Lonely Reign, Part 5
Monday, 7.18 am, Great Hall
The next Monday at breakfast, Dumbledore announced that there would be a Yule Ball the week before the Christmas holidays commenced. Almost immediately, Millicent was besieged with invitations while Laura beamed like a proud mother. To a man, Millicent thanked them with gruff politeness and said she’d let them know.
“D’you think that counts as an invitation?” Laura asked Millicent between classes, gesturing toward Neville Longbottom who was staring witlessly at the tall Slytherin girl. “Go Millicent! You’ve reduced the boy to a gibbering idiot.”
“Like there was any challenge to that,” Draco said. “He’s halfway to being lobotomized at any given moment.”
“Poor boy,” Laura and Millicent said in unison, and Millicent turned a flattering shade of pink as she looked at Draco, horrified at what she’d done.
“Bulstrode, do try not to turn into a Hufflepuff, won’t you?” he drawled. “Bad enough we’ve got one loitering round as it is.”
Laura frowned at him. “I’m not loitering.” He only smirked. “You are the one who wanted me to hang round with you lot in the first place.”
He lifted an elegant silvery brow. “Is that how you see it?”
Laura frowned again, positive he knew something she didn’t and hating the feeling. She decided to quit while she was ahead and slumped a little in her seat, pouting.
“Laura?” asked a voice behind her, and she turned to see Roger Davies, seventh year Ravenclaw.
“Hi, Roger,” she greeted him, ignoring the glares of death her companions focused upon him.
“I was wondering if you’d like to go to the Yule Ball with me,” he asked, resolutely keeping his eyes fixed on her face.
Laura thought a moment. She was unlikely to receive any other invitations with Draco and the others looming over her like the children of the night, and Roger was very good-looking, and seemed nice enough… ‘Yes, Roger, thank you. I’d like that,” she said with a big smile. She felt Draco tense beside her and wondered what she’d done wrong now.
“Brilliant!” he said, his face relaxing into a delighted smile.
“She’ll have to let you know, Davies,” Draco said, his tone and expression deceptively lazy. “She’ll get back to you.”
Roger blinked and stood there dumbly until Goyle lumbered forward a step and began cracking his knuckles. “Er, I’ll just go away now, shall I?”
“Good idea,” Draco murmured as Roger scuttled away before turning back to his companions. “Can you believe the bloody cheek?”
“Have to give him credit,” commented Blaise. “No one else has dared.”
Laura sighed. “You’re ruining my social life.”
Draco rolled his eyes. “Believe me, the calibre of your acquaintances has only improved since you began going round with us.”
She wasn’t convinced, but decided to pursue a different matter. “Why did you get all tense when I accepted Roger’s invitation?”
He didn’t answer, but looked at Millicent. “Draco decides who’s the best date for us,” the girl explained. “That’s why I haven’t answered any of the boys who’ve asked me. He’ll think it over and tell me.”
“For the good of the kingdom, like an arranged marriage?” Laura asked teasingly to hide her dismay.
Draco shrugged, the motion impossibly elegant. “That, and the good of the Slytherin. I want my people to have the best possible time. I’m an excellent judge of character, and I can tell if it will be a match made in heaven or hell.”
She crossed her arms over her chest and quirked a brow at him. “And is Roger an angel or a devil?”
He only smiled at her, a slow mysterious smile that made her stomach quiver.
“I… I have to get to Charms,” Laura said faintly, and ran down the corridor.
3rd week of December (Tuesday), 5.53 pm, Great Hall
It was a week before the Yule Ball, and Draco still hadn’t rendered his decision about Roger’s invitation to Laura.
“Um, Draco?” she ventured at dinner one evening. “I really need to know if I can go with Roger… I have to get dress robes…”
“Oh, are you still on about that?” he replied. “Well, you’re not going with him.”
Laura sighed, feeling distinctly unhappy, and stood.
“Where are you going?” Blaise asked around a mouthful of shepherd’s pie.
“To tell Roger I can’t go,” she answered, eyes wide and startled.
“Oh, let me,” Draco said, his grin making Laura quite nervous.
“Oh, I don’t know…” she began but he was already striding across the hall toward Ravenclaw. She darted after him.
“Oi, Davies,” Draco said. Roger and the rest of Ravenclaw turned to face him.
“Malfoy,” Roger acknowledged with a nod, then smiled at Laura, who was peeping over Draco’s shoulder and wringing her hands.
“Miss Madley greatly appreciates the honour of your invitation, but sadly regrets she will be unable to accept.”
Roger seemed to deflate a little. “Oh. Okay.” He glanced at Laura. “Maybe next time?”
She smiled at him but Draco answered for her. “Hm, yes, maybe.” His tone didn’t inspire much hope.
“Who will she be going with?” Roger dared to ask as Draco turned away.
Draco looked back over his shoulder, a sly smile on his lips. “Me.” And he sauntered back to the Slytherin table, leaving Laura standing frozen in the aisle, her hands in mid-wring, until she snapped out of her surprised stupor and shakily followed him.
“You’re becoming as incoherent as Longbottom, Madley,” Draco told her, not looking at her as he buttered a roll. “Be so kind as to speak in complete sentences, will you?”
“I’m going with you?”
He grinned at her over his goblet of pumpkin juice. “I’d have gone with Pansy if she weren’t still at home, catatonic in bed. As Alterna-Pansy, it’s your duty.”
She sighed. “You are ruining my social life.”
Friday, 6.03 pm, 6th year Slytherins’ girls’ dorm
The afternoon of the Yule Ball, Laura joined Millicent in the sixth year girls’ dorm in Slytherin to prepare for the evening ahead. As Millicent and Pansy were the only girls in that year, and Pansy was still recuperating from her ordeal at home, Millicent had the entire room to herself.
“Wear Slytherin colours,” was the only guideline Draco had given Laura for selecting her dress robes. She had chosen a gown of silver-grey lace, with a wide, round neckline, long tight sleeves, and snug bodice that flared at her hips into a full skirt. It was very plain, almost medieval in its simplicity, and she thought it suited her very nicely.
Millicent nodded in approval, which was her equivalent of Hannah’s and Susan’s excited hour-long ramblings of excitement, and Laura felt a pang of loneliness for her friends. This would be the first time in years the three of them weren’t together for this all-important primping session, dashing in and out of the bathroom, doing each other’s hair, shrieking in dismay when time began to run out…
But it wasn’t bad, she thought. Millicent was positively taciturn, but pleasant enough, and her rare comments were usually both intelligent and amusingly snide. Laura liked her.
She liked Blaise too, even if he was the most suspicious boy she’d ever met. She even liked Crabbe and Goyle. Crabbe was rather puppy-like in his benign stupidity, and Goyle was touchingly proud about his egg, always discussing its progress (though how he could tell anything had changed was beyond her).
Draco, though—he was a mystery. She couldn’t decide if she liked him or not, mostly because she couldn’t decided if he liked her or not. One moment he was jovial, fun, almost solicitous; the next, he could be biting and sarcastic and absolutely cruel. He ruled his realm with an iron hand, and permitted no one to pretend to the throne.
And he was her date for the ball. She was determined to look good and have a smashing time, no matter whose arm she had to cling to the entire time, and with that in mind, she turned resolutely to Millicent.
“Let’s do your hair, shall we?”
Millicent had, at Laura’s suggestion, chosen to emphasize her extraordinary build by wearing a rather Grecian-looking gown of soft silk the same colour as her eyes, belted with a silver cord crossing and crisscrossing over her midriff. Laura pulled the girl’s midnight-dark hair into an upsweep and coaxed a few long curls to cascade down over one shoulder.
“You look amazing,” she told Millicent admiringly. “Roarke is a very lucky boy.”
Draco had allowed Millicent to accept Roarke Montague’s invitation. He was a handsome seventh year Slytherin with golden hair and brown eyes, the perfect counterpoint for Millicent’s dark, pale-eyed beauty, and if they weren’t chosen king and queen of the ball it would be a crime, Laura confided in the girl.
“Time to go,” was all Millicent said, but blushed prettily. “Wait,” she said when Laura stepped to the door. “I have something to lend you.” She rummaged through a leather jewellery case and came up with a whisper-fine silver chain from which was suspended an emerald the size of Laura’s thumbnail. The emerald was surrounded by pearls and glittered like a deep green star.
“Oh, Merlin,” Laura breathed. “Millicent, I can’t possibly…”
“Turn around and lift your hair,” Millicent interrupted, and Laura complied, shivering a little at the cool touch of silver and gemstone against the bare skin of her throat. “There’s earrings too.”
Laura gazed at herself in the mirror and blinked back tears at the girl’s kindness. “Thank you, Millicent. You’re lovely.” And she impulsively hugged and kissed the girl in gratitude.
“Hm, perhaps you two would prefer to go with each other?” asked Draco’s dry voice from the door. Laura whipped around, her eyes wide and startled.
“Draco!” she exclaimed. “Millicent just lent me this gorgeous necklace! Isn’t she the nicest person ever?” She rushed across the room, pointing to her throat. “Isn’t it amazing?”
His silver gaze flickered only momentarily at the necklace before flowing languidly over the rest of her. “Amazing,” he agreed, but Laura was left with the thought that he wasn’t really talking about the jewellery…
Before she could think further on it, thought, he was extending his elbows to them. “Let’s get a move on, ladies,” he said. “Roarke won’t stay pretty forever.”