A/N: Lots of different names have been used for female Harry. On the whole, I think I like "Jasmine" best so I'm using it here. It's quite possible that I've been influenced in this by the fanfiction story "A Long Journey Home" where that name is also used. Not only is it one of the best fem!Harry stories, it's probably one of the best Harry Potter fanfics available, period. I think it's the only Ron/Hermione story I like at all. This is due in no small measure to the absolutely superb writing by Rakeesh, who does more to flesh out characters in a couple of paragraphs than most writers manage after several chapters. It's also possible that that story has influenced how I write Jasmine and Hermione here.
A/N 2: MadameNyx graciously gave me permission to use her original artwork as the cover art for "Yule Ball Panic". What you see here is a cropped version. You can view the complete and original art on her DeviantArt page. You can get the link for her page on my profile.
Disclaimer: I don't own Harry Potter or any associated characters. Harry Potter is owned by J.K. Rowling and those to whom she has licensed the property.
Chapter 1 - Expectations
Thursday, December 10, 1994
Spluttering in disbelief, Jasmine Potter struggled to form a coherent response to what her Transfiguration professor had just told her. "But... but... Surely you're joking, Professor McGonagall!"
As if it weren't bad enough that she'd been forced to participate against her will in a deadly tournament that had once been discontinued due to the high death toll, now she was learning that she was also going to be forced to participate in what should have been an optional event: the Yule Ball.
I think I'd rather face another dragon.
"I can assure you, Miss Potter, that I am not in the habit of joking about such matters. You are a champion, however unprecedented your participation may be, and it's traditional for champions to start off the Yule Ball with a dance. That means you have to attend the ball, and yes, that also means you will have to have a date."
A date? Jasmine thought. I wonder if that Hungarian Horntail is still in the neighborhood and free that evening...
Jasmine could see the lines around her professor's eyes tighten, a sure sign that she was unhappy — but about what this time? Is she unhappy at being questioned like this by a student? She should be unhappy that one of her students is constantly being forced to do ridiculous things to put on a show for a school and a society that doesn't seem to appreciate it.
The ball itself had only been announced earlier during Transfiguration class, and Jasmine had immediately decided that she wouldn't attend. Now this had to happen...
"I have no desire to go to any balls, Professor," she complained, hoping that for once her head of house would listen to her. "I'm not a real champion, and I don't want to participate in any more of this barbaric circus than I have to. This isn't one of the three required events. I don't want to be put on display like a trained monkey for other people's entertainment, especially students who, as recently as a few days ago, were cursing me and accusing me of cheating. I've never liked any sort of attention or being stared at, which is bound to happen at this ball because I can't dance, and I know I'll make a fool out of myself if I try."
Those aren't my only reasons, but hopefully they'll be enough...
"I'm afraid that none of that matters, Miss Potter. It's tradition and it's expected, so you'll be going — you don't have a choice in the matter, so there's no point in arguing about it. I suggest you learn how to dance, too, because I don't want you making Gryffindor or Hogwarts look bad. Now off with you, I have other duties to attend to."
Stepping out of the Transfiguration classroom, Jasmine Potter looked around the empty stone corridor and realized just how alone she was. McGonagall didn't help us when we came to her about the Stone at the end of first year, so I guess I shouldn't be surprised that she isn't willing to support or help me now. Her green eyes narrowed as she reflected on her current situation. There's no one here for me. How... appropriate.
This was an unexpected feeling, despite the problems she had experienced over the course of the past three months. Even when matters were at their worst, when most of the school had turned against her after her name shot out of the Goblet of Fire, she at least had the support and help of her best friend.
Hermione Granger. Throughout Jasmine's time at Hogwarts, none of the challenges or dangers she had faced seemed quite so bad so long as her best friend was by her side. Even lying petrified in the hospital wing, Hermione had still managed to give her the information she needed to find Ginny and defeat the basilisk. Merlin, that was an awful month...
Now, though, Jasmine was facing something completely new and unexpected, something that she would have to face without the indomitable Hermione by her side. For more than one reason, that caused Jasmine to start to panic.
She'd managed to keep herself from having any sort of panic attack since she first started attending Hogwarts, despite having had plenty of good reasons for one; but she still remembered the symptoms. She felt her heart start beating louder while her breaths started coming shorter and faster. She expected that her hands would soon start to shake and pain to bloom in her chest.
You were dumped on our doorstep because no one wanted you. No one will ever want you.
She needed to get control of herself, but that might be tough without a paper bag to breathe into. And paper bags were non-existent in the wizarding world. Maybe a cloth bag would work? At least she didn't have to worry any longer that a panic attack would lead to an extreme display of accidental magic — that had always resulted in a worse-than-usual punishment from the Dursleys.
It had been three years since she'd had to live full-time with the Dursleys, and she still hadn't been able to get that little voice to go completely silent. She didn't consciously perceive herself as a freak anymore — at least she didn't think so — but spending a decade being called a freak isn't something a person can easily shrug off, especially not when she fully believed it for all that time. Perhaps the voice never completely went away because she'd had so many reasons over the years to consider herself a freak.
During her decade living at the Dursleys they had found lots of supposedly "freakish" things about her to complain about: the weird scar on her forehead, her status as an orphan, the claim that her parents died due to her father's drunk driving, and of course the strange incidents that regularly happened around her.
The one feature of all these things had in common was that none of them had been chosen by her. As a result, she had over time come to accept that freakishness was somehow a part of her nature — something she'd never be rid of.
We hoped to beat the freakishness out of you...
When Jasmine learned she was a witch, she imagined that she would enter a society where she'd be accepted and wouldn't be a freak anymore, but unfortunately that wasn't the case. Once she started attending Hogwarts, she was faced with stares and whispers wherever she went. It was almost enough to make her miss the overt animosity of the Dursleys. Almost.
Then, on a semi-regular basis, the school turned on her with a hostility that seemed to be even worse than that of the Dursleys. She wasn't merely a freak, she was some sort of Dark Lady just waiting to murder everyone in their sleep. Once again, there didn't seem to be anything she could do about any of it: the hostility was due to who and what she was, not behavior she could change or words she could take back.
A freak, just like your mother...
As if all that weren't enough, another situation had been... developing. It may have started all the way back in first year, but she had only noticed it during that awful May of second year, and it hadn't started intruding on her thoughts and dreams until the end of the last school year. Yet again, it wasn't something she had chosen, and all she could do was ignore it or suppress it. Jasmine had been hoping that if she suppressed it enough, it would never become public and thus one more thing that people could harass her about. Easier said than done — and that was before the bombshell McGonagall laid on me...
Normally she'd go straight to Hermione for help. On those rare occasions when Hermione didn't already have the answer, she became even more determined and dove into whatever research was needed to find an answer. In the meantime, the bushy-haired one would be sure to provide the comfort and support that Jasmine needed to stay sane — including hugs and other forms of physical contact which most kids grew up taking for granted. This time, though, going to Hermione was the last thing she could do. If anything, that would make matters worse.
You're a freak in both worlds. No one wants you...
Jasmine suddenly realized that her vision had started to narrow and her hands were shaking badly. She'd been standing in the corridor too long worrying about her situation, and her panic attack had worsened. She should have taken action as soon as she realized what was happening. If she had, she might have been able to prevent it from going too far, but it had been so long since her last incident that she'd allowed herself to get distracted by her own inner ramblings. I can't afford to collapse here in the hall. I need to get somewhere safe, somewhere private...
No longer completely conscious of what she was doing, Jasmine started running through the castle's corridors. Long auburn hair flying behind her, her feet took her to the only place that would be safe: the Gryffindor dormitory.
No one will ever want you!
Unfortunately for her, it wasn't private, and she was going to be forced to have a conversation she'd hoped to forever avoid.