Disclaimer: "Harry Potter" is the property of J.K. Rowling.

Practice

"Any of you girls up for one more dance, then?"

"Ugh, please tell me you're joking."

"Can't we just sit here and watch everybody else stumble around, Lee?"

Lee Jordan sighed heavily and shook his head theatrically at Fred and George. Katie Bell, who was perched, massaging her foot, on the table they were all sitting around, brandished a shoe at him. "You try wearing these for four hours, then we'll see how much you want to dance."

"Angelina?" Lee asked hopefully, undeterred by Katie's remark.

"He's trying to steal your date, Fred," George said with a grin.

Fred laughed and raised his eyebrows at Angelina, and she leaned on Alicia Spinnet's shoulder with a melodramatic yawn. "Sorry, Lee, I'm too tired."

"Bad luck, mate," Fred said with a smirk.

Lee flicked a scrap of paper at him. "So we'll just sit here?"

"Have a drink," Alicia suggested, pushing a half-empty cup across the table at him, to which he made a face.

The Yule Ball was mostly over, and few couples were still dancing. Most people had given up, exhausted or tired of having their feet stomped on or abandoned by their date, and occasionally a professor would chase a red-faced couple back inside. Katie and Alicia watched this with glee, either laughing at or expressing their disgust at the pairs. Angelina joined in now and then, but mostly she just stared into space, jiggling her foot. It wasn't that she'd been abandoned by her date, precisely, but once the music had slowed and quieted, their dancing had rather fizzled out. Apparently Fred wasn't much for slow-dancing. Her date, she couldn't help noticing, was darting glances at her frequently while he and George talked with Lee. Eventually, George elbowed his brother.

"I don't know what you're waiting for," he said, not bothering particularly to keep his voice down. Typical.

"Yeah, good point," Fred replied. "Hey, Angelina?" She raised her eyes to meet his with a half smile. "You sure you don't want to dance?"

Instantly, Katie's and Alicia's attention was on her. "What," Angelina said, "with you? Slow?" He didn't deserve it. He really didn't. They could have been dancing all night, and they hadn't been. No doubt he just wanted to show off to Lee.

In answer, he stood up and offered her his hand. And despite the fact that he didn't deserve it and that her feet really did hurt, she found herself struggling to say 'no.' And then he smiled a little, and any chance that she'd remain seated vanished. After another moment, she reached out and put her hand in his, allowing him to pull her to her feet. As they walked out to the dance floor, Alicia's voice drifted out to them, "I don't know why you bother, Lee; she's fancied Fred for years."

Fred quirked an eyebrow at her and said in mock surprise, "Is that true? Why Angelina, you should've told me."

"Oh, ha, ha," she replied dryly, making him grin crookedly. "You just slay me, Fred."

They stopped and he turned to face her, putting a hand on her waist. After a minute of movement, Angelina remarked appreciatively, "I didn't know you could actually dance."

"I have many talents, Johnson." To prove the point, he spun her, drawing her back so that they were dancing much closer together than they had been.

"Clearly," she replied, laughing a little breathlessly and sliding her arm around his neck.

"It's one of those things that all the pretty girls expect you to know how to do," he said innocently.

"You'd know, I suppose."

"Obviously. You were lucky, really, to be able to come with me," he said solemnly. "I was usually surrounded by packs of fit girls."

"Good," she said slyly, "then it won't bother you that I turned down four offers before you finally asked me."

"What?" he yelped. "Who?"

"Oh, a couple seventh years, some other Quidditch players, you know," she told him gaily.

He dipped her. "Lovely for you."

"Yes, it really did wonders for my self-esteem."

"And you're really doing a number on mine right now."

"I think you'll manage, Weasley."

"Maybe," he said, sounding doubtful. "But just to make sure, come to Hogsmeade with me in January?"

She raised her eyebrows questioningly. "You and George have been whispering about that Hogsmeade visit for months. I thought you had something to do."

"Well, I might," he replied vaguely. "Our date may get cut a bit short."

"It's a date now, is it?"

"Of course," he said, pulling her even closer so that they were pressed together. "I wouldn't want to lead you on, you know."

"Mm," she agreed, somewhat distracted by the fact that their faces were drawing closer and closer --

"Hate to interrupt," Lee said suddenly from beside them, causing them to jump apart a little guiltily, "but we're going back up to the Common Room."

"Don't stay out too late, now," George called, which Alicia and Katie laughed at as the four of them left.

Fred and Angelina finished the dance in silence, his hand at her lower back, her arm hugging his neck, and their heads gently resting against each other's. When the music ended, they stood that way for a moment, unmoving.

"Care to go for a walk?" Fred asked her, pulling away finally and offering her his arm debonairely.

"I'd be delighted," she replied archly, laying her hand on his arm.

They made their way out of the Great Hall, ignoring the sharp look they got from McGonagall and heading for the garden. Angelina hiked up her dress robes to avoid dragging them through the snow, which made Fred laugh and drew a nonplussed look from her.

"You know," she mused after a few minutes, "this ball is very nice, but I've missed Quidditch this year."

"Yeah," Fred agreed, absently scooping up a handful of snow. Angelina watched him out of the corner of her eye to make sure he wasn't going to lob it at her. "Bet you'll be captain next year."

Pursing her lips at him, she asked, "You don't think you have a chance at getting it?"

He came to a stop and stared at her, a look of revulsion on his face. "Please. Do I look like I want that responsibility?"

"Do you look like you can handle it is the appropriate question."

"You've taken the words right out of my mouth," Fred said, "as usual."

"As usual?" she repeated. "This is the first I'm hearing of it."

"Well," he said innocently, "I had to say something nice, didn't I?" And then he did lob the snowball he'd been making at her. She twisted as fast as she could but still wasn't able to avoid being hit in the shoulder, where it left a large, damp, and extremely cold spot.

"Weasley!" she shouted, crouching and balling up a handful of snow. He was nowhere to be seen -- no wait, there was a flash of red. She skirted around a rosebush and threw her snowball at him, and a second later she was rewarded with a yelp. Ducking down behind the bush, she busied herself making several snowballs and taking aim at Fred as he attempted to bolt across the garden to better cover. When she hit him for the third time, she lost sight of him and started to move to a different position.

Before she was able to get far, though, there was a crunch behind her. She tried to dive out of the way, but she wasn't quick enough and was tackled, rolling onto her back and returning to a crouch in the snow.

For a second, she and Fred stared at each other, neither of them moving a muscle. Then he leapt at her, and she swore she'd never seen anyone move that fast. In seconds he had her arms behind her back and a handful of snow dripping onto her shoulders.

"Yield?" he asked.

"Absolutely not."

He let a couple lumps of snow drop down the back of her robes, making her squirm and use several unladylike exclamations. "Okay, yes, fine, I yield!"

Rather than letting go of her, he turned her and circled his arms around her waist, gazing directly into her eyes. "Now, I've got a very serious question," he told her, but of course he couldn't keep a smile off his face.

"I find that hard to believe," she retorted, hoping her tone was as cool as she intended it to be, since the torrent of other emotions running through her most certainly were not.

His arms tightened and she found that even though he'd hugged her before, even kissed her, his hands on her hips had never felt so perfect and exciting, nor had every nerve in her body tingled at the mere promise of contact with his.

"No, you'll like this," he insisted. He cocked his head and held her gaze. "I've been wondering -- why is it that two people who fancy each other -- and they both know they fancy each other -- keep pretending that they don't instead of just getting on with it?"

Her mouth suddenly felt dry. "Maybe because one of the people refers to the situation as 'getting on with it'," Angelina said, her heart pounding loudly.

"He'll work on that."

"Maybe because they're both worried about what's going to come of it?" she tried, her voice dropping as he moved closer.

Fred shrugged. "What's life without a little risk?"

She had never noticed just how many freckles he had. "Maybe...because they play Quidditch together and it would be...unprofessional?"

He laughed, low and really not sounding like Fred Weasley at all, and said, "That's just not a good reason."

"Well," she whispered, impressed with herself for being able to speak at all when their faces were so close together, "then I suppose these two people should just get on with it, shouldn't they?"

"Glad you think so," he breathed, and then he leaned in a few inches and kissed her.

She felt light-headed and giddy the moment his lips touched hers -- he had definitely never kissed her like this before and was doing some extremely...interesting things. A thought occurred to her and, unable to resist the opportunity to tease him, she pulled away a little and said, "Maybe one of these people is a bit offended that the other seems to have been snogging other girls."

He brought a hand up to her face and ran it through her hair. "All practice for this moment, I assure you."

"Mm, well, if you're sure," she murmured before opening her mouth to his again. Really, she had to marvel at how good he'd gotten at this. She made a mental note to insist upon doing much more of it after tonight.

Eventually -- quite some time later -- they separated, and Angelina looped her arms loosely around his neck. Fred, for once, looked as though he weren't about to make some smart remark. "I like this adoring look you're giving me," she said, smiling softly.

He rested his forehead against hers. "Good. It's a patented Weasley product."

They moved in to kiss again, but the sound of bushes being blasted apart on the other side of the garden made them jump apart quickly. "Must be time to go in," Fred remarked, glancing in the direction of the noise. Angelina nodded and the two of them started back inside and towards Gryffindor Tower. Before they'd gone far, Fred took her hand in his. She looked at him, eyebrows raised, waiting him to say something, but he just smiled and entwined his fingers more tightly with hers.

Finally, when they were standing in the Common Room, dripping slush onto the floor and warming themselves by the fireplace, he put a companionable arm around her shoulders and said, "Thanks, Angie."

"For what?"

He kissed her on the cheek. "It was a good night."

"It was, wasn't it?" She leaned into him briefly before pulling away and walking up the staircase to her dormitory. "See you tomorrow?"

"Absolutely."

She turned and continued up the stairs, a grin on her face. She did miss Quidditch this year, but this ball had been quite worth it.