Author's note: So hi, I still exist and stuff! I know I haven't written in forever. I'm not even gonna try to justify my long absence - life happens and such. But here's a chapter! It's short... but it's good... and I'll try real hard to not be a butt and disappear for that long again, okay? Okay.
Yule Ball - Part One
Harry forgot all about the strange pinch of the sleek leather shoes Mrs. Weasley had sent him and the way the cut of his dress robes pulled oddly at his shoulders. All he could do now was beam as Hermione all but glided shyly down the stairs towards him, the lightest blush to her cheeks as she fought to hold back a pleased grin at his reaction and failed. Acting on instinct, Harry stepped forward, took her hand gently in his own, and leaned down to kiss the back of it.
"You're beautiful, 'Mione," he told her softly as he straightened up and led her down the last few stairs, honored to have this glowing, beautiful young woman as his best friend. A soft gasp from behind them drew their attention, and Harry's smile grew even wider when he saw that Viktor and Emil had arrived. Careful to cover up the desire he was sure had sparked in his eyes upon seeing Viktor, Harry grinned and looked back at Hermione. "Gorgeous, isn't she?" He asked, sure that the two other men were simply as proud and delighted for his friend as he was.
"Oh Harry," Hermione huffed, and though her voice was gentle and her smile remained, Harry was confused to see that she was looking at him with the familiar expression of fond exasperation. No doubt sensing his confusion, Hermione took his arm and gently pulled him a few paces away, where they wouldn't be overheard whispering to each other.
"Harry, Viktor wasn't looking at me; he only had eyes for you. You took his breath away," Hermione was smiling happily at him, but Harry was now not only confused, but beginning to feel rather uncomfortable as well.
"No, Hermione he… he came with Emil, and I brought you! I don't… I didn't…" He was oddly grateful when Hermione pressed her hand over his mouth to cut off his babbling.
"Alright Harry. I've been patient; I've been gentle; I've been subtle. And really I should have known better. So now I'm just going to lay things out for you, and you're going to listen carefully: You like Viktor. Viktor likes you. I like Emil, and I just spent five hours being poked, primped, and prodded to look like this and frankly I'd like to make the best of it. Go ask Viktor to be your date, Harry. He and Emil are here as friends just as you and I are—but don't you think we all deserve to make this night special? If you ask Viktor out, I'll ask Emil." Her voice caught nervously, but she had a glint of determination in her eyes, eyes which were sparkling happily at him as she finally dropped her hand from his mouth and linked their fingers together instead, watching him hopefully.
"I—! You—! We—!" Harry cut himself off abruptly, closed his eyes, and took a deep breath, releasing it slowly before looking back at Hermione and trying again. "Hermione Jane Granger, this is crazier than your idea to brew polyjuice potion and infiltrate the Slytherin Common Room our second year." Harry was both nervous and amused to see a sly smirk on his friend's face.
"And you had my back then, didn't you?" Harry stared at her a moment then stepped forward and grabbed her in a fierce hug.
"Always will," he whispered in her ear, the two simple words filled with emotion. Stepping back, Harry twined their fingers together again before straightening his shoulders and adopting his 'Gryffindor Stance,' the one he used when he was about to do something very brave—and often very foolish. Pulling Hermione along with him, Harry walked right up to the Durmstrang students, stopping only when he and Hermione were within a step of Viktor and Emil. Letting go of her hand, Harry only hesitated a moment before throwing away all thoughts of trying to come up with a way to ask Viktor to be his date. Instead, he braced himself, stepped forward, stood up on the tips of his toes and pressed a soft kiss to Viktor's cheek. Sinking slowly back onto the balls of his feet, Harry bit his lip and searched Viktor's eyes for some sort of response.
"Finally," Emil breathed from somewhere off to the side, but Harry's gaze never faltered, still waiting for a sign from Viktor. The older seeker ignored his best friend as well, staring back at Harry and slowly raising a hand to brush against his cheek.
"Merlin I hope I understand vhat you are hinting at, little Survivor, but I need to be sure; I need the vords, Harry." Harry bit his lip and pulled back slightly in response, not sure if he had the courage to come right out and say it after all. As Viktor's hand slid away and his shoulders slowly hunched, however, Harry found himself speaking.
"I can't take Hermione to the ball... not when I really want to be there with you. I understand that you probably don't-" But he never got to finish whatever self-depreciating thing he was about to say, because the Bulgarian let out a gleeful laugh, lifted Harry up from beneath his armpits and spun him around in a tight circle. Harry was much closer to Viktor when the larger man set him back down, both of them grinning at each other and pointedly ignoring the light blush on each other's cheeks. Harry was once again struggling for the right thing to say, but the sound of a nervously clearing throat drew both their attention.
"Hermione... I realize the timing is less than ideal, I would truly hate for you to feel as though I was asking out of mere convenience... but I can't waste the opportunity to... well what I'm trying to say..." Hermione's smile was soft and peaceful, the finger now pressed against Emil's lips placed there gently.
"Emil, I would be honored to be your date to the ball," she said shyly. Emil's eyes sparkled as he took her hand in his, but he also huffed and shook his head.
"Well Viktor, that was about the least romantic way either of those conversations could have gone, but I'm inclined to simply thank the Gods for our luck."
All four of them were still laughing when McGonagall rushed towards them moments later, the other champions and their dates in tow. They never managed to get a word in as she hustled them over to the entrance to the Great Hall.
...It was hardly their fault that she never noticed Harry stepping shyly up next to Viktor while Emil and Hermione lined up proudly behind them...
Looking back, it was hard to decide which reactions had been the best.
It took less than five seconds after Viktor and Harry passed through the doorway for the gaping, pointing, and shouting to have the other champions looking back over their shoulders at all the commotion. Fleur, surprisingly, had merely raised an eyebrow at them before turning her attention back in front of her, boredly dragging Roger Davies along with her as the boy gawked and spluttered. Cedric had simply snorted in amusement, his eyes sparkling knowingly, and Cho had gasped before blushing and starting to giggle into her date's shoulder.
McGonagal was pursing her lips in forboding flat line, but Harry had a feeling this had little to do with his choice in partner and a great deal to do with the quick switch they had pulled behind her back.
Katie and Angelina had their hands full trying to control Fred and George, who were whooping and hollaring their approval. Ginny beamed smugly from beside Ibraim; they were there as friends, letting Ginny attend the dance and saving Ibraim the embarrassment of admitting he hadn't gotten a date (he had been quite put out that Khal had thought to ask Lina before he did, and was relieved when Harry hinted that Ginny was really hoping to join them at the dance). The rest of the Durmstrang Seven had taken the new pairings in stride, though Harry could see their approval when he managed to catch their eyes.
The rest of the students Harry mostly tried to ignore. While Draco and Ron stuck out as probably the most affronted, even their reactions seemed hardly worth Harry's time and attention when Viktor leaned in close to whisper how handsome he looked while the Bulgarian led him calmly across the room.
The head table had been split in two, one side for the professors and visiting Ministry officials, while the other was reserved for the headmasters/mistress, the champions, and their dates. As they approached, Harry returned Hagrids broad grin but otherwise ignored the rest of the staff table, instead focusing on the three people standing in wait for them at the mostly empty table.
Madame Maxime seemed simply put out that attention had been drawn away from her elegant pupils, but Karkaroff was red-faced and spluttering. While he had been forced to grudgingly accept Viktor attending the dance with a male, seeing his star student 'consorting with the enemy' was apparently more than he could tolerate. Harry had to turn and hide a grin against Viktor's shoulder as Dumbledore actually rolled his eyes for just a moment before subtly sneaking a silencing charm at the man.
"Ah, champions. Please, find your seets. You all look wonderful this evening," the headmaster greeted them warmly. Harry watched as golden name plates vanished from plates in shimmering puffs of smoke as each teenager took their seat, and shot a startled look at Dumbledore when he found that he and Viktor had already been placed together next to Cedric, with Hermione and Emil at the end of the table. "I had rather hoped you four would sort things out before you got here... might have been a smidge awkward if you hadn't," the old wizard said airily, eyes twinkling like mad when he saw where Harry's gaze had gone.
Harry couldn't help it: he threw his head back and laughed brightly as he took Viktor's hand and pulled the grinning Bulgarian to their seats. For once, the stares and whispers from his classmates seemed easy to ignore.