HP, "About the Dance," 2/3. Ginny/Cho

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AN: Okay. Looks like this is going to be three parts, not two. Still fluffy. ::giggle:: Feedback more than welcome.

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Ginny turned slowly in front of the mirror. She had a new outfit for once - well, second-hand, but her mother had fixed it up beautifully. Ginny was treacherously glad she had outgrown last season's. And there were certain advantages to being the only girl in the family. Poor Ron. And she wore her mother's favourite brooch, a gold and emerald heirloom sent in response to a frantic owl.

She wanted so much to look pretty for sophisticated, beautiful Cho, and this, simple though it was, would help. Her hair gleamed against the dusty mint velvet, and the skirt fell flatteringly against her hips, making her look taller. And it was just a little too tight against her bust.

Ginny flushed, wondering why she cared if her bust was displayed to advantage. She was going to the dance with a girl, after all. She turned again, caught her own side view in the mirror, and froze.

Oh, no, who did she think she was kidding? A tight bodice was not an asset at all. She pouted at her reflection, trying to hold back tears that would spoil her careful makeup. There was no avoiding the fact that the dress showed bulges in places that were less than alluring.

Until very recently, Ginny had been as skinny and flat-chested as Ron. But she had hit her menses very late, and with the onset of bleeding, she had blossomed suddenly into curves. And kept right on blossoming. Fred and George had joked about flying elephants every time she used her broomstick, while Percy had kindly assured her it was only puppy fat and would soon melt away. Ginny had tried to believe him, but looking at her own mother, she had the suspicion that it was something a little more permanent.

"Fat cow," she muttered at her reflection, and stuck her tongue out. It made her feel a little better. But oh, whatever was she doing dating someone like Cho? She'd feel like a troll next to a fairy princess. A very short troll.

"Ginny." Hermione frowned at her. The older girl was getting ready in Ginny's dormitory, even more uncomfortable with Lavender and Parvarti than Ginny was with her own classmates. Ginny knew that, if she could, Hermione would sleep in the boys' dormitories with Ron and Harry, and never go near the other Gryffindor girls. Except Ginny. Of course Hermione liked Ginny. She pulled herself out of her paranoid haze.

"I won't let you call yourself that. For a start, it's not true. And to finish with, who would care even if it was true?" She walked forward and slipped an arm around the younger girl's waist. "You're you, Ginny, and that's what people love about you, not some stupid Weight Watchers ideal."

Ginny stared dully at their reflections together. Hermione had used a charm to smooth out her hair again, and delicate makeup on her ivory skin. She looked serious, intelligent, and in the full flush of one of her rare moments of beauty. At that moment, Ginny would have killed to look like her. and Hermione didn't even care much about her own appearance! Didn't she ever feel self-conscious about her looks?

Ginny bit back her angry words, afraid of crying. "What's Weight Watchers?" she asked, instead.

"Never mind." Hermione squeezed her waist. "Come on, let's finish getting ready. I wouldn't want to keep your dear brother waiting." They exchanged rueful grins. "And you really do look wonderful, Ginny."

"Yeah, sure," Ginny sighed. But she did feel a little better. She gave Hermione a grateful hug.

"Cheer up, honey. Your little friend is right - you look great," her mirror reassured her.

Even after that, though, it took her a few moments to follow Hermione and Ron down the stairs. She could hear their happy voices, laughing and quarrelling as usual, ahead of her. Harry had already left, alone. Ginny felt a pang of guilty remorse - it seemed all wrong that the Boy Who Lived didn't have a date. But she sternly reminded herself of her resolution not to be second-best anymore, and, besides, lots of people went alone. She didn't even think Harry had bothered to ask anyone else after Cho had turned him down.

And Cho wants to go with me, not him. She felt a stab of excitement and pride at the thought, and picked up her feet. Of course Percy was right - it would have been easy enough for Cho to get out of going with her if she hadn't wanted to.

Cho was waiting at the feet of the stairs, talking to Justin, and Ginny caught her breath. Until that point, she had regarded Cho mostly as someone older and more popular than her; someone both confusing and kind, someone Harry wanted and had asked Ginny instead for reasons she still hadn't fully worked out. Cho's beauty had figured in all this, but only as something which made the current state of affairs still more confusing and intimidating. Something which made the divide between them seem even more impassable.

Suddenly, Ginny saw Cho's beauty in a very different sense.

The older girl's robes were scarlet, as she had said, but laced around with fabulous green and golden dragons, elaborate patterns in shining material. She was lovely enough not to be overwhelmed by her amazing clothes. Somehow, in the riot of colour, she seemed more delicate than ever. It was hard to remember she was a talented athlete - she looked as fragile and pretty as a porcelain doll.

Ginny smiled timidly, suddenly too overcome to speak, suffering a sudden recursion to the days she'd hopelessly adored Harry from a distance. She waved at Justin, who flipped his fingers back and took a seat. Ginny couldn't help being struck by how well the two of them looked together. Cho was always so assured and graceful, and the Hufflepuff boy was undeniably handsome, with the confidence born of his Muggle family's privileged background and his own friendly nature. Ginny couldn't help thinking that the couples were arranged the wrong way - the golden people belonged together, while the plump awkward Gryffindors would be better off sticking to each other.

Cho broke into her dismal thoughts, flashing her sweet, serene smile. "Hi Ginny. Look., I'm trying to be a good date," she added confidingly. "I brought a corsage and everything." She gestured vaguely at Ginny with a poinsettia, the same vibrant red as her robes, and suddenly giggled. "I hope it's the right thing to do. I've never taken a girl to a dance before."

The sign that Cho actually suffered human uncertainty on occasion made Ginny feel better, and she gave a real smile as the Ravenclaw girl pinned the flower to her dress. "Me neither." She gathered her courage in both hands. "Um, why?"

Cho shrugged. "I don't really know. This is the first time the person I wanted to go with was a girl." She seemed unconcerned, and Ginny remembered Percy's advice and relaxed. Cho stepped back and admired the way the flower flamed against the green velvet. "You look really pretty, Ginny."

"You look beautiful too," Ginny said shyly, and then flushed. Cho hadn't said beautiful, she had only said pretty. But the other girl's face lit up with pleasure.

"Shall we go?'

Ginny hesitated, catching Justin's eye. She'd actually meant to talk to Cho about this, but approaching her in front of her dazzling friends had been just too intimidating. "We have to wait for Neville. I though. I thought maybe the four of us could go together."

Cho didn't reply, and Ginny was sure that the other girl understood why she had wanted to go with the boys, and was a little disappointed in her. But at that moment Neville, late as usual, created a diversion by pounding down the stairs, tripping on the edge of his robes and landing square on Justin, who had risen to greet him.

The boys went down in a tangle of arms and legs, and Cho burst into laughter, the awkward moment dispelled. "Are you two idiots okay?"

"We're fine," Justin grinned, helping his blushing, apologising partner to his feet. "I don't object to Neville throwing himself into my arms." He reached down to straighten Neville's robes, his eyes soft with indulgent tenderness. Ginny had to look away, gripped by sudden embarrassment and envy. What would it be like to be looked at like that, for no reason other than making a fool of herself?

She met Cho's understanding gaze. "Let's go, shall we?" she said softly.

Ginny had to take a deep breath outside the doors to the Great Hall. She realised that any guilty half-hopes she had had that people would confuse whose dates were whose were hopeless. Neville was hanging adoringly off Justin's arm, chattering nineteen to the dozen, and Cho was clasping her own hand possessively.

"Here we go," Justin said, his eyes bright with amusement. "Ladies first."

They stepped forward in to the Great Hall, and Ginny had a moment of crippling self-consciousness - but the sky never fell on her. There were several curious glances sent the way of the two couples, but no one seemed to question that they were together. Maybe it was Cho and Justin's complete unselfconsciousness, but some people actually smiled at them before turning back to what they were doing.

Ginny suddenly felt like flying. She impulsively pulled Cho by the hand over to one of the banks of flowers that took the gloom away from the storm- reflecting sky, almost running in her sudden exhilaration. She reached up and, uncaring of stares, pulled a handful of sweet-smelling blossoms from the display.

"Ginny, what are you doing?" Cho gasped, laughing.

"Fixing your corsage," Ginny explained, taking off her own brooch and attaching the flowers to Cho's breast.

As the joyous impulse faded, she felt a moment of trepidation. Cho's outfit was so beautiful, and there was no question that the flowers Ginny had randomly selected, in various shades of pink, lavender and cream, clashed violently. And no one else wore such a cluster of blooms.

She was about to apologise and remove them again, when she heard Cho say softly, "Thank you. You're so sweet." And the next thing she knew, soft lips brushed against hers.

It was only brief second of contact, more sisterly affection than passion, but Ginny was suddenly afraid her legs would give out under her. She was dimly aware that more people were looking, now, but she suddenly didn't care at all. She flung her arms around Cho and hugged her tight, uncaring of the damage she was doing to both their corsages.

Cho embraced her back, then pushed her gently away, smiling. Ginny noticed that while her own poinsettia was looking rather the worse for wear, the blossoms on Cho's breast were still fresh and uncrushed - enchanted, she guessed, to last the night out as Hall decorations.

"Come on, Ginny. Let's dance."

TBC