A Change of Heart

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Chapter 25 - The Gala, Also known as The Spring Fling -

The ballroom sparkled with a thousand colourful lights. Balloons floated above, everywhere, as if by magic, or maybe by good old fashioned helium. There were streamers in yellow, blue, green and fuchsia curled above the heads of the party-goers. The same colour streamers were suspended from one wall to another, creating a colourful canopy above the floor below, which had silver stars that sparkled with each step each person took.

The champagne fountain was in the middle of the food table, and although champagne didn't usually come in different colours, for this occasion, the fountain was spouting champagne in every shade of the spectrum. Elegant ice sculptures, which thanks to magic would never melt, anchored each end of the table. There was sophisticated food, along with traditional Muggle carnival food: cotton candy, popcorn, and hotdogs.

The waiters and waitresses were dressed in ties and tails, as well as red clown noses. There were acrobatics, jugglers and fortune tellers walking among the elegantly dressed witches and wizards. There was a Ringmaster selling tickets for the items being raffled and the bandstand glittered with the sights and sounds of a full swing band.

Out on the patio, there were Muggle carnival games, with their animated workers bartering passer-bys, trying to draw the next sucker into the game. Husbands were trying to win simple stuffed animals for their wives, while lovers were trying to win tokens of their affections for their true loves. There was a query line started at the old fashioned photo booth, the type where a coin was deposited and three pictures were given in return.

The most attention was being paid to the long raffle table at the far end of the ballroom, where the Ringmaster was vigorously describing each item, and pretty girls dressed as harlequin clowns were collecting galleons for tickets.

All in all, the room looked extravagant. The guests all looked spectacular and Hermione Granger was indeed the darling of the evening. She entered on the arm of Draco Malfoy, and immediately everyone started waving to her and congratulating her. People nodded as she passed, and praised her hard work. The smile didn't leave her face, and Draco didn't leave her side. He was just as proud as she was, and just as proud OF her.

At one of the round tables that surrounded the dance floor, Ginny Potter was waving at Hermione and Draco to get their attention. They walked over, and Ginny said, “We saved you seats.” Hermione sat down, but Draco said he was going to go get a drink. He leaned down and kissed Hermione’s cheek.

Hermione asked Ginny where Harry was, and she said he'd been out on the patio for the last fifteen minutes, trying to win a stuffed bear for little James. Just then, Harry came toward them, beaming, holding three bears. A yellow one, which he handed to Ginny, a pink one which he handed to Hermione, and a blue one which he said was for James.

Draco came back to the table and Hermione held up her bear and said, “I guess Harry loves me more than you do. He won a stuffed bear for me.”

“How much money did you spend trying to win these bears, Potter?” Draco asked.

“That doesn’t matter,” Harry countered. He wasn’t about to tell Malfoy that he spent over fifty galleons trying to win three bears that all together wouldn’t even cost a quarter of that. Hell, Malfoy was the fool who spent a million galleons on a book he already owned!

“Go win me a bear!” Hermione beamed up at him.

“You already have one, thanks to the saviour of the wizarding world over there,” Draco cut as he sat down.

“Fine, I’ll go win one myself,” Hermione decided, standing up and heading toward the doors. Draco took his drink and followed her.

“How about this game?” Hermione said pointing at the ring-toss.

“What type of games are these? I’ve never seen them before,” Draco said, looking around.

“They're Muggle carnival games,” she said.

Draco went and bought ten galleons worth of tickets. He put a ticket on the counter, and the man gave him three rings. He threw the first one, and missed the bottle. He threw the second one, missed again. He threw the third, and decided that Muggle carnival games were stupid.

After twenty more minutes and many more tickets, he finally won her a stupid paper parasol. “That’s what you want? I spent forty galleons, and you want a stupid paper parasol?” Draco fumed.

“You spent a million galleons on a book once, so what’s the big deal?” Hermione reasoned. She pulled on Draco’s arm, and pleaded, “Go get me some tickets. I want to try to win you something.”

“Are you broke? Go buy your own tickets,” he said spitefully.

The man behind one of the booths she had stopped at said, “If this fellow won’t give you the money for a ticket, I'll give you a try for free, beautiful.” He was flirting with Hermione right in front of Draco! Draco stared intently at the man to show him his displeasure.

“How do you even play this game?” Hermione asked, innocently, although Draco thought she said it a little too sexy.

“You throw a dart, and you hit a balloon. Whatever prize is listed behind that balloon, you win,” he explained. He handed Hermione a dart, letting his fingertips touch hers in the process.

By this time, Draco was very angry. “Yes, yes, she understands. Here’s the fucking ticket for the dart.” He laid a ticket on the counter, and took the dart from Hermione, only to hand it right back to her.

She looked at him confused, but she pulled her arm back, let the dart fly, and hit a big yellow balloon. She jumped up and down, squealing, “I won, I won!” The man behind the booth took off the remnants of the balloon, and looked at the paper underneath to see what was listed as the prize.

“It seems you've won a rubber snake!” the man proclaimed. He handed it to Hermione, and she thanked him.

Hermione laughed at the irony, handed the snake to Draco as they were walking back toward the ballroom, and said, “I won you a snake, how apropos.” He took the snake from her, and wrapped it around his neck like a scarf. He looked like he was proud of the cheap little toy.

“I bet these games are rigged so only Muggle-borns can win,” he said to her.

“Yes, that’s why I won after one chance, and it took you, how many, was it twenty or twenty-five?” she said, stifling a chuckle.

“Let’s go get our picture taken,” he said, trying to ignore her. They waited for their turn in the photo booth. When it was finally their turn, they walked into the very small space, and drew the curtain closed. Draco sat down and pulled Hermione onto his lap. He whispered, “Did you know it was another one of my fantasies to have sex in a Muggle photo booth?”

She turned in his lap and said, “Good thing for me that this one takes wizard pictures then. Now, put in the coin, and let’s make a memory of this night that will last for all time.” Draco deposited a coin, and Hermione put his face in her hands, and kissed his lips as the first picture was taken. For the second, he put his hand on the back of her neck, and kissed her right below her ear. For the third, they both turned toward the camera and waved and smiled.

The pictures came out of the slot, and Draco said, “Who gets the pictures?”

Hermione took the pictures, tore off the bottom one, with the smiling, waving, Hermione and Draco, and gave the top two to him. “Here, I’m sure you'd rather have the kissing ones.” She put her picture in her purse, and he put his in his pocket.

They exited the photo booth, and Draco said, “Let’s have a dance, Granger. Make some more memories.” He pulled her to the dance floor. As they stood in the middle of the floor, he held out his hand and said, “May I have this dance?” she nodded.

A slow song came on, something romantic and melodic. Hermione put her cheek on his chest, resting it on the soft material of his lapel. Suddenly, he took a small white daisy out of thin air and put it in her hair.

“Where did you get the flower?” she asked, looking up at him, and putting her hand up in her hair to feel the small bud.

“It’s a funny little thing called ‘magic’, Granger, ever heard of it?” he asked as he pulled her closer.

“I wish this night was over,” she said softly. She wanted it to be over, so he could propose.

“What?” he asked. He thought she said she wanted the night to be over.

“Nothing,” she claimed.

“Hermione,” Draco said, cupping her chin and pulling her face up to look at him, “just breathe. Take a deep breath, and try to enjoy yourself. This is a wonderful night, thanks to you.” He kissed her lips softly, but longingly.

She sighed.

It was a good thing her face was on his chest, that way, she couldn’t see his frown. He was afraid that he had ruined this night for her somehow. Should he wait to propose? She seemed so pensive. If she would just relaxed and not be so uptight, she might be more receptive to a marriage proposal. Asking Hermione Granger to be less uptight was like asking her hair to straighten. It wasn’t in her nature.

After the song ended, he demanded, “Win me something else, Granger. I feel short changed. I’ve given you a million dollar book, a car, a couple of dresses, and now a parasol, and all you’ve ever given me is a bloody, rubber snake.”

Hermione was almost hurt by that comment, but the twinkle in his eye relayed his true feelings.

“How about I buy you a couple of raffle tickets?” she said, pulling him over to the raffle table. They started down the aisle, and she would point at different items and say, “how about this?” or “what about that?” He didn’t seem interested in anything, until they reached the middle of the table.

“What the bloody, fucking hell, Granger!” He picked up a placard that read, ‘win a date with Hermione Granger’.

He glared at her, and she said in defense, “Well, you wouldn’t let me do a ‘win a date with Draco Malfoy’, so I decided to do this instead.”

“Like a common prostitute! Selling yourself! I won’t have it, Granger! I won't!” He seemed very angry indeed. He motioned for the Ringmaster, and when the man came over he asked, “How many tickets are left for this item?”

The Ringmaster performed some magic over the item, and said, “It looks like there are 33 chances left.”

He gave Hermione a very nasty look and said, “Give me all 33!” to the man. He threw his money down on the table, and a beautiful girl dressed as a clown gave him his tickets and collected the money. Draco looked at Hermione, who was trying to contain her giggle, and said, “I better win this damn thing, Hermione. I won’t have you going out with some other bloke, charity or not. You’ll be sorry if I don’t win.”

“What are you going to do, smirk at me?” Hermione challenged. “I swear, making empty threats, anyway, you have a one in three chance to win, and those are pretty good odds." She walked away from him, and couldn’t help but look at the very last item again. Draco was still staring at the placard with her name, as if he stared at it long enough, it might vanish.

Harry walked up to Hermione and said, “Still worried about this last item, even after I told you not to worry?”

“I’m more curious than anything else, Harry,” she answered, “and I’m still not convinced it won’t turn out badly.”

“Tell you what,” Harry started, “if it turns out to be a fake, which since I already known what it is, I know it won’t, but to put your mind at ease, if it does end up being fake, then I’ll offer the winner a day with Harry Potter, okay?”

She turned to him, gave him a look like she just ate something bitter and said, “Who in the world would want to win something like that?” She was sincere in her disgust.

He said, “Thanks, Hermione. Good to know my best friend think so highly of me. You figure something out then.” He walked away from her, only slightly hurt.

“I’m sorry, Harry,” she called out to his retreating figure. Hermione turned to look for Malfoy, and found him back at the buffet table, filling his plate. She came up to him and touched his sleeve. “I thought I lost you,” she said, almost with sadness.

He looked down at her, handed his plate to her, and grabbed two more flutes of champagne, and said, “You could never lose me.” They walked over to the table, and sat down. Hermione kept taking food off of his plate. He slapped her hand away several times. Finally, after the fifth time, he hit the back of her hand with his fork.

“Ouch, that really hurt,” she proclaimed.

“Get your own plate,” he said.

“I’m not even hungry,” she said, reproachful.

“Sure you’re not.” He rolled his eyes.

“What time is it?” she asked, looking around nervously.

“About 9:00 pm,” he stated.

“The raffle starts at 9:00 pm. Hurry up and finish eating, so we can go find out who wins all the prizes. I’m anxious about that last item,” she said, standing, and taking his plate from him, mid-bite, and putting it on a tray of a passing server.

“I was still eating, Granger!” he shouted.

“Come on,” she said, ignoring his protest, as she pulled his hand and dragged him to the other side of the ballroom.

They stood next to Ginny and Harry. Draco leaned down and said in Hermione’s ear, “I better win that date with Hermione Granger.”

She turned to him, and gave him a little slap on the face. “Oh poo, that’s not even important now. You're already on a date with Hermione Granger. I better win that mystery item.” She turned back around.

They started announcing the winners, and Hermione said, “It’ll be a while until either of us find out if we won our items.”

“In that case, come here, I want to talk to you.” He pulled her slightly away from the throng of people milling around the raffle table. She looked up at him. Surely he wasn’t going to ask her to marry him here, in front of all these people. “When the gala is over with, why don’t you quit your job at Gringotts? Come and work for me. I’m serious.” That wasn’t what he was going to say. He was going to blurt out, “Will you marry me’, but chickened out once again.

“Are you really serious?” she asked.

“Yes, since Nott left, I don’t have anyone to take care of public relations, or charitable donations. He did so poorly at that part of his job anyway, as you know, and you seem perfect for the job,” he told her, taking her hand, and leading her yet further from the crowd.

“Would I have the Vice-President title?” she asked.

“Good to see my sense of humour is finally rubbing off on you,” he joked. She gave him a scornful look, so he said, “Sure, why not.” He meant it.

“What else do you have to offer, to tempt me to leave my dream job,” she asked him, really wanting to know.

“There are too many fringe benefits to even mention.” He smiled and held out his arms.

“Such as?” She yearned to know, not taking the hint that he meant himself.

He dropped his arms and said with an evil smile, “Sex with the boss, whenever you want, jumps to mind.”

Hermione smiled as well, but said, “That’s not a fringe benefit, that’s sexual harassment.”

Draco continued, “You would have a larger office, with more than one measly little window, and a staff of your own choosing, as many as you want, and I'll even double your present salary.”

“You don’t even know what I make, how can you offer me that?” she asked, incredulously.

“I’ve seen the hovel you live in, and the rags you call clothes, that you wear, so I know it can’t be much. Maybe I should triple your salary. Hey, you could lie and tell me you make much more than you do, and that way you could really make a lot of money out of this deal,” he joked. “And there are yearly bonuses, which correlate with how much sex we have.”

She laughed a bit and said, “You know, I don’t know if you’re joking with me, or if you’re serious, but if this is a genuine offer, then I really think I might consider it. I think I could do a bang up job with your company.”

“Really?” He was surprised, but happily so. “I would love to have you under me, and since I promised you earlier no crude sex jokes, I meant that professionally.”

“I’ll think about it and let you know, Mr. Malfoy. It’s a very tempting offer to be sure. Now, let’s get back inside. It’s probably close to time for our items to be announced.” Hermione led him back toward the middle of the ballroom.

They continued to auction off the prizes, one by one. Everyone in the ballroom was either applauding or booing, depending on whether they won the item of their choice. When they got to the ‘win a date with Hermione Granger’, Draco pinched her arm.

“I’m real already, stop pinching me!” She slapped his hand.

“This time I pinched you as a warning that I'd better win, not to see if you're real,” he seethed.

The Ringmaster called out the number 33243. Draco looked through all his tickets. He won. HE WON! “AH HA!” he exclaimed, walking toward the front to collect the placard. Then walking up to her, he hit her on the forehead with the placard, before he said, “Give me my winnings!” 

“I’m right here, idiot,” she said with pretend annoyance. "You're already on a date with me!" In truth, she was ecstatic that he won.

After a few more items, the Ringmaster announced that the last item to be raffled was the mystery item, which would only reveal itself to the winner, and at exactly midnight. Hermione reached in her purse and took out her ticket. For some reason, she really wanted to win now, and not just because she was afraid of what the item might be.

The Ringmaster called out 49582. Hermione looked at her ticket. She won. She won? SHE WON! She started actually jumping up and down, turned to Draco, grabbed him around his neck and said, “I WON!”

He smiled so broadly, that nothing could remove the smile from his face. He wanted to say, ‘of course you won, you were supposed to win’, but he couldn’t yet reveal his duplicity in the matter.

Everyone applauded as Hermione went up to the front of the ballroom, and the Ringmaster handed her the envelope with the question mark. She suddenly had a thought...what if Draco’s proposal was in this envelope? That would be so romantic. He could have arranged the whole thing. He has a dubious mind, that’s for sure. She looked at him, to see if she could read his thoughts. He seemed mighty pleased that she won the item.

She went back over to their table and Draco walked over with her and said, “I guess you'll have to wait for midnight, Cinderella.” She smiled, thinking she was in on his charade, and propped the envelope up on the table, in a place of honour.

Draco excused himself to go outside to smoke. Hermione took the opportunity to go talk to Harry.

“Harry, may I talk to you in private. I really need to run something past you.” Harry took her hand. “I have so much weighing on my mind, and I need to talk to you in private.” She pulled on his sleeve before he consented, looked around for Draco, didn’t see him, and went out to the patio with Harry still in her clutches.

Once outside, she gasped, “Harry, I have a confession to make. Malfoy brought a ring with him. I saw it in his nightstand yesterday, when I went to go inscribe the book I gave him. It’s beautiful, and I’m a nervous wreck thinking about when and if he’s going to propose to me. I just can’t stand it! You said you knew what the mystery item was. Please, just tell me, is this the way Malfoy's going to propose?” 

Harry took a deep breath and clasped her hands in his. “I have a confession also. I know he brought a ring with him. I saw it, too. I told him not to ask you this weekend. I told him he should keep his word, and wait until the gala is over, but he’s such a selfish, son of a bitch, that he’s going to do whatever he wants.”

“Harry, don’t talk about him like that! That's not fair,” Hermione chafed.

“I’m sorry Hermione, but don’t you see what it’s doing to you. Between this and the mystery item, it’s too much. You aren’t even enjoying the evening. If he really wanted to let the spotlight be on you, and not him, he would wait, that’s all I’m saying.”

“So, this mystery, raffle item has nothing to do with a marriage proposal?” She was more than disappointed, she was disillusioned, too.

Harry simply said, “No, it doesn’t.”

Hermione could see Harry’s point, but she really didn’t agree. She wanted that proposal more than she had ever wanted anything. However, she didn’t want to act like some lovesick fool, and she also didn’t want to ruffle Harry’s feathers, so she said, “I know what you're saying, Harry, and I wish he'd kept his word as well, and that he'd wait to propose. It’s not that I don’t want a proposal, but there’s a time and place for everything, right? And I've been a nervous wreck all day, wondering when he would propose. I was just being silly. You don’t have to reveal what the mystery item is now, since I know it’s not a proposal, I can relax. I’ll wait for the concealment charm to disappear, and then I'll know, won’t I?” She smiled, though she didn't believe a word she had just spoken.


“Are you certain you're not disappointed that it’s not a proposal? Tell me the truth,” Harry inquired.

“No, it’s for the best. Maybe he’s changed his mind anyway. He’s had tons of opportunities to ask me, if he still wanted to ask me. I bet if I went upstairs, I'd find the ring still in the bedside drawer. I’m sure he’s changed his mind,” she said, trying to smile, but feeling like she would cry at any moment.

Harry embraced her, said, “You’ll like the item you won, however, so you have that to look forward to, and when the time’s right, you’ll get your proposal.”

“Yes and tonight’s not the right time,” she said it out loud to convince herself, so she could continue with the evening. Harry left her to go back inside. Hermione left right after him. She needed to find Draco.

If she had just turned around, she would have seen him, for he was standing just behind a ticket booth, and he had heard every word the pair had spoken.

(*Everyone should take Draco’s advice, and just breathe. There is a happy ending in sight, and Hermione gets her ring.)

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