Hi there again!
So, I had this idea for a Yule Ball fic and I fancied writing it. I'd like to first give thanks to the Flowerpot discord for reinvigorating my desire to write in this fandom again. They're a really great community and I urge everyone to check them out.
As ever, I'd appreciate reviews and PMs are welcome to answer any questions relating to the story.
Anyway, I hope you enjoy. Thanks!
Title refers to a song of the same name by The Magnetic Fields, which I find gets stuck in my head quite a lot.
(Thank you to Lila-selle and DavidtheAthenai for the excellent cover art. Dave writes incredibly lovely Harry/Fleur works, which I urge you all to check out. He's the best.)
(Further addition: The great L3dpen, or SeventyEarns on FF, has drawn two wonderful pieces of art depicting a scene from Chapter 3, which you can see in the Flowerpot discord. Go check them out as they're great, and he's great too.)
The Yule Ball had been announced.
Chaos descended on a Monday. The world caved in, heaven evaporated from the sky and hell rose from the dirt of each and every hill and valley. Fire burned throughout, torching those loved and those lost, and brimstone snuffed out all those in-between.
Doom seemed to tremble around the form of the Deputy Headmistress as she started to address the assembly of Gryffindor and Ravenclaw students that formed Harry Potter's fourth year Transfiguration class. She appeared, as ever, as the consummate professional, yet there was a hint of grimness to her so-often strict and disapproving face; as though she could see the asteroid that was set to crash to Earth and kill them all, but rather than tell them to move and avoid the impact, she expected them to take it on the chin.
"The Yule Ball," she began, and with those three words, she held the absolute attention of every person in Harry's class. For some, like Lavender Brown and Mandy Brocklehurst, her voice was the proclamations of the almighty, yet for Harry, they were the echoing of distant war drums. "Is a tradition dating back hundreds of years. A tradition that is to be revived this year. Such an event is open to those in fourth year and above, which if you could not already gather, includes each and every one of you. It is a time to form lasting bonds with those from other schools, celebrate one's own history and-" Professor McGonagall's eyes darkened then, glaring into nothingness, "-enjoy yourselves."
Chaos became carnage as the air filled with joyful cries and exuberant giggling. Lavender sounded as though she were seconds from fainting, the air in her lungs voided as she could not contain herself.
"However, you are still at Hogwarts and, while it is a ball, it is a school event. You would do well to remember that." Professor McGonagall breathed a quiet sigh and looked ready to continue in her cautioning against teenage impropriety, though the ringing of the bell prevented her from doing so. "It begins at eight, and ends at midnight - and dress robes must be worn!"
Her final words were shouted over the top of the bell's chime, though by then there was a mass exodus as nearly every student, in near-perfect unison, had decided to run to their common room and declare themselves to stay at the castle over Christmas. Harry had grown accustomed to having the castle almost entirely to himself throughout the holidays and he certainly didn't look forward to having such a state swiped away from him, replaced by the cacophony of a horrid, glorified party.
Christmas had, in years past, been the time that he truly had begun to feel at home amongst the castle's walls. He'd explored its disused halls and abandoned rooms even before he'd come into possession of the Marauders Map. For a brief few weeks, he was King. Yet, as he stood up, he could feel himself being usurped, and it truly didn't feel fair. Everyone else had families to go back to, and suddenly they had conspired to take away the little that Harry could call his own.
"Mr Potter," called out Professor McGonagall, pulling him from his thoughts. By then, the classroom was empty with the exception of the pair of them, courtesy partially due to his own sore body after the first task, though mostly to his distraction. Harry had imagined that Ron was still beside him, though even he had scampered away. "I'm to assume that you were paying attention to what it was that I was saying."
"There is, however, another piece of news that would concern you," she said, the beginnings of the ghost of a smile coming to her face. "As a champion, you are expected to attend the Yule Ball." She paused, peering down her nose at him. "And the champions and their partners are to open the ball."
Dread came to Harry in waves. He felt as though there was ice in his chest, stealing any warmth from his skin. "And by partners, you mean?"
"Dancing partners. Partners that the champions dance with," McGonagall said, with a cold chill to her voice. "And by champions, in this instance I mean you."
The ice inside of his chest grew then until it felt like he'd been punched by a yeti. "Would your opinion change if I were to say that, because I was illegally entered into the tournament, I am not a real champion and so should be excused?"
"Both my opinion and the fact of the matter would not change," she replied firmly. "The Goblet of Fire called forth your name. You outwitted a dragon. You are a champion, either through your own intentions or another's, it does not matter."
"And what would the penalty be if I were not to attend?" Harry asked, his voice soft and placating, though his own mind had frozen under his body's thawing chill, numb to her inevitable reply.
The Professor seemed to stand up yet straighter still, her ordinarily perfect posture made magnificent. "Harry James Potter, you are a student of my house, the house of Godric Gryffindor himself. You will not bring shame to our great house with such a cowardice," she pushed her nose to the air, her gaze utterly dismissive. "If you ever wish to represent Gryffindor, in Quidditch or in any other manner, you will attend. You will bring a date, you will dance, and you will be an ambassador for our school or so help me God, you will live to regret it."
She swept away quickly after that, leaving Harry all alone in her classroom. The room held calm, at long last, though the calm was not peace, but the lull in-between calamities.
In the aftermath of Professor McGonagall's announcement, Harry had hoped to commiserate with Ron at his newfound misfortune, though his best friend had decided that the ball was not the horrid thing it so obviously was.
"It'll be great!" he declared, with a joy in his voice usually reserved for telling Harry that Chudley Cannons had won their latest match; as a result, it was not a voice he had not heard very often. "With how well you did in the task, you could take anyone you wanted!"
Despite the rift that Ron had brought between the two of them after Harry had been announced as the fourth champion, after all was said and done, Harry had held no desire to continue to remain at a distance to him. He enjoyed hanging out with him too much to be fussing over such matters. He'd forgiven him immediately, just as he knew that Ron would do the same if he were in his place. They were as close now as they had always been; no argument, great or small, would change that.
"I'd rather not take anyone at all," Harry replied. "I can't imagine dancing in front of three schools' worth of people makes for a great first date."
Ron scoffed. "Mate, it's the perfect first date," he asserted, again with undue aplomb. "A ball is as romantic as it gets. It's Christmas, you get to wear fancy robes and spend the evening dancing together," he seemed to remember himself, then, with a pause. "Anybody would love that."
"I'm sure it's romantic in theory," Harry agreed mildly. "But really?" He sighed. "All you'd do is spend the entire night trying not to make a fool of yourself in front of everyone. I bet there'll be music playing so you won't be able to talk to each other and dancing's just a really shit time, isn't it?"
"Dance a lot, do you?" Ron returned, watching Harry curiously. He crumpled the parchment that he'd been, until then, writing his Charms homework on, before bringing the tip of his wand to it. "Incendio." The parchment caught fire, collapsing into a pile of ash and dust which he left on their table. "And yes, it is romantic. In fact, I'm pretty sure the only reason you don't want to be a part of it is because you're scared of how romantic it is."
Harry fought the urge to gasp, aghast at the sudden attack. "Are you saying I'm a coward?"
Ron nodded vehemently. "Yes!" he agreed. "You're a romance coward."
Harry gave him a look of pure befuddlement. "I'm a what?"
"A romance coward," repeated Ron. And, despite the repetition, he became no less assured. The repetition didn't make it sound any less ridiculous, though.
"I'm just saying that, if I wanted to romance someone, I wouldn't go about doing it in full view of the world," Harry insisted, agitated. "If I wanted to romance someone, I'd want it to be private, and most importantly, where I wasn't being judged by every wizard in Britain."
Ron pressed his palms together, and then pointed to Harry with his paired hands. "Look, Harry, and listen," he began. "The very fact that people could watch you make a fool of yourself is what makes it so romantic. There's real consequences there, isn't there?" He laughed, for a moment. "I mean seriously, if it goes wrong, it goes wrong."
"You're not helping."
"I think I am, actually," Ron argued. "It could be a catastrophe. It could be the end of you. You could walk in there The-Boy-Who-Lived and walk out The-Boy-Who-Accidentally-Broke-A-Girl's-Leg. But, but, if it goes right, then suddenly the world shifts on its axis. The stars align. Two and two sum to suddenly make five." An odd look came over him then, his eyes moving from Harry for a moment to look over his shoulder to something behind him. "You have the rest of your life to spend talking to someone. You have that time to be together, alone, but you may only get a night like this once and the fact that it can go wrong is what makes it so special, not the reason to give up on it all."
Harry looked at Ron in an entirely new light, then. He hadn't thought that the boy held such depths, hidden or otherwise.
"And what about you, then?" Harry asked. "Who are you asking?"
Yet again, Ron's drifted to look over Harry's shoulder, before he shook his head. "Oh, I don't think I'm gonna go," he told Harry, his words mumbled. "Besides, I haven't actually written my name to say that I'm staying for Christmas, and Mum will want me back home anyway."
"No," Harry said, simply, though assertively. "You don't get to wax poetical about the excellence of organised romance and then not live by the beliefs you so absolutely hold." He folded his arms stubbornly. "If I have to go to this, you do too."
"Maybe I should be more clear," Ron said, extending his palms in placation, a red tinge to his skin beginning at his ears and spreading down his neck. "For people like you, the Yule Ball is a day for romance."
"What do you mean?" Harry asked, his eyes squinting, confused. "People like me?"
Ron sighed. "People that are supposed to be seen. If the whole world were a stage, you're quite clearly a lead actor, and I'm a prop, or a stagehand, or bloody sheep number four." He sighed again. "Besides, it doesn't matter if I wanted to go or not. Nobody would want to go with me."
"And have you asked anyone?" Harry asked. Ron shook his head quickly. "Then what you're saying has no proof. If I'm not allowed to be a coward in something I know will be awful, you can't be a coward in something you have every chance of liking."
"So I'm to do what?" Ron asked, his whole face having grown red by then. "Ask out every soul, living and breathing or otherwise, and be rejected by all and sundry until at last I find someone to take pity on me?"
"That seems to be the general idea," Harry agreed. "In fact, I'm pretty sure you were telling me to do the same thing not five minutes ago."
Ron laughed humourlessly. "The idea sounds far better when I'm not the one doing it." He pushed his face into his palms and let out an anguished groan behind his palms. "Merlin, girls have it so easy, don't they?" Ron kept his face hidden behind his hands. "They're the ones that get to do all the rejecting. I'm stuck being the one rejected."
Harry cast his mind back, to a few hours before, when he had been asked by a rather loud third-year girl in Hufflepuff who, he'd immediately recalled, had before been one of the more vocal supporters of Cedric Diggory, or rather one of Harry's more vocal detractors. "I don't think it's just girls, mate," Harry told him quietly. "Besides, I'm sure if you asked someone in the year below they'd go with you, seeing as they can't go otherwise."
"I'm not really into anyone younger," muttered Ron.
"Are you into having a date?"
Harry made a hmm-ing noise. "Well, then you might have to be."
Hermione arrived then, bursting through the library doors in a practised near-silence so as not to draw the ire of Madam Pince, before she made a direct path to the back corner table that the pair of them sat at, her bag falling to the wooden floor with a softened slam.
"Am I a romance coward?" Harry asked, and it was a credit to the three's friendship that she did not break her stride after hearing it.
"Are you acting in a way that's cowardly?" she immediately asked, settling into her chair, pulling forth a ream of parchment, her quills, and a thick tomb entitled 'Potions of the 15th Century'. "And, if so, is this cowardice centred around romance?"
Harry ran a hand through his hair. "Is it cowardice if you're just avoiding something you're not going to enjoy?"
Hermione met his eyes for the first time that day. "Obviously," she told him. "This is about the Yule Ball, I take it?" She breathed a huffed sigh. "Thank goodness I'm going home for Christmas and avoiding all of this utter nonsense."
"Are you sure you're not a romance coward?" Ron asked, forcing Harry to smother a laugh behind his hands.
Hermione offered Ron a cold glare that she'd evidently learned from Professor McGonagall. "I'd rather see my parents for the first time in four months than watch you and somebody's daughter engage in public copulation."
"That's a real shame, Hermione," Ron told her, in empty sincerity. "If only you'd stayed; you could've been that somebody."
Hermione continued to glare. "Are you capable of comprehending anything I say?" she asked, and she was so practised in the art of bickering with him that she managed to begin outlining her essay as she entered her tirade. "If I were that somebody, it would be my daughter that you would henceforth copulate with, and that's perhaps more disgusting than what you had intended to say, by the way. If I raised a child to bring someone like you home, I'd call Childline on myself."
"You're such a great friend, Hermione," Ron told her, though he looked far more comfortable then than he had when it'd just been he and Harry there. "You're just so good at making me feel good about myself."
"I think I offer you the far more valuable service of bursting your entirely too large ego," Hermione commented, drawing a frown from Harry. Hermione caught it, her attention on him for a moment. "I've heard that you're going to have to dance to start the ball off."
"Apparently so," Harry replied, his eyes downcast as her words forced recollection from him.
Hermione placed her quill into her bag before her elbow rested on the table, her body leaning in, in childish curiosity. "So," she began, the word lengthened as her voice became almost sing-song in tone. "Who are you going to take?"
"I thought this 'utter nonsense' was beneath your interest?" Harry asked, slightly amused though mostly stalling.
"No, I think the pageantry of balls and public affection is ridiculous," Hermione corrected. Harry gave Ron an 'I told you so' look, that Ron turned away from Harry to ignore. "I think my best friend having to go through that fresh hell is fascinating."
There was an odd look in Hermione's eyes as she spoke. In truth, she reminded him more of Lavender than of herself. Harry wondered then for a moment, though unfortunately, his mind was entirely blank. The very idea of going to the ball had been an obstacle enough, let alone thinking of anyone specifically he'd actually like to spend an evening with. "I don't know," he told her, honestly. "There's not really anyone I have my eye on."
"What about Cho?" Ron asked quickly. "I thought you liked her last year."
Harry shrugged. With all that happened in only the first few months of their school year, last year felt an eternity ago, his thoughts of Cho Chang similarly distant. "Yeah, I s'pose," he agreed. "But with the tournament and everything, I haven't really had time to think about that sort of thing."
"But Cho is still pretty though, isn't she?" Hermione prompted. "So why don't you ask her?"
"I don't know," he told her. "She doesn't seem like the right person." Harry turned to offer Ron a sharp look. "And before you start, this isn't me being a coward. I just think, if I'm going to risk every ounce of my self-respect on one night, it should be for the right person and I don't think it's her."
There was a hint of warmth to Hermione's eyes as she looked at him, then. "Well, I'm glad that you're giving this a lot of thought," she said, with a reproachful look toward Ron. "However, if Cho, who by your own admission you find very attractive and loves Quidditch as much as you do, isn't right, then who is right for you?"
Her words left Harry's mind blank, fog blanketing any corridor of conclusion that he might form. He stood suddenly and pulled his bag from under the table, sweeping his half-started essay inside carelessly. "I guess I've got until Christmas to work that out." He pulled his bag over his still-sore shoulder, the after-effects of his efforts against the dragon still all too evident. "I've got to go and see Pomfrey." He gave Ron a final look. "Ron, get a date."
There was a limp to Harry's stride as he left the library, his injuries improving in the week after facing the horntail but not entirely absent. In the immediate aftermath, he'd thanked the world for his own good fortune, but then, he wished that the dragon had swatted him into a month-long coma so that he'd be free. Such fantasies, however, soon left his mind as he almost walked into the solid form of Viktor Krum.
There was an odd distraction to the Bulgarian that Harry had never seen before. In every other instance, there was a quiet watchfulness to him, his eyes surveying each and every thing, always; it seemed as though nothing could escape his notice, his eyes super-human in their focus. Yet, as he stood, hovering in front of the library windows, there was an odd normality to the world-famous seeker.
He didn't take a great deal of Harry after their near-collision, either, preferring to continue his perusal of the inside of the library. "Harry," he did offer, not once meeting his eyes. "How are you?"
"Terrific," Harry replied, bemused. "Anything I can help you with?"
Viktor did look at him then, but only for the briefest of moments. "Maybe so," he said, before he brushed past Harry and walked into the library. "Another time."
Unfortunately, as time passed after their conversation, Harry found Ron's verdict becoming truer by the day. Time had not allowed him to make sense of his feelings toward Cho or rather lack thereof, nor did time sway him toward saying yes to any of the girls that had invited him, either. He wouldn't call it cowardice yet, but he was fast running out of other things to call it.
It was rapidly becoming a problem, too. At the announcement of the ball, there had been an explosion of invitations, with couples tying themselves to one another and the desirable being taken account of at great pace. According to the school's consensus, Harry was now one of those too, and so his unresolved status was apparently a just cause for inter-school investigation.
To be the talk of the school most often meant that his life was in jeopardy; the tournament, the dementors, the basilisk. Yet, in those moments, he'd at least been gifted focus. Then, he knew what he'd had to do, and the whispers became mere white noise. But now, with his goals to his eyes entirely mystified, the whispers were all that he could hear.
Ron and Hermione, ever the excellent friends, had taken an irritatingly unified stance to avoid sitting with him in the Great Hall at mealtimes, much preferring the peace that came without him to the continual interruptions that seemed to plague his company. The rest of his house followed their example too, the space that his two best friends left unfilled.
The latest girl belonged to Beauxbatons, her light-blue robes suddenly appearing in his peripheral vision as he studiously pretended to read an alchemical book Dumbledore had once recommended that he read. She looked to be at least two years older than Harry, with sparkling blue eyes and black hair arranged so artfully that he thought that she ought to have been the muse of some great artist, rather than standing before him.
"Monsieur Potter," she said, her voice pleasant and lightly accented. "Would you like me to accompany you to the Yule Ball?"
Harry met her eyes for a moment and found himself in crisis. There stood before him a girl so beautiful that he thought he might well have imagined her, except that his own mind could not produce a sight so great. Yet even she was not right.
"Why?" he blurted, entirely confused, his own mind spooling out into the world. "Why would you want to go with me?"
Of all of the things this girl had expected to hear in response, such a question did not rank highly. "Pardon?"
Harry dropped his book onto the table, and pushed his plate away, addressing her fully. He gestured to the bench on the other side of the table, his hand nearly acting of its own accord. She smoothed down her skirt and settled carefully across from him. "Why would you want to spend the evening with me?"
An eyebrow was quirked elegantly. "Are you seeking compliments?"
"No, not at all!" he assured, nearly jumping out of his seat in his urgency to say so. "I'm really just trying to make sense of my life at the moment," he offered her a quiet smile, before he ran a hand through his hair. "I'm sure hundreds of people have asked you and I bet you probably share things in common with them, but you're standing here asking me, and I'm not so sure why."
"Maybe it is because of exactly that," she said. Sensing his confusion, she rushed to clarify. "Perhaps I wish to be the one asking?"
"Do you, though?"
She lifted her eyes to peer at the ceiling of the Great Hall and ponder for a collection of moments. "You're quite a mystery, monsieur Potter," she replied. "To be a champion so young, and to succeed as you did. I wished to learn more of you."
Harry laughed to himself. "There isn't much to me," he told her sincerely. "I'm pretty dull, outside of the unfortunately frequent occasions when the world tries to kill me."
Her eyes widened. "So the stories are true?" she asked. "About what you have done in your previous years?"
Harry could sense that their conversation had begun to gather the attention of those that sat further along the Gryffindor table. He realised then that, despite having lived together for over three years, most of his house hadn't actually heard of what had happened.
He nodded at her question. "That depends," he told her. "If you're talking about a basilisk, a hundred dementors and the philosopher's stone, then yes they all did happen." Harry shrugged. "Anything else probably didn't."
She looked at him oddly. "And yet despite having lived a life as incredible as yours, you do not understand why I would wish to spend the Yule Ball with you?"
Harry threw his hands. "But everyone's life is fascinating. We have magic, for God's sake," he said. Then he turned where Ron and Hermione sat, extending an arm to point at them. "See those two?" She nodded. "They've done everything I have, so why doesn't everyone go and ask them out. Why is it me?"
Hermione began glaring at him, and Ron seemed caught between pale-faced panic and jubilation.
"Truthfully?" the girl asked. Harry nodded. "I think it's your face."
"My face?" Harry repeated, slightly dumbly. "What do you mean, my face?" He poked at his own cheekbone. "Is my face nice to look at or something?"
A confused fog fell over the girl's eyes. "Yes - well sort of - I-I don't know," she managed to get out, genuinely struggling. She drew a breath purposefully. "You look like you're going to get hot when you're older."
"And you find that compelling?" Harry asked.
"So you're looking for something serious?" Harry's eyes scrunched together as he attempted to make sense of what she had said. "Do I look like a good investment, is that it?"
She shook her head. "Sort of." She smiled. "You seem like a fun project to take part in."
"Thank you for your honesty," he said, before laughing. "What's your name?"
"Aimée," Aimée said. She smiled back at him. "I assume this means you're rejecting me."
"Sort of," he said. Aimée didn't look greatly disappointed at his response, her smile not dimming. His eyes lit up in confusion. "Wait a minute." He tilted his head. "How can you tell that I'm going to get hot when I get older?"
She shrugged, demure. "I don't know. It is just a sense I get with you." She met his eyes intently, before she looked along his jawline and up to his hair. "You would suit a beard, and your eyes would look less haunting on an older face."
"Good to know," Harry replied, cheerily. He knew it to be stupid, but he found that he enjoyed comments on his appearance that were not solely around his apparent similarity to his parents, if only for the variety of it. There were only so many times you could be told that you had your mother's eyes, after all. "Is there anyone else you get that sense with?" He pointed toward Ernie McMillan. "What about him?"
Aimée shook her head quickly. "I don't think so."
Harry watched as the boy tried to pretend as though he wasn't listening. His shoulders sank at her words.
Harry flicked his eyes toward Colin Creevey, who had begun to creep closer and closer toward the pair of them down the long Gryffindor table. "And him?"
"He is cute now." Colin blushed at the praise. "But he is too young to know for sure."
Harry offered Colin a grin, and the boy nearly fell over himself. "Okay, I think I get it now," he told her. "What about him?"
'Him' was Neville, who by then was the only student sat on the Gryffindor table not listening into their conversation. Even on the ever-boisterous Gryffindor table, he looked rather lonely, cramped in on himself as he read the pages of a book on magical environments and their conservation with rapt attention.
Aimée hummed beneath her breath for a moment. "He might just be perfect."
Harry grinned widely. "Good." His face grew serious. "He deserves someone kind."
She rose quickly, intent on being just that, and Harry could finally finish his lunch in peace. Around Harry, the air seemed to shift suddenly, and he wasn't approached for the rest of the time that he sat. Harry, in turn, took slightly more notice of his alchemy book, though not so much that he missed a blushing Neville facing the charms of Aimée. The rest of Gryffindor, and even the usually-loud Weasley twins, remained silent in solidarity as they all watched on, though mostly so they might not spoil their show.
At dinner, there came another girl, this one from Durmstrang. She was a short girl, of perhaps similar age to Harry, with a round face made striking by her smile; a sight brighter than any light that magic could create. There was a warmth to her visage that stood out against the darkness of her school's uniform, like the final red streak of a sunset before nightfall.
"May I sit?" she asked softly, with intentions of taking the still-open space across the table from him. There was a shyness to her eyes, their looks fleeting. Harry nodded, taking the book that he'd splayed open in his free hand and placing it face-down onto the table, his other hand circled around a glass of pumpkin juice. He pushed away his plate, and gave her his entire attention.
He noted, absent-mindedly, that she was the only student from one of the other schools that was then sat at the Gryffindor table. Most often, the other schools preferred the company of the Ravenclaws and Slytherins, with the occasional student drifting over to the Hufflepuffs.
"So," he began. After his conversation with Aimée, these little interludes were not quite as worrisome as they were before. "How can I help you?"
She closed her eyes for a moment, settling herself. "I was wondering if I could be your date to the ball?"
Harry gave her a small smile. "I'm sure you'd make for a lovely date, but I'm afraid I'm going to have to say no."
Disappointment didn't rise on her face, much to Harry's relief. "Might I ask why?" she did ask, though.
Harry struggled there, his own actions still no more sensible even as he repeated them once more. "If I tell you, would you tell me why you asked?" She nodded quickly, and so Harry allowed himself a settling breath. "I just don't see you in that way. You're very pretty, and I'm sure you'd be lovely company, but I don't think you'd be the right company for me. Does that make sense?"
She nodded to his question. His words, as he could see, didn't offer a great deal of comfort, but they did settle easily. "So you believe in romance?" she asked. "You believe that these nights hold meaning beyond their barest details?"
Harry hadn't really given a great deal of thought to romance, and especially not as it related to himself. He'd not been on a date before, nor had he ever kissed a girl or even approached any feeling that could be called love. He knew he would want to, and that perhaps, in some distant sense, he knew love was an experience greater than just the people that expressed it. His own life had been saved by it, his mother's care manifested by magic to save that she adored.
As he'd grown up, he'd heard from every wizard or witch that had known them how great a romance his own parents had, of how much they cared for one another and of how well suited they were together. They had, by all accounts, loved fiercely and fearlessly, and perhaps, in some small part of Harry, he wished to do as they had done, and to live as they had lived.
"I think so," Harry agreed, quietly. "But, if I'm to be totally honest, I have to go to the ball whether I want to or not and if I'm to do this, I really ought to do it properly." He settled more comfortably in his seat, satisfied. "Now, I believe you said you'd tell me why you wanted to go with me."
"I have heard that you were raised in the muggle world; I was too," she explained. "There are not so many of us at my school, and I hoped to spend an evening with someone who I shared such things with."
"There are quite a few of us at Hogwarts, you know," Harry told her. "There aren't many in Slytherin, but in the other houses there's a lot." His brow furrowed for a moment. "Can I ask - why is it that your school doesn't sit with my house?"
"I think there are two reasons," she said quickly. "First, many of those from my school already know the ones in Slytherin house, and so it's easier for them to sit there," she leaned in, so as to whisper. "The second is that your house does not appear very welcoming."
Harry was taken aback by that. Of all of the things that could be lodged against Gryffindor, coldness was not one of them. They had taken him in with open arms, just as they had everyone else sorted into their house.
"What do you mean?" he asked, before quickly adding. "If it's because of something that the Slytherins have said, then I should mention that there's a rivalry between our houses that's been going on for about a thousand years, give or take."
"They have made some comments," she admitted. "But your house looks not so easy to approach. You appear a family, and we would not wish to go where we are interrupting."
There was sense to her words, too. At mealtimes, the Gryffindor and Hufflepuff tables were by far the loudest, with their members talking and shouting to one-another from one end of the table to the next. Ravenclaw, true to form, were often barely talking. Most brought with them books to read, and were always the quickest to leave the hall, rushing to their dorms or to the library. Slytherins were civil to one-another, and well-mannered at mealtimes, but their youngest members, in their odd decorum, reminded Harry strongly of Dudley whenever his parents had Vernon's boss over for tea.
"Well, what good is a family if it doesn't welcome others?" Harry asked, mostly of himself. "I'd like to apologise then, for how we've come across. We'd love it if people joined us." He pointed toward Hermione and Dean, who sat talking passionately, to which both Ron and Seamus both looked on with utter bafflement. "They're muggle-raised, too, if you'd still be interested in talking to someone like us. Otherwise, you're welcome to join me."
Her gaze lingered on Dean. "Perhaps I will talk to them another time," she told him. "Do you truly mean that I can sit with you?"
Harry nodded, offering her a warm smile. "Of course," she sighed softly, the slightest of reliefs falling from her. "I would like to know your name, though."
In truth, Harry found it rather funny that they had decided to ask him to a ball without first saying who they were. It's understandable, though. It was a brave thing to ask out a stranger; an act that Harry had not yet brought himself to do.
"Andrea," she said, giving him a bright smile; the sort of smile that made you wish to smile too.
"Andrea," Harry echoed. "Welcome to Gryffindor."
Their house was the host to many people. The bold, the daring, the brave. And, if one were to act as she had, their house would always have a place for her.
Harry wished only that his own heart might follow suit in boldness, and announce itself to him soon.
I hope you enjoyed!
Once again, I'd urge you to review and let me know what you thought.