"You are cordially invited—" Hermione tossed the embossed parchment and glared at it. "Invited, my arse. Compelled to attend upon pain of death is more like—"

"Won't be too bad," Ron interrupted, picking up the discarded invitation after wiping his fingers on his robes. Hermione pressed her lips together as she watched grease spots form on the invitation. "I mean, it's at Malfoy Manor, right?"

She nodded.

"And they're still trying to get in good with the Ministry, right?"

She nodded again.

"Then they're not going to spare any expense on the food!" he concluded, choosing another biscuit and popping it into his mouth whole.

"Honestly, Ronald!" she exclaimed, moving the tray of biscuits out of his reach. "Is that all you care about? The quality of the food?"

Licking his fingers, he shrugged.

"Yes, Ronald," Harry cut in, mimicking Hermione's voice. "Don't you care about the werewolves?"

Hermione sent an exasperated glare at her friend, but followed it up with a chagrined smile. "Stop reminding me why I need to go," she complained good-naturedly. "Stupid noble causes after my own heart…"

Harry grinned and nudged her shoulder as he reached past her for a biscuit. "You're a soft touch for any fundraiser and you know it."

"It's for werewolves!" she protested. "Of course I'm a soft touch for it! Little Teddy deserves—" She stopped abruptly, unable to speak around the lump in her throat. Remus and Tonks had been gone for two years already, and it still hurt.

"I can't decide if it's brilliant or cheesy that they've gone with a moonlight theme," Harry continued, giving Hermione the time she needed to compose herself. "At least they didn't schedule it for the full moon..."

"Only because they needed some werewolves in attendance," Ron said, his hand inching toward the plate of biscuits. Hermione slapped it away and he settled back on the couch, defeated for the moment. "And I suppose they didn't want them in, you know, actual wolf form."

"Picky gits," Harry agreed. He paused. "Can you imagine, though? Wolves cavorting through Malfoy Manor? Destroying paintings? Christening area rugs?"

Despite her irritation at having to attend yet another fundraiser, Hermione laughed at the mental imagery.

"Can't think of a nicer family for it to happen to," Ron agreed, managing to snake his arm past Hermione quickly enough to snap up a biscuit. Once again, he popped it into his mouth whole, and Hermione wondered how often he'd had to be just as sneaky during his childhood days.

When she finished frowning at him for stealing a biscuit, however, she sighed at the mention of the Malfoy family. "This will be the first event they've hosted since…"

Harry made a face. "I still feel bad about that. I can't believe that someone was able to stab Narcissa Malfoy in broad daylight in Diagon Alley."

"It's not your fault, mate," was Ron's immediate response. "Aurors can't be everywhere, and who would have thought Madam Malkins was a hotbed of assassination?"

"Still," he said quietly. "She didn't deserve it."

Ron shrugged. "Sure, I'd rather have seen good old Lucy take the wrong end of a knife, but—"

"That's enough," Hermione interrupted. "I think we can all agree that premeditated murder is a sad business no matter who the victim is."

Ron nodded reluctantly while Harry stared into his tea.

"I wonder if Draco will be in attendance," Hermione said thoughtfully. "No one has seen him since... Well."

"Oh, he'll be there," Harry said grimly. "Kingsley assigned extra Aurors to be on hand just in case whoever killed Narcissa has designs on Lucius and Draco as well."

Ron shrugged. "Well, the food will still be good, yeah?"

"Yes, Ron," Hermione sighed. "I'm sure the food will be outstanding." She rolled her eyes in Harry's direction and felt her spirits buoyed by his answering grin. Well, she thought, moving the plate of biscuits back in front of Ron, the evening at Malfoy Manor couldn't be too terrible. Not with her best friends at her side.


"You don't think this is snails, do you? It kind of looks like snails..." Ron poked at something on his plate and eyed it anxiously. "It has to be safe to eat, right? I mean, the Malfoys wouldn't want anyone to keel over and die from food poisoning on their property, would they?"

"Normally not," a smooth voice assured them. "But I'm sure I could prevail upon them to make an exception."

"Professor Snape!" Hermione exclaimed, elbowing Harry and tugging on his arm until he turned to face their former professor. "And Mr Malfoy!" she added as Snape was joined by the host of the party. "This is a lovely party," she told him, watching his stone-like face for any sign of what was going through his mind.

Lucius Malfoy nodded politely. "I am pleased to be able to offer a location for the fundraiser. Raising money for the care and treatment of werewolves is a worthwhile endeavour with which I am proud to be associated."

Before Hermione could determine his level of sincerity, however, he had turned his attention to Ron. "Not to worry, Mr Weasley," he said coolly, his eyes dropping to the plate the red-head was clutching. "I believe the food you were attempting to identify is escargots. It is perfectly safe, I assure you."

Ron's worry lines dissolved and his shoulders sagged in relief. "Thank Merlin," he muttered. "I was worried it was snails."

Hermione winced and momentarily closed her eyes in embarrassment at Ron's ignorance, but when she opened them, it was to see Ron happily shovelling escargots into his mouth, and both Snape and Malfoy watching him.

One light, one dark, and yet they wore identical expressions of amusement. The slightest twitching of one corner of each of their mouths. The faint glittering of their eyes as they watched Ron clear his plate.

"I told you the food would be top notch," Ron said, nudging Hermione.

"And I didn't argue with you," she retorted, face flushing at the implication that she hadn't had faith in the Malfoys. "I only tried to remind you that the point of the evening was to raise money for the treatment and care of werewolves, not to fill your stomach!"

"I see no reason why he cannot do both," Lucius said smoothly. "And I will pass along your compliments to the house elves. They'll be pleased to know that their offerings are appreciated."

Ron nodded vigorously. "See, Hermione? We can do both!"

"Yes, Ronald," she agreed, her tone brittle.

"The art of multi-tasking," Severus observed. "I see that your education was not entirely wasted, then."

Ron flushed, but Harry merely grinned at the dour man. "I bet you were happy to see the last of us, weren't you, sir?"

"Indeed," he agreed. "Between ridding myself of the shackles of the Dark Lord and retiring from the thankless task of teaching, it is six of one and half a dozen of the other which I enjoy more."

"Now, now, Severus," Lucius chided, sounding amused. "That's no way to speak to guests."

And in a move that surprised all of them except Lucius, Severus merely rolled his eyes. "Very well," he said. "But I reserve the right to make as many barbed comments as I wish to about the esteemed party planner the ministry insisted you use."

Lucius waved his hand in dismissal. "Naturally," he said. "I expected no less. Do you think Miss Brown has quite recovered from the fact that I refused to allow fluffy pink wolves as decorations?"

Hermione shuddered. Employing recently bitten werewolves to do as much of the work as possible for the event had been a good idea. Allowing Lavender Brown to decorate, apparently, had not.

The two men wandered away, discussing in low tones other guests that Severus was free to torment.

"He's almost scarier now," Ron said when Severus and Lucius were out of earshot. "Well, no. I don't suppose anything was worse that running into him when we were out after curfew."

"It's just that it's odd seeing him with a..." Harry paused, his face crinkling in confusion, "friend?"

"Co-insulter, more like," Hermione scoffed, smirking a little as she helped herself to one of the appetizers Ron had been too intimidated to try. "He and Mr Malfoy play off each other beautifully. We're just not used to seeing Professor Snape talk to anybody on purpose."

"Yeah," Harry agreed, filling his punch glass and using it to gesture. "That's it! In fact, if I didn't know better, I'd think that he might even have been enjoying himself!'

Ron shuddered. "Let's not go overboard, mate. Hey—did you try this escargum yet, Harry? It's really good!"

Hermione opened her mouth, but closed it again when she observed Ron's genuine enjoyment of the delicacy. She'd tell him what it was. Eventually. But not until he'd mispronounced it a few more times—it was likely to be her best chance of amusement for the evening.


"Seamus!" Flushed from wine and dancing, Hermione giggled as the confirmed flirt whirled her around the dance floor. She wasn't inebriated, not exactly, but she was feeling rather...free. And Seamus was shamelessly capitalizing on it, she realized.

"I think I'd better sit out the next one," she decided as the song neared its conclusion. Her heart was racing and the ballroom seemed to be growing warmer as the night dragged on.

"But, lass!" Seamus protested, "whatever will I do without you?"

Not so inebriated as to believe anything that came out of his mouth, Hermione fanned herself a little and blew a wisp of hair out of her eyes. "Oh, I'm sure you'll manage. In fact..." She scanned the room, finally settling on her target. "Isn't that Lavender Brown? She looks a little tense." And indeed, she did. She was standing, hands on hips, glaring at a server who cowered at her words. "I think she could do with a trip around the dance floor."

Seamus followed her gaze and grinned roguishly. "Oh, I'm definitely capable of relieving the lass' tension," he decided, and left Hermione with a quick squeeze.

"Flirt," she muttered, but smiled anyway. She was in Malfoy Manor, one of her least favourite places, and, intentional or not, Seamus' attention had been a pleasant distraction while it had lasted. Now, though, she was hot and uncomfortable, and none of her friends were in sight.

"Fresh air," she decided, spotting a set of patio doors standing ajar. With any luck she'd find privacy and cooler temperatures. She made a bee line for her escape, pleased that her steps were steady. As good as the wine at Malfoy Manor was, she was in no hurry to embarrass herself.

"Oh!" she exclaimed, stepping out onto the terrace, "I didn't realize—"

"It's just us, Hermione," Harry said, taking her arm and drawing her further outside. "Making a run for it?" he teased, knowing how she hated attending formal functions.

"Just fresh air," she retorted. "I was dancing with Seamus, and—"

"Say no more," Ron interrupted, straightening from his slouched position against the wall. "I'd be happy to curse him for you if he was too handsy," he offered.

"Thank you, Ronald, but that won't be necessary," she said primly.

Harry snickered. "Does that mean that he wasn't too handsy, or that he was, and you didn't mind?"

"Harry!" she exclaimed, swatting at his arm and giggling. She took a deep breath of fresh air and stared out into the darkened grounds. Fairy lights roamed, periodically illuminating shrubs and statues.

"It's lovely here," she said, taking another deep breath and catching the faint aroma of flowers. "Are we by the gardens?"

"How should I know?" Ron retorted. "It's dark out, in case you haven't noticed."

"Yes, Ronald. Thank you for that astute observation," she said, rolling her eyes. "I only thought that I could smell flowers, and wondered—"

"Shh!" Harry hissed, staring out into the dark grounds. "There's someone out there."

Hermione peered into darkness, watching as more and more fairy lights gathered and huddled around what appeared to be two figures walking slowly along a path.

"Isn't that—"

"Hush!" Hermione scolded Ron, leaning forward and squinting in an effort to identify the lurkers. Certain segments of society were not supportive of the werewolf cause—could they have possibly penetrated the Malfoy grounds in an attempt to make trouble? She fingered her wand uneasily even as she peered into the murky night.

The figures moved closer and Harry snorted. "I think we're safe," he decided. "Malfoy is hardly likely to sabotage his own event."

"Malfoy?" Hermione parroted, squinting further and lamenting the improved vision spell she'd cast on Harry's glasses. It was entirely irksome that he could see so clearly in the dark when she could not. But he was correct. The trademark white-blond hair of the Malfoy family shone in the reflected fairy light.

"And is that Snape with him?" Ron questioned, leaning over the stone railing. "Hard to tell in the dark, isn't it?"

Just then, the clouds parted and revealed a three quarters full moon. Lucius Malfoy was immediately recognisable. It took Hermione another moment to be certain that the second figure really was Snape, as his darker hair and features were not as visible in the moonlight.

"Yes," she decided, "that's him. But what are they—"

She stopped abruptly, her jaw slack when she realised what she was seeing. What had, at first glance, looked like two men in a close, private discussion, was in reality a bit more...involved. Despite the cool and refreshing night air, Hermione felt her cheeks flare with warmth yet again.

"Are they—" Ron began. "Oh, Merlin!" he yelped. "I can never unsee that!" Covering his eyes with his hands, he stumbled backwards and toward the ballroom.

"Ron!" Hermione hissed, grabbing his arm and shushing him. "I hardly think this requires an Obliviate! You have seen people snog before, haven't you?"

He whipped to face her, eyes wide. "Yeah, but…" He waved his warms wildly. "But never—I mean—they're blokes!"

"Ronald Weasley. What would your mother—" Hermione stopped abruptly. Molly Weasley had precious little love for Severus Snape, and significantly less for Lucius Malfoy. She was also not known for being the most accepting witch. It was entirely possible that she would share her son's intolerances rather than rebuke him for them.

"I think Luna's looking for someone to dance with," Harry cut in. "Maybe I'll... Well. And Ron, don't you think maybe Lavender could use a break from Seamus?"

Ron stared at blankly before shaking his head vigorously, reminding her of an Irish setter after a bath. "Right. Yeah. Lavender." He nodded again. "I can do that."

Rolling his eyes, Harry gave Ron a rough push toward the French doors. "Coming back in?" he asked Hermione.

She shook her head after glancing toward the brilliantly lit ballroom. When Harry nudged one of the doors open, she swell of music was louder than she had anticipated and her head ached in protest. Between the bright light and loud music, she couldn't bear the thought of leaving the pleasant solitude of the terrace. "I could do with a bit more fresh air, I think. I'll be perfectly fine," she told him when he hesitated.

"Right," he said, looking a little sheepish at being caught in an over-protective attitude. "See you in a bit, then?"

She nodded and sighed in relief as Harry and Ron were swept into the crowd, the door clicking behind them and shutting out the unwanted noise. Glancing back out over the grounds, she saw that Lucius and Severus had stopped at a stone bench and were sitting, their backs to her. It was incredible, she thought, that even though they were barely touching, the connection between them was almost visible. How had she never seen it before?

Feeling faintly guilty for spying (and slightly irritated that she wasn't close enough to eavesdrop), she sighed and rested her arms on the stone railing of the patio. The sight of the sweeping, perfectly manicured Malfoy grounds, even in the dark, was surprisingly soothing.

And, much to her surprise, watching the two men was also strangely calming. She couldn't tell if they were talking, or merely sitting in silence, but the air of comfortable companionship was unmistakable. When Severus raised his hand to touch Lucius' cheek, however, Hermione's conscience got the better of her and she turned to leave the two men in privacy.

"Going so soon? It's a shame to waste a lovely night indoors, you know."

Hermione started and whirled to see Draco Malfoy some ten feet away, leaning against a cold stone wall. He was slouching indolently, hands buried somewhere in the folds of his robes. She forced herself to relax. She and Draco Malfoy might not be friends, but she doubted that he would attempt to harm her in his own home, with a room full of witnesses only a door away.

"It is a lovely night," she agreed, cursing the breathless quality of her voice. Between the wine, dancing with Seamus, and discovering Lucius and Severus—shite! Draco was going to think she was—

"I wasn't spying!" she blurted. "Honest! I didn't know that—"

Draco's hair flashed in the moonlight as he tipped his head back and laughed. "They are rather eye-catching, though, aren't they?" he asked, following her panicked look toward his father.

"Yes," she admitted honestly. "They are."

Both watched as Lucius placed his arm along the back of the bench, his fingers resting on Severus' shoulder.

"How long—" she started to ask, and then blushed. "I'm sorry. It's none of my business."

Draco shrugged and pushed off the wall to join her at the railing. "Since shortly after Mother's death, I suppose. Though I rather suspect that the feelings have been there for considerably longer."

It was an uncharacteristically candid and generous answer, and Hermione appreciated it. The silence grew and she became aware of his physical presence beside her, the cut of his robes, his solid warmth. For a brief, mad moment she considered moving closer to him, using him to shelter her from the soft breeze tickling her hair and raising goose bumps on her arms.

As if reading her mind, Draco stepped away from her. Hermione flushed in mortification at her momentary weakness—it had to be the wine!—and was about to stammer a goodbye when Draco used his wand to conjure a simple wooden bench.

"Unless you'd rather go back inside," he said, gesturing for her to sit. "I do believe Weasley has left a few of the escargums for the rest of us."

"Oh, you heard that, did you?" Hermione laughed. "I didn't see you earlier..." she said, and claimed a spot on the bench. Draco joined her, sitting just close enough that their arms brushed.

"Part of the Malfoy mystique," he teased.

"More like a Disillusionment spell," she countered, nudging him with her elbow.

"Well, yes," he admitted, stilling her elbow with his hand and holding it loosely. "You can't go wrong with a good Disillusionment charm."

"And you don't have to interact with anyone," Hermione continued. "Damn. I wish I'd thought of it."

Draco snorted, and she glanced at him to see a smile playing at the corner of his mouth.

"What?" she demanded. "What's so funny?"

"Nothing," he said, letting go of her arm and propping his elbows on either side of him on the back of the bench. "I just never thought I'd hear you say that anything I came up with was a good idea."

"Oh." She flushed, knowing that he was right. Back in their Hogwarts days, she wouldn't have trusted anything that came out of his mouth. As it was, she wasn't certain why she hadn't returned to the ballroom the moment he'd revealed himself on the terrace.


"You were hiding on the terrace," she said, frowning. "Why did you remove the Disillusionment spell?"

He was silent for so long that she regretted asking.

"What did you see when you came out here?" he asked. "Aside from your two sidekicks, I mean."

"What?" She frowned. "Well, not you, obviously," she said, wondering if he was questioning the durability of his Disillusionment charm.

"Of course not," he said, rolling his eyes. "I cast it, didn't I?"

And there was the trademark Malfoy ego that had been largely absent to this point.

"No. What did you notice?"

"The fairy lights," she responded immediately. "And the smell of flowers. They were lovely. You really do have exquisite grounds, Malfoy."

Was he fishing for compliments? If so, that ought to have done it, and it had the benefit of being the truth, as well.

"Thank you. But how did they make you feel?"

Her eyes grew wide. Malfoy was talking about feelings?

"Er, relaxed," she said. "Peaceful."

"And when you saw Father and Severus?"

Her eyes drifted to the stone bench in the distance where she'd last seen the two, but the fairy lights had scattered, and it was next to impossible to make out anything other than indistinct forms.

"Wistful," she finally said, surprised herself. When Draco arched one eyebrow, she elaborated. "They suit each other. They're both snarky bastards, no offence intended…" Draco dismissed the statement with a wave of his hand. "But it's obvious that they care about each other."

Draco nodded. "They suit one another."

Another breeze, this one stronger, swept through the terrace, and Hermione shivered.

"Do you want to go in?" Draco asked solicitously. He started to stand, but Hermione shook her head.

"No," she said, giving his robes a small tug so he would sit again. "It really is lovely out here, and I'm not ready to go back in yet."

He sat down again, placing his arm around her.

"Where have you been the last two years?" she asked. "I thought that perhaps you were—"

"Were what? Angry at the world? Depressed? Running from my responsibilities?"

Hermione flushed. "Not exactly..."

"What do you want to hear, Granger? That I couldn't live with myself after the war? That I felt guilty enough to run away? That I wallowed in grief after Mother's death?" His voice was brittle and tense.

Hermione burrowed a little deeper into his side. "Only if it's the truth."

She could feel him looking at her, but she didn't raise her head. The night was lovely, the grounds were exquisite, and Draco Malfoy was turning out to be infinitely more interesting than she had ever supposed.

After a long pause, Draco finally said, "Could we just, I don't know, enjoy the moonlight?"

When she nodded, she felt the tension drain from him. The fairy lights scattered, leaving the grounds dark and impenetrable. She saw Lucius and Severus eventually stand and return to the house, choosing to enter through a different set of doors. They heard the occasional burst of music or laughter from the ballroom, but they remained insulated, alone on the bench. Clouds drifted, by turns revealing and obscuring the moon.

"Lucius chose the charity this event would benefit, didn't he?" she asked much later.

She felt Draco nod.

"You didn't leave because you couldn't live with yourself, or because you felt guilty, or because you were wallowing after your mother's death."

He shook his head.

The moon rose, seeming to grow smaller in the night sky.

"Lavender Brown isn't the only one from our year who wouldn't be able to attend the party if it were held at the full moon next week, is she."

He didn't move.

She tucked her arm through his and wondered if this was how Severus and Lucius had felt as they sat together.



The clouds parted, the moon broke through, and the feelings remained.

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Author’s Notes

Written for Week 6 of the 2013 Summer Challenge at The Maple Bookshelf: The War of the Words. Prompt: moonlight. Bonus Situation: a slash or femmeslash relationship. Thanks, once again, to my tireless editors.

Disclaimer: Characters from the Harry Potter series are the property of J.K. Rowling and Scholastic Books. They are used without permission, although with a great deal of affection and respect. Story copyright by Ryl, 2013. Graphics copyright 2013 by Mary N. Header and footer images from Microsoft Clip Art; background from Absolute Background Textures Archive.

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