Chapter Three: Shopping!
Hermione had achieved Hogsmeade nirvana. She was sitting in Libri’s Used and Rare Books with an old and massive book in front of her and a cup of tea at her elbow. She had spent over an hour browsing, found some excellent and intriguing books, and was now being allowed to dive into one in peace. No one was shouting, or telling her she shouldn’t be reading on a Saturday, and best of all, no one was blathering about the upcoming quidditch match between Slytherin and Gryffindor.
All good things must come to an end, though, and the end of Hermione’s literary idyll was marked by a distinctly flushed Ginny sneaking back into the store and coming to sit next to her friend. "Find anything good, ‘Mione?"
"Mmmm. Third book down in the pile." Hermione took a sip of her tea as she continued to read about domestic and industrial uses of hybrid muggle/magic items.
Ginny retrieved the book, entitled ‘Madame Malkin’s Guide to Style’. "Brilliant! I knew there was a reason you’re Hogwarts’s all time brightest student." Hermione rolled her eyes, but Ginny continued. "Anyway, we should go do the rest of the shopping and then you can show me the rest of the books you got."
After making arrangements for the books to be delivered to the school, they walked around, looking in store windows and chatting with other students who were roaming the streets. Eventually their meandering led to Madame Malkin’s dress shop, which had bought out Gladrags in a hostile takeover the year before. Taking a deep breath, Hermione steered the apprehensive Ginny into the store.
"May I help you?" The woman behind the counter was thin, with grey hair and eyes so dark they looked black. Her robes were of a floaty fabric in blue-green and made her look willowy and elegant. Ginny felt like an elephant. "Um, we, uh..." She trailed off, clutching the book in front of her and flushing an ugly maroon.
"Oh, my dear, let me see that book! This takes me back so much. I wrote that when I was just a little older than yourselves." Ginny let go of the book unprotestingly and watched dumbly as the woman, presumably Madame Malkin, flipped through the pages.
"Madame Malkin? We wanted to ask someone here for some help." Hermione looked a bit self-conscious, but determined. "We want to know where to buy cloth so we can sew our own robes and we want to buy underwear."
"But not like the leather thing." Ginny looked horrified at what her mouth had said without consulting her brain.
Madame Malkin just laughed, and Ginny again felt a stab of envy over how lovely it sounded. "My dears, leather has its place, but it is only in my lingerie offerings because I am a businesswoman. Now, so. You wish to make clothes, yes? And you wish for inimitable style, savoir faire, which is why you have my book." Both girls nodded dumbly. "Eh, bien, I will help you."
"You will?" Ginny’s voice was a squeak, but a delighted one. Hermione wasted no time in pulling out the parchment that had their steps so far written on them and a quill to take further notes.
In a flash, the parchment disappeared and reappeared in Madame Malkin’s graceful hands. Her lips twitched as she read the list, but all she said was, "It is a good start, but now you must place yourselves in my hands. Come." She led the way past a curtain to a small room in the back, then clapped her hands. "Clothilde! I will be busy with my new young friends, but you must take care to let me know when our special customer arrives."
Not waiting for an answer, she turned to Hermione and Ginny and said, "Now, before we can go on, we will need to assess where we are starting from, yes? So, take off your clothes and we will begin."
The girls obeyed apprehensively, Hermione looking like she was dying to reach her quill and parchment again. Sighing, she muttered a spell to have the quill simply transcribe what was said for her to go over later and make better notes. In no time, they were poked, prodded, measured in every possible way that the human body could be measured, and given light kimono-style robes to wear. Madame Malkin then ushered them into a small parlor and served tea before starting on a lecture worthy of any professor.
"Now, my dears, the first thing to remember is that style is not a matter of following the dictates of others. It is knowing that you are stunning, no matter what you wear or what others say about you. It is walking into a room and having every eye attracted to you and knowing it is your due." She paused for a moment and sipped her tea delicately.
"I don’t think I can do that. I hate it when everyone looks at me." Ginny’s face was red and her head was bowed, and if being crushed by the stares of multitudes.
"Honestly, Ginny, how many people look at you when you’re playing quidditch?" Hermione clucked her tongue and might have gone on if she wasn’t interrupted.
"Precisment! My dear, everyone will look at you anyway, for your height and for your hair. You rather would they pity a great big lump of a girl, or that they marvel at a goddess?" Madame clapped her hands. "Non, it is not to be thought of! From this moment forward, you stand proud. No apologies for who you are."
Hermione found herself unconsciously straightening her spine, and saw that Ginny was doing likewise. Clearing her throat, the older girl said, "So does that mean the underwear doesn’t matter?"
Madame Malkin’s dark eyes danced with laughter. "But of course it matters! Just as cleverness is enhanced by books, so is style enhanced by fashion." Setting her teacup down on its saucer, the elderly lady leaned in to emphasize her point. "But, as my friend Coco once said, style remains while fashion fades. This is why it is important to pick what suits you, not something that is a trend."
"Like the leather thing." Ginny’s face remained impassive until her eyes met Hermione’s, and then all three ladies indulged in laughter.
"Madame, madame, the young monsieur is here for his fitting." The girl from the front of the shop ran back, seeming slightly panicked.
"Clothilde! Calm yourself." Gracefully, Madame Malkin got to her feet and adjusted her sleeves. "Show my young friends to the dressing room, and bring them a selection of our best lingerie. For the pocket venus, pastels and lace, and for the titian haired one, jewel tones and satin."
"That’s what Malf—" Hermione was abruptly silenced by her arm being twisted behind her back.
"Shut up, Hermione. Don’t want to think about the Malfoy git while I’m in my underwear, Hermione." Steering her friend, Ginny followed after Clothilde and completely missed the expression on Madame Malkin’s face.
"Well, well." Thoughtfully, the dressmaker walked out to the front of the store. "Bonjour, Monsieur Malfoy."
"Bonjour, Helene. I hope you’re well." Draco Malfoy leaned down to kiss both cheeks of the woman who had been his mother’s friend and stylist since well before he was born.
"Tres bien, mon chou. I have two new young friends to take interest in. Both pretty girls, but the tall one... Ah, she could be stunning." Turning away so he wouldn’t notice her intense attention to his reaction, she said, "Masses of red, red hair, but I think I might advise her to cut it short, emphasize her lovely cheekbones."
Anyone who wasn’t watching carefully and hadn’t known him since he was in diapers would probably have missed the slight double take. "No, she should leave it long. Makes a man’s hands itch to run through it."
Madame Malkin had trouble containing her urge to smirk, and resolved that some of the girl's packages would be 'accidentally' misdirected. "Ah, so. Well, let us finish your fitting so that I can finish making my new young friends beautiful."
"She can’t be beautiful. She’s a Weasley."
Breakfast the next morning saw the usual owl post, but Hermione noticed that Ginny seemed inordinately nervous about it. True, she was expecting some special orders from Madame Malkin, but that didn’t account for the girl’s twitchiness... Or her fascination with something in the direction of the Slytherin table. Hermione followed her younger friend’s gaze to see Draco Malfoy open an envelope only to put a hand to his cheek and then look around in confusion. He folded the paper and opened it again, and again his hand went to his cheek.
Ginny was now finding the food on her plate a subject of infinite fascination, ignoring Hermione’s staring at her. "So, Ginny, how’s the work for Fred and George coming along? Weren’t you designing a way to send anonymous valentines?"
"Huh? Oh, yeah, I’ve about got it ready." Ginny blushed fiercely but tried to sound casual.
"You know, you were gone for a while when I was in the bookstore... An important errand, maybe?" Hermione looked over again to see Malfoy tuck the piece of paper into his breast pocket and then push away from the table.
"No, nothing important." Ginny toyed with her silverware, then said brightly, "I’m so glad that Madame Malkin was so helpful. I can’t wait to get our costumes finished."
Hermione nodded and said, with calculated absentness, "What’d it say?"
"Oh, just good luck in the match tomorr-- Hermione!" Ginny looked horrified.
"Just tell me what the cheek thing was and then I promise never to mention this again." Hermione smirked.
Ginny looked to both sides and then leaned in to hiss, "One of the special features for the valentines is being able to include a kiss, so I had to test it... And it’d keep him from guessing it was me, since I’d never kiss him."
Hermione nodded sagely and bit the inside of her lip to keep from snickering at her friend. "I’m sure it’ll be a big seller for Weasley’s Wizard Wheezes."
"And I get a percentage." Ginny looked insufferably smug at the thought. Hermione grinned in a way that looked downright evil, making Ginny look at her inquisitively. "What’s so funny?"
Hermione smirked. "Oh, just picturing the reaction of your brothers if they knew what you were buying with the money you earn from them."
Ginny looked very serious as she said, "Yeah, that clothes vanishing potion is what paid for all the stuff I bought yesterday." Both girls dissolved into giggles, drawing the eyes of quite a few people in the great hall. One set of eyes in particular narrowed and plotted revenge, even as his hand reached up and absently rubbed his cheek. He also had to figure out a way to get her the package that had come from Madame Malkin without terminally embarrassing himself.
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