Chapter 4 : Angelina, December 1994
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The last few days leading up to the winter holiday and the Yule Ball crawled by in an endless parade of essays, assignments, and deadlines.
The blank, nearly robotic looks on her classmates’ faces as they filed into their Charms term examination and their sunken-in sleep deprived eyes made her wish she had woken up early enough to have dabbed a bit of powder onto her face before racing down to breakfast. As it was, she had only got out of bed after some fervent shaking from Lora. Alicia, always nervous before examinations, had left their dorm already and the two girls had had to run down to the Great Hall to meet her. Angelina had promptly spilled her tea on herself and, after a quick Scourgify spell, decided she wasn’t meant to eat breakfast that morning. If her state of mind was any reflection of the rest of the sixth year, the winter holiday and its ball could not come soon enough.
The Charms term examination was the last obstacle separating them from a momentary freedom from academics. Three essay prompts, two feet of her neatest penmanship, and several creative explanations for the intricate workings of Bubble-Head Charms later, Angelina sat in her cramped wooden desk looking up at the clock in the front of the classroom. The sound of Alicia’s bouncing leg next to her told her that she was nearly finished with her essays as well. Behind her, she could hear George, or maybe Fred - without turning around, she couldn’t be certain - tapping their quill against their inkwell. Lora had finished her exam several minutes earlier and was most likely waiting in the hall for her friends. Angelina exhaled. With exactly seven minutes left in the exam block, she was finished. Glancing over her lines of slanted scrawl, she signed her name with a little more flourish than necessary and rolled up the scroll of parchment.
It was finally winter holiday. Slipping her bag up onto her shoulder, she dropped her exam onto Professor Flitwick’s desk and wished him a ‘Happy Christmas.’ As expected, Lora sat on a stone bench in the corridor outside of the classroom.
“So what’d you think? That third question tripped me up a bit.”
Angelina sat down onto the bench next to Lora. “I think that it’s over and that we’re now on holiday and we don’t have to worry about coursework until after Christmas.” She smiled at her friend who shook her head in disapproving amusement. “Alicia should be done soon. She was tapping her foot like a madwoman.”
“She told me she was going to wait for Eddie after the exam, so I’m guessing we’re not to wait for her.”
“I see.” Angelina rolled her eyes, drawing out the last syllable. “If her head wasn’t currently in the cloud-Eddie McDonald, she’d be appalled by herself. Traditions being quashed left and right by the male gender. The feminist in her would die. ” Angelina laughed. “If either of us left her after an exam for a boy, she’d whinge for days.
“We wouldn’t love her if she wasn’t so fickle,” Lora rose to her feet. “God, I can’t believe I still have to finish packing, would you hate me if I asked you to help?”
“Obviously,” Angelina followed her and the girls made their way from the corridor to the grand staircase. "I'm surprised that you weren't packed for winter holiday last week. Merlin, Lora, such a slacker, a true embarrassment to the prefects of old."
“Oh, shush. Six years with the two of you was bound to have some effect on me.”
“You love us.” Angelina paused outside of the portrait of the Fat Lady. “Fairy lights.”
The portrait door swung open, revealing the Gryffindor common room. The circular room was deserted and the fire had burnt out in the fireplace. It looked as though the space was as ready for the holiday as the students were. They crossed behind the plush scarlet chairs to the stairway to the girls’ dormitories. Erin and Marjorie, both of whom had opted out of Charms, brushed by them in the stairwell.
“So sad you won’t be joining us at the Ball, Lora.” Marjorie’s voice never failed to sound rehearsed. If Angelina did not share a dormitory and bathroom with the girl, she’d have sworn that she practiced it in the shower. “But you try to have fun at home. We’ll think of you while we’re all dancing in our gowns,” she said, batting her precisely made-up eyelashes.
“What a cow,” Angelina hissed as they entered the sixth year dormitory. “She has to know how awful she sounds, she’s not the brightest, but she’s not stupid either.”
Lora sighed and dropped her bag onto the floor next to her trunk. “Marjorie is about as palatable as Hagrid’s Blast-Ended Skrewts, but I don’t think she means to be as grating as she is.” Her bed was the closest to the door, and Angelina flung herself across it.
“You’re too reasonable. Takes all the fun out of gossiping about people.”
Angelina slipped her flats from her feet and tossed them across the dormitory. They landed in a pile of robes and jumpers at the foot of her four poster bed. Lora’s things were stacked neatly in and around her trunk. The lack of clutter around the girl’s bed was refreshing. Across the room, piles of clutter surrounded her own four poster. Neatness was an attractive-enough concept, but the effort needed to maintain organization was not. Maybe someday she’d talk Lora into helping her to organize her things.
“I can’t wait to hear about the ball.” Lora said, flattening out the pleats in her skirt and opening up her trunk. “I’m so excited to be able to see Michael, but you know. It’d be nice to be able to do both. You’ll have to tell me everything.” She continued methodically piling things into her trunk while Angelina watched. “Please tell me that you’re excited?”
“Of course I’m excited.” Angelina slid off the bed and tapped the wireless with her wand. A soft Christmas carol filled the room. “Granted, it’d be better if I was spending it with my two best friends,” she smiled, “but knowing I’ll be able to hear new Michael the Muggle tales and Alicia’s Eddie stories afterward makes this so much better.”
“And Fred’s got to be an entertaining date.” She shoved several books on top of the trunk and sighed, “I swear this trunk shrinks each term.”
“Yes, I’m sure it’s your trunk that’s shrinking, and not the fact that you have about a thousand new books this term.” Angelina leaned her weight onto the lid with Lora until the latch finally clicked shut. “And Fred is brilliant; we’ll have a grand time. We already agreed to poke fun at Lee and Libby the entire time.”
“Damn it.” She looked up at Lora, who swore only on the very rare occasion. “I forgot to leave out Alicia’s and your gifts.” The blonde eyed her trunk warily.
“I’m not getting into that trunk again, Lora.” Angelina said, shaking her head. “We can just do a late Christmas together, when you get back with your Michael stories.”
“What about Michael the Muggle?” The door opened as Alicia skipped into the dormitory and plopped onto Lora’s bed. Angelina fought the urge to roll her eyes. One of Alicia’s favourite past times was joshing Lora about her boyfriend’s way of life. “You will send him my love for Christmas, won’t you?” she wagged her eyebrows, suppressing a giggle.
“Only if you send dearest Eddie mine.” Lora did not suppress her giggle. “How was your walk? Ange and I were thinking you had gotten lost, or perished before you had finished your exam.” Her teasing voice was light and sing-song-y.
The brunette blushed and pulled her legs to herself.
Angelina could tell that Alicia was dying to tell the secret she was trying to keep. She tilted her head and looked at her friend, waiting for her to give into her inherent need to share every detail of her walk with Eddie.
“The walk was, er, nice,” Alicia began, resistance crumbling. “We walked. And we talked. And walked some more.” Her voice trailed off and her cheeks burned a deeper shade of crimson. She paused before practically squealing, “He kissed me.”
The proceeding excitement in the dormitory was nearly ear shattering. The three girls sat on Lora’s bed, probing Alicia for details. They anxiously asked about the when, the where and the how. Angelina had to smirk at Alicia as she ate up all the attention, feigning reluctance for a moment or two before answering each question in gregarious detail. The huge smile plastered across her face was infective, and the girls sat talking and laughing until the evening sun had fell below the level of the dormitory window.
“Good God.” Lora jumped from her bed, staring incredulously at her watch. “How in the world did it get to be this late already?” She grabbed her cloak from the peg by her bed and slipped it onto her shoulders. “I’ve got to catch the carriages down to Hogsmeade, or I’ll miss the train.” Charming her trunk and placing a kiss on both Angelina and Alicia’s cheeks, she hurried towards the doorway. “You two better have enough fun for me too at the ball.” She tried her best to look stern. “You know I’ll be expecting fully detailed stories when I return.” She scampered from the room shouting, “Have a happy Christmas!” over her shoulder.
Angelina and Alicia smiled at one another. Tomorrow evening, they would be at the ball.
The transformation in the appearance of the Great Hall between lunch time and eight o’clock, when couples began filing into the ball, was jaw-dropping. The long House tables had been removed and replaced by several small, round tables situated around the perimeter. The large Christmas trees looked at home lining the long walls of the Hall. A delicate silver frost covered all the surfaces, and a soft, enchanted snow fell from the ceiling.
Angelina sighed. She had never been one to be swept away by fairy tales, but the aura in the room was enchanting.
Fred linked his arm through her elbow and led her into the hall. “Dumbledore sure knows how to throw a party, eh Ang?” he said over the soft carols floating through the air. He plopped them down at a table near to the dance floor to wait for the commencement of the ball by the Triwizard champions. His gaze travelled up towards the greenery hanging above the table. “So do we think Flitwick strung up enough mistletoe?”
She glanced up, following Fred’s eyes. Long garlands of ivy were strung around the entire hall, and bunches of mistletoe hung above each of the tables and the large dance floor. “I’m sure after having you blokes for Charms, he knew you needed all the help you can get.”
“Oi, Fred.” George loped over to their table from across the hall. “Have you seen Lee and Libby? Geoffrey and I promised not to intrude on the date so of course we must find the happy couple and, er, not intrude.” He glanced towards her, and she felt his eyes make contact with hers for a moment.
Angelina smiled. “Knowing Libby, Lee will probably need you two for backup, emotional support, reinforcements, the like.”
“Oh, hey Angelina.” He dropped his eyes, and seemed to study his short fingernails.
“All of the above?” Fred offered. “You could stay here with us, Georgie, let Lee sweat it out on his own for a while.”
“That’d just be cruel.” Angelina supressed the malicious giggle that rose in her throat as thoughts of the frog-like Ravenclaw played out in front of her eyes.
“Er, I think I ought to go and find Geoffrey. It’s no good being a lone-stag at something like this.”
“Well,” Fred practically sang, “you and I both know you didn’t have to be here stag. Why, I reckon that if you would – ”
“Right. I’m going to find Geoffrey. Just cruel to leave Lee with Libby on his own,” George said, shuffling away from the table.
Angelina followed his path across the hall and watched as he and Geoffrey sat down directly across from Lee, behind Libby’s back. The Ravenclaw’s mouth was moving a mile a minute, clearly engaged in some thrilling tale of her pure, unadulterated genius or another. Lee’s expression was hard to judge from this distance, but Geoffrey and George were clearly as amused watching the couple’s interactions as she was. The foursome was surely in for an entertaining evening.
“You may have thought you were joking, about Flitwick,” Fred’s voice cut into her observations, “but you were more right than you know. We - well some of us more than others - really do need all the help we can get.”
Before she could ask him what exactly he meant, the music swelled to a hard-to-ignore volume and the four champions and their dates paraded into the hall. As if on cue, they bowed to one another and began a slow, ballroom step across the floor. She watched the couples move, admiring the girl’s dresses and laughing at the varying degrees of awkwardness set out on display by the young men.
“Merlin, Harry looks like he may vomit on Parvati.”
“Exhibit A of the genius that is Flitwick.” Fred chuckled and stood up, offering an extended palm to Angelina. “Shall we, my lady” He waggled his eyebrows.
Smiling and shaking her head, Angelina threw her hand over Fred’s. “May as well.”
Several off-beat and mostly ridiculous dances later, Angelina found herself at the punch table with Fred. The later had worked up a sweat during his exaggerated ministrations on the dance floor, and was rapidly emptying the cup of punch he had poured himself. She glanced through the crowd, hoping to spot Alicia and Eddie. To her amusement, the two were practically glued to one another, still swaying in time to the music. Knowing her best friend’s flare for the dramatic, she knew that the impending stories were sure to be on the calibre of the ancient epics. In all truthfulness, she reckoned that Alicia and Homer would have gotten along well had they lived in the same century. She turned her attention back to Fred, hoping he hadn’t managed to drown himself in the cherry-flavoured drink, and realized that Lee had joined them at the table.
“I swear, Fred she’s awful. Terrible.” The boy ran his hands through his thick dreadlocks. “She’s gone and convinced herself that I love her. She’s trying to seduce me – tricking me into the gardens with all those damn fairies floating around, and how that’s seductive I can’t even begin to guess. Creepy, is what they are, with their little wings and their little voices.”
Angelina suppressed a smile and turned her head from the boys, hoping that they’d continue talking and not realize she was listening. Growing up in a house the youngest of four girls, she was well versed in the art of eavesdropping.
“Lee, mate, everyone told you that there was a reason a girl as good-looking as Libby McNaulty was dateless when you asked her.” She heard him clap his friend on the back. “Just think of yourself as a martyr.”
He mumbled something unintelligible before continuing. “Any progress with George?” He paused, most likely waiting for a response and Angelina wondered what sort of progress George was probably not making. “Earth to Fred. Stop staring at her, you’ll just make yourself look creepy. You know, you’re just as bad as your twin. You know you could have asked her. Merlin knows Pucey is a right arse.”
Angelina fought the urge to look and see who Fred had not asked to the ball.
“I could have maybe asked her, if George wasn’t such a pansy.” Fred’s voice was playful. “I thought that he’d take my ultimatum seriously, but since he didn’t and decided to clam up around her instead – I had to look out for him and keep my word.”
She jumped when she felt Fred’s hands on the sides of her shoulders.
“Budge over, Ang. You’re hogging the punch bowl.”
Turning to face Fred and Lee, she found her date’s face studying her with a look of astute suspicion. Lee had commandeered a chair from a nearby table and was nervously glancing over his shoulder, as though he was hoping to remain unnoticed by his less-than-favourable date.
“Looks like we have a class-O eavesdropper here, Lee.” A mischievous smile hovered on his face. “Walk with me, Ang. I need to talk with you about what we do with spies as admirable as yourself.”
“I cannot believe you caught me.” Angelina walked next to Fred back towards the dance floor. The redhead placed his hands on her sides, and they began a semi-normal dance step.
“Angelina, you are talking to a master at all things amusing and deceptive.” He lowered her into an awkward and ill-timed dip. “Of course I knew you were listening.”
“Fine, then. Who exactly did George fancy bringing to the ball?” She felt his muscles in his shoulders tense and stepped back a bit, narrowly missing another flourishing dance move. “And you. Who did you want to bring to the dance? That little strawberry blonde girl that Pucey is flaunting?”
“I cannot believe that you think I’ll just tell you these things.” A wide grin flickered across his face. “But if you don’t know who George has been pining over these past few weeks, then he’s worse off than I imagined. Speaking of George – ”
Fred stopped them next to a table where Lee had been joined by George and Geoffrey. It was apparent that he was now sharing his Libby-horror stories with his new audience.
“Oi. George, I’ve got some business to attend to.” Angelina watched Fred nod down and gesture towards his pockets, and she wondered what sort of trouble he was stowing in his dress robes. “If you’d be so kind as to look after my date?”
Not waiting for a response, Fred disappeared into the crowd.
“Merlin knows what he’s up to.” She turned her attention towards George, who still sat at the table. “So you want to dance or something?” She extended her hand and lead her new date onto the dance floor. His hands were much more hesitant on her waist than Fred’s had been, and his grey dress robes gave his eyes an almost soft look instead of their normal mischievous expression.
“I’m glad I got a dance with you. Fred said you hadn’t asked anyone to the ball, and it’d be a damn shame not to dance at all.”
“Fred talked about me, then?” Despite his awkward hand placement, they had settled into a natural-feeling rhythm in time to the music. “That must have been a terrible bore.” He smiled, readjusting his hands yet again. “I just didn’t get around to asking anybody. I not a fan of deadlines and ultimatums, much rather just sort of wing it.”
“George.” Angelina felt his hands moving yet and stopped in the middle of the dance floor. She dropped her hands from his shoulders and placed them over his hands on her waist. “Right there is fine. If you keep changing your mind about where your hands should be, you’ll make me laugh.”
“Ticklish?” She nodded. “Well, making people laugh is what I do.” She winced as he stepped down on her exposed toes. “And Merlin knows I’m better at that than I am at dancing. You know, Fred and I are going to own our own joke shop someday.”
“We don’t have to dance.” Angelina bent over to rub her foot.
“Maybe we should do something a bit less hazardous? Check out the gardens or something?”
George’s suggestion was not a totally unique one; the garden seemed a very popular place to be. A few couples walked around in glow of the live fairies hovering in the hedges. Angelina spotted an empty bench across the courtyard and gestured towards it. He shrugged and followed her, his attention turning towards the handful of snogging couples tucked in the bushes along the way. Though she didn’t spot her, Angelina was willing to bet a Galleon that Alicia and Eddie were tucked away somewhere.
She sat on the bench and looked up at her second red-headed companion of the evening. George was standing about three feet away. He ran his hand though the top of his hair and kicked the toe of his shoe against the dirt.
“Well, this is awkward.”
“Why is this awkward?” She cocked her head to the side and studied him. She had played on the same Quidditch team as him since she was a third year, and had never seen him look so vulnerable. A sliver of an idea floated into her mind that perhaps she was the girl George had wanted to ask to the ball, that Fred had perhaps threatened his twin that he’d take her to the dance if he didn’t ask her, and that when he had failed to do so, Fred had subtly passed her off to George in favour of mischief.
Angelina was thankful Alicia couldn’t read minds; else, she’d never live it down. After what seemed like an eternity of fanciful thinking, George finally opened his mouth to answer. “You know - all these snogging people, and the bleeding fairies, and this suspect lighting. I swear to Merlin I didn’t bring you out here to snog.”
Whatever she had thought he’d have said, that was not it, and she failed to cover the laugh that rolled out from deep within her chest.
George’s shoulders relaxed, and the first flicker of a comfortable smile showed on his face, though he had not moved any closer to the bench. “I told you I was good at this laughing business. I completely planned that horribly executed explanation.”
“So, why don’t you tell me about this shop you and Fred want to have someday, and you and Geoffrey’s Lee and Libby espionage?” She scooted over on the bench to make room for him next to her. The side of his thigh barely touched hers, but it was warm in the cool night air. “I’m sure there’ll be plenty more for you to make me laugh about.”
The corner of George’s mouth pulled up into a cheeky - almost bashful, Angelina imagined - smile. “That sounds like a fantastic idea.”
Author’s Note: I hope that you enjoyed this latest chapter and would love to hear your thoughts in a review. –wags eyebrows suggestively – To any of you who have read “So Listen” by toujourspadfoot, there is a subtle reference to her Yule Ball chapter and Frollis here, so I hope you caught it. I’d like to extend my gratitude to Janechel for her lovely work as my beta, to sarah for her support and the rest of the raving puffins. Thank you again, and I look forward to seeing you for the next chapter.
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