasn’t sure. “You’re such an asshole,” she hissed, the hand that was holding Harry’s doing that manic spasm again.
“No I- I was just surprised,” Harry said, trying to continue with the waltz and talk Malfoy back down. She didn’t need to miss another week’s worth of Quidditch practice, even though her dance lessons with Malfoy were entertaining. “I just thought you were gay!” Maybe not her most tactful approach. “Sorry, not better, I just- Sorry it’s surprising! I was surprised!”
Draco was so completely affronted that she pulled their dancing to a complete halt. “You’d think by now you would have picked up some manners,” Draco hissed. “Greg’s my friend and we’re going to the Yule Ball together because we’re friends and my sexuality isn’t any of your business!” She wrenched herself very dramatically out of the waltz hold. “I’m getting a drink!”
Harry stood where Draco had left her, feeling very silly and very sorry for herself. She thought maybe she should vacate the dance floor, but Malfoy was cross with her again and quite a few people were watching her and so she thought the best course of action would be to stand there until she dissolved or the world swallowed her up.
“Go apologize.” Anthony appeared at her side, holding Ernie in a loose dance hold. Ernie’s elbow was pointed towards the floor and he still looked terrified that anyone was expecting him to dance. “I don’t know what happened, but even Malfoy isn’t immune to apologies.”
“Anthony, you’re going to the Yule Ball with an idiot,” Harry said, a frown on her face.
“I’m aware,” Anthony said, looking just a little bit fond. “Now go fix whatever you just fucked up.”
Harry nodded, pausing only to move Ernie’s elbow level before following Draco out into the hallway, finding her standing with her arms crossed by the drinking fountain like she’d been waiting for Harry to show up.
“Do you want something?” She asked coldly when Harry sidled up, all traces of camaraderie gone from her expression.
“I’m sorry that I was shitty about you going to the Ball with Goyle, that was not the chillest,” Harry said, every word coming out just the smallest bit wrong.
“No it was not the chillest,” Draco said, her tone mocking. “That’s why I didn’t tell you, because I knew you wouldn’t get it and you’d just be mean about it.”
“I wasn’t trying to be mean, I just sometimes say things without thinking,” Harry said, because Draco was upset and she hadn’t wanted that at all. “I’m really sorry I hurt your feelings.”
Draco huffed. “It’s fine.”
“It’s not,” Harry pressed, stepping closer, like she was going to do something ridiculous like hug her. “I want to be your friend, but it’s hard. It’s going to be hard.”
“But you just won’t give up, will you?” Draco asked tiredly, the answer already written on her face.
“I don’t think you want me to,” Harry said, leaning up against the opposite wall so they could face each other, the floor stretching between them.
“Don’t test me,” Draco said, but she didn’t tell her to give up or go away even though Harry knew she must have wanted to.
“I’m sure you’ll have fun with Greg,” Harry said. “I don’t really know him, honestly.”
“I know,” Draco said, and Harry thought she might have gotten a glimpse of something close to hurt. “He’s a really good friend.”
“I didn’t know,” Harry repeated, the softness in Draco’s features making her nervous. She didn’t know Draco could be that soft, that her pointy features could look warm like that when talking about something she loved.
“How would you?” Draco said, shrugging. “It’s not like you would care about something like that.”
“It’s not that I don’t care,” Harry said, disbelieving. “When would I have had time to get to know your friends? We weren’t friends, we didn’t even like each other!”
“I didn’t say you had to care, I’m just saying you didn’t,” Draco said, and Harry didn’t know how they’d gotten here, why she felt so bad for not liking Goyle who’d been nothing but just as nasty as Malfoy. She thought she should have a better defense but nothing was coming to mind.
“So what is it then?” Harry asked finally, looking down at her shoes instead of Draco, feeling like she was taking the bait. “Tell me why you like him.”
“Greg is the most loyal friend I’ve ever had,” Draco said, her face going closed. It was an expression Harry recognized, the closing that happened when she was going to cry. “We’ve known each other our whole lives since our families were really close.”
Because you’re both weirdo purebloods whose parents got tangled up in Voldemort, Harry’s mind supplied, but she kept her mouth shut. It probably hadn’t been like that when they were young, they’d probably just been a bunch of kids playing hide and seek in their enormous houses and riding around on tiny brooms.
“He’s really sweet,” Draco said, fiddling with the hem of her skirt. Harry couldn’t picture Goyle being anything close to sweet, but she didn’t know. She supposed Draco might not think much of Ron and Hermione either, even though they were the most important people in Harry’s life. “And everyone thinks he’s just some dumb oaf and I hate it.”
“I’m sorry,” Harry said as Draco shook herself out, her posture straightening. “And you’re right, your sexuality isn’t my business.”
Draco nodded, looking less like she was in danger of falling apart. “I appreciate your apology.”
“Of course,” Harry said, giving her a smile. “I don’t want to make you upset, I just say dumb shit.”
“I’m very aware,” Draco said, and Harry thought it was a good sign that she was being snide again instead of letting her emotions wash across her face. Harry was always open but Draco was tightly wound and only let the truth seep out when there was nothing left to hold it in.
“I never did get your opinion on teal for Anthony and I,” Harry said, hoping to steer their conversation back into lighter territory.
“Teal is flattering,” Draco said, examining her nails, which were dark blue and beginning to chip. “Although I do think you would do well in emerald, because of your eyes.”
“Oh yeah, I’ll just go to the Yule Ball in Slytherin colors, awesome advice Draco,” Harry said, something about the eyes comment making her feel a little bit warm.
“It’s inter-house unity, I’m sure McGonagall would love it,” Draco said, as if she was giving legitimate counsel instead of being insufferable.
“The day you wear red to the ball is the day I wear dark green,” Harry said, a challenge creeping into her voice before she could stop it.
“Unlikely,” Draco said. “Red is not my color.”
“No, you’re right,” Harry replied, a smile alighting on to her face. “If I wear green, you should wear pink.”
“You’re ridiculous,” Draco said, looking as if Harry had suggested far more bizarre than Yule Ball color choices. “Not in a million years.”
“I’ll do it,” Harry said. “I’ll wear a green dress if you wear a pink one.”
“Absolutely not,” Draco said firmly, crossing her arms over her chest to reaffirm her point.
“You’re saying you wouldn’t secretly love if I had to wear Slytherin colors?” Harry asked. “I’ll wear silver jewelry even. The whole thing. All you have to do is wear pink, your favorite color in the whole world. I’m doing you a favor, even.”
Draco looked as if she’d eaten something sour, and Harry fought the urge to laugh since she thought it would make Draco even more testy.
“It would be a bit funny to see you in Slytherin green,” Draco said after a long pause. “You can’t go lime or anything, it has to be emerald or I’m not doing it.”
“But if I go emerald you will?” Harry asked, already penning the owl to Anthony in her head.
“Fine,” Draco said. “But you still can’t tell people it’s my favorite color.”
“If you insist,” Harry said, even though it was just a color and Draco was ridiculous. The stipulation was definitely in character and Harry was willing to indulge her. “So shall we unbreakable vow it or will a handshake do?”
“I think a handshake will suffice. If you back out, I will scalp you,” Draco said. “My nails are probably sharp enough and if not, Pansy has a collection of fancy knives.”
“Why does Pansy-” Harry stopped, deciding she did not want to know. “I won’t bail and you won’t have to scalp me.”
“Lovely,” Draco replied, stepping away from the wall and giving Harry a handshake. “Let’s go dance, I’m still not convinced you have that turn down.”
Harry fought a smile, following her in.
“What is that?” Draco’s voice was loud enough that it rang down the stairway to where Harry, Hermione, and Ron were walking. “What in Merlin’s name is growing from the ceiling?”
“I think it’s yarn,” Pansy said, with slightly less volume.
“It does look like yarn,” Goyle agreed.
“Is it alive?” Draco asked, tentatively reaching out to touch it and then jumping back when it swung.
“It’s just yarn, the Ravenclaws are responsible,” Harry said, stopping to look at the impressive hanging. It had grown since their last knitting club meeting, adding a green section that stretched across one of the walls. Harry briefly worried that it was alive and would soon grow sentient and probably devour them all, though she didn’t think the Ravenclaws would let an enormous yarn monster loose on the school.
“Not alive?” Draco asked, looking at the strands clinically. “What is the, uh, point?”
“It’s an art installation,” Hermione offered tentatively. Draco looked from her, to Harry, and then back again like she was hoping for instructions. “It’s a muggle art form called Fiber Art.”
After a silence in which Hermione stood her ground very deliberately, Ron tensed, and Harry silently pled with Draco to be nice, Draco seemed to find her words. “Is it supposed to mean something?” she asked in genuine confusion, “The colors are nice but I really don’t understand the point?”
“We don’t get it either,” Ron said, the words almost sounding like a challenge even though Harry was fairly sure she was trying to be civil. “But it’s giving Filch an ulcer, so that’s a plus.”
Pansy snickered, running her fingers down a blue strand. “Poor man. Perhaps we should all be working on art installations. For the betterment of the school, of course.”
“Disobedience through art,” Draco said, wearing an expression that Harry personally thought might be one of her scariest. It was one part devious, one part pleased, one part murder.
“You guys are scary,” Harry said. “You look like you’re about to kill a man with yarn and your minds.”
Draco’s face lit up with genuine happiness. “Thank you Harry, that’s really kind.”
“Please don’t kill Filch, he does really do a lot of cleaning even though he’s bloody annoying,” Ron said, and it occurred to Harry that all of her friends were talking with Pansy, Greg, and Draco and not a single curse had been cast. Granted, it had been about thirty seconds of conversation about a bizarre art piece but it seemed like quite an extravagant victory.
“I agree,” Goyle said. “Art is nice though. I really like the yarn thing, I think it’s really nice.”
“Goyle- er, Greg,” Harry started, breaking what was a fairly stunned silence from the Gryffindor side of the conversation. “Are you an art fan?”
“I just like pretty things,” Greg said, chancing a glance at Draco - who was smiling at him - before smiling as well.
“Me too,” Hermione said kindly. “Do you knit?”
“I made a scarf once,” Greg said, looking quite pleased with himself. “Gave it to my mum for Christmas.”
“We, um,” Hermione fiddled with the strap on her bag, looking a bit nervous. “Luna and some of their friends are having a Knitting Club in the Ravenclaw Common Room Thursdays at eight. If you like knitting. I’m sure they’d love to have you.”
Harry looked at Hermione in surprise, amused by the strong set of her shoulders. She looked like she did when she was championing a new cause, a light in her eyes like she was trying to fix something that wasn’t quite right.
“That sounds good, thanks, Granger,” Greg said, and Draco leaned in to whisper something in his ear. “Sorry- Hermione,” he corrected.
“Of course,” Hermione said, smiling right back at him.
“Mione, we do have to get to class,” Ron reminded her, a hand on the back of her arm.
She nodded, giving the three Slytherins a wave goodbye as she turned to head back down the hallway. Harry watched Draco, who looked both fond and bemused as she followed them down the stairs, Greg and Pansy trailing slightly behind her.
“So that was weird, right?” Ron whispered as soon as they turned the corner. “Was that the most bizarre shit ever or am I losing it?”
“It was bizarre,” Harry agreed.
“I think I just made friends with Gregory Goyle,” Hermione said, her forehead creased. “I think that he’s nice, when did he get nice?”
“I think he just used to follow Draco around and was mean by proxy,” Harry said, thinking of Draco’s assertion that Greg was sweet.
“Meaning that Draco is nice now?” Ron asked incredulously. “Please don’t tell me you’re implying that.”
“I’m not,” Harry protested. “She’s just, not completely vile.” It might have been lying by omission, because Draco wasn’t nice, but sometimes when she wasn’t being deliberately difficult or dramatic, she did know how to be sweet.
Ron rolled her eyes. “Why do I feel like you think she’s nice.”
“No, she’s definitely not nice,” Harry said, and that bit, at least, was true.
“You haven’t bought your tie yet, have you?” Harry asked Anthony during breakfast, pausing at the Ravenclaw table on the way over to her own.
“Not yet, why?” Anthony asked, a cup of coffee clutched protectively in his hands, as if he thought Harry might try to either steal or upend it.
“We need to change our color theme,” Harry said, leaning up against the edge of the table.
“I thought we both liked teal?” Anthony asked, squinting at her like she was speaking nonsense. In his favor, his coffee was fairly full and he had bags under his eyes.
“Were you up late studying?” Harry asked sympathetically.
“Paavan wanted to talk about black holes,” Anthony said, taking a sip of his coffee. “It got out of hand.”
“Ravenclaws,” Harry said with a shake of her head. “Anyway, sorry, sidetracked. We did like teal, but I thought we could instead, do emerald. Which is just as nice and brings out my eyes.”
“Emerald like, Slytherin Emerald?” Anthony asked, annoyingly perceptive even in his morning stupor.
“Kinda,” Harry said, knowing she was on thin ice. “Like, dark green?”
“Slytherin green,” Anthony said. “So how exactly did Draco put you up to this?”
“It’s a bit involved,” Harry said, waving her hand around to try and communicate something, though she wasn’t quite sure what. “Basically we have to wear emerald or she’s going to be very upset with me. She might kill me.”
“This all sounds very exciting,” Anthony said, taking another calm sip of coffee. “I’m really impressed at the amount of shit you get yourself into with her. I don’t think I’m ever going to stop being impressed.”
“Is that a ‘yes Harry I’ll wear emerald with you’?” Harry asked, trying to look pleading. “It’ll definitely look nice on you.”
“Well I wouldn’t want Draco to kill you, so I suppose I don’t have a choice,” Anthony said. “And I do think we’ll look nice, not that teal wouldn’t have been great.”
“Thank you, Anthony, you are a treasure,” Harry said, resisting the urge to hug him. She thought it might jostle his coffee, which probably wouldn’t go very well.
“Oh, I know,” Anthony replied. “Just please don’t make any more bets with Malfoy that involve me before the Yule Ball.”
“I’ll try my best,” Harry assured him before rushing back her table, victorious at the thought of Draco in pink.
The third meeting of the Ravenclaw knitting club was going largely according to plan, with a large group of Ravenclaws knitting something odd and red in the corner, Hermione working on a pair of mittens she was planning on giving Molly for Christmas, and Ron wrapping Ginny in an awful lot of sparkling black yarn.
Harry was observing the proceedings, unsure why exactly Ron had decided to wrap her sister up like a sparkly black mummy but willing to let it happen, when the door creaked open.
Conversation lulled, some of the younger students looking a bit terrified, as Blaise, Pansy, Greg and Draco walked through the doorway.
“Um, hello,” Draco said, drawing herself up to her full height, which was still shorter than Blaise, but did make her look authoritative. “Hermione said that knitting club met right now?”
Luna stood, drifting over to them and taking one of Draco’s hands in theirs. “I’m so glad you decided to come, I told Harry to invite you. Do you knit?”
“Greg does, so we thought we’d make our way over,” Draco said, giving him a bit of a nudge forward. “He likes your art project.”
“It’s really cool,” Greg agreed, smiling at Luna after another precursory glance at Draco. “Are you guys still working on it?”
Luna turned to him, nothing in their face approaching surprise. Harry didn’t know how they looked so pleasant all the time, but Harry thought it was a credit to them. “We are, would you like to help? We need more knitters.”
“I’m not very good, I’ve only done scarves in the past,” Greg said, looking a bit uncomfortable.
“If you’d like, you can watch us work for a bit and then decide if you want to help?” Luna offered, letting Draco’s hand fall and taking Greg’s.
He looked rather perplexed about the hand holding, but nodded and let Luna guide him over to the tangle of red yarn. Pansy followed him over, while Blaise made a beeline to where Hermione was knitting, Draco following him at her own pace.
“Those look nice,” Blaise said, sitting down next to Hermione on the pretty blue couch, curling his long legs underneath him. “Are they for you?”
“Ron’s mum, for Christmas,” Hermione said, giving Blaise a smile. Ron looked like she couldn’t decide whether or not she wanted to focus on Hermione or Blaise, although she did grin at Hermione at the mention of Molly.
“They look really warm,” Blaise said, reaching over to roll the ball over in his hands. “Not itchy at all.”
“It’s alpaca,” Hermione clarified, handing over the finished mitten for him to try.
“I thought yarn came from sheep,” Draco said, appearing behind the couch Hermione was sitting on.
Even though Harry and Draco were getting along, watching Draco interact with her friends was still the strangest thing to come out of the school year.
“You can get yarn from alpacas and angora rabbits as well,” Hermione said, her needles stilling. Blaise was examining the stitching on the mitten he’d been given with interest, holding his mittened hand up to the light to get a better look.
“Rabbits?” Draco said, looking bemused. “Are you sure that’s not some weird muggle thing?”
Hermione flinched at the beginning of the word muggle, only relaxing after she realized that Draco was genuinely confused and not deliberately trying to be an arsehole. “No, it’s definitely not just a muggle thing, they make yarn from rabbits.”
“Very weird,” Draco said, walking around the couch to sit primly next to Harry, crossing her legs underneath her and smoothing her skirt.
“Can I pay you to make me a pair?” Blaise asked, looking completely enthralled by the pale blue knit. “They’re really warm.”
“You don’t have to pay me,” Hermione said uncertainly. “I like knitting, it’s not a problem.”
“Oh no, I have to pay you,” Blaise said, rubbing the mitten against his face, before leaning down to rub it against Draco’s, who squirmed away from him protesting that he’d mess up her makeup. “They’re nice mittens, it would be rude.”
“I like knitting,” Hermione repeated, though she was smiling. “Do you know how to make anything? Maybe we could do a trade?”
“I can do origami,” Blaise said thoughtfully. “Although I’m not sure that’s fair.”
“I have a bunch of his birds charmed over my bed,” Draco said, leaning back against the couch. “He taught us how to make cranes third year, we used to have hundreds flying around the common room. Blaise’s are the best though, he folds them like real songbirds and he can charm them to sing.”
“You can make them sing?” Hermione asked, looking quite impressed. Harry glanced over at Ron, who looked very interested in the whole exchange. Harry poked Ron in the leg with her foot in an attempt to distract her.
“Do they sing constantly?” Ron asked uncertainly, after sticking her tongue out at Harry “I’m not sure the girl’s dorms need more noise.”
“No, you can ask them to start at a certain time like an alarm, they’re very polite,” Blaise said, looking quite pleased at the attention.
“That’s really complicated spellwork,” Ron said admiringly.
Blaise beamed at her and Ron flushed in response.
“I think that’s a fair trade,” Hermione said, laughing at Ron’s blush. “What color mittens would you like?”
“I’ve always thought bright purple was a good color on me?” Blaise said, Draco nodding agreeably as Hermione quizzed him about sort of details he’d like on his mittens.
“Are you hoping that Ms. Weasley will emerge a butterfly?” Draco asked, blinking over at Ron, who was still holding the half unraveled ball of yarn wrapped around Ginny. Ron looked over at Harry, who tried to visually communicate that this was Draco attempting to make polite conversation.
“I think mummy was the look Ron was going for,” Ginny replied, wiggling about in the yarn wrap.
“It’s performance art,” Ron said, tugging a bit at the yarn so Ginny listed to the side. “We’re trying to one up the Ravenclaws.”
“So I see, very provocative,” Draco said, apparently playing along for once. She turned to Harry, leaving Ron to try and untangle Ginny from her yarn prison. “And what exactly are you working on?”
“Just watching everyone,” Harry said, just a little pleased to have Draco’s undivided attention again. Watching her interact with the Gryffindors was thrilling, if quite stressful. Draco seemed determined to play nice, but it was still an exercise in hoping no one snapped and decided to fist fight. “I can’t knit, so.”
“No one willing to teach you?” Draco asked, doing a scan of the room and finding quite a few students who were handy with needles. “Goodness, what’s the point of the great Harry Potter if no one will teach you handicrafts?”
“Seems hard, I think learning to dance is enough for me this semester,” Harry said pointedly. “I mostly just come to hang out.”
“Fair, I’m not sure your small brain can handle so much new information at once,” Draco said kindly, patting Harry’s knee.
“You’re the one who didn’t know you could get yarn from rabbits,” Harry said, flicking Draco in the knee. “Besides, what are you here for, can you knit?”
“No, handicrafts are not my specialty,” Draco said, looking wistful. “Mother tried to teach me to embroider once, with disastrous results.”
“You’re the only person who I believe could embroider disastrously,” Harry said, imaging a wide variety of truly spectacular scenarios. Activity near the other end of the room caught her eye, as Rosemary held up a large portion of the growing art piece. “You came for Greg, didn’t you?”
Draco nodded, sneaking a look over at Greg, who had picked up a pair of needles and was working on a long strip of scarlet yarn with a smile. “He wanted to go but he wouldn’t go alone, so we mobilized.”
“That’s good of you,” Harry said, watching as Greg leaned in to say something to another knitter. “To do that for him and all.”
“Slytherins don’t leave their own behind,” Draco said, looking a bit more intense than the situation called for.
“So I see,” Harry said with a nod. “Is he excited to wear pink with you?”
Draco rolled her eyes, a reluctant smile tugging at the edge of her mouth. “I think he’s even more excited than when he thought we were wearing plum.”
The final week before the Yule Ball came and went in a flash of dress buying, rehearsal, and the slow expansion of the fiber art sculpture.
“I think it’s supposed to be the four houses,” Ron said as they headed down the stairs, squinting up at the enormous installation. “Like, it’s all four colors?”
“It’s so much knitting, I’m just impressed at how fast they’ve gotten it up,” Hermione said, touching the red yarn with reverence.
“I think it’s a Ravenclaw thing,” Harry said. “‘Going way too hard’ is practically their house motto.”
“It’s pretty cool,” Ron said. “If bizarre.”
“Definitely bizarre,” Harry said. The yarn tangled high above their heads, swaying ever so slightly as students walked below it. “But like, definitely really impressive.”
“Very impressive,” Hermione said. “Knitting aside, getting it up there must have been a nightmare.”
“Maybe we’re not even supposed to get it,” Ron surmised. “Maybe it’s just like, a big Hogwarts colored ball of fabric.”
“Ravenclaws,” Harry said with a shake of her head, and Ron and Hermione nodded in agreement.
“I can’t believe you’re actually wearing Slytherin green,” Seamus said as he held Harry’s hair up so she could clasp her necklace. “So ballsy.”
“I feel a bit silly,” Harry said, smoothing her hands over the skirt. They’d gone out to Hogsmeade the weekend prior to get dresses and she quite liked the one she’d ended up with, but that didn’t change the fact that she very much looked like the Slytherin mascot.
“Well you look lovely, it brings out your eyes,” Seamus assured her, kissing her on the cheek before tramping off to find Dean and Ginny, presumably to make sure their matching corsages were all in order.
Lavender had fixed up Harry’s makeup and done something to her hair to make it do a pretty curl thing that Harry never seemed to manage on her own. Ron and Hermione were missing in action, presumably sidetracked being cute and coupley somewhere on their way to the festivities.
“There you are! This common room is a zoo,” Anthony said, appearing at her side in a very nice suit with a cloak over it, his tie nearly the exact same shade of green as Harry’s dress.
“Tell me about it,” Harry said, scanning the fray, which reeked of sleekeasy’s hair potion, a particularly potent muggle hairspray that Lavender swore by, and an interesting cocktail of perfumes and aftershave. “They said party and the Gryffindors said yes.”
“You never fail to impress,” Anthony said, hooking his arm in Harry’s. “Shall we? I think the air in here might be toxic.”
“Yes please,” Harry said, letting him walk her out of the common room and down to the Great Hall. The corridors were already bustling with students and their dates, everyone chatting happily as they meandered down to the dance.
“This was a really nice idea,” Harry said, looking around at everyone smiling and glittering. “I definitely wasn’t into it at first, but it’s nice to see everyone out.”
Anthony nodded. “It’s good, I think, after a war, to dance.”
“I think so too,” Harry said, meeting smiling glances with grins of her own. “Kinda makes you feel like things are finally okay.”
Anything Anthony might have replied with was cut off by their entrance into the Great Hall, which still took Harry’s breath away all these years later. It had been two years since she’d seen a Christmas at Hogwarts and she’d forgotten the way that the enormous evergreens towered in the space, each branch glittering with tinsel and shiny baubles. The smallest mist of snow washed down from the starlit ceiling and everything gleamed silver and gold, clean and bright and untouched.
“It’s beautiful,” Harry said, squeezing Anthony closer to her. “It’s so beautiful.”
“I’m Jewish and I can tell you quite genuinely that I feel the spirit of Christmas,” Anthony said, grinning as they took a slow stroll around the tables and admired all the pretty details in the decorations.
A string quartet played soft music as students continued to file in, until nearly all of Hogwarts was mingling underneath the floating candles. Harry still hadn’t seen Draco yet, which was worrying, since she’d had to explain her dress to almost everyone and if Draco had reneged on her promise to wear pink Harry was going to step on her feet during the entire dance portion.
“Hello everyone,” McGonagall’s voice rang out across the Great Hall as she took her place at the podium, the sleeves of her dress robes glimmering sky blue in the light. “If you would take your seats at any one of the tables, dinner will be served shortly.”
There was an impressive scrabbling as everyone rushed to the tables, and Harry ended up seated with Anthony, Ron, Hermione, Ginny, Seamus, and Dean.
“Welcome to the Gryffindor table,” Harry whispered as McGonagall waited for quiet, and Anthony rolled his eyes as he spread his napkin in his lap.
“I’m very pleased to be able to welcome all of you to the Yule Ball this year,” McGonagall said, her voice echoing as the clatter of silverware finally stilled. “And I will try to make this quick, but let it be known that I am incredibly proud of all of you for how hard you have worked, both with your dancing and creating friendships within other houses. I have always thought that the divisions in this school worked against us instead of with us, and I am so proud of the efforts you have all made this year to overcome them, especially in the wake of all that we have lost.”
McGonagall paused, letting the words hang in the air with the candles, as Ron’s hand crept into Harry’s and Seamus leaned in towards Ginny like he was trying to protect her.
“I hope that tonight will be a happy one, in memory of those who are not here to see it themselves,” McGonagall said, and Harry closed her eyes and squeezed Ron’s hand, letting the sadness in for just a moment.
The moment stretched and moved, a few people sniffling as the weight settled around them.
“And on that note, may you all have a safe and wonderful night,” McGonagall finished, the quartet restarting their music with the soft lilt of the violin. Harry opened her eyes slowly, exchanging warm glances with her tablemates that somehow spoke of the strange horrors they’d all seen, seen and walked through, scarred but not broken.
After the speech, dinner passed in a blur of delicious food and wine, Ron regaling them with stories of the Weasley family’s misadventures and Luna describing the fantastic creatures they’d found on their fall break trip to the moors.
When it was finally time to dance, Harry had begun to wonder if Draco had shown up at all. Harry stood scowling on the edge of the dancefloor as everyone found their partners before she spotted Draco standing on the other side of the room, looking like an impatient pygmy puff or particularly grumpy bit of candy floss.
Harry hurried over to her as fast as she could in heels, a smile on her face as she saw more of Draco’s outfit. She’d gone for a low cut pale pink dress with a skirt that swished about her knees when she moved and a pair of heels that added another three inches to her already tall frame.
“You look like candy floss,” Harry said delightedly, noting Draco’s lipstick, which was a shimmery rose nearly the same shade of her dress. “I think you might glow faintly pink.”
“That was the goal,” Draco said, trying to look disapproving but just looking pleased. “I was right about your eyes, they look less like pond water tonight.”
“The compliments just never stop with you,” Harry said, offering her arm and smiling when Draco took it and allowed herself be lead onto the dance floor. “You do look nice, pink it a good color on you.”
“Pink is just a good color,” Draco said, her voice dropping like she was telling a secret. “Thanks.”
“Of course,” Harry said, giving her a grin. “I’m just glad you actually did it, I was worried when I didn’t see you.”
“Thought I’d abandoned you here in Slytherin attire?” Draco said with a cackle. “No, I wouldn’t do that.”
Around them, other couples got into position and Draco held up her arms. “Ready?”
Harry glanced down at Draco’s forearm, bracing for the familiar cut of the dark mark against her skin, but finding a creeping bundle of flowers. “Is that- When did you...?”
Draco looked down at the flowers, a grouping of three, six-petaled white and yellow blooms that Harry didn’t recognize. For a moment, Harry thought Draco might not respond. Draco took a deep breath, pushing out a response with a careful kind of nonchalance. “When he died all that was left was a bunch of scar tissue. It was ugly, so I covered it with something new. For me.”
“Oh,” Harry said, trying not to stare and failing quite miserably as she stepped into the dance hold. “It’s really beautiful.”
Draco nodded, distant and almost fragile. “I almost wore long sleeves tonight.”
“No reason to,” Harry said firmly. “I think it’s really beautiful to put flowers there.”
Draco smiled, and Harry squeezed her hand. “I thought so too.”
The band, which had stopped playing as everyone got into position started back up again in a simple waltz. Draco gave her hand a return squeeze, beginning the dance with a careful grace that Harry still admired.
The steps felt familiar now, as did Draco’s hand on her back, guiding her gently through the movements. Harry’s heels made it a bit more difficult but Draco was as elegant as ever, gliding across the floor with all of her grace.
She still smelled like vanilla, that warmth that Harry had begun to associate with her, and her skin shimmered just a little underneath the lights like she’d dusted herself with pixie dust.
“You really are much better,” Draco said after Harry completed a turn. “I haven’t really told you, but you are.”
Harry smiled, feeling like she was dancing on clouds, like her feet barely touched the ground as they moved. “You are a good teacher, I wasn’t kidding about that.”
Draco looked away and Harry did the same, each finding points in the distance so it wouldn’t be quite so serious. Harry watched the faces of her classmates whirl by, Ron almost messing up as she stopped to give Harry a wave.
“Everyone looks so nice,” Harry murmured as the minutes ticked on. “And happy, everyone looks so happy.”
“It’s lovely,” Draco said, quiet like she did when she didn’t want anyone to overhear. “Feels like a dream.”
Harry nodded, squeezing Draco’s hand as she caught sight of Luna smiling in the candlelight, Ginny laughing at something her partner said, feeling the absence of darkness like nostalgia for something she’d never really had.
The music came to a close a few minutes later, the violins falling back out and a rush of conversation filling the silence as partners separated and regrouped. Harry dropped Draco’s hand, realizing with a start that it was over, that they’d danced together and made it to the other side almost friends.
Draco didn’t move, just stared down at her like she was trying to find something to say but didn’t have any of the right words.
“I’ll see you, right?” Harry said, reaching for Draco’s hand like she might shake it, but instead pulled her in for a hug.
“We go to the same school,” Draco snipped back as she slipped an arm around Harry. “But yeah,” she amended, in her soft voice. “I’ll see you.”
Harry could see groups of her friends beginning to gather on the dance floor and for a moment she almost joined them, but as she pulled out of Draco’s hug and started to walk she found herself pulled toward the doors instead. She smiled as she passed people she knew and drifted outside without a word, something heavy settling inside her as she took the slow walk down the empty corridor.
She found a window fairly quickly and slide onto the ledge, pressing her forehead to the glass and breathing slowly in and out. Memories drifted around her like snowflakes, vague recollections of things gone by and the sharp pinpricks of loss.
It was beautiful, all the happiness they’d managed to find again, so much she could barely hold it anymore. She didn’t think she was going to cry but it was a similar feeling, like love or want, something base and wild that threatened to carry her under. It wouldn’t, but she wanted to wade into it, sit on the window and feel it for just a moment.
“Do you want company?” Draco asked, her hand alighting on Harry’s shoulder. “I saw you leave, you seemed a little off balance.”
“I am,” Harry said, scooting over so Draco could sit on the sill as well, their knees touching in the middle. “I’m just sad, kinda.”
“Me too,” Draco said, kicking her foot out so it knocked Harry’s. “What are you sad about?”
“War. Friends.” Harry shrugged, resting against the chill of the window. “There aren’t words.”
Draco nodded, looking out on the grounds and lapsing back into silence.
There was no snow that night, only the forest stretching into the distance and the cold light of the moon. Harry wanted to take Draco’s hand again, wanted to run her thumb over the back of Draco’s palm and feel warmth.
“I can tell you more secrets if you want,” Draco said, soft like new fallen snow. “If that would make you feel better.”
Harry smiled, balling her hands up in the fabric of her dress so she wouldn’t reach for Draco. “Sure.”
Draco’s eyes didn’t leave the moonlit grass as she spoke and Harry watched her, the careful movement of her lips and the gentleness that her eyes got when she wasn’t being so deliberately sharp, when she wasn’t trying to keep the world out.
“Father taught me to dance,” she said. “When I was six, we used to dance in the drawing room. Not proper or anything, just me standing on his feet as mother played the piano. And then when I got older he taught me how to waltz, and he used to scold me when I let me elbow fall until I was perfect.”
Harry was silent, listening as her breath fogged up the glass, muffled music creeping down from the Great Hall. It felt almost like an honor, Draco telling her stories of before, like she was giving Harry a part of herself wrapped in pretty Christmas paper.
“You know the time you saw me cry when we were dancing?” Draco asked, tilting her head so she could meet Harry’s eyes. She wasn’t crying but she looked soft again, so completely soft.
“Yeah,” Harry said, trying to be soft too. “I wanted to ask you why, but I didn’t think you wanted me to know.”
“I wouldn’t have told you then.” She turned back to the window, her hair falling into her face. “I was thinking about Vince. He was a horrible dancer. Worse than Greg, and something about how you turned and laughed even though you hadn’t done it right at all made me think about him.”
Harry remembered how he’d died, screaming curses and not listening even when Draco had told him to stop. It was odd, to hear his name in her mouth so carefully, like she was afraid of sullying it.
“You probably think terribly of him, but he was as important to me as Greg was, once,” Draco said. “A lot of things went to shit last year.”
“I know,” Harry said, sliding her hand out across the chilly stone and letting her fingers rest on top of Draco’s. They hadn’t really touched it, that particular scar, and Harry still wasn’t quite sure she was ready to untangle all the threads of it. They were only at the very lip of all the secrets, still so careful not to fall in. “I really know.”
“At first having to dance with other people felt like I was being punished, like it was already ruined and it had to be ruined more,” Draco said with a sigh that made the window fog.
“It’s okay,” Harry said, because then she understood the way Draco’s eyes had flashed when she’d had to dance with Harry, how it must have felt like everything wrong all over again.
“It doesn’t feel like that now,” Draco said, and Harry thought in a haze that Draco was capable of tenderness and she didn’t know why she hadn’t seen that earlier, why the prospect of Draco being gentle had seemed so funny to her once.
“What does it,” Harry began, the words sticking in her throat. “What does it feel like now?”
Draco didn’t answer for a long moment, before tangling her fingers in Harry’s. “I don’t know if there are words.”
“I understand,” Harry said, looking at their held hands and trying to reconcile that touch with everything else. Draco’s nails were the same pretty pale pink as her dress and the moonlight shone on her tattoo, the flowers intricate and intertwined and blooming.
She saw Draco shift but she didn’t understand what was happening until she felt Draco’s free hand on her chin, tilting her head up until their lips met.
“That’s how it feels now,” Draco said, before dropping her hand and looking back out the window, only the flush on her cheeks and the strange feeling on Harry’s lips any indication that she’d moved at all.
“I don’t think-” Harry began, shaking, maybe from the cold, maybe not. “I quite got that. I think you might have to do it again.”
Draco smiled a secret kind of smile as she leaned back in, her hand falling back onto Harry’s jaw as she kissed her. Harry thought she might have had something she wanted to say, some kind of apology or words of comfort, but this was a beginning and they had as long to find those words as they wanted.
Harry’s free hand found Draco’s waist, pulled her closer as Draco’s lips moved against hers, warm even in the cold corridor.
“You’re going to mess up my lipstick,” she murmured against Harry’s mouth, but didn’t pull away, just held her closer, leaning forward and kissing her with a focused intensity.
All of Harry’s emotions built in her chest, spiraling in a million different directions and converging only in the places they touched. She considered stopping and trying to sort everything out, but to do so they’d have to stop kissing but she didn’t think she was ready for that quite yet, not when Draco’s hands were clutching hers and holding her close like Harry was something she needed.
She smelled like vanilla, like something comforting and beautiful. She dropped Harry’s hand only to wrap her arm around Harry’s neck and pull her in, shifting her legs over Harry’s so she was nearly in her lap.
“We should talk about this,” Harry mumbled finally, when their kissing stopped being quite so urgent, when Draco pulled back to take a breath and blinked slowly up at her like she was surfacing.
“Okay,” Draco said, pressing her lips to Harry’s quickly. “What do you want to say?”
Harry just looked at her, her gray eyes and the angles of her face and the way her hair fell into her face sometimes. “I haven’t really had time to think about it.”
Draco laughed, unguarded and light. “Think fast.”
“I want to kiss you more? Like, in the future?” Harry tried, knowing she probably sounded like an idiot. “I don’t know if you want that, but you smell really good and you’re a good kisser.”
Draco smiled, her eyes going soft. “Okay, we can do that.”
“Really?” Harry asked, surprised even though Draco had kissed her first.
Draco nodded, looking amused.
“Do you want to like,” Harry stumbled over the words, unable to find one that didn’t make her cringe a little. “Maybe, do things together? And hold hands sometimes?”
“Date?” Draco asked, looking like she was trying very hard not to laugh.
Harry screwed up her face. “Doesn’t that sound weird though? Like us? Dating? It just sounds so, I don’t know.”
“Pedestrian?” Draco asked, playing with Harry’s hair. She was probably messing it up, but it felt nice and Harry didn’t have the heart to stop her. “You are very bad at romantic relationships.”
“I do try,” Harry said, pouting a bit. “I just embarrass myself, so often.”
“It’s probably fortunate that I already know that you’re an idiot,” Draco said, a sly smile on her face that was made slightly less devious by the fact that she had a bit of Harry’s lipstick on her chin.
“Small blessings,” Harry said, leaning in to kiss the lipstick smudge and secretly hoping she would make it worse.
“Missed my mouth,” Draco said.
“Found the smear of lipstick on your chin though,” Harry said, smiling at her.
Draco sighed and rubbed at her chin, succeeding only in moving the bit of color around. Harry moved to help her, cleaning it off with the pad of her thumb.
“We could try it,” Harry said with a noncommittal shrug, like Draco wasn’t the prettiest girl she’d ever met, like she hadn’t watched her out of the corner of her eye since she’d gotten to school. “Dating, or whatever.”
“As long as I don’t have to be nice to you when you’re being a knob,” Draco said, raising her eyebrows like a challenge.
“I’d never ask anything like that of you,” Harry said, and she wasn’t worried, because Draco’s eyes were soft like they were when she talked about something she loved.
On the northern staircase, the red, blue, green, and yellow sections of yarn swayed in the candlelight. A new color was woven between them, a large swath of purple knit that would be discovered in the morning by wandering students traipsing down to the Great Hall for breakfast in makeup from the night before.
Ron would be the first one to get it, staring up at the places where all the colors wove together in a ceiling of glittering purple. “Inter-house unity.” She’d say, her hand in Hermione’s. “Duh.”