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Hello, everyone. I'm back! With the longest and (hopefully) greatest chapter of all. Hope you enjoy, and review =D



 
Beth was fed up.

She sat in the corner of the Ravenclaw Common Room, her legs crossed and a scowl painted across her face. A book lay open on her lap, a book she was valiantly trying – and failing – to read over the shrill screams and ecstatic giggling of the Ravenclaw girls. The night had finally arrived. Yule Ball night. The night that Beth had been dreading for weeks. She was sure to give the girl closest to her the most fear-inducing glare she could summon before turning back to the book, trying desperately to concentrate.

“What are you reading?”

Beth looked up quickly, and jumped backwards when she saw Luna's face peering into her own. She sighed. Then she did a double-take.

“Luna?!” she said, gawping unattractively. “What the heck are you wearing?”

“My Yule Ball dress,” Luna replied airily, giving a twirl. “Daddy sent it for me. He said the stitched-in Radish pattern would match my earrings.” She pulled back her hair, revealing two dangling radishes.

“Wow,” Beth replied, obviously impressed. “Just … wow.”

“I know.”

Luna sat down in the armchair next to her, and started humming softly to herself. All around, girls dressed in long, flowing ballgowns were gathering into groups and starting to make their way down to the Great Hall, batting their magically-enhanced eyelashes and flicking their hair into each others' eyes.

“Look at them!” Beth said in disgust, putting her feet up onto someone's stack of books. “Flicking their hair around like bloody … bloody … hair-flickers. I bet you a tenner one of them'll be rushed to the Hospital Wing with neck strain before midnight.”

“You should come,” Luna said dreamily. “It'll be fun.”

Beth sighed again, a sigh that she liked to think made her sound poor and tragic. “No, my dear Luna. I am destined to be alone forever, to sit in my lonely armchair and live as a hermit, my only friend the wind, and – great MERLIN! Is that Greta?”

Luna looked over at the girl standing at the window, twisting her fingers together nervously and glancing at her reflection in the glass. The thick glasses she usually wore were gone, her frizzy hair sleek and shiny – she looked amazing.

Beth blinked, hard. “What in the name of Sir Albus Dumbledore's tartan ear-warmers has she DONE to herself?! She looks … she looks … well, I'll tell you this for free. She does not look like the same girl I saw picking her teeth with her wand yesterday.”

Luna grinned. “You could look like that, you know.”

Beth gagged. “Please, my little chumlet. Never speak such atrocities again.” She shook her head with disgust. “And I thought you were my friend!”

She went back to her book, while Luna sat absent-mindedly twirling her wand between her fingers, conjuring a trail of dancing blue and orange sparks. When the last gaggle of girls finally streamed out of the common room, Luna got up and stretched, smiling in a sort of dazed way.

“Well, bye then,” she said. “I'll see you tomorrow, I suppose.”

Beth grimaced. “Goodbye, Luna my friend. I'll never forget you.”

“I'm not going to die.”

“That's what you think.”

Luna laughed, and disappeared out of the common room. Beth did nothing for a second, feeling strangely alone. Then she glanced at her watch. Hmm, 6 o'clock. Plenty of time to … to …

Maybe I'll just have a quick glance at the Great Hall, Beth thought.

She slid out of her seat, dropping her book on the floor. She was wearing her oldest t-shirt and baggiest tracksuit bottoms, but due to the (unnecessary, in her opinion) hype in the run up to the Ball, she was fairly certain she wouldn't have trouble running into anyone around the castle – the action was in the Great Hall alone.

She was padding along the 2nd Floor corridor when she reached her first obstacle – Snape.

Miss Wilkinson!

She spun around quickly, and put on her most winning smile.

“Don't smirk at me, Miss Wilkinson. You're up to something. Why are you not at the Ball?”

“Lovely to see you, too, Professor Snape Your Highness. Might I compliment you on today's choice of robes? I see you are looking extra billowy and fearsome looking this evening.”

The pulsing vein in Snape's forehead threatened to blow. “Do not try me, Wilkinson! I -”

“Hold on, why aren't YOU at the Ball?” Beth said suddenly. Then she sighed with a sudden understanding. “Ah. Get stood up? I know the feeling. Don't worry, Professor, if he really loves you he'll come back -”

At this point, Snape seemed to make a strange noise like a burst balloon, and drew himself up to his full height. For the first time, Beth felt genuinely afraid – she subtly took a step backwards.

“Miss Wilkinson,” he said in a hushed, dangerous voice. “I may not have the authority to take points from your house. I may not have the authority to give you detention. However, I am a professor at this school, and therefore I do have the authority to ensure that you leave and never come back. Do you understand me?”

Beth didn't quite know what do do. Finally, she nodded slowly. Snape's scowl seemed to almost turn into a sneer, and he swept past her as she stood in vague shock. She waited for the sound of his footsteps on the stone floor to fade, before setting off herself again.

It had just occurred to her that her time at Hogwarts would not last forever – she had always known this, of course, but it had never really sunk in. The moment the Triwizard Tournament ended, she would be packed back off to Beauxbatons where she was ridiculed and rejected. And what if Snape kept his word? The next time she taunted him could mean her last day at the school she was beginning to get so attached to. She might never see her friends again – Luna, Ginny, the Twins, George ...

Hmm. That was interesting. Why did she automatically think of George? She saw each of the Twins just as much as each other. George was, of course, the one who had gone to all that trouble just to get her the bar of Galaxy - an act which, in Beth's opinion, deemed him the greatest person alive - and she had always thought him the more sensitive one of the pair ... but George liked Fleur, she was sure of it. Ever since the very first feast, in which she had caught the twin ogling the part-Veela, she had been sure that he was only interested in the Princess-type. That, and the fact that both Fred and George seemed to be strangely secretive lately. More than once she had caught them in the Gryffindor Common Room (a place that she wasn't exactly allowed in, but she visited anyway) with their heads together, whispering - strange, as the twins seemed to prefer the limelight wherever they went. 

The loud music and chatter of the Great Hall was getting louder. Beth reached the door of the closest disused classroom she could get, unlocked it and slid inside. For a second, she looked around, taking in the quiet. There were a couple of desks sprawled around on the dusty floor, while the rest were stacked in higgledy-piggledy pile against the wall. The other wall was one huge wooden bookshelf filled with thick dusty volumes, and Beth was drawn to it immediately - she grabbed a random book and made herself comfortable on one of the desks. 

The moment she opened the book, she was interrupted as the door flew open and a couple hurtled inside, giggling and holding hands. They stopped dead the moment they saw Beth, who gave them the sort of look that Professor McGonagall would be proud of. 

"This room is taken, thank you," she said loudly, and the couple exchanged a look. "Please carry out your inappropriate deeds elsewhere. Good day."

When the door banged shut behind the couple, the room seemed more silent than ever. Beth let out a long, low breath and started to read the instructions of a complex Cheating Charm.

The next two couples that burst in on Beth were Parvati Patil (wasn't Parvati supposed to be going with Harry Potter?) with an older Durmstrang boy, and a couple Beth knew vaguely that were in Luna's year. By this time, she was beginning to lose patience, so when the door opened yet again, literally seconds after the latest couple had left, Beth could hardly contain herself.

"DO YOU MIND?!" she yelled, closing her book with a slam before the intruder could even put their head through the door.

She regretted it moments later. 

The face of one of the Weasley twins appeared around the door, wearing a bemused grin. "What have I done?" he asked.

Beth sighed. "Gah. Sorry, Fre- I mean, George ... oh, whatever."

"It's George, actually," said George. He didn't move from his spot behind the door, his face the only thing in view. He seemed to be using the door as a cautionary shield in case Beth lost her rag again, and the thought made her blush. 

"Don't tell me," said Beth resignedly. "You want to use Snogging Headquarters. Well, go ahead. I think I'll go to bed, anyway."

She stood up. "So who's your date? You never said."

George looked awkward, and opened the door. He was dressed all in black - black suit, black shirt, black shoes. Beth was rendered impossibly speechless - he looked amazing. And ... old. Not icky old man, old (thank goodness). But … mature, old. And he was alone.

"I'm ... er ... dateless, I'm afraid," he admitted.
 
Beth bit her lip. "So ... erm ... I mean, why are you - er - here?" Oh, great. She was stuttering. Why was she stuttering? It must have something to do with the way her insides seemed to have fallen out, and her heart was racing impossibly fast …

“I overheard Parvati Patil telling her friend about the mysterious hermit that was turfing out unsuspecting couples from a disused classroom,” George said, grinning. “And I sort of added two and two together. After all, how many people use the phrase 'Get ye away, thou art hairier than a hairy thing!' whilst kicking out potential snoggees?”

Beth couldn't help laughing. George stepped inside the classroom, closing the door behind him.

“You … er … look great,” she said awkwardly.

He smiled, sitting down on the desk behind her. “Thanks. You too.”

Beth was suddenly aware of the unattractive t-shirt and tracksuit bottoms she was shamelessly wearing, and covered herself quickly with her arms, feeling self-conscious. “I look disgusting,” she said.

He laughed. “You don't give yourself enough credit.”

She blushed, shaking her head, her arms still firmly across her clothes. Soon, they lapsed into a comfortable silence, Beth humming quietly to herself along with the faint Yule Ball music, swinging her legs from the desk. There was a warm, fuzzy feeling in her stomach that she couldn't quite shake off – her mind kept going back to the fact that George was … dateless. But why? She turned to him, hoping to get the reason out of him somehow, but the moment she did so she found herself momentarily lost for words – George's face was literally inches from hers, and they both jerked apart with embarrassment.

“Um ...” he said, blushing. “Sorry.”

They both turned away. This time, the air was not so comfortable – there was a distinct tension in the room, and they sat in silence, pondering what just happened. Beth felt unbelievably confused. She had never seen this side to George before – the cool, sophisticated George who seemed taller, happier, and more … mature. Not that she was so full of maturiosity herself, but he -

“I bet you've snogged heaps of girls before,” Beth suddenly blurted out.

What fresh hell?! Beth's conscience screamed. Where did that come from? Are you insane? Are you ACTUALLY INSANE?! You don't just blurt that sort of thing out to people …

“I – er – what?”

Beth swallowed hard. “Um … nothing. I just wondered. You and Fred are so popular, in case you didn't realise. And loads of girls like you. So you must have … you know. Kissed. A lot. You must have loads of experience.” She started fiddling with a loose thread on her tracksuit bottoms, her ears burning.

“I'm not Fred,” he said. “I can see why you might think I am … I mean, some people say we look quite alike.” Beth laughed. “But as for experience … you are very wrong. In fact, I have none.”

Her eyes widened. “Really?”

“Really.”

“Oh.” Beth readjusted herself on the desk. “I was just wondering because, well, me neither. As in, I don't have any experience. And Olivia was shocked when I told her the other night. She was all 'You're turning sixteen in a month and you still haven't kissed a guy?!'”

George grinned. “Yeah, I know what you mean. Fred is under the impression I am a total girl magnet. Not that I've ever done anything to convince him otherwise.”

Beth wondered what it would be like, keeping something like that from your twin.

“Hey, here's an idea,” he said suddenly. “Since neither of us have … you know. Why don't … er … we? If you want. Just as friends. Helping each other out. Then we wouldn't feel like such -”

“Losers?” Beth filled in.

“Yeah.”

There was a pause. “Um … sure,” she said finally. She turned around to face George, her heart beating unbelievably fast, her mind whirring. George adjusted himself on the desk, looking nervous.

“Right,” he said. “So. What exactly do we do?”

“You're supposed to move in first – you're the guy,” said Beth.

“So?! I thought it was always the girl who made the first move.”

“You thought wrong, my friend,” she said, shaking her head.

“Alright, then, smart arse,” George said, amused. “Let's hear your great plan.”

“Both together, after three. Okay?”

“Awesome.”

“Alright, then.” She closed her eyes. “One, two, three ...”

Neither of them moved.

“You didn't do it!”

“Neither did you!”

“Well, I thought if you did it, I wouldn't have to.”

“That's what I thought!”

Beth sighed, a smile playing on her lips. She looked up at George, and saw he was grinning too.

“We must be the biggest pair of idiots that ever walked the earth,” she said. “I bet even Snape wasn't this scared about HIS first kiss.”

George seemed to have a sort of involuntary spasm at this. “Beth! That is an image I do not want in my head!” He shuddered. “Please don't ever mention stuff like that again.”

Beth laughed. “Alright, shut up. I'm gonna do it. Close your eyes.”

George did as she said. She stood up. Then, very carefully, she placed a hand on each of his shoulders, took a deep breath, and … kissed him.

Then she stepped back, bit her lip, and waited for the verdict. “How was that? Did I do it right?"

George smiled, his eyes still closed. “That was … yes. Very … erm … yes. I think. Maybe. But, you know, just to be sure … shall we do it again?”

Beth laughed. “And again, and again, and again ...”

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