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Chapter 3: The Yule Ball

Harry couldn't imagine how on earth Fred Weasley got Fleur Delacour to go to the ball with him.

“What did you do, Fred? Drug her with a love potion?” he asked.

“Who knows?” Fred grinned. “Either way, I got lucky tonight.”

“Fred,” Fleur chided. “You’re such a show-off! We came here as friends,” she said to Harry. “I have a boyfriend back in France, you see, but he couldn't be here. So, I wanted to go with someone I can have fun with without obligations.” She smirked at Fred. Harry noticed that Fleur was a lot less arrogant than he had first thought. It was the first time she was having an actual conversation with him, and she didn't seem haughty or condescending at all.

“You tricked me!” Fred said, and everyone laughed. Then, the doors of the Great Hall swung open, a signalling for the champions and partners to enter the Hall, and were all greeted with applause and some raucous cheers. Harry noticed that Ginny’s face reddened a little bit. Truth be told, he didn’t really like the attention either, but of the two of them, he had had more experience with it. He grabbed her hand, and together, they walked to the long table where the champions and partners were supposed to sit with the judges: Dumbledore, Karkaroff, Madame Maxime, Bagman, and –was that Percy? –. Percy waved at Harry and Ginny, seemingly happy to see the two.

“Oh, damn,” Ginny grumbled. “Now we have to go sit next to him.”

Harry smiled, but led her to the seats next to Percy. Ginny ended up sitting next to Percy, with Harry on the other side. He was happy to see that the other seat next to him was occupied by Dumbledore.

Well, he reflected. At least I’m going to have some interesting dinner conversation.

“Good evening, Harry, Ginny,” the headmaster said. “Merry Christmas.”

“Merry Christmas, Professor,” they replied.

Dinner passed by rather quickly, and soon enough, it was time for the dance. Dumbledore smiled and winked at Harry as he got up with Ginny and moved over to the dance floor. Harry’s face had paled by the time they had got to the middle of the Great Hall, and Ginny smiled at his expression.

“Don’t worry, Harry, I’ll lead. Just follow me, okay?”

The music started up, a slow ballad, and Harry and Ginny danced for a while. The teachers quickly followed, along with other students. After a couple of songs, tired and happy, they went to sit down and enjoy a butterbeer together.

“You're a good dancer,” remarked Harry. “I didn’t imagine you would be that good. No offense,” he added quickly.

“None taken.” Ginny laughed, and told him, “My mom taught me when I was a little girl. She thinks that a proper lady should know her way on the dance floor. I really loathed it. I don’t really think that Mum liked that a lot, seeing that I’m one of the only girl Weasleys in a couple generations.” She laughed again. “I still don't like to dance very much. I guess that's a bit of the rebellion left in me.”

“She didn't let you play outside, then?”

“Of course she did! Instead, she would always fret about it, and flying was out of question. I still don't have my own broom. Though that never stopped me before.”

“What do you mean?”

“Since I was six, I’ve been breaking into our broom shed and nicking my brothers' brooms to practice. I've gotten pretty good actually. Well, I think so,” she confessed.

Harry couldn't help but smile. There sure was more to Ginny than met the eye.

“You want to play Quidditch?”

“Yeah, I'd like to play Chaser, but, well, I'll have to wait until Angelina and Alicia have graduated. Maybe in fifth year. I don’t think I would be a bad Seeker too, but we all know that that spot's not going to open up soon.” She smiled at him. “I honestly haven’t seen a Seeker that’s as good as you are, Harry. And that’s saying something, seeing as I watched Charlie play, who, according to McGonagall, could have been a professional player if he hadn’t run off to Romania to chase down dragons.”

She laughed out loud. Harry reddened a bit at her compliment. For some reason, it was a lot different when Ginny complimented him than when Ron or Hermione or Hagrid did it. When he heard her laugh, his stomach gave a little jolt. He had never seen this side of her before. This was the first time they really spent time together alone, after all, and Harry was happy that she wasn’t as shy as she used to be.

After a while, Ron and Hermione, flushed and breathless, came and joined them. Over time, more couples came to sit next to them. Fred and Fleur, Cedric and Cho, Dean and Lavender, Colin and Parvati, George and Angelina, and Neville, who was with –Luna? – yes, Luna was her name. Harry saw Lavender raise her eyebrows a bit at the couple, but thankfully, she didn't say anything. He knew Neville had had a hard time finding a date, not because he was that unpopular, but because he simply was too nervous to ask someone. He actually seemed to have fun with Luna, so everyone accepted her without further questions.

“So, anybody seen Seamus yet?” Fred asked. “I'd love to see how those robes look on him.”

“He put them on, right? It's one thing to make a fool out of yourself for a bet, but not living up to it is just dishonourable.” George laughed.

“Oh, he put them on, alright,” Dean said, shaking with laughter. “Didn't stop complaining about it, too.” The whole group erupted into laughter.

“I think we're missing something here,” Cedric said with raised eyebrows, and Cho nodded in assent. Ron quickly explained, and by the time he was done, all of them were shaking with laughter.

As if on cue, Seamus and Padma joined the group, Seamus in the dress robes.

“What are you all laughing about?” he asked.

The whole table erupted in fits of laughter again when they saw him in person.

Just then, Professor McGonagall happened to pass by, and she stopped, noticing Seamus’ robes. She examined Seamus' outfit with raised eyebrows and asked, “I assume that this is the bet that sent a snowball to my head?”

“Yes, Professor,” Fred replied with a wide grin, quite proud at the outcome. Harry was extremely surprised when he saw the corner of McGonagall's mouth twitch as if she was withholding herself from laughing. She nodded quickly and walked on.

“I'm telling you, she's getting a soft spot for us,” George said. “I swear she was cracking up inside.”

“Well, yeah, look at him,” Harry contributed. “How couldn’t she laugh? I think even Snape would be laughing if he saw anyone like that.”

“Thanks, Potter,” Seamus retorted. “I'll take that in mind for the second task. You've got yourself another supporter, Diggory.”

The evening passed by quickly in enjoyable conversation and playful banter. At a quarter to midnight, Harry whispered to Ginny, “You want to go for a walk in the garden? We still have fifteen minutes.” Ginny accepted gladly and they said their goodbyes to their friends before leaving. Harry noticed Ron looking at them rather suspiciously. He knew that Ginny had seen it too, but she didn't say anything, so he didn't bring it up either. They walked slowly through the garden that was specially installed for this evening. They finally decided to rest on a bank overlooking rather magnificent ice sculptures. They sat and talked, and talked, and talked. He told about his life with the Dursleys, his adventures in his first year with Quirrell and the Philosopher's Stone, since Ginny hadn't been in school yet. He told her about visits with Hagrid. About dragons and Acromantulas. About Dementors and illegal visits to Hogsmeade. About his fear that Voldemort was getting stronger and he would maybe find a way to come back. Afterwards, Ginny told him about growing up at The Burrow. About being overshadowed by six older brothers and always getting second hand clothing. About being over-protected by her brothers and her mum. About her pranks with and on the twins, who had always been her favourite brothers. And about writing to Tom Riddle and awakening, scared and frightened in the Chamber, with Harry leaning over her, covered in blood with a sword in his hand. About her school crush that she had always had, and getting over that schoolgirl crush. About finally learning to be herself around him…

“It's beautiful here,” Ginny whispered.

“Yeah, it really is.”

Ginny turned and saw Harry gazing at her. Harry was trying to think clearly, but he couldn’t seem to find anything else to say. He had imagined a nice evening with her, but he hadn't imagined he would find himself liking her this much. He thought he had known Ginny Weasley. She was Ron's little sister, a friend. But after tonight, he had to admit that he had known almost nothing about her. He didn't even know her real name, Ginevra.

“But don't you ever call me that,” she had laughed.

“I, I really had fun tonight, Harry,” she stuttered.

“Me too,” he answered. “I… I really like you.”

 He slowly leaned in towards her. Ginny held her breath, leaning in too, but they were startled by the appearance of Professor McGonagall.

“What on earth do you think you two are doing here?” she exclaimed. Harry turned around quickly and saw her glaring at them.

“It's two o'clock in the morning. Explain yourselves, both of you!”

“Er, we, er,” stuttered Harry.

“We lost track of time, Professor,” Ginny answered quickly.

“Lost track of time? You should have been in bed two hours ago!”

“We were just talking Professor, really. We're very sorry.”

“You will serve detention with me for a week. And you can consider yourselves lucky with that punishment. Now off to bed, both of you. And no dawdling!”

“Yes, Professor.” They quickly climbed the stairs to Gryffindor Tower.

“Stupid,” Harry said. “We should have brought my Invisibility Cloak.”

“Well, it's not that bad. Could have been much worse. Imagine Snape catching us. Maybe we'll be allowed to serve our detention together. Did you notice? She didn't take points from Gryffindor. That's the second time today. Think she's losing her touch?”

Harry laughed.  “I think she's getting used having the House Cup in her office. I don't think she wants to give it back to Snape.”

“Well, all you have to do is win the Tournament and the other houses don't stand a chance,” Ginny smiled.

Harry's stomach gave a nasty turn when he realized he wasn't even close to finding the solution for his egg, but he didn't talk about it.

“Fairy Lights,” he said to a rather irate Fat Lady, who swung open. They climbed into the Gryffindor Common Room, which was deserted except for two figures sitting on a couch by the fire.

“Harry, Ginny! There you are! We were dead worried!” Hermione exclaimed.

Harry gulped when he saw Ron glaring at him.

“So, where you've been?” he asked.

“We were outside, we kind of lost track of time,” Harry answered.

“Lost track of time. Huh.” Ron's ears were glowing red, and Harry knew that wasn't a good sign.

“Honestly, Ron, we were just talking. Besides, what Harry and I do is our business, not yours. You understand?” Ginny glared at Ron and she looked so much like Mrs. Weasley that he wasn't surprised Ron looked away.

“Alright, alright. I'm going to bed, you coming?” he asked Harry.

“Yeah, in a minute.”

Unfortunately, Ron waited until Harry came with him, so he grudgingly said goodnight to Hermione and Ginny and followed them up the stairs. When he closed the drapes of his four-poster, he realized how beaten he really was. He fell asleep the second his head touched his pillow. What followed was a night full of flashes of red and brown.

“Christmas waves a magic wand over this world, and behold, everything is softer and more beautiful.” – Norman Vincent Peale

A/N: Please review. I value your opinion very much. Thanks again to JoonBang for helping me edit this story!

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