NIGHT OF THE AWALIM
Hermione put her head under the pillow, but it didn't help. She could still hear the wail of Arabic music coming from the small living room. It was past eleven at night. Did her room-mate know no bounds of decency at all? Hermione knew the answer. No, of course not. Carmel Chong, ex-student of Hogwarts of the same vintage as Hermione, but a Ravenclaw. Carmel Chong majoring in Experimental Magic at Elvenbows, same as Hermione. Carmel Chong, who saw graduation from Hogwarts as her initiation into the rest of life. Wine, song, wrong men, dancing…..
It was the dancing Hermione objected to. Elvenbows was a lot closer to London than Hogwarts, which allowed students to regularly Apparate between the wizarding and Muggle worlds. Carmel nightclubbed, and one night a week, took a dance class.
It was Thursday night. Carmel had been at her dance group, come home, and decided another hour's practice was in order.
Hermione stuffed her fingers in her ears, but the music changed to a drum solo. She could feel the beat in her body. Dum-dum-tek-a-tek-dum-tek-a-tek-tekka…. Finally, there was a burst of crazed music and Hermione knew Carmel would be wiggling all over the flat.
Carmel seemed like such a normal girl when they'd first agreed to move in together. Six months later, Hermione knew she was trapped in hell with Party Girl. Still, Carmel was in remarkable shape, as witnessed by her concurrently dating Harry Potter, Ron Weasley, and Paul McDowall. They all knew about the arrangement, but all were kept happy by Carmel and her very fit charms. Hermione wondered how she did it. She herself had managed three sad dates with Ron before they'd called it quits, an unsuccessful grope with Harry back in fifth year, a quick and unpleasant deflowering by Viktor Krum, and an experimental, unfulfilling pash with Parvati Patil.
Carmel had three blokes, and she had none. By now, everyone assumed she was dedicating her life to study, and left match-making alone.
Carmel's music ran itself down, and just as Hermione heard the cd player turned off, there was a knock at the door. Carmel answered it.
"Harry! Hi! Come in."
Hermione stuffed the pillow over her ears more tightly. Now she would have to block out the thumps and moans from the next room. Wonderful. Arabic music, followed by sex noises, followed by a horribly cheerful Harry in the morning, and a cat-who-swallowed-the-canary Carmel. Double wonderful.
Hermione gave up trying to sleep, and sat up in bed.
"Lumio," she muttered, and read in bed. Arcane Arcania Vol II. She flipped to the end of the book. Just as she thought. The index dunnit. She scowled at her own joke. There was no one in the room to laugh.
The sex noises started next door.
Harry looked happy, relaxed. Carmel was cooking both of them toast and performing some sort of complicated writhing motion when Hermione made her appearance, smartly dressed and buttoned right up, ready for a day's lectures. Harry took his eyes off Carmel's behind long enough to nod at Hermione. She rolled her eyes.
"Don't let me interrupt," she said, snatching an apple from the fruit bowl.
Harry aimed a good-natured poke at her waist. "You should take it up, 'Mione."
Did he need his head read? He saw her look.
"The dancing. I meant the dancing. It keeps Carmel fit. Not that you're not fit…. Well, you're a bit squishy round the middle, but-"
Hermione slammed the front door behind her. Squishy! Who was he calling squishy? She poked herself. There were muscles in there. It was these English winters. Everyone put on a bit of weight in the winter.
She had been intending to take up some sort of sport. Once she got settled into her studies. And got a handle on her life. She poked herself again, and resolved to follow Carmel's lead. But only as far as the dance classes went. She certainly didn't need boyfriends. Or even a boyfriend. There was no time for that sort of thing.
Her desires were well under control. Locked away. In a box. In a foreign country, on top of a mountain. With a sign on the door saying 'Beware of the jaguar'. Eminently sensible. That's why she'd been Head Girl. That's why she was going to graduate with High Honours. And that's why she'd be paid the big money.
Pity she couldn't have some of that money now. Her parents couldn't spare any more to put her through university. Which was why she was sharing with Carmel in the first place. Tutoring other students didn't bring nearly enough to fund her love of books, and passion for signing up for correspondence courses. On top of her regular course load, she was studying 'Practical Potions for the Professional', and 'Spoken and Written Faerie'.
Hermione sighed, and headed for her first class, crunching on her apple.
The dance teacher was a Muggle. A short blonde woman clad in a leotard, and an extravagently jewelled and beaded scarf tied around her hips. Carmel wore tight leggings and a cropped tshirt. Hermione was clad in old sweat pants and a singlet top. Around the room were other women of various ages, most wearing long skirts and hip scarves.
The teacher started them off with a stretch and warm up, then said: "Let's get our shimmies out of the way." She nodded to Hermione. "Shimmies are one of the most basic moves in belly dancing."
Hermione glared at Carmel.
"You said this was Middle Eastern folk dancing," she hissed.
The teacher caught her whisper. "It is folk dancing, in a way. Long before Hollywood got its claws into belly dance, it was performed in the tribes."
She showed Hermione how to bend her knees, and wobble them back and forth in a quick manner. Hermione could feel fat on the backs of her legs flap about. The teacher assured her: "If all your cellulite doesn't wobble, you're not doing it right."
Hermione looked at Carmel. Nothing appeared to shimmy on the tall girl. Why? Why? The teacher must have caught her envious look. She smiled encouragement at Hermione.
"This is probably the only form of dance where it's good to have curves," she said.
Hermione felt minutely better about her daily intake of chocolate. She wasn't fat, but she wasn't a waif either. Ron, in an odd moment of poetica, called her 'lush'. He'd certainly liked her C-cup breasts and often spoke to them instead of her face.
Hermione brought her attention back to class, where the teacher had moved on from shimmies and was explaining something called the pivot hip-lift. It sounded technical. Difficult. Hermione brought all her concentration powers to bear. It didn't help. Even the most recalcitrant research topic submitted to Hermione's intellect, but her body was a different matter. Her hip did not want to lift, not without her shoulders becoming involved in a disturbing "Igor" kind of lurch and limp. All thoughts of 'lush' fled as sweat trickled down her spine. She felt only slightly better to see many of the women, except for goddess Carmel, having similar problems.
It was the end of the year before Harry had cause to give Hermione another friendly shove, subjecting her to some teasing. He then wrapped one arm around her and squeezed.
"'Mione!" he said, some admiration in his voice. "You feel fantastic!"
She blushed as she pushed him away. He followed and hugged her. Carmel cleared her throat.
"Do you mind?" she asked, a grin on her face. She was safe in the knowledge that Harry was hers, as was Ron, Paul, and now Steven Green as well. "May I remind you, Mr Potter, that I was the one who introduced Hermione to belly dance?"
Harry gave Hermione a last squeeze and let her go. "Ahh, but she's the one who's taken three classes a week." He ruffled his friend's wild hair. "Typical Hermione. Do something and do it to extremes."
Carmel snorted. "If only I'd had the brains to do that. I could be earning money at it as well."
Harry cocked an eyebrow. "What?"
Hermione motioned for Carmel to shut-up-right-now, but the Anglo-Asian girl continued. "Hermione has her first job as a dancer. Isn't it great? Who would have thought?"
"Where?" Harry demanded, but Hermione wouldn't say. That was all she needed. The whole Potter and Weasley crowd showing up to see her debut. In a borrowed costume. In a Muggle restaurant where it was rumoured she'd have to dress in the pantry. The locale of the place was Hermione's best kept secret. Not even Carmel knew.
Hermione wasn't sure she shouldn't be declared insane. But it was cash in hand, and she had her fees for next year to pay yet. Her teacher said she was ready. Carmel was in awe of Hermione's natural flare for the dance. Harry had just admired Hermione's muscles. Surely all that counted for something.
Hermione buried herself in study all day and tried not to think of the evening.
There was a large calender pinned to the fridge in the kitchen. On it were texta'd Carmel's classes(blue), Carmel's dates(red, pink, orange, purple, mauve), Hermione's classes(green), dance lessons(brown), and Hermione's belly dance bookings(aqua). The calender looked like a rainbow.
Hermione's wardrobe had bi-polar disorder. Staid clothes for university on one side: jeans, tshirts, pleated skirts, blouses. Nice normal Muggle clothes. In the centre hung her witchly dress robes, for formal occasions. On the other side were her costumes. Another rainbow of glitz, beads, sequins, and chiffon. She thought it ironic that these were her work clothes. She now had regular bookings to perform at two Muggle restaurants, and had just received her first wizarding booking. Hogsmeade. The thought of going back there, possibly seeing people she knew made her stomach flip over, and she wasn't even doing it on purpose.
She was now in her third year of studies. No reason to think she would know anyone at Hogsmeade. No reason at all. Still, she would take her sexiest costume. Show anyone who cared to see that she was no longer the flabby Head Girl who couldn't get her nose out of a book. She was young, gorgeous, a fabulous belly dancer if she did say so herself, and could do a killer Egyptian walk if called upon to do so.
There were still sex noises from Carmel's room, and none from Hermione's. Why? Why?
From outside, the Three Broomsticks glowed. Lantern light, and Lumio spells lit every corner. Hermione slipped in the front door and made her way straight to the bar, avoiding the crowd inside. She wore a cloak that covered her face.
"Sorry dear," said Rosmerta, pulling a pint of beer. "Private function tonight. I can serve you in one of the back rooms if you like."
"No, no, that's fine." Hermione lowered her voice. "I'm the dancer." She lifted her face.
Rosmerta frowned, then smiled with recognition. "I know you! Miss Granger, isn't it? I haven't seen you since that awful business with You-Know-Who back in…oh, when was it, now?"
"Nearly four years," Hermione said, sighing. She had a new life now. She didn't like to think about those desperate times, when she and Ron had searched for Harry, found him in Voldemort's dungeons, and they had all freed so many wizards and witches from his thrall. She remembered Sirius Black covered in blood, dear little Professor Flitwick exhausted from Crucio curses, Snape near death, his body a mess of slashes.
Rosmerta saw Hermione's look. "Thank the gods that's all over. Now, do you need somewhere to change, dear?" Rosmerta always was a shrewd judge of person and mood. Years of serving butterbeer and gillywater to students incoherent before exams, teachers morose from correcting papers, and the occasional randy travelling broom salesman left her able to read faces. That, and a correspondence course in Visual Phrenology.
"Yes, please." Hermione handed a crystal over to the waitress. "This has my music on it. I'll give you a nod when I want you to play it."
The crystal would be placed in a small resonating chamber located behind the bar. Music would issue forth. The perfect, organic solution to boom boxes.
Hermione changed in a back parlour, transforming herself from nearly graduated Associate Professor of Experimental Charms into Mione, belly dancer extraordinaire.
She was a vision in black and gold. Her hair hung down to her waist, the frizzy waves finally suiting her and giving her a wild air. Her skirt was black chiffon and had a split up one leg. Gold sequins formed pentacles around the hem. The jewelled bra and belt were tight, giving her an attractive spill of flesh over the sides. She tucked a veil around her to form a loose wrap, and slid jangling bracelets onto each wrist. A spritz of perfume, a dusting of body glitter, slash of lipstick, and she was ready to earn the money for her graduation gown.
She peeked around the corner at Rosmerta.
"It's a birthday, right?" she asked.
Rosmerta nodded. "And an end-of-year thing. They decided to combine the two."
End of year? Oh, please gods, not students. Terrible audience, always half-pissed. Terrible tippers as well. Oh, crap. She should have asked about her audience by return owl. All she knew was that she'd been booked through The Three Broomsticks. Too late to back out now.
Her music started, a boppy bit of Arabic pop, and she did her best cat-walk to the centre of the room, head high, hair flowing, smile in place.
The room had been Transfigured to contain one large round table. It sat every teacher from Hogwarts. Why? Why?
Dumbledore smiled at her and beckoned her over. She hip lifted in his direction and stood beside him.
"Hello, my dear," he said. "I'm glad you could come." He turned his voice into a whisper. "I thought you could do with the extra money. I've heard good things about you from Elvenbows. It would be a shame if you couldn't go on to post-graduate studies." He clapped in time to the music.
Hermione smiled and did her best figure eight for him.
Macgonagall looked over her spectacles. "Hermione, is that you?"
Hermione switched to hip circles and nodded. Macgonagall shook her head.
"I've seen students of mine go on to all sorts of careers, but-"
"It's a living, Minerva," came Snape's voice from across the table. "Same as teaching." He paused. "And you have to admit, she is good at it."
Hermione forced herself not to blush as she met his gaze. She needn't have worried. His eyes were not on her face.
"Ahh, our birthday boy," said Dumbledore. "Do go make a fuss of him, Hermione."
Snape tried to look away, but Hermione put on her best power-babe goddess persona and worked her way around the table towards him, pausing only for some hip drops for Madam Hooch, who was drunk enough to stand up and try to imitate her. Hermione eased back into some simple moves that Hooch could follow. No use humiliating the audience without reason.
Finally, she reached Snape. She knew well enough what to do with birthday boys. She twined her wrists either side of his head, bringing her arms forward and forward until she was nearly touching the back of his head with her breasts. Almost, but not quite.
This was her Potions Professor, she told herself. He'd put them all through untold hours of torture. Time for pay back.
She let her breasts just brush his hair, and then pulled back, trailing one arm within an inch of his face. She stepped back and motioned for Snape to stand. He mutely shook his head. She appealed to the rest of the table, who started shouting for Snape to get up. Snape shot them all filthy looks, but finally rose from his seat. He was about to fold his arms when she took his hands in hers, and opened both of their arms out.
Hermione started with a slow three-quarter shimmy. Snape stood still, merely watching her. Pivot hip lifts? Still as a statue. Pelvic drops? Nope. Figure eights? Nothing. The music changed to a sensual piece called 'Serpentina'. She did a slow, big hip circle. Finally, Snape moved, tried to copy her. She'd forgotten that the male pelvis was naturally tilted forward. Any movement had a forward thrust to it. She got an outline of Snape's nether regions through his trousers. Ooooo-kay, there was something she'd never expected to see.
She twirled herself under one of Snape's arms and began a series of sensual rib cage circles. Snape didn't even try to copy, merely followed her. She used her veil to ensnare him, make him follow her like a puppy on a leash.
The music changed again to a fast drum solo by Hossam Ramzy, and Hermione went into her shimmy routine, with plenty of quick hip drops and undulations.
"Do that, Severus!" called Hooch, as Hermione did a body roll.
The potions master stayed patiently within Hermione's veil until the end of the performance. If he felt uncomfortable, he didn't show it. Hermione usually finished with a quick bit of veil work before floating back stage, but decided untangling Snape from the three metres of chiffon was too complicated. If she were playing the seductress, she might as well go for broke.
As her music finished, she pulled on the veil, motioning Snape to follow her. As she skipped from the room to applause and whistles, Snape trudged after her, his neck encased in black veil. She led him back to the back parlour, and turned to give him a tentative smile.
"Excuse me, Professor," she said, and reached up to take back her veil.
He helped her slide it from around his neck, surprisingly co-operative.
She felt suddenly shy around him, aware that she was half-naked, covered in sweat. She blushed. He lifted his gaze, spoke to a point just above her head.
"An excellent performance, Miss Granger. Full marks to Gryffindor." His tone was dry.
"Thankyou. I'm surprised you let me…" She gestured to the front room.
"It seemed easier to comply than not. Besides, you are a welcome relief after last year."
"Stripper. Old stripper. Dumbledore has some idiotic ideas sometimes."
"Belly dancers are not strippers." Hermione was about to recite the noble history of the awalim, the high class women who danced beledi.
Snape dropped his eyes to Hermione's body, then lifted his gaze to hers. "Pity. Clearly, costumes aren't everything."
Hermione blushed again, and idly wondered how often one could do that without having some sort of aneurism.
Snape lifted one thin, pale hand and traced the shoulder strap of Hermione's costume. "They expect me to leave with you, you know." He said. "They do it every year. Poor old Snape who deserves one good night out a year. As if I can't arrange my own affairs." He stopped short on the last word.
Another blush. Dammit. She was going to have skin trauma soon.
Harry, Ron and half the male wizard population were under the control of Carmel Chong. The rest were either married, gay, or doing studies at Wilkes, the Antarctic wizarding university. Just how much magic could be produced by ice anyway?
This wasn't the first time a birthday boy had wanted to come home with her. But this was the first time she'd considered the possibility. At this time of night, Carmel would be in bed with Harry, or Ron, or both. They'd be making sex noises, probably in time with a drum solo from the cd player.
Arcane Arcania Vol VII was awaiting her.
She was tired of brotherly hugs from Harry.
She slid her hand up Snape's chest. "I have one question for you."
He sighed. "You know very well that I owe no allegiance to the Death Eaters any more."
"It's not that." She thought of the thin wall separating her room from Carmel's. She moved in close to Snape. "Are you noisy in bed?"
One black eyebrow rose. "I can be."