A Different Yule Ball
An alternate universe Harry Potter fanfiction
By Andrew Aelfwine

Revised 25 August 2004

Characters and setting belong to J.K. Rowling. They're merely borrowed for this non-profit fanfiction.

Warnings: kissing, heterosexuality, femmeslash, polyamoury, yours truly

Rated PG-13 by the Mental Picture Association of Arcturus VII

Cho's earring flashed as she shook her head, a diamond-bright point of light against black hair and tanned skin. Her laughter cut through the music and the noise of the Great Hall, straight to Harry's heart.

Someone seized his hand, and he realised he'd been spoken to. "Sorry?"

"May I have this dance?" Lavender said.

"Err..." She hauled him out onto the floor, locking her arm round his back.

A Weird Sister set down her lute, pulled a fiddle from out of her hat and struck up a waltz, slow and mournful. Cho smiled at Cedric as he handed her a flute of some fizzy concoction. Lavender leaned close to his ear and whispered "Sweet Verdandi, Harry Potter, are you cruel or just thick?"

"What?"

"Parvati's crying her eyes out in the toilet, you stupid prat."

"I thought--"

Lavender's glare silenced him. "She's fancied you since we were first years."

"I'm sorry." Fancied him since first year? He remembered: a plumpish girl, wearing more jewelry than seemed right for a flying lesson, her accent posh with a hint of foreign melody beneath it, saying "It wasn't his fault, Professor, Malfoy started it..." in the face of an angry McGonagall. "Really, I-"

"I certainly hope so." She steered him into a corner, shielded from the rest of the hall by plants and drapes. "I'll fetch her. Stay here and think how you're going to apologise."

Poor Parvati. He'd only thought about the dance, and needing a partner, and how Cho was with Cedric and Hermione with Krum and Ginny with Neville. He'd assumed she'd go off with someone else as soon as she had the chance, a sixth year or a boy from Beauxbatons.

He heard footsteps. Lavender's jaw was tight, her eyes hard. Parvati walked beside her, half a step back, and as she brushed past the potted firs he could hear an all too familiar catch in her breath, the sound a person made when they were trying very hard not to sniffle.

Lavender reached back and urged Parvati forward with a soft pat on the shoulder. Her other hand was concealed by the long cuff of her robe. For one second her eyes met Harry's, and she mouthed something: he thought it might be "Don't foul up." Then Parvati was in the fore, and he lost track of everything else as he stepped toward her.

His foot slipped, and he fell to one knee before catching himself. "I... I'm sorry. I didn't know how you felt." It sounded stupid even as he said it, but Parvati blinked, smiled, and reached down her hand.

"Thank you, Harry." There was an awkward moment before he understood he was meant to take her hand and rise to his feet. And another when he found himself looking straight into her eyes. They were slightly reddened, shining still with unshed tears. The elaborate makeup of the evening's start was gone. And for a few mad seconds he wanted nothing more than to put his arms about her and kiss her. No, he thought, she'd be furious. And Lavender would curse him into next week.

Footsteps again; Lavender was leaving. Should he invite Parvati for another dance?

No. She'd think he only wanted to look for Cho again. Better to stay here and talk.

About what? He didn't know anything about dress robes or Divination, and he was always the last to hear a piece of gossip.

"So," she said, "do you think Puddlemere's for the All-England?"

"Err... I think they've a good chance. Although Wimbourne's a tough nut to crack."

"Well, my uncle Ashwin was Puddlemere's Keeper for ten years, so I may be a bit prejudiced, but-- Harry, your eyes aren't usually that big, are they?"

"Ah, sorry. I didn't..."

"Think I knew anything about quidditch?"

"No offense."

"None taken. After all, I hardly know anything about you, beyond the obvious." Her skin was the colour of wildflower honey, and she wore a gold ring through one nostril. The thought of such a thing had always made his nose hurt, but on Parvati it was very pretty. Why hadn't he noticed while they were dancing?

She must have thought he looked puzzled. "You know. Seeker, Champion, Boy-Who-Lived. The stuff of epics."

"Oh."

She giggled. "Not to mention quite dishy."

He felt his face and ears grow hot. "Ah," he said, floundering for words, "would you like to step outside?"

"I'd love to." Some vague memory spurred him to offer her his arm. She laid her hand on his elbow, as if afraid he might break or vanish if she took hold. They made their way through the Entrance Hall, past a knot of boys talking sport in half a dozen languages, waving their hands and wands as they made illusions to fill the gaps in their words.

A breeze, just slightly cooler than air inside, wafted across them as they stood on the massive steps, bringing a scent of roses. Torches burned low so as not to outshine the stars, and a few snowflakes fell, disappearing before they quite reached the ground.

Parvati quivered slightly. "Are you cold?" he said.

"No." She stood a little closer to him, slid her hand to the inside of his arm. "Shall we take a walk in the rose garden?"

He let her lead the way, down the winding paths between bushes and flowerbeds. Gravel crunched under their feet. Moonlight and torches coloured the flowers Professor Sprout and her senior students had forced, the branches and blooms casting filigreed shadows. Magically amplified, the music from the Great Hall faded into the background unless one thought to listen to it.

A twig snapped, breaking Harry's mood. His hand dropped to his wand and he prepared to thrust himself between Parvati and whatever lurked.

"Ah, mon petit chou, je..." Fleur's voice trailed off in a burst of French he couldn't follow. Someone else was giggling as if being tickled.

"There's a bench in the next clearing," Parvati whispered. "Would you like to sit down? I mean, if it's empty?"

It was. They sat turned toward each other, their knees not quite touching.

"So," Harry said at last, "what's it like where you're from?"

"London? Or India?"

"Which do you think of as home?"

She smiled, and he had the feeling he'd passed a test. "Both and neither. It's silly, I suppose."

"I don't think so."

"You were raised by Muggles, weren't you? What was that like?"

"Dull, really."

"Oh? I've always thought it sounded fascinating. Riding in motorcars and aeroplanes, wearing such wonderfully odd clothes... And is it true Muggle post is carried by people?"

"Yes."

"Sorry, I'm babbling. I don't mean to sound so thick."

"Not at all. I nearly jumped out of my shoes the first time a picture winked at me."

The moon was well above the hills and the Weird Sisters were singing about Thomas Rhymer and the Queen of Faerie when someone tapped him on the shoulder. "Hey, lovebirds. Whispered any sweet nothings yet?"

"Lavender!"

"That's my name." She perched between them. "Hope I'm not interrupting anything."

Parvati made a face. "Letting Séamus have a chat with the lads, are we?"

"Oh, he's met some girl named Hennessy from Beauxbatons. They're comparing banshee stories, I think." She grinned, but something glistened on her cheek. A burst of wild anger rose up in him for a moment--it wasn't fair such a thing should happen to Lavender after she'd been so kind.

"Oh, Lavender, I..." Parvati hugged her. They were like a scene in a painting: Lavender sobbing on Parvati's shoulder, her golden ringlets veiling her face and trailing across the dark fabric of her friend's robes.

For a moment, Harry sat frozen. Then, feeling clumsy as a troll, he reached out to pat her on the shoulder. As if by accident, Parvati's hand covered his and held it in place.

"Sorry to be such a bother," Lavender said at last. Parvati held a finger to her lips. Harry fumbled for a moment before remembering his handkerchief was in his breast pocket.

"Thanks." Parvati wiped Lavender's eyes. With the care of Madame Pince handling a delicate manuscript, she folded the handkerchief and slipped it back into Harry's pocket. His gaze flicked down to her hand, up again to her face. She met his eyes for a second before looking away, her lips quirked into a soft smile.

There was a noise overhead like oak leaves in the wind, and Harry looked up to see a cluster of grayish-white stems and berries, its awkwardly grafted-on wings beating out of time with each other. "Shiva's Sheep," Parvati said, "it's Flying Mistletoe."

"What?"

"One of the Hufflepuff seventh-years invented it. It finds couples and hangs over their heads until they kiss. If they part, it splits in two and follows them." She slipped her wand from her sleeve. The plant pelted them with berries.

Harry drew his own wand. "Wingardium Lev-- " A berry caught him in the nose, hard enough to sting.

Lavender yelped. "Put those away before one of us loses an eye."

Raising a hand to shield his face, Harry risked a glance. The mistletoe waggled its absurd wings at him.

"I hope it doesn't follow us round all week," Parvati muttered, brushing at the projectiles clinging to her robes and hair.

"Oh, pucker up and be done with it."

Harry's palms began to sweat, and Parvati's mouth worked for a moment before she got the words out. "Is... is anyone watching?"

"No."

There was an awkward moment of bumping noses before they brushed lips. "Sorry. Did my ring scratch you?"

"No. 'S fine."

"Go on. That wasn't a kiss."

Her mouth tasted like sweet spices: cinnamon and cloves and marvelous things he couldn't name. "Was that all right?"

"Lovely."

"It's still there. P'raps you have to use your tongues?" Good heavens, he hadn't the least idea how that was supposed to work.

"Maybe it's locked on you, Lavender."

"Surely... You're serious? Do you... ah, mind?"

"Not if it gets rid of that thing."

He'd never thought of kissing Lavender. Then again, he'd barely thought of kissing Parvati till tonight. "Parvati? Are you sure?"

She nodded, holding tight to his hand.

Lavender laid her hand on the nape of his neck and pressed him to her. She tasted of mint and oranges. Afterward, the three of them looked to the sky. "Pest. Is it broken?" she muttered.

Maybe... He didn't know a way to say it without sounding like a pervert.

"Lavender? Maybe it's us?"

She blinked. "'Vati?"

"Never mind, it's a stupid idea."

"We've tried everything else. Quickly, before someone wanders in on us. One, two, thr-- mmph." Harry tried to look away. They were only kissing to satisfy the mistletoe, and it would be hard enough without a boy watching. Pale blonde hair met deep black like clouds in the night.

"See, that wasn't so bad."

"No," Parvati whispered, "but it's still there."

"Come here." And before Harry could think what she was talking about, Lavender had pulled them all together. His glasses bumped Parvati's cheekbone; he tried to take them off, but Lavender was faster. Parvati caught his reaching hand and twined her fingers with his, resting them at the base of Lavender's neck, where her robes left skin exposed. The fluttering in his stomach warred with the tension in his chest and the embarrassing swell in his groin. Brown and blue and green eyes met, too close to focus, too close to serve as anything but conduits between three souls. Clumsy as newborn foals, they rubbed cheeks and noses.

Parvati caught Harry's lip between her teeth. She purred in the back of her throat as they suckled each other's lips, as Lavender nibbled down the line of her jaw and up her chin to join her mouth with theirs. Tongues met and parted and met again.

At last, they sat quietly, faces close enough to share each others' breath. "So, that's the way it works," they murmured.

Three sets of eyes widened. "How did we do that?" Parvati said.

"Well, we put our mouths together and-- 'Vati! Please... you kn...know I'm-- giggle-- ticklish there, love."

"Yes, I do."

"Save me, Harry!"

"Do be a gentleman, Harry, and help me punish our-- eeee, Lavender, you..."

The only equitable solution was to tickle them both. Which led to them tickling him.

"Well," Lavender said, "that was fun, but..."

"We'd rather snog. You as well, Harry?"

The clock struck midnight.

Parvati sighed. "Tomorrow."

"Yes."

Epilogue

"...And then Fleur asked her to dance, and I didn't see her again. So, where were you all night, Harry?"

"At the ball."

"Come to think of it, I didn't see Parvati, either. Have a good snog?"

"We talked." Harry smoothed his dress robes on their hanger. A piece of parchment fell from one sleeve. He snatched it and hid it in his pyjama shirt.

"Go on. About quidditch, I suppose."

"Yes, actually."

Ron chuckled. "I'm sure."

Séamus cracked open his bed curtains. "For God's sake, some of us are trying to sleep."

"We'll have the truth of you yet, Harry. G'night."

"Night, Ron." Harry blew out the candle and shut his curtains. Taking the wand from under his pillow, he whispered "Lumos."

For a moment, the parchment was blank, simply a scrap torn from a scroll. As it grew warm in his hand, letters appeared, swirling about in geometric patterns before settling into form:

The Patil-Brown School of Ballroom Dance
Will begin offering lessons at 1.30 PM, 26 December.
Classes will meet in the Library
before proceeding to a more suitable location.
This offer applies only to persons named Harry Potter.