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Draco was hiding. It was not his normal practice to hide at balls, he normally rather enjoyed the attentions that all of Wiltshire's finest pressed upon him. It was different, however, when Draco could take those attentions in stride and know for certain he would not have to attend to any proposals of marriage at the night's end.

Of course, that was before Mother's decree that he would accept the eldest McLaggen boy's invitation to dance changed all of that. Her insistence had been rather implacable. "McLaggen's family history might be a bit less. . .pure than we could have hoped for, but his coffers more than make up for that, dear."

At one point, able to see only faces with whom he was familiar, Draco snuck away from his alcove to acquire himself a glass of sherry. It was, hence, through his folly and nothing else that a tall, slim redhead was able to sidle up next to Draco. "Good evening."

As if the name McLaggen weren't enough of a disgrace, Draco thought, looking with thinly veiled disdain on the young man's shockingly red mane. McLaggen merely smiled back at him. "I was wondering if I might have this dance."

Draco thought about refusing for a moment. If he refused the first dance request he wouldn't be able to say yes to any of the others, however, and that seemed a bit extreme, even for purposes of spiting McLaggen. Draco drew his eyes slowly over McLaggen's apparel. It was a bit out-of-date for all that Mother claimed his family was positively swimming in fortune. Draco sighed and said, "I would be honored," in a tone that suggested he would be anything but.

Admittedly, Draco thought, as McLaggen took his arm and led him out amongst the other couples, he was a nice looking man. Better than that older man Blaise had been promised to by his mother. Slughorn? What was it with these people and their dreadful names?

Draco stepped into his proper place in the line. Three steps in and he was brushing past his partner. McLaggen's fingers came up to meet his as they stepped around each other. McLaggen whispered, "Don't look to your left, your neighbor's sense of rhythm will give you vertigo."

Draco suppressed a small smile. He waited through two rounds of dancing with other boys' partners until he met up with his again and said, "The boy to your left could kill you with a single misstep of those considerable feet."

A breathless, "I'll watch out," and Draco was back to another two revolutions with people who weren't quite so observant and certainly didn't smile at him like there were jokes that only the two of them had ever heard.

They came together a third time, this part of the dance giving them a chance to actually speak. McLaggen said, "This is the only dance I know."

Draco glanced at him out of the corner of his eyes. "Surely you're joking."

"No, the family fortune is quite recent."

Well, that explained the hair and the name, not to mention his willingness to speak of such things. Draco thought he should be positively repulsed at the other boy's openness but as he'd never experienced anything like it, it was nearly. . .charming. "I see."

The dance ended and Draco bowed. "Thank you."

McLaggen bowed, a little clumsily, and then straightened. His posture had a sort of confidence that was foreign to Draco, one that had nothing to do with status or name but with the sense of knowing one's self and one's worth. It had never occurred to Draco that the two might be different. He was about to say something when another tall young man sauntered up to the two of them. "Lord Malfoy, I presume?"

Lord Malfoy blinked at the man's presumption. "And who might you be?"

"Cormac McLaggen, Marquess of Dublin. We were-"

In his flustered state, Draco committed a breech of conduct as he never had before and cut McLaggen--the real McLaggen--off. "Yes, of course. Of course." He turned back to his erstwhile partner. "I apologize, you must find me intolerably barbaric. I'm Draco Malfoy, Viscount of Kenmure."

Draco's mystery-partner bowed slightly. "Ronald Weasley."

"Yes, well. As you've gotten the niceties out of the way with this. . .fellow," McLaggen's sneer was both heard and seen as he drew his eyes over Weasley's old-fashioned apparel. Draco wondered if perhaps Weasley hadn't known precisely what to buy, given the recent nature of his family's rising. He bit back a mental groan of dismay at Weasley's obvious lack of title. McLaggen was nigh dragging Draco onto the dance floor by way of his arm when Weasley said, "If it suits, my lord, another dance? Later this evening?"

Draco turned his glance from McLaggen, past where Mother was standing, watching, and said, "I will save one, certainly."

Weasley's smile was possibly the most real sort of promise Draco had ever seen anyone make.

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