This is a Christmas fanfic that I posted a long while ago on another fanfiction website. I realize it's not Christmas right now, but who cares? Flip forward in your calender, close the drapes, put on Jingle Bells, and get into the mood, because this story is about to start ...
Dance with me
She felt her heart beating rapidly beneath the fabric of her dress and took a few deep breaths to calm herself. She was walking slowly, afraid otherwise she might fall over her high heels or stumble over the long fabric that almost touched the floor. Her hand unconsciously wandered over her dress, as if trying to smooth it, a gesture that clearly stated she was nervous.
"Are you alright, Lils?" Marlene said soothingly from beside her. "Really, you don't have to worry so much. It's just a dance."
"That's what I keep saying", Anna piped up from her other side. "Nothing but a dance. No bad people, no horrible things happening, nothing to be afraid of. Absolutely nothing."
Lily laughed nervously. "You two can talk. You've been to hundreds of dances and you have attended all possible dancing classes. I, on the other hand – I've never been to a dance before. What if I completely humiliate myself? What if I keep trotting on Luke' feet? What if no one asks me to dance?"
"Will you stop worrying already? You have a date to the ball, not all girls can say that, so stop fretting -"
"Maybe, but you know as good as I do that firstly, we're going as friends, so that's not a real date, and secondly, even Luke only agreed to go with me because he couldn't find another girl. So that doesn't do a whole lot for my ego. And Luke is not going to want to dance with me all the time, so he will ask other girls, and then, what will I do? I will just sit there and watch you two fly across the dance floor. Fabulous."
Marlene laughed. "Yeah, right. As if you won't be asked to dance."
"Do you seriously think that not all boys are going to stare at you all the time?" Anna continued. "You with your fabulous hair and perfectly done make-up -"
Conceited cow. She was the one to do my hair and make-up after all.
"Seriously, Lily", Marlene said insistently. "Just look at yourself. Your dress is beautiful -"
"But are you sure I can wear this?" she said immediately, fingering the soft fabric nervously. "I mean, don't you think it's a bit, I don't know, too gorgeous for me?"
"Crap", Marlene snorted. "It's beautiful and it fits you perfectly and that's that."
And the dress was beautiful. It was white, which fit perfectly to her dark red hair. Rather tight around the middle, but flowing gracefully around her legs. It was beautifully embroidered and strapless. It was a very elegant dress, and although she had bought it at the second-hand-shop, it had been mighty expensive. Marlene and Anna had forced her to take loaned money from them, which she had loathed doing. She saw it as charity, which she didn't want, they saw it as an act of friendship. It was in such situations that she hated that her family was poor.
Marlene and Anna both came from rich and respectable pure-blood families. Normally that did not influence the way they acted around each other or anybody else, or the fact that Lily was best friends with them, although she was from a muggle family, and a poor one at that. Some pure-bloods would make fun of Marlene and Anna whenever they got the chance, calling them blood traitors and stuff. Many a conceited Slytherin had been sent to the Hospital wing with a broken nose for this.
Lily had long ago started to shut herself from the verbal attacks. Although deep down they still hurt, nowadays she concentrated on just being grateful for having such good friends.
Coming from high-in-society families, both Anna and Marlene had been sent to dancing classes early in their lives, meaning that now, at the age of seventeen, they were fabulous dancers and the prospect of a ball meant no nervousness for them.
For Lily, it did.
She had taken dancing classes in the summer after her fifth year alright, but it had been one short course only – her parents hadn't been able to afford more – and now at Christmas in her seventh year, she couldn't say that she remembered much. Anna, who liked to teach, had taught her the basics over the last two weeks, and she had been a good teacher. And according to her, Lily had been a good student.
She was not so sure about that though.
"But what about my partner", Lily started again. "I don't want to sit around while the rest of you dance, but I don't want to embarrass myself in front of some guy either. Oh God, this is terrible. Why did they have to set up a Christmas dance?"
"I think it's fabulous that they did", Marlene said. "It's fun, we get a chance to dress up and dance, which normally, we don't. And Lily, if you say one more word about you being without a partner all through the dance, I will personally make sure to burn all your homework. It's crap, you know it. Most other students can't dance any better than you do, many of them probably worse. And guys don't really like it if their partner is better than them anyway." She snorted. "Makes them feel degraded."
She took another deep breath. They had arrived at the Great Hall.
In her mind, she quickly repeated all the different dance steps, satisfied that she still knew them, then slowly followed her friends into the Great Hall.
The Hall looked nothing less than amazing. The tall fir trees that were standing all around it reached the ceiling and if one took a closer look, one could see that there were living fairies fluttering around in the branches. Candles were floating beneath the ceiling, which showed a black, cloudless sky. The house tables had been removed and instead there were long tables all around the hall, leaving a large space in the middle, which – Lily's heart skipped a beat – was undoubtedly intended for dancing. Most students were already there, sitting at the tables with their friends, chatting and laughing and waiting for the feast to begin.
Marlene and Anna were looking around for their dates. Beautiful as they were, they had both been asked to the dance by numerous good-looking guys and had been able to choose the one that suited them best, whereas she had had to be satisfied with going with her best guy-friend, Luke Warren. Not that she had anything against Luke, he was a good friend, it was just that when going to a ball, one did wish for a partner with at least an average degree of attractiveness, a feature Luke sadly enough did not possess (not that she wanted to be mean or anything). Furthermore, for her, the word ball was at least a little related to the words "romantic", "boyfriend" and "kiss". Not so much to "mate", "soccer" and "hamburger", the last two of which being Luke' favourite subjects. Like said, she liked Luke, she always liked to spend time with him; she wasn't one of those girls who were constantly doing nothing but thinking about guys and their looks, but still …
Marlene's date, a tall, good-looking Ravenclaw arrived first. Marlene beamed, eyes gleaming, flung her hair over her shoulder and marched off at the arm of the smitten-looking guy. She gave Lily an encouraging smile over her shoulder.
Anna noticed her slightly grumpy look and laughed. "Lily, when will you understand that you are beautiful? Many a girl would kill for gorgeous hair and eyes like yours. And besides-" she lowered her voice, "if things should really go that bad with poor Luke, don't forget. You still have James. I'm sure he would be only too happy to dance with you -"
She stopped abruptly, seeing Lily's murderous gaze.
"Don't – mention – Potter – when – at – a – ball – or – ever!" she said through gritted teeth. "It is not, I repeat, not the way to make me enjoy this stupid dance!"
She hadn't even thought about this yet. Why hadn't she thought about it? Of course, stupid Potter was going to be bothering her all throughout the dance with his stupid remarks, smirks, and constant go-out-with-me-Evans'. Oh great. Just bloody peachy. Not only was she going to be without a "real" date, and probably without any partner at all most of the time, but to top it all off, Potter was going to make the ball a living hell for her.
She could just envision herself, sitting at an empty table all by herself while all couples were off dancing, or, having simply jumped that part, were already doing God-knows-what in some deserted broom closet, Potter being the only person standing beside her, going through all his hundredths and thousandths of ways of asking her out.
James Potter had started asking her out in fifth year, and had consistently been bugging her ever since, ignoring her rude answers. She despised him – he was a bully in her eyes, hexing everyone he met just because he could and strolling around the castle with his good-for-nothing friend Black as if he owned it.
What an awful Christmas.
"So Lily, Luke is here, have fun, remember, you can dance well enough, and don't let Potter get you down!" Anne said, interrupting her dark strain of thought. As she looked up, she saw that Anne as well was now hanging off the arm of a good-looking guy who had eyes only for her and seemed to consider Lily air.
Just then she saw Luke standing beside the couple, wearing his usual goofy grin. He was positioned most unfavourable directly beside Anna's date, making him look even plainer in comparison to the tall, dark-haired, gorgeous guy, whom Anna was giving her dazzling smile right now, with his rather small, skinny frame, weird haircut and plain face. She groaned inwardly, not caring that at the moment she was a bit mean towards poor Luke.
He smiled at her and offered her his arm. She sighed inaudibly, not wanting to be rude, and silently gave in to her fate.
She was just going to have a ruddy Christmas ball and that was that.
By then the Great Hall was full with girls in ball dresses and boys in tuxes – a most unusual sight. Once everybody had seated themselves at the tables around the hall, Dumbledore raised from his seat at the teacher's table in the middle of the front side of the Great Hall.
"Welcome everybody!" he said, beaming around at the candle lit faces. "I am glad that so many students decided to stay at Hogwarts over Christmas and attend the Christmas dance this year. It is an old Hogwarts tradition, which we have decided to bring up a bit again. After we enjoyed our delicious meal, the music will start and I hope to see many couples on the dance floor! Now, since I am sure you are all exceedingly hungry, let the feast begin!"
Magically the food appeared on the plates in front of them, looking delicious. Even in her grumpy mood she couldn't help but be pleased at the sight of the full plates and started digging in heartily, listening to Luke going on about his favourite soccer team (Luke was muggle-born too) with one ear.
After everyone had more or less finished eating, music started to play. She craned her neck left and right, searching for whatever it was coming from, for it was a beautiful sound, filling the whole hall. After minutes of nearly breaking her neck she realized that she had once again fallen back into muggle habits, it was apparent that the music had to be filling the room by magic.
The dance floor filled up quickly. She spotted Anna and Marlene in the dancing crowd, twirling around in the arms of their partners. She turned her head to the left slightly and watched Luke staring into the air out of the corner of her eye, looking bored and apparently not in the least considering asking her to dance. She felt her insides sting slightly and bit her lip. Why was it that almost every girl in the Hall was dancing and she wasn't?
At that moment, Luke seemed to have gotten it into his head that it might be appropriate for him to ask her to dance.
"Do you want to dance?" he asked, in a tone that clearly stated he didn't. She could feel her temper boiling inside her. She could at least be treated with some respect!
"Yes, as a matter of fact, I do", she said and swiftly stood up. Luke followed suit, looking back at the pie on the table with a look of regret.
As soon as they started dancing, Lily mentally changed her cry of desperation – why was it that every girl seemed to be dancing with a decent, if not good, partner, except her?
She didn't excel at dancing, she knew that. Actually, she was pretty bad. But she had had dancing classes once and she did have a feeling for rhythm, that, she had.
Therefore it was almost unbearable for her that Luke did not have any feeling for rhythm whatsoever and was not dancing to the music that was playing, but in a completely different step, that was just, well, wrong, and it did not feel particularly good.
She felt opposed to telling him this, since her gut feeling told her that no guy, not even Luke, liked to be told he was dancing wrongly by his dance partner, but at some point in the dance, she couldn't take it anymore.
"Um, Luke, don't you think that we should be going a little bit faster and, err, just dance a little more in step?"
He raised his eyebrows slightly. "No, why?"
She mentally screamed. "Err, because, I'm thinking there's the slightest possibility that it might be of advantage to dance in step?"
"In step?" He laughed. "But Lily, we are in step." He smirked slightly. "Did you say you had dance classes?"
She didn't reply. Although she wanted nothing more than to just leave him standing on the dance floor, she couldn't do that. 'Why do I have to be so nice?' she thought dimly, as Luke continued to dance merrily so completely against the rhythm of the music that other couples were shooting them degrading looks. Her embarrassment was complete.
Two geological ages later, the song ended. Lily was only to happy to return to her place at the table.
On the way there, however, Luke spotted two girls sitting by themselves on the other end of the long table. The only two other girls who seemed to be alone, although they at least had each other – from what it seemed like, Lily was now completely by myself, since Luke smiled at her apologetically and said with a shrug, "Um, Lily, you sure don't mind if I go over there a bit? You know, you can dance with someone else meanwhile …"
She took a few deep breaths to get her dangerously rising temper calm again (she didn't want to be thrown out of the Great Hall for making a scene to top it all off, although it would fit to the rest of the evening), and said with a terribly forced smile, "Of course I don't mind. I love sitting by myself on a Christmas dance."
Luke grinned sheepishly and then turned around and left. As she sat down, she felt that she had never before been so humiliated. After having gone to the ball with a guy friend who was by no means attractive, or a good dancer, she was now completely left alone. That was just about the worst that could happen at a Christmas dance.
Or maybe not.
"Potter", she acknowledged icily. He simply ignored her tone and sat done in the chair beside her, turning it slightly so he was facing her.
"So how are things?" he inquired casually.
She almost let it slip that she was feeling miserable, but caught herself just in time, remembering her ground rule: You must not show a weakness in front of Potter.
"Oh well, fine", she said, realizing it sounded somewhat unconvincing.
Potter regarded her with those hazel eyes of his. Well, his eyes did look acceptable. Oh damn it, who was she kidding? They were beautiful eyes. Sadly enough they did not fit to the person they belonged to.
To her surprise, Potter did not make a remark about her missing date, although she was sure he was silently wondering why she was alone. He ran a hand through his messy, slightly long, raven black hair and smiled at her. A smile, not a smirk. Her traitorous lips curved into a smile in a reflex, as soon as she realized she quickly readopted her scowl.
Potter would probably interpret a simple, returned smile as an invitation to kiss her.
But he made no move, still regarding her. She found herself wishing she knew what he was thinking, and, scowling, put that thought off as ridiculous.
Feeling the silence becoming to much for her to bear, she said, "Where's your date?" and wishing she hadn't in the next moment. Now he was probably going to ask her where her date was …as if the evening hadn't been embarrassing enough already.
"I don't have one", he said simply.
"What?" she cried, then blushing furiously, realizing how rude that sounded the second she said it.
He gave her his unique grin, the one where a single dimple appeared in his left cheek, not that she was looking.
"I don't have one", he repeated. "I figured I'd go alone, you know. Peter and Remus are without dates too. Remus has been dancing loads though."
She opened and closed her mouth, the "why" lying on the tip of her tongue, yet she kept herself from asking. His eyes bore into hers and she had a feeling he was waiting for her to ask him.
Silence erupted between them, until he changed the topic.
"How did you do in the Transfiguration thing last week?" he asked abruptly and her eyes widened in surprise. Did he really just ask her something that he knew might interest her, but certainly not him?
"I really did ask that, you know", he said, interpreting her surprised silence correctly, the hints of a smirk now tugging at his lips.
"Err .. uh, well I think I did well enough", she said, slowly regaining her composure. "It went fine, I think."
He grinned at her, showing dimples in both cheeks. "Awww, Lils, no need to be so modest. I know you received an O."
She felt a blush creeping up her cheeks which made her angry. Yet she couldn't help being pleased – complimenting her about her marks always made her feel good. "Yeah, well, I did."
"Hm." He was looking at her again and then said, "I know you don't want me commenting on your appearance, but you look beautiful. This dress really suits you."
She could feel her face warming with pleasure. Beautiful, he had said. Not hot – beautiful.
She could not fight the smile that slowly curved her lips.
But then he said, "Where did you buy the dress?" and all that happiness vanished in an instant.
She pressed her lips together. "I didn't buy it", she said, somehow feeling forced to tell the truth. "I – I couldn't afford it. My friends loaned me the money."
"Oh", he said, apparently not at all bothered. "Well, like I said, it looks great on you."
"Yeah…" she said, but she was still wearing a frown.
His hand, which had absentmindedly been playing with an empty glass on the table, went still as he saw this. Then a look of understanding crossed his features.
"Ah", he said slowly, "this does not bother you, does it?"
"What?" she snapped. "That I'm not even able to afford a second-hand dress for the Christmas ball? That I have to take charity from my friends?" The second she said it, she clamped her hands over her mouth. Oh no – now Potter knew her family was poor.
His eyebrow raised slightly and he clamped his hands together. "So your family doesn't make as much money as others", he said, shrugging. "Big deal."
"Yeah, you can say that", she huffed. "You've got money."
He smiled. "So? See, I never knew anything about your parents financial standing, and to tell you the truth, it is just about the thing I care about the least. In all the years that I have known you, and in those, I have thought about you a lot, the mere hint of a thought like 'I wonder how much money her parents make' never crossed my mind. Why would someone care? I think you are conjuring a problem out of nothing. No one sees you as Lily Evans who doesn't have huge amounts of gold, people see you as Lily Evans, fiery red-head, top students, beautiful, doesn't like James Potter. You see what I mean? That's what interest people. Not your money."
"What, that I don't like you is such an important feature of my character?" she had a feeling his eyes darkened the tiniest bit as she said that, but he was still smiling. Both were silent for a moment, as Lily let his words sink in, and to her utmost surprise, she felt herself calming. And for the first time in weeks, she felt that money really didn't bother her right now.
She raised her head to look at Potter with the intention of telling him this, and as his hazel eyes met her green ones, she saw that he too had opened his mouth as if to say something to her, and in his eyes she recognized a look of worry, nervousness and a glimmer of hope.
Before either of them could say something, someone flung their arms around Lily from behind.
"How are things, Lily?" A beaming Anna asked, throwing herself into the seat on her other side, pouring herself a glass of pumpkin juice and drowning it in one go.
"Oh my, I had almost forgot how exhausting dancing could be!" she said cheerily. "But, oh, you wouldn't believe what a great dancer Josh is, it is so fantastic ..." she broke off, looking around puzzled. "Where's Luke?"
Lily felt her face burning. She could feel Potter's presence beside her, heard the faint sound of his breathing and wished that she was miles away. "Err …Luke's, um, he's -"
"I'll leave you two alone now", Potter interrupted her stuttering. He stood up. "Lils -" before she had time to react, he swooped down and kissed her on the cheek. "I'll see you."
He left, soon disappearing in a crowd of students. She watched his retreating back, one hand on her cheek where he had kissed her.
She knew that he had left because he had known she was uncomfortable with Anna's question.
Suddenly the fact that he seemed to have been reading her like an open book both scared and fascinated her. She kept her eyes on the spot where he had disappeared in the crowd for long after he was gone.
Anna wolf-whistled, and began to giggle.
"What?" Lily said irritably as she turned to her friend.
"Where has all the hate for Potter gone to?" Anna asked, grinning.
"W-what do you mean?"
Anna put her hand to her cheek and stared dreamily off into space in an imitation of Lily. "That's what I mean", she said, chuckling. "You seemed pretty dazed there."
She gasped. "Dazed! Because of Potter! Never!"
Anna smiled. "He has been pretty, err, good lately, you know", she said randomly. "I think the last time he hexed someone who hadn't attacked him first was months ago. Last year, even."
"Well, so?" I said, since I couldn't deny that was true. "He's still big-headed, arrogant-"
"And", Anna continued, ignoring me, "he hasn't been behaving like he rules the world recently. Don't you think he might have matured? You know, he's really been cute lately …"
"Cute?" Lily flared up. "Cute?"
"I mean, he's been acting cute. Although, if you want to have my opinion on his looks, then I must say, cute isn't such a bad word to use when describing them either …"
"No he's not", she said, trying to sound firm.
"You just keep telling yourself that", Anna grinned. "Anyway, I got to get back to my date."
Lily flinched inwardly at the word "date".
Fifteen minutes later, which she spent sitting at her table pondering over the question of whether she should just leave and getting angry at herself for staying although she really didn't know why, Potter came back.
"Hey Lils", he said, smiling. She smiled back – at this grim moment she was happy for any company, even his.
He stood before her, looking down at her. She shifted uncomfortably; somehow she had a feeling something was about to happen.
She raised her head to look at him. Green eyes met hazel ones and held.
What happened at that moment she couldn't describe, not even years later. The thing that took place between them was unexplainable, she herself did not truly understand it, nor why or how it happened.
But in that moment, at the Christmas ball in her seventh year, looking right into his eyes, for the first time of her acquaintance with James Potter, she let her guards down.
Without thinking about it, perhaps not even consciously doing it but just letting it be done, she let the wall of denial she had built up break down.
Everything that had always been there in her heart but had furiously been denied by her conscious self, flooded her soul, brain, her whole body.
Beginning at the fact that he was the most handsome boy she had ever met to understanding that the warmth she felt in his presence was more than just a normal liking.
At that moment, she did not think rationally.
She did not let her brain start bringing up reasons why feeling something for him was ridiculous.
She stopped trying to make herself hate him like she had always done. She did not force herself to think about his bad doings.
She didn't calculate his character of contemplate what she should do next.
She didn't think at all.
She simply felt.
And the feeling took her over, flooding her. She couldn't name it, and she didn't try to. She didn't want to know what is was called and what she might have to do against it.
In her heart, she knew, and that was enough for her.
Very slowly, after an eternity, both of them resurfaced to the real world. For Lily, it was as if she had been temporarily deaf, or someone turned the volume up very quickly. Suddenly, her outer senses took in sound and sights again, and she realized that she had been so completely lost in his eyes that she had not left this world for a while.
James looked just like she felt – completely disoriented, but free. Wonderfully free.
Opening her heart had freed her of the heavy weight that the fake walls of hateful resistance had caused. She had never known that simply accepting a feeling for what it was could mean this sort of freedom.
She felt relaxed and content, not bothering to think about the situation. She was feeling and James was with her, that was all that counted.
"Lils?" he said hoarsely from her side.
"Lily." James took her hand in his, smiling lovingly, his hazel gaze tender.
"Do you want to dance?"
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