"I don't think I can go, Vi," Emily said, flattening a wrinkle on the front of her gown as she leaned against the post of her bed in the girls' dorm.
"Like hell you can't," she replied, not even looking up from her mirror as she applied a thin layer of blue eyeshadow in the same shade as her dress. "You wait until after I doll you all up to say that? I'll drag you by the hair if I have to."
Violet's extensive collection of hair styling potions made getting ready for the Yule Ball much less stressful than Emily anticipated, though the thought of going still turned her stomach. And Violet all but mastered using them to tame Emily's curls into a twisted updo with only a few stray locks undone at the front. Simple and elegant, she said.
Playing with one loose piece of hair that fell from its hold, Emily said, "It'll make me feel better to look nice while I sulk."
Violet turned to her, the fabric of her gown swinging from the inertia. Her hair was half straight and half elegantly curled, and only one eye was fully made up. "I'm cutting you off. No more sulking."
"He's not worth all that energy, Em."
She groaned, falling back against her bed and kicking her heels off her feet. She hated that she couldn't let herself just enjoy the night.
But Violet was right; she had done more than enough whining and sulking and carrying on as of late.
"Edvard's going to meet us outside the Great Hall," Violet said, swiftly changing the subject as she ran a styling potion through the rest of her blond hair. She finished her makeup and forced Emily's heels back onto her feet before reminding her, "If not for you, at least go for George."
Emily pursed her lips, careful not to smear the glistening gloss Violet adorned them with, and let out a sigh. "All right."
"That's the spirit!" Violet took her by the arm as they walked down the stairs together toward the ball. "Well, not exactly the spirit, but close enough."
When Emily and Violet arrived, the Entrance Hall was teeming with people, students from all three schools as well as professors and Hogwarts staff. A charming dark-haired boy in formal Durmstrang robes took Violet's hand and laid a kiss upon it, and Violet introduced Emily to her date, Edvard. He was bulky, like Krum and the other Durmstrang boys, but there was a finesse to him, a sort of grace that he exuded as he wrapped Violet's arm in his. The sheer blue fabric of her sleeve glimmered under the candlelit hall beneath his gentle grip. They did look cute together, Emily had to admit.
The deep Ravenclaw blue of Violet's dress was a stark contrast against Edvard's crisp, red robes, though they looked so complementary next to each other as they entered the Great Hall. Violet shot a pearly smile over her shoulder and made an unspoken promise to save Emily a seat.
Left behind at the entrance, Emily glanced around for George. Her efforts were admittedly half-hearted, too distracted about trying to avoid everyone else.
"Hey, Em," George said, as he tapped her shoulder. "You look nice."
Her dark grey dress was adorned with sequins in the shape of small stars — her mother called it dazzling when she first pulled it from the rack — but Emily was now so conscious of how much light each bead reflected; surely it was blinding, though nobody seemed much bothered.
"You too," she said, looking at him in his copper-coloured vest and fancy black dress robes. "Very dashing."
Over George's shoulder, she saw him, sporting an identical outfit and standing near the doorway with Angelina on his arm. She felt suffocated beneath the tight fabric of her dress stretched across her abdomen, like it was restricting every breath she tried to take.
She was hesitant to even acknowledge his presence, to risk opening their argument's festering wound. But she needed to say something.
He didn't even look at her, and shot back an equally offhand, "Hi."
He draped an arm over Angelina's bare shoulder, and the fabric of her purple dress caught a shimmer of light. The material stretched loose over her skin, hanging at the edge of each curve and accentuating her slender figure. Emily didn't want to admit how gorgeous she looked.
Turning back to George, she faked a smile and tried to contort her features into something remotely pleasant. She owed him at least that much.
"You ready?" he asked and reached a hand out to her. She took it with a nod, and they joined the rest of the school for the ball.
The Great Hall was always decorated for holiday, but this was different, spectacular. For the Yule Ball, it was done up like a wintery wonderland, complete with fake snow and lengthy garlands of ivy and mistletoe spread from end to end. The walls were tinted with a sparkling blueish-silver colour and garnished with large evergreen trees along each side. The whole room was an unrecognizable glacial dream, coated in ice blue and silver. It nearly took Emily's breath away, the grandeur of it all.
By the time the pair got inside, Violet and Edvard already claimed a table near the dance floor. The other seats were taken up by Lee and Alicia Spinnet and Fred and Angelina. George and Emily laid claim to the last two seats at the table. Once all the other students were inside, the Champions were introduced.
"Don't look now," Violet whispered to her as the Champions trotted by with their dates in tow.
Emily turned in the direction to see what she was referring to — though she should have known that Violet had good reason for telling her to not — and caught glimpse of Roger, clung tight to Fleur's arm. He didn't catch her looking; he seemed not to have even noticed anyone else around, he was so enraptured in his date's presence as Fleur paraded him around like a prized show pony. Meanwhile, she tried not to collapse upon herself.
"I told you not to look," came Violet's hiss in her ear.
Emily's throat tightened for a moment before she shrugged. "Well, that's what I get, yeah?"
A chorus of violins began to play, initiating the Champion's waltz, and before long, everyone joined them on the dance floor. Edvard swept Violet off her feet with the grace of a danseur, performing dips and lifts as if it were a professional production. Fred and Angelina were long-gone as well.
"C'mon," George said, and he pulled Emily out to waltz as well. He drew an arm around her waist and took her hand in his other, and she flinched slightly at the intimacy of the dance. "Don't make it weird, though."
"Course not." She set her hand in position atop his shoulder, and they joined the waltz in motion, in synch with the spins and twirls of the other pairs.
She found herself smiling — really smiling — and laughing for the first time in what felt like ages as she danced along with George, who was surprisingly graceful a dancer, though he normally walked like a baby giraffe. And when the dance was over, the room filled back up with the chatter of conversation that occurred throughout the Yule Ball feast. Lee and the twins engaged in lively debate about the recipe for their newest trick candies for their mail-order, and Alicia and Angelina lamented the loss of Quidditch for the term. Edvard was making a concerted effort to teach Violet some polite Swedish, repeating the words for her in his fluid accent and cringing when she butchered them in hers. Still, Violet was nothing if not persistent. Emily would have to take the mickey out of her later for turning the Yule Ball into class time.
Despite her inner-protests, Emily was drawn in by the constant gravitational pull of Roger and Fleur. They sat paired at the Champions table, looking perfectly matched together. She could only see the back of Fleur's head, really, but the way Roger was looking at her, gazing at her, set Emily aflame. He hadn't ever looked at her that way.
She pushed around the roasted red potatoes on her plate. Though her stomach grumbled and ached, she couldn't bring herself to eat much — just enough to keep her hunger at bay.
There was a gentle tap on her arm, and George was leaning over top her. "You okay there, Em? You seem… off."
She didn't answer him but shrunk further down in her seat, trying not to be too transparent in her sulking.
"Hey, c'mere," George started again as he pulled Emily from her chair, wrapping his hand around her wrist. As they walked away from their table, McGonagall stood up, ready to scold them for being out of their seats, but George explained, "Just getting something to drink, Professor."
He brought them past the punch bowl and pointed Emily to the table directly behind the champions. She went to take a seat, but it was apparently the wrong one, and George ushered her to the one left of it. He pointed ahead, and she followed his finger.
From the new angle, everything looked… different.
There Roger sat, his eyes wide, staring at Fleur Delacour. He moved to take a sip of punch but missed his mouth, the pinkish liquid dribbling down his chin.
"I just hate it here!" Fleur's French-accented voice was a dramatic whine that grated against Emily's ears. "It would have been much better back in France. This musique is horrible!"
Fleur continued her rant, and Roger just kept staring at her, eyes unblinking. He hadn't even bothered to wipe his face clean. Just stared at her, nodding once or twice at whatever complaint she added to her list.
Emily couldn't help but giggle under her breath, and George hushed her as best he could. But soon they were both laughing as they snuck back over to refill their punch.
"Can you believe him? He was literally drooling over her."
"We tried to tell you he's a prat, Em," George said. "Be grateful you got out while you could."
If she was honest, she was grateful to be rid of him. Even without seeing him as such a mess, she felt relieved to not be tied to him anymore.
But there was still some lingering regret: first and foremost that she had spent so much time grieving over their relationship that she missed out on everything else, and secondly that she let him get under her skin so much, even if he wasn't the only thing getting under her skin anymore.
When they sat back down, Emily tried not to pay much mind to Fred or to notice Angelina's flirtatious giggle or to imagine that Fred might look at Angelina the same way Roger looked at Fleur.
Before long, the food was gone, and the band was out — the Weird Sisters, her favourite of the wizarding bands Violet introduced her to in first year. Everyone quickly returned to the dance floor, which dimmed itself to match the event's new vibe. Emily sat back at the table and watched from afar, having only moved from her chair once to fill her glass with punch. The music was playing fast, but everyone seemed to be moving in slow-motion in front of her.
She had tried to stop moping, but seeing Roger so happy with Fleur, Fred so happy with Angelina, even Violet with Edvard, made it difficult to accept her situation with any semblance of grace.
"Would you mind if I danced?" George asked, turning to her finally. She'd hardly realized that he stayed back with her. Some great date she was turning out to be…
She jumped up and shook her head in response, throwing in a quick apology about how she wasn't being much of a date anyhow, but he held up his hand before he rephrased the request. "I mean… would you mind if I asked Angelina to dance?"
His new question caught Emily so off-guard that she could only parrot back, "Angelina?"
She glanced over at Fred and Angelina on the dance floor and, for a moment, imagined that Fred was George instead. The thought in itself was soothing, she admitted, and they were rather cute together. It was surprising she never thought of them paired before.
"No; go ahead."
He moved toward the dance floor but stopped himself after a step. She had never seen him so… nervous. "D'you think she'd mind?" he asked her.
"I'm sure not," Emily replied and pushed him up in Angelina's direction. She'd be damned if she was going to let him sit here all night, knowing that he wanted to be having fun despite her. Who should stop him from having a good night?
"You think Fred would mind?"
She nearly snarled at the mention of his name. "He doesn't get a say in whether or not Angelina wants to dance with you."
George still looked hesitant as he adjusted his bowtie around his neck and flattened the collar of his shirt. He stood at the edge of the dance floor where their table was and spun back around to Emily. "But —"
"Just do it," she said, shooting him a half-smile. It was meant to be encouraging, but she couldn't quite tell whether it was. "If it all goes wrong, which it won't, I'll be right here waiting." She patted the chair next to her to punctuate the statement.
Emily watched him take a deep breath before he walked over to them, and then he stood at Angelina's side, looking ever-so-charming as he reached out a hand to her. She beamed, a beautiful white smile that rounded her cheeks, a light flush rising in her dark skin as she dropped Fred's hand with an apologetic glance and took George's. He led her into the centre of the dance floor as the music slowed. From her seat, Emily took another sip of her punch and tried not to think about the dent of her arse in the chair.
Fred stormed off the dance floor in a huff, stopping when his eyes met Emily's. His body stiffened at the sight of her, but he still threw himself down into the chair across from hers.
"So, you and George, yeah?" he asked, though it hardly sounded like a question. Then he spat, "What happened to Davies?"
Emily flinched on reflex.
"What do you think?" she replied, her voice a growl, and nodded her head towards Roger next to George and Angelina on the dance floor with Fleur's head resting on his shoulder, his hand on the bare small of her back, and their bodies so close it made Emily uncomfortable to look any longer.
"Oh… shit." He shifted awkwardly in his seat and raked his fingers through his long hair.
"It doesn't matter," she huffed, tightly crossing her arms against her chest and slinking herself deeper in her seat.
There was an awkward pause that lingered with the threat of silence, despite the blaring music.
"When?" Fred asked after a while, his features softening under the glow of the candles in the Great Hall.
Emily sighed and pushed her hair off her face, though she wished she could hide behind it. "Last week."
He thought on her answer for a moment, and his jaw tensed. "Why?"
Her fingers grew cold as her anger and sadness and frustration all boiled up inside of her, and she drew in a sharp breath. "If you can't figure it out on your own, then maybe you ought to go ask him yourself."
"Well, he's a dumb git, and it's his loss," he answered with a shrug.
Emily forced a scoff up her throat. "Oh, yeah, he's clearly the loser here. Meanwhile, I'm here alone, miserable —"
"You don't have to be miserable, you know." He leaned his body back against the table, stretching his legs out in front of him and laying claim to the space next to her.
"And you don't have to be a prat, but it hasn't much stopped you."
"Tell me how you really feel," he replied, sarcasm coating every word. A large group of assorted students from the three schools walked between them, but Fred seemed to not even notice, his eyes still focused on her.
"I don't need your pity, Fred." Her voice erupted as a bark from the back of her throat. She let out a huff and turned her body away from him. "Just go. Have a good time. Don't let me spoil it for you too."
He scooted over to face her again and let a small smile coat his lips. "Did you forget that your date stole mine?"
"So that's why you're talking to me again all of a sudden — all your other options are taken."
A muscle in Fred's jaw twitched before he answered, "No. I'm talking to you 'cause it's stupid not to, and 'cause it's stupid to waste the night not having fun, and 'cause it's stupid to mope about because some git thinks he's too good for you when he never deserved you in the first place." He let out a frustrated exhale when he finished.
"Is that all?"
At the table next to them, a couple — a girl from Beauxbatons and a boy from Durmstrang — were curled up together, their bodies so close it was almost impossible to distinguish whose parts were whose. The sounds of their smacking lips infiltrated the conversation.
Fred threw up his hands. "And you're too clever to be that bloody stupid!"
His face was merely inches from hers, and she could feel the warmth of his breath on her cheeks. He was flush, pink from his ears across his nose, the colour masking his freckles. She bit her lip and let out an empty sigh. Her voice was barely above a whisper. "It's stupid to keep fighting too."
"I'm sorry," he said and leaned back, shifting uncomfortably in his seat. "Y'know, for being a wanker."
Emily began to smile, though she tried to stop herself by biting down on her bottom lip. "You really are."
"That means I'm forgiven then, yeah?" he asked and waited for her to nod. Then he stood up, grinning, and held his hand out to her. "Come dance."
"What?" Emily glanced at his hand from beneath raised brows, like it was a foreign entity.
"Dance. You and me," he replied. "It is a party, after all."
She took one last slug of punch before she stood up and adjusted the sheer straps of her dress. "Fine. But only because I feel bad that George stole away Angelina."
"For now," he said, walking out to the dance floor alongside her, "I'll take it."
The Weird Sisters played loud and fast, lyrics screamed over the noise. There were bodies upon bodies on the dance floor, no extra space for moving elbows, and Emily found herself very close to Fred. Her skin was slick with sweat; his was too. And as the dance floor thumped with the loud bass of the music, as the students dancing jumped along with each beat, she tried not to stare at Fred, whose long hair was sticking to his forehead, who wore the biggest smile, who nearly lost his now-untied bow tie amongst the crowds of people.
Emily only knew maybe one or two Weird Sisters songs, and even those she didn't know too well. But out on the dance floor, with Fred, she felt the heavy weight lift from her shoulders, felt her inhibitions crash to the floor in a mess of her shattered dignity. And she began to sing — more like scream, thanks to volume and lack of discernible pitch — along with the band, her voice screeching just barely over the cheering of the entire student body. She remembered most of the words, kind of, and those she didn't remember she stumbled through. The smile on her face morphed into a half-grimace half-chuckle Frankenstein combination with each messed up lyric.
"You don't know the words?" Fred said, more a statement than a question, his voice raised over the roar of the crowd. His eyes were focused on her.
"Not really," she admitted as she turned pink and let loose a bout of laughter that quickly spread, infecting Fred as well until they were both red in the face.
When their eyes met again, the laughter subsided, leaving a sort of comfortable silence in its wake. She had missed this.
The faster sounds wound down, and the pace slowed for the next song. Students cleared off the dance floor with platonic dance partners.
Emily was tempted to stay on the dance floor, but there was no way she planned to force Fred to shuffle awkwardly alongside her in an uncomfortable slow dance. Even if she was having a good time. Even if this song was her favourite. Even if she desperately wanted to.
"That was fun," she said with a deep breath as she moved to go sit back down at their table.
She turned to him, and he pulled her back, gently. His hand held hers, sweaty though it was.
"One more?" A smile crept across his face, undeniably charming as it passed from his lips to hers. And when she nodded, he pulled her closer to him, their bodies only inches apart. Their fingers intertwined, and she reached up to set her hand on his shoulder as his wrapped around the small of her back. His touch was electric even through the fabric of her dress, igniting a fire within her. Even through his shirt, Emily could feel the hardness of the muscles in his back, and she let her fingers run along them absentmindedly. There they were together — so close, so comfortable. Had it always been this way? Had she just never noticed?
The music played on, and they danced, the world disappearing around them, drowned out by Fred's breathing and her pounding heartbeat. They spun together, and in her periphery Emily caught Violet's wide-eyed stares and George's bright smile — all shot in their direction. As the song slowed to a stop, which permitted the band to take a much-needed break, she and Fred stood facing each other, still a bit dizzy from all the spinning.
Her pulse was deafening in her head, her fingertips numbing as she realized that Fred had still not dropped her hand.
Before she knew it, his lips were on hers. The hand not intertwined with hers was set wrapped against her hair. Emily melted into him as her own arm snaked around his shoulder and her knees struggled to hold up the weight of her body. He was bending down to reach her far more than could be comfortable, she was sure. But somehow it was comfortable.
So close, so comfortable.
Shit. Shit shit shit.
She yanked herself away and took a step or two backwards, her lips pursed, her eyes focused on him from beneath furrowed brows.
"Em," Fred began, looking suddenly hurt, his face newly paled. He rubbed the back of his neck, his shoulders tensing with the motion. "Wait…"
Her paranoia kicked in as she took another step toward the door, and it felt like the entire Great Hall was staring at her. She bit at the inside of her cheek until she could taste copper, hoping that it might serve as a distraction. All she wanted was to say something, anything, but her mouth was dry and scratchy like sandpaper, and she couldn't force the words out.
He repeated her name, and the sound echoed in her ears.
It chased her out of the Great Hall and away from Fred.
The band resumed playing, the students continued dancing, and the music sped back up to a lively pace. Emily slipped out into the Entrance Hall and leaned against the brick just past the doorway, sliding down until she sat on the floor. Her head fell heavy into her hands as she fought against panic and tears.
Fred sprinted after her, stumbling out of the Great Hall shortly thereafter and running so quickly that he nearly passed her.
"Em, please." He seemed almost out-of-breath, though she knew it wasn't solely from the running.
Emily shook her head, still hiding it behind her hands.
Finally, she let her eyes meet his though they were glossed over with threatening tears. "Fred…"
"I'm sorry." He slid down against the wall next to her.
"No," she said too quietly for him to hear.
He ran a hand through his hair and sighed, "Let's just forget about it." He was avoiding her face.
"No," she repeated, louder this time. She looked at him with glossy, pleading eyes and hoped she looked less manic than she felt. "Can we talk about it?"
"I'd really, really rather not, but —"
He stood up first and then offered his hand to help her up. She struggled for a moment in her heels, held up by the strength in his arms. They started walking towards the Hogwarts gardens.
It was colder outside than either of them expected. The thick heat of the Great Hall was deceiving in the face of the frozen flurry of snow that fell, and Emily shuddered against its chill.
They were quiet at first. She was too afraid to say anything, and she could imagine that he felt the same way. Every so often, she would glance over at him and catch him looking back at her, but neither of them said a word.
"So…" he started, breaking the awkward silence with a single word traveling on his icy exhale. His feet shuffled against the ground as he walked. "You okay?"
Emily took a deep breath, the air billowing out in front of her like a cloud, and punctuated with a nod. "Yeah; and you?"
"Yeah." He thrust his hands into his pockets. There was a loose rock on the path in front of them that he kicked out of the way as he continued in a haphazard ramble. "I shouldn't've —"
"Stop," Emily said, more sternly than she anticipated, and she moved to stand in front of him, blocking his path. She looked him in the eyes, struck with surprise by just how much taller than her he was. "If you really do regret it, that's one thing, but if you don't…" She let her sentence falter there.
"If I don't…" he repeated as his eyes scanned her expression. His face was specked with patchwork freckles and fallen snowflakes that glazed his skin with their moisture.
She challenged him, standing up straighter to get closer to his face. "Do you?"
"I never said I did," he replied with a coy half-smile.
"Well, then if you don't —" He cut her off.
"What, I should do it again?"
Her response was a quirked brow coupled with a smirk. She jumped to tiptoes and pecked her lips to his, so quick that if he had blinked he'd have nearly missed it.
When she pulled away, covering her blushing face with her hands, he chuckled and asked, "Any regrets?"
Emily ran her teeth over her lips, but before she could respond, they were in a full embrace. He ran his fingers through her hair, his other arm wrapped around her waist. She could taste him as he kissed her. His lips were soft and had the gentle give of a peach against her own. Goose flesh formed on her skin from the brisk winter wind and Fred's touch, and she could feel his hair, damp and cool, against her skin.
Once they both separated, she looked at him, long and hard and straight in the eyes. At first it was gentle, her soft green-grey eyes meeting his brown eyes in examination, but it soon became harsher, almost glaring, and she quickly shook her head.
"What are we doing, Fred?" she asked, her voice barely a whisper. She shivered, feeling colder than before, the winter air chilling her body to its core.
"It's called snogging, Em," he said, matter-of-factly, the way she would have if she had been the one to say it, and he ran his hand through his hair again. The snow slicked it back against his forehead. "If you're struggling with the concept, I could show you how it's done."
"What are we doing?" she asked again, but the emphasis was different this time. She looked at him with pleading doe-eyes, rimmed with threatening tears. "What is this?"
She wrapped her arms around herself, desperate for warmth, running her hands along the goose flesh of her skin. Her breath clouded in front of her, spreading into the empty space between them.
"Whatever you want it to be, I dunno."
Emily let out a sigh, her shoulders falling with her breath. "Me neither."
As if struck by whiplash, Fred rubbed the back of his neck. He looked at her, examined her, before he moved closer and rubbed her arms to increase the warmth to her body. "You… want to go back inside?"
She bit the inside of her lip and tried to take a deep breath, but the sound quivered between her lips. "I think so."
He held the door open for her, and as she passed inside, he said, "Whatever I did, I'm sorry."
"You didn't do anything. I'm just not sure what I'm doing." She paused and turned again to look at him. "You're my best mate."
There was a faint glimmer in his eye. "I'm telling George."
"You know what I mean," she said, and she was relieved that some of the pressure was gone. He was him again. She was her. And they were them. Just as it was… sort of.
As they moved back through the gardens, following their footprints in the snow the way they came, they saw a couple sitting practically on top of one another on a bench among the roses. A head of platinum blonde hair sat perched above a toned male body. The boy's arms were wrapped tightly around the blonde girl's waist, his hands gripping desperately at the fabric of her silver satin gown. Painted fingertips ruffled through his tousled dark brown hair.
"Is that…?" Fred started, squinting at the pair, and Emily realized it, too: it was Roger and Fleur.
"There must be something in the air tonight," Emily said, shrugging off the sight with a laugh. It was the first time she could say she truly wasn't bothered by the two of them together. She wrapped her arm with Fred's, their fingers intertwined as they continued toward the Entrance Hall.
"Mister Weasley." From behind them a low, drawling voice growled his name, and on instinct Emily dropped Fred's hand. It didn't take much to discern the voice's owner; the chill of air behind them was clue enough. "And Miss Prince."
"Yes, Professor?" Emily finally looked up at Severus, though she wished she hadn't as she almost collapsed under the weight of his glare.
"Just where do you think you're going?" His eyes bore straight through her.
"We stepped out to get some air, sir," she said, and she could hear her voice tremble slightly, "and we were just returning now."
There was a sort of snarl in the way that Severus responded, the way his lip upturned in a mock-smile as he looked between the two of them. Each word was drenched in sarcasm as he spoke, "Well, then. Enjoy the rest of your evening."
As Severus and his cape swooshed back down the hallway, Fred turned to Emily. "He's probably just bitter because nobody in their right mind would ever ask him to the Ball."
"Let's just hope he doesn't wander into the gardens," Emily said with a chuckle, thinking back on Roger and Fleur, among the other snogging couples, "else that'll really set him off."
The Ball was nearly over when they got back, though the music was still going and a handful of students were still dancing. Though she didn't know for sure what time it was, it had to be nearly midnight.
"You know," he said as he brushed a stray lock of hair from her face, "if I could tell you how I wanted this night to go, it'd be this." He set his lips against her forehead and paused, thinking. "Well, maybe not exactly this, but pretty damn close."
Emily smiled and leaned into him. "How do you ever plan to explain this to Angelina?"
"I don't know that she'll much mind," he said and nodded to the dance floor where George and Angelina were still going strong. As the music slowly hit a crescendo, George spun Angelina around, and she landed gracefully back in his arms.
"I think you might have stolen George's dream date," Emily said, admiring them from across the Great Hall.
"Only fair he should get me back then, eh?" He nudged her gently with his elbow.
Emily turned to look at him from beneath a furrowed brow. "Then why didn't you just ask me, you numpty?"
He leaned nonchalantly against the stone wall. "Far as I knew you still had Davies."
"Oh." She was pensive for a moment before she started again, "You know, I wanted to ask you, and I was going to, but then you asked Angelina, and…"
Fred stepped in front of her and set his hands on her shoulders, rubbing her bare goose fleshed skin with his fingertips. "And now we're here, so what's it matter anyhow?"
He pulled her into a hug, and she fell into him, burrowed into his chest and his embrace. They stood that way for what felt like forever, wrapped up in each other just outside the Great Hall, just close enough to still hear the echo of music.
Emily breathed him in one last time before pulling away. "Should we go back?"
Fred shrugged. "Guess there's still enough time to spike the punch with firewhiskey."
"As a prefect, you know I can't sanction that." She raised a brow at him and tried to stop her smile before it spread across her face.
"You can't sanction it officially," he corrected with a wink.
Emily grinned. "And unofficially, if I found out you had firewhiskey and were holding out on me right now…"
Fred faked an exaggerated gasp. "But, Princey, you're a prefect! That kind of behaviour is most unbecoming."
"On a night like tonight?" She took his hand in hers, wrapped their fingers together. Her eyes glimmered with mischievous promise as she smirked. "All bets are off."
Emily woke up with her head on Fred's chest and felt herself rising and falling with each breath he took. He was still in his dress shirt, though it was unbuttoned, and she was wrapped in the fabric of her gown.
She didn't know what time it was, though it had to be late. The ball ended at midnight, after all.
They were both still riding the high of the night when they snuck off to a hidden room, one Fred knew intimately from his pranking escapades. It was tucked away in the corner of the castle, far from the dorms and the classrooms and the bustle of the Great Hall.
At first, they had just sat and talked and joked, like nothing had happened, like they hadn't fought and made up with a scandalous snog. Then, after a while, Emily felt her eyes grow tired, and Fred yawned, and they wound up snuggled up together on the floor.
"Oi, Fred," she started and shook his shoulders. "Fred!"
He jolted awake and shot himself upright, looking particularly dishevelled. "Wha—?"
When he saw Emily, his face softened, his heart rate slowed, and he smirked.
"We've got to go," Emily said, getting up. She held out her hand to help him up as well. "It's crazy late."
"You sure I can't convince you to just stay with me 'til morning?"
Hiding a smile, she just repeated: "We've got to go."
They parted ways with another kiss, and Emily could feel her chest radiating with heat. She and Fred.
Not only was everything back to normal, it was even better than normal. She touched her hand to her lips and smiled at the memory of kissing Fred.
What a crazy night.
When she got to the Ravenclaw common room, Emily was careful to be as quiet as possible. She had her shoes in her hand and tip-toed toward the door. She snuck inside and leaned her body against the doorframe with the sigh of a breath she didn't realize she was holding.
Suddenly the lights switched on, and Violet, Amina, and Patty were all sitting together in their pyjamas on the sofa in front of her.
"There you are," Violet said, her arms folded tight against her chest.
Emily's jaw tensed up. "What are you —?"
Violet cut her off with one word: "Spill."
"Spill what?" Emily asked, the question punctuated with a yawn as she fell into the armchair nearest her.
"Are we supposed to ignore this?" Violet asked, her arm gesturing to Emily's well-worn gown, now wrinkled, and her hair, knotted and falling from its hold. "Now spill."
"We saw you tonight," said Amina in a hissing whisper, "with Weasley… whichever one."
Emily's brow furrowed. "You lot know I went to the Ball with —"
But Violet interrupted with a correction, saying, "That was George. We're talking about Fred."
Emily shrugged, though she wouldn't look Violet in the eye. "What about him?"
"What happened?" Patty hissed.
The girls' eyes were all focused on Emily, each eagerly awaiting the story, and Emily felt suddenly sweaty and anxious beneath their gaze.
"You said you saw it." Emily pursed her lips, trying to hide the blush that crept up her cheeks. It was too soon to say anything definitively, and she didn't want to jinx it… "I don't know."
Violet read Emily's face, set a hand gingerly on her knee, and pursed her lips into a sad, sympathetic smile. "Oh, Emmy, you're going to need to sort this out," she started, "before it gets messy."
But Emily had a feeling it already was.