Like Stars In The Night Sky
the first dance
Don't be afraid, afraid to fall
You know I'll catch you through it all
The Yule Ball was in full swing. Snowy white lights illuminated the outstanding space of the Great Hall with holiday and cheerful delight. Everything seemed to be perfect the first few hours around for Draco. He was in his finest dark robes, arm in arm with a pureblood girl his parents favored dearly, and was having a smashing good time.
Until Pansy decided that they should dance to every single song the bloody Weird Sisters band played. The first few dances were fun, but they became ever so demanding when Pansy refused a break. And when she did want a break, all she wanted to do was snog. He had grown irritated with her constant jabbering and need to be increasingly public with everyone about their relationship.
Not that he was against the idea of being public, but he had been hoping to get some fresh air for quite some time. He only ever escaped her this time when Daphne, Pansy's best friend, came crying to her about Theo.
Draco slipped away like the slippery snake he was. He found himself inhaling the air, which mostly smelled of snow that winter night, a bit of mixed perfume and a bit of the food from the Great Hall. His feet carried him towards the foyer, where he caught several couples dancing, laughing, sneaking away and enjoying the night.
The only thing that stood out in the small crowd of couples seemed to be a girl clad in an amber dress. She was sitting on one of the steps leading up to the moving staircases of Hogwarts, alone. The moment he recognized her, he felt a sort of unexplainable emotion deep within him.
He didn't always like Astoria Greengrass. But ever since that fateful day when he cheated on the snowman building game of theirs, and then apologized to her a few months later by losing at Wizard's Chess, he had found a growing fondness for the girl. In fact, he was keen enough to admit to himself—and not to anybody else—that he had grown to develop a crush on her.
Draco still does have a crush on her. But he'd have to kiss the bloody Giant Squid in the Black Lake before he could tell the world that.
Something in him stirred as he watched her sitting there, her silver heels shoved to the side as she stared mournfully at her dress. Of course, he had seen her come in with some boy by the name of Florian Deveraux from Beauxbatons. But where was that bloody French tart, leaving Astoria all alone?
From his peripheral, he saw the Great Hall where Pansy seemed to be wandering now, likely looking for Draco. He could go back, and be miserable for the rest of the night. Or he could have a better night relaxed around the girl he's had an affection for for quite some time now.
The decision seemed to be made for him when he saw Astoria sob.
Instinct and heart kicked in, and soon, he found himself walking up to the steps towards her.
"Don't tell me you're crying in that dress." Draco said introduced himself a little harshly than he had intended. But what would he be without the cold Malfoy demeanor?
Astoria head lifted to meet Draco's gaze. Surprise and horror seemed to be two of the most noticeable emotions that crossed her features. Her big, green eyes were slowly turning red from her crying.
"Is it that dreadful looking?" Astoria asked innocently, her bottom lip quivering.
Draco panicked, nearly falling off the steps. "It was a joke! You look, um… you look presentable."
Well, she was far from presentable. She was exquisite. Her brown hair had been tied up into a bun as little diamonds dotted the expanse of her dark locks. Unlike some of the girls in the ball, she had put on some light make up—though he always believed she was beautiful without it. The amber dress clung to her remarkably, which helped to accentuate her curves. One wouldn't think she was a second year invited by a guest or someone two years older than her. No, she looked quite mature for her age.
She was not the same girl that cried because she lost to a snowman-building competition, or the girl who shared his Honeydukes sweets with him while they talked about books. Astoria Greengrass has grown, and his heart raced at how much she had in the years that passed.
What seemed to have driven him from his reverie was the look the young Slytherin girl gave him.
Astoria blinked those green eyes of hers before she broke out into fits of giggles. "Presentable? Oh, how charming of you, Draco. What an impressive way to conjure up a decent adjective for a girl."
He felt the heat rise to his cheeks. "What on earth did you want me to say?"
"Perhaps beautiful, dashing, gorgeous—there are plenty, by the way." She shook her head in amusement before she dabbed her eyes with her handkerchief and meeting his gaze. "But thank you. You didn't have to sacrifice your great Malfoy pride to say that."
Draco cleared his throat as he tried to recover. "I suppose I didn't have to, but it seems to have worked if it made you stop crying and being a sad sop."
This time, Astoria's alluring smile faded before she finally rid herself of the last tear.
"Actually, I never get sad. I think it's a waste of time." Astoria said as she folded her handkerchief in fourths before shoving it into her silver purse. "Tonight might be a bit different."
"Where's that French toss that brought you to the ball?" Draco asked, looking very irritated all of a sudden. He would make it a point to find that Beauxbatons boy at the end of the night and make him pay for whatever he did to Astoria.
Astoria shrugged noncommittally despite looking pitiful for herself. "He left to snog with a Durmstrang girl. Apparently, he's had too much of our local elf-made mead. Last I saw him, he was leaving with her back out where the Beauxbatons carriage is."
Draco's blood boiled. "He's not worth it, Astoria. Nor is he worth the tears."
"No, I suppose he's not." Astoria agreed as she looked down at her hands.
A tremendous part of him began to formulate an idea. He wasn't just going to sit here and listen to her cry all night. Even though it wasn't his fault this time, he feels he ought to think of something to cheer her up. But what?
"Let's get out of here." Draco told her as he offered his hand. Astoria looked at him as though he'd grown two heads. He nudged his hand impatiently. "I won't ask again."
"Where are we going?" Astoria asked curiously as she took his hand as a guide to help her stand up on her bare feet.
"Wherever you want to go," He said with an affectionate smile. "We're not going to end this night with you coming back to your dorm looking a mess and embarrassed the next day."
Astoria looked thoughtful as she scrunched up her brows together. He thought it was adorable, the way her face would pinch up that way. It meant she was in deep concentration.
"I know!" Astoria's face then suddenly fell after the sudden high of her excitement. "But it's a silly idea."
Draco smirked. When has Astoria never had a silly idea? "Don't be afraid of your silly ideas."
It was though the sun itself had appeared before him when Astoria smiled. He had learned a long time ago that he liked it better when she smiled, and not look so sullen. Sad never sat well with her, anyway. And when he learned that, he then later on learned that her smile was the best thing about her. She could light up the darkest room with that smile. He could never resist the sight of it.
"I'm feeling a bit adventurous tonight, so…" Astoria said, restoring her earlier delight before she leaned down to take her heels in her hand. Then, with Draco's hand on her other, she began to drag him down the stairs.
Draco nearly stumbled as Astoria led them to another set of stairs that lead down towards the basement.
"For Salazar's sake, slow down Astoria!" Draco yelped, but even as he was purposefully being dragged to Merlin knows where, he couldn't help but join in on Astoria's infectious laughter. They looked like a couple of teenagers prancing about. It felt almost… freeing.
Once they met the dreary cold of the basement, though it was not as cold as the dungeons, Draco saw several Hufflepuff students eye them. He sent them a meaningful glare, causing some to turn away and pretend they never saw them. But Astoria didn't seem to mind the stares.
In fact, she was still beaming when they stopped in front of a portrait. It was a simple image of a fruit bowl. Draco opened his mouth to ask what it is about the portrait, but clipped it shut when he saw Astoria tickle the pear on the fruit bowl. The pear giggled and squirmed before it turned into a large, green door handle. The wall behind the portrait turned into a wooden door.
"That… I did not know that…" Draco looked at it in disbelief as Astoria pushed the door open.
"That's because you don't look beyond, Draco." Astoria said teasingly before she dragged him into the room.
Suddenly, the cold from the basement dispersed and he was met with a sort of comforting heat. Only when the door closed behind them did he finally get a good look of where they were in.
The sound of pots and pans banging and clanging filled the space of what he now saw was a vast kitchen. There were tables and stoves laden with food, or food that was still being cooked. A great fireplace stood at the end of the kitchen where he saw a large pot stewing something that smelled remarkably delicious. In fact, the place smelled appetizing, and he suddenly regretted not having much to eat with Pansy dragging him around. A different, more soothing kind of music played in the kitchens, different from the raucous one from the Great Hall.
Perhaps what set him off the course of his wonder were the people… no, creatures that wandered the kitchens.
House-elves. Dozens upon dozens of them moved around hastily, checking pots and chopping vegetables, and arguing about the missing desserts. They were dressed more liberally, or should he say, more cleanly than most house elves he's ever had the displeasure of encountering. But he supposed with Dumbledore as headmaster, the old coo likely dotted on the dreadful creatures.
Draco frowned at Astoria. "You brought me to a kitchen full of house elves?"
Astoria whirled to look up at him with an equally disturbing frown. "I thought you said never be afraid of my silly ideas."
"I didn't think you'd go that far," Draco trailed off as he watched three house-elves approach Astoria.
"Is Mistress Astoria needing our help?" One of the elves piped up in a far too high voice before its big, tennis ball eyes looked between Astoria and Draco. "Will she be needing food for her and Master Draco?"
"How do they know me?" Draco asked unpleasantly.
"Oh, I think it's because they've heard about you from Dobby." Astoria explained with a rather teasing smile.
Draco's stomach lurched. "Dobby?"
"Yes, Dobby—the house elf that outsmarted your father," The brunette girl snickered. "Or was it Harry who outsmarted him? I can't quite remember. Your story's a lot different from Dobby's when I spoke to him."
"He works here now?" Draco raised a brow. "I suppose he gets paid, does he?"
"Naturally," Astoria rolled her eyes at him. "Most house-elves should be if they're doing labor. It's barbaric the way most pureblood homes treat theirs."
"You have a house elf," He said firmly as he disconnected their hands from each other.
Astoria frowned at him, looking very irritated. Some of the house elves that approached them took fearful steps back. They must have encountered her wrath at some point, but whether or not it was towards them or someone else, he didn't dare to ask.
"Yes, but my family doesn't treat them like slaves. Like they don't have feelings." She replied haughtily as she placed her hands on her hips, like she does whenever she felt righteous. "They're not as bad as what your parents taught you, Draco."
Draco crossed his arms on his chest. He didn't want to regret wanting to make Astoria feel better after that Beauxbatons boy left her for a one-night stand. But he also didn't like that it had to involve disturbing creatures like house elves to make her feel less like rubbish.
"If you don't want to stay, its fine," Astoria shrugged this time, looking pensive. "I just hope one day you'll learn to see them differently."
He released a breath. Was this really worth it over being dragged around by Pansy all night? The look Astoria was giving him was not of anger, but of hopefulness. It scared him in the slightest how much she trusts him. But she couldn't possibly think that he'd change his views of the house-elves after one night, does she?
"Do you go here often?" Draco asked plainly, trying to hide the disappointment in his voice.
He knew Astoria had very strong opinions improper for a pure-blood girl such as herself, but he didn't know she would go full out blood traitor. That much he knew whenever he saw her hanging out with the muggle-borns in her year. If he didn't have much of a history with her, and a slight crush on her, he wouldn't be so tolerant of what was happening in this moment.
Astoria looked even more hopeful before she nodded. "I used to hide here whenever I wanted to avoid Merula and her gang of evil Slytherin girls. The house-elves were always so nice. They offered me food and company. Sometimes you just need some time away from people and get to know other creatures."
Draco's face shifted into understanding. He remembered those girls. They were just like Pansy and her gang. Dreadful, conceited, immature at times, and manipulative for all they were worth. He suddenly felt that same guilt in his stomach when he cheated on their snowman-building game when they were kids. Because now, it seems he was exactly like the girls that made Astoria's first year miserable.
He didn't think he ever saw much of it in her light until now.
Finally, despite his reluctance of giving up, he raised his hands in defeat. "Fine. I'll give spending a whole night in a kitchen full of house-elves a chance."
This time, Astoria smirked at him. "Will you really?"
Only for you, he wanted to say.
"Don't make me say it again." Draco shook his head and said that instead, a small smile gracing his lips as he heard Astoria laugh and take his hand in hers again.
"Come on! The fireplace is the best spot!" Astoria said brightly as she pulled him towards the end of the kitchen where the fireplace mostly illuminated the space.
When they finally stood before it, he felt the cold of the night seep away and be replaced by the comforting heat of the fire. He smelled a sort of sweet and sour stew cooking from the pot on the fireplace, adding more to the already relaxing waves of the heat towards them.
The three house-elves from earlier then conjured up plush seats of red for them to sit on with a snap of their fingers. He saw Astoria sink into one of them, and Draco followed suit. The seats were soft and cozy, enough to make him submerge into the silken cover of it.
"I bet you're hungry," Astoria started as she dropped her heels and purse next to her seat. She then turned her body sideways and looked as though she was mid-lying down when she faced him. "I saw you with Pansy all night. I doubt you even stomached a piece of pumpkin pie."
"I barely had a drop of pumpkin juice, let alone a pie," Draco laughed with a shake of his head. "All she wanted to do was dance and snog. It was almost impossible to have time for myself."
"Well, aren't you glad you chose the Astoria route of things?" She asked with a wide grin. He rolled his eyes playfully at hers before he saw her speak to the house-elves. "Can we please have whatever it was you're serving upstairs? And some hot chocolate would be very kind."
"Of course, Mistress Astoria!" A house elf squeaked happily.
Soon, the elves were at work. They set up tiny tables up to the level of their plush seats, and began placing delicate silverware and plates filled with the food he scrumptiously desired to eat all night. For some reason, he thought the food tasted better when served fresh from the kitchens. He was almost tempted to come back here should he find the food at the Great Hall less satisfactory.
The elves were also surprisingly friendly when they're not cowering in fear of their masters. They were a bit hesitant with Draco at first, considering his earlier dislike against them. But eventually, they opened up and continued to fill his plate and add extra gravy and the like if he wanted to. Of course, he has done this before with his family's house elves. But there was something different about being served without being feared that made him feel almost differently.
Once their bellies were filled to the brim with pot pie, roasted steak and cake, they then tended to their delicious hot chocolates. It tasted almost better than how Dobby used to make them.
"You seem happier," Astoria said as she nudged him with her elbow. "Anything you want to admit?"
"Perhaps… they're not so bad." He offered delicately before smiling at the way she giggled at him. "And they cook food better when you're nicer to them."
"No, they're not. And yes, they do cook better when treated respectfully. I'd advise you to at least treat yours kindly when you get back home." She stared at him expectantly. "Can you promise to at least try that?"
Draco sighed as he placed his cup of hot chocolate down. "I suppose it wouldn't hurt to be less… dreadful towards the creatures."
The Slytherin girl shook her head in amusement. "You don't believe in anything."
That wasn't true. He looked at her seriously, almost fondly, even as he spoke, "I believe in you."
Their eyes locked, and Merlin, did his heart make that traitorous beat. Every time he looked into those big, green eyes of hers, it feels as though the sky's the limit. He felt like he could do or believe the most impossible things just seeing her or being around her. Back then, he thought he just liked hanging around her before he started going to Hogwarts. Then when she came to Hogwarts looking grown, he thought he was done for for having a crush on her. And now… there was a different kind of feeling to it, one he couldn't quite place just yet.
He was disturbed from his thoughts when he heard the music change. Though it was still as soothing as the others, this one felt a little more compelling, fun and light.
Draco pushed the small table aside and rose to his feet. He then offered his hand to Astoria's.
"I doubt that Beauxbatons boy didn't even dance with you." He affirmed with a slight smirk. "I might as well give you one to tell your friends the next day."
Astoria's cheeks turned the color of tomatoes before she took his offered hand. As she stood herself up, Draco managed a better glimpse of her. Without her crying, she looked as stunning as ever. He realized she was quite small, but she was tall enough for her head to reach the tip of his nose, which made looking down at her a tad easier.
"I've never danced before." Astoria confessed as Draco slowly lead them to the middle of the fireplace. "I mean, I have. My father taught me. But it's different when it's someone else…"
"Just follow my lead, okay?" Draco urged with a smile as he placed his hand gently on her waist and Astoria her arms wound around his neck.
The both of them seemed to be in competition of whether one had a more prominent blush than the other. But Astoria eased the tension by giggling once they started to slowly move to the music. And Merlin, did she step on his toes a couple of times. But she recovered at times just as quickly as she made a misstep.
"I'll get you a potion for your toes later," Astoria's body convulsed with mirth laughter as Draco spun her. "Or make up for it tomorrow."
"I think you'd better make it up to me, little Greengrass," Draco chuckled lowly before he carefully brought her back to him. Their closeness made him nervous because they've never had to be this close physically together. But there was an air of easiness to it, like it seemed almost natural for them to be so close this way.
Astoria's green eyes twinkled with mirth. The glow of the fire from the fireplace illuminated her prepossessing features. She truly was something else indeed. He knew that back then, and he believed it even more now.
"I'm not so little anymore, you see." She told him as she gestured towards her height. That was true, of course. She was tall for her age, but she always still felt so small to him. Delicate, even. A part of him had always been very protective of her when they grew close as children.
Draco shook his head before pressing his forehead against hers. A bright smile graced Astoria's lips, Draco matching it with just as much allure. His heart raced at the way she looked at him, like he seemed to be the best part of her night.
They danced most of the evening away, and he reveled in their closeness and their enjoyment as they laughed and talked about the little things. For seeing Astoria smile, seeing her happy this way with him, was like looking at the stars in the night sky.