Author's Notes: Written for the Red Shirts Unite! Challenge on writerverse on LiveJournal – a challenge dedicated to barely-there characters who don't get enough love.

Padma appears, what, twice? I think she counts.



Padma should have known that it was a mistake to go to the Yule Ball with Ron Weasley.

Oh, it had seemed like a fantastic idea at the time. When Parvati had cornered her and asked her whether she would go with him – after all, Padma thought, it wasn't as though she was going to be asked by anyone else – she had, in all honesty, been a bit dubious of accepting a date with someone who had never talked to, but she had been excited. Wildly excited. A date to the Yule Ball. For the ever-ignored Padma Patil.

It had been quite the let down.

Ron had ignored her from the start, hadn't danced with her even once, and had gone off with Harry to do who-knew-what, and Padma was left alone. She had forced herself to dance with a handful of boys from Beuxbatons – more to prove to herself that she wasn't being ignored by her date because she was repulsively ugly than because she actually wanted to – but they had been dull and she drifted off the dance floor before too long.

It wasn't fair.

This always – always! – happened to Padma. She was always the one who was ignored and left behind, and why? Parvati could have any boy she wanted at any time she wanted (and often did), but her identical twin, who should have been able to gather just as many boys…

It was all Padma could do to stop herself from crying. If it weren't for the fact that she had spent nearly two hours applying her thick, dark eyeliner and would not smudge it, she wouldn't have bothered. She would have dissolved into tears and dragged herself back to the Ravenclaw common room, where she belonged – with the other girls who hadn't gotten dates, like Looney Lovegood…

Padma slumped down on a bench at the side of the Great Hall, hoping that it would be far enough away from any dancing couples that she would not be noticed. That was her way, after all – not being noticed. That was what happened to Ravenclaws with Gryffindor twins.

She was sitting quietly, picking the turquoise varnish off her nails, when she heard a soft cough above her. She looked up, lowering her hand and closing it into a fist to hide her chipped nails, and saw a boy standing beside her.

"Can I help you?" she asked rather shortly.

He smiled politely. "I saw you were alone…"

Oh, rub it in, why don't you?

"And?" she snapped.

"I thought…" He seemed rather surprised by her tone. "Well, I thought you might want to dance. I'm Justin, by the way," he added. "Justin Finch-Fletchley."

Padma arched one eyebrow. "I'm here with someone."

"Oh… are you?" He looked disappointed. "I… I didn't realize. Er…"

"But," Padma said, interrupting his floundering, "It's all right. The boy I'm with is a prick anyway." She stood up and grabbed Justin's hand before he had a chance to say no. "Let's dance."