For the 2012 Hogwarts Games, Women's Football, Round 2. Assigned pairing – Neville/Ginny.

Also for the Pairing Diversity Boot camp – Prompt 24 - jester.

Submitted to the 5, 10, 20, 50, 70, or 100 fandoms challenge as my entry for Harry Potter.

A million thanks to MissingMommy – for not only betaing, but for attempting to kick-start my muse and for listening to me rant about this pairing and for being generally awesome.

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It isn't because of the way her eyes sparkle when she laughs – though, he sees that.

It isn't the way her flame-red hair shines in the sunlight – but he sees that, too.

It isn't because she's fiery, vivacious, full of life, laughter, love – though he knows she is.

It isn't even because her eyes dance when she's furious, or because she defends the small, the weak, every time, or because she's pretty and funny and kind. It isn't any of these things.

For that, he feels truly guilty.

He wishes it were because of all of these things, one of these things, any of these things.

Anything but the real reason. Anything but the truth.

Because he hates himself for the truth.

If it were simply because she's pretty, he'd still hate himself, but at least it would be better. It would be justifiable. He'd be shallow for it, but at least he wouldn't… what? How does he define what's wrong with his real motivation?

It's weak. He's weak. He's pathetic, not worthy of the title of Gryffindor.

And he hates himself for that.

He's been working his whole life to prove to them (to everyone) that the Sorting Hat was right; he was brave, strong, noble. He spent his whole childhood knowing (though no one said as much) that he was never good enough. He wanted to believe that the Sorting Hat saw something in him, something capable of so much more.

That, apparently, isn't true. Not with the way he's acting now.

It isn't fair to her. She deserves someone better, someone braver. She deserves the best. At the very least, she deserves someone who asks her for her.

He wishes that he could at least give her that much.

Because the truth is, he asks Ginny Weasley to the Yule Ball simply because he knows that she won't say no.

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He asks Hannah Abbot first. She's a cute little Hufflepuff with a too-big smile that he loves, and she sees him – sees more than just the class buffoon, the class jester, but Neville. She looks truly apologetic when she tells him that she and Susan have already agreed to go together as friends. He smiles (a little awkwardly, he knows) and wishes her a good time.

He asks Hermione second, because she's kind to him when not a lot of people are. He doesn't really expect her to say yes, and so he's not terribly disappointed when she says she already has a date – Ron, he assumes (boy, is he wrong).

That's pretty much the end of the list of girls-that-Neville-Longbottom-has-ever-had-a-conversation-with. At least, a conversation that didn't involve Neville tripping, stammering, stumbling, or otherwise embarrassing himself.

The problem is that Neville loves to dance. It's a strange thing for a fourteen-year-old boy to love, he knows, but that's never really stopped him. Music is… it's a part of him. It's always been a part of him. Music, any music at all, settles immediately into his soul, and rhythm is the one thing he can manage without his usual clumsiness (well, by himself, anyway. Give him a partner and some observers, and he's bound to step on at least a few toes).

He really loves to dance with someone else. Feeling the rhythm through someone else is something Neville finds absolutely exhilarating.

So he can't not go. He can't not dance, not when the opportunity is being so kindly presented. He needs a partner.

And he's really getting sick of responses that start with, "Oh, Neville, I'm sorry, but..."

Ginny is a third year. If he asks her, her options are go with him or don't go at all – . And she is pretty and fiery and kind to the underdog. She's his friend's little sister and he doesn't really fancy her, but he thinks she's nice and he knows she won't say no – she wants to attend too badly.

So he asks. He asks because he's weak, and he loves to dance.

She says yes.