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Chapter 13 ~ The Yule Ball
The last day of term finally arrived, and with it the eagerly awaited Yule Ball. As they dressed for the ball, the wizards were all paying meticulous attention to their appearance. After all, the slipper was on the other foot tonight, the witches got to choose the wizards they wanted to dance with – so they really wanted to look their very best. “Boy, wouldn’t it be embarrassing if no one asked you to dance – the whole night,” said Neville, echoing the anxieties of the other sixth-year boys, who were busily, and rather awkwardly, preening themselves in front of the long mirror on the wall of the boys’ bathroom. “Now then boys, you have nothing to fear. Enough of your wallflower worries, the witches will find you irresistible, I’m sure,” said the mirror encouragingly, delighted to find itself the centre of attention. Usually the mirror was lucky if it got as much as a cursory glance, from one day to the next, from most of them. “Harry dear, if you put anymore of that Sleekeazy's Hair Potion on your head, there will be an oil slick following you wherever you go... it could make dancing dangerous. Let it go dear, your hair just isn’t meant to lie flat.” “Yeah, guess you’re right,” said Harry, sighing with resignation, and then submerging his head in a basin of water to wash it all out – much to the amusement of the others. Rick blasted Harry with a heavy-duty Drying Charm when he came up for air. Rick, himself, was being especially careful not to step in front of the mirror while everyone was in the bathroom. These mirrors mean well, he thought to himself, but they’re really a pain sometimes – especially when they embarrass you with their flattery in front of your mates – how come all the mirrors around here have to be female, anyway? The long mirror in their bathroom was particularly uninhibited; and Rick didn’t want to have it sweet-talking him tonight, when all his friends were, for once, feeling very self-conscious about their appearance. “Hey, Neville,” said Dean. “You must be the luckiest wizard in the school. How on earth did you manage to get yourself invited by Susan Bones? Hey guys – I reckon Neville here must have some hidden talents.” “Yeah,” said Seamus, “he must have. Boy, I sure wouldn’t mind taking Susan Bones to the ball – or up to the Astronomy Tower. She’s sure filled out rather nicely of late. That is one foxy witch – you’re a lucky bloke, Neville, you know that?” “Err, yeah,” replied Neville, blushing fiercely. He’d been stunned when Susan had invited him. She was the subject of the fantasies of many of the wizards – himself included. But it had never occurred to him that she might like him. He certainly wouldn’t have dared to invite her, had it been the other way around. Yes, there’s a lot to be said for a Witches’ Prerogative, he thought happily to himself. “Seamus,” said Ron. “Did you realise that we both got invited by the same witches who we invited to the Yule Ball in fourth year?” “Yeah mate,” bragged Seamus, “Lavender obviously knows what she likes. Although, as I recall, you were a real prat to Padma. You didn’t even ask her to dance once, the whole night. Maybe she decided that you’ve grown up a bit since then and decided to give you another chance.” “Err,” said Ron suddenly becoming very nervous. “You don’t suppose that she just invited me so she can pay me back – and do the same thing to me? Damn, I was so chuffed when she invited me that it never occurred to me she might’ve been planning to get even.” “Relax, mate,” said Rick reassuringly. “Padma likes you, believe me, I ... um, I know. It’s probably that brilliant mind of yours she’s after – she’s quite the brainy one herself, you know,” added Rick. “She’s welcome to the rest of me as well,” said Ron grinning. In truth, Padma’s mind did attract him, but it wasn’t her mind that had been occupying his thoughts and fantasies of late. “Speaking of which,” said Ron, deciding to shift the subject away from himself, “Didn’t you get invited by Vicky Frobisher, Dean? Now there’s a witch who really knows how to handle a broom.” Dean grinned; the old “broom euphemism” was a favourite amongst teenage wizards. “Yeah, Ron. I heard that she did better than you in the Quidditch tryouts for Keeper last year; she’s quite the athlete, I hear.” “You do know that she’s also a real wiz with Charms, don’t you Dean?” said Seamus. “You better behave yourself with her, my boy, or she might just decide you’re a handsome prince – who desperately deserves to be turned into an ugly toad,” he added, laughing. “Come on,” said Ron. “We’d better get going. I know it’s a Witches’ Prerogative and all, but I don’t think it means that we have the prerogative of keeping the witches waiting like they do to us. I’ve got to get over to Ravenclaw and I don’t want to keep Padma waiting. I’m going to do it right this time.” When they got down to the common room, there was no sign of the witches. The younger students were back from their Yule Party – happy, exhausted, and bursting. The younger wizards seemed to have opted for an early night after the copious consumption of the afternoon, but the witches were sitting around chattering in groups, waiting to see the older witches and wizards all dressed up for their ball. They seemed suitably impressed when the sixth-year boys made their entrance and Rick, as usual, was the bashful centre of their attention. “What is it with girls,” grumbled Harry after fifteen minutes had passed, and still the witches hadn’t put in an appearance. “I think they do it deliberately,” said Seamus, “to heighten our anticipation, you know. Hey, I just caught a rumour that the mystery band for tonight was spotted entering the castle – you will not believe who Dumbledore’s got – he’s totally lost it this time.” “Who is it?” the others all asked. “Quentin Quaffle and the Broom Boys.” “I do not believe it,” exclaimed Dean. “That’s rather risqué for a school ball isn’t it?” “Who are they?” asked Neville. “I’ve never heard of them.” “That’s because you’re not a witch,” said Dean. “Witches go crazy over them. They’re one of the up and coming boy bands, if you get my drift,” said Dean, with a sly wink. “They’re all the rage at Witches Nights and that sort of thing. Guess it’s all part of the Witches’ Prerogative theme. I imagine that they’ve been told to tone down their act a bit though – some of their stage antics are apparently pretty outrageous.” “It’s all very well for the girls,” complained Seamus. “They’ll be drooling all over the band and ignoring us. They might not even ask us to dance.” But the discussion about the band ended abruptly at that point, because the Gryffindor witches had begun to make their entrance. They descended the stairs from the girls’ dormitories at carefully-timed intervals, to give each witch her moment of glory in the limelight. It was all a bit theatrical, but appreciated nonetheless by the audience gathered in the common room. They all looked absolutely stunning and quite transformed from their everyday appearances. Parvati and Lavender were no great shakes academically, but when it came to cosmetic magic and glamours, their knowledge and expertise were legendary. They had given all the Gryffindor witches a special makeover for the night. The transformation was particularly noticeable with witches, like Hermione, who rarely bothered much with their appearance. Rick stood gaping open-mouthed as Hermione descended the stairs. She was utterly stunning. Her hair was braided and swept up, revealing all the beauty of her face. Rick had to resist the urge to throw his arms around her and plant kisses all down her neck and bare shoulders. Too late, he realised that he had unintentionally deluged her with his charm. It was going to be all but impossible to keep it under control with the way she looked. “You’re the most beautiful witch in the world,” he said softly in her ear as she took his arm. Hermione blushed all the way down her neck, where Rick, seeing that no one was watching, planted a quick kiss. “Come on,” said Hermione. “Let’s go the ball, while I can still resist the temptation of dragging you off to the Room of Requirement.”
~~~~~ ~~~~~ ~~~~~ ~~~~~ ~~~~~
When Rick entered the Great Hall, with Hermione on his arm, he noticed that the four long House tables had been replaced by many smaller round tables that were clustered around the perimeter of the hall, leaving the centre free for dancing. In place of the teachers’ table was a glitzy stage, all ready for the band. Upon the tables were elegant silver candelabra, giving off a soft romantic light. The enchanted ceiling had turned to an opaque golden colour for the evening. In fact, it looked as if it were made of pure gold, and, suspended beneath it were dozens of ornate crystal chandeliers. The whole effect was one of baroque opulence and grandeur. There were many Oohs and Ahs as the couples entered the transformed hall. The sixth-year Gryffindors and their partners all sat together at one table. Ginny was looking absolutely ravishing. Her mane of bright red hair fell with striking effect on bare milky-white shoulders, with long twists of flaming hair hanging in front of each ear. Tonight, thought Rick, Ginny won’t have any trouble captivating Harry’s attention – that’s for sure! In fact, Harry was looking at her, mesmerised, as if he had never really seen her properly before. Rick just hoped Ginny realised that no matter how much Harry liked her, nothing was likely to come of it anytime soon. How sad, he thought. For the ‘Boy Who Lived’, even normal things, like having a girlfriend, are too dangerous – for the girl. Ginny really would be better off finding someone else to love, reflected Rick sadly. Rick’s thoughts were interrupted by a tap on his shoulder. It was Pansy Parkinson, in a hot pink robe that left very little to the imagination. Rick hadn’t noticed that Quentin Quaffle and the Broom Boys were now on stage and starting to strut their stuff. Rick may not have noticed – but the witches certainly had. They were gazing dreamily as the seven very handsome and scantily dressed wizards pouted and posed before their adoring audience. “It looks like they’re about to play, Rick. May I have the pleasure of the first dance?” purred Pansy in her most seductive voice. Rick had to think quickly, he really wanted to have the first dance with Hermione. “Err ... yeah. I’d love to dance with you Pansy, but maybe a bit later. Hermione already has me booked for the first dance,” he lied. Pansy smiled at him, then turned a death glare on Hermione as Rick stood up and pulled back Hermione’s chair, helping her to her feet. “Rick Godfry, you’re a terrible liar,” she chided him, as he led her onto the dance floor. “And that’s the second time you’ve assumed my Witches’ Prerogative,” she said feeling slightly annoyed. “Would you prefer to give Pansy the pleasure of the first dance with me?” asked Rick, smiling sweetly and putting one arm around Hermione and taking her hand in his, as they began to dance. “No,” she said, smiling back. “Oh Rick! You are just so irresistible, what can I do?” she said, squeezing his hand. “And where did you learn to dance like that? You’re so ... smooth, and sensual.” “Looks like I received more than just magical gifts,” said Rick, smiling and drawing Hermione nearer. “You’re not so shabby yourself in the dancing department. Who would have thought that Hogwarts’ best and brightest bookworm would turn out to be the witch who wows the wizards on the dance floor?” “Stop being silly,” giggled Hermione, rather pleased at the compliment. “I’m not being silly,” said Rick. “Don’t look now, but we seem to be the centre of attention. And I’m pretty sure that all those wizards who are gazing longingly in our direction are longing for you, not me – at least, I certainly hope so!” Hermione looked around and blushed. Rick was right. “Well, Rick, you ought to be proud of yourself. You have more witches looking wistfully at you than at those ‘toy boys’ on the stage.” “I’ll say one thing for Quincy Quaffler and The Brush Boys or whatever they call themselves, they’re not just a bunch of pretty faces, they really can play,” said Rick. “I just hope they do some slow numbers. You look so beautiful tonight – I can’t wait to hold you close – very close.” Rick got his wish – well, the first part of it anyway. They did play some slow numbers, but sadly for him, he didn’t get to hold Hermione close. The minute the first dance was over, Pansy was onto him. “It must be my turn now,” she said, smiling enticingly at Rick. “Excuse me!” said Hermione, proprietarily. “But we’re still dancing.” “Oh, but it’s Witches’ Prerogative tonight, you know,” replied Pansy coolly. “So what?” demanded Hermione. “Well, normally, a wizard can approach a couple and say to the wizard, ‘may I cut in’. You’ve probably never experienced it yourself,” said Pansy, snidely. “But I’m quite used to it. It’s considered very poor form for the wizard to object to giving up his partner. But since it’s Witches’ Prerogative tonight, it’s the Witches’ Prerogative to ‘cut in’.” With that, she grabbed Rick’s arm and dragged him away from a furious Hermione. Hermione tried to get Rick back at the end of the dance, determined to steal him away from that tart, Pansy, but it was hopeless. A solid wall of witches formed around Rick, towards the end of every dance, as they vied to pounce on him for the next one. Hermione couldn’t even get close to Rick, and he was too polite to refuse anyone. Rick really wanted to be with Hermione, but he soon realised that there was no chance of that. Most of the witches with crushes on him had probably never spoken to him, and were never likely to get another opportunity to make contact. Tonight was their one chance to be with Rick, for a few minutes at least; and they were determined to make the most of it. The witches were overjoyed. Severus Snape, however, was anything but overjoyed. He loathed school balls with a passion. A bunch of hyperactive, hormone-fuelled teenagers, totally out of control, he thought to himself. As a student at Hogwarts, he had been friendless, melancholy, self-conscious, and awkward. He had shunned school balls, parties and every other kind of social activity. And now he was obliged to baby-sit this lot – there was no justice! Out of his memory came unwanted images of the past. James Potter and Sirius Black – he didn’t know which one he hated the most. For seven years, they had taunted and tormented him for their amusement. But it wasn’t that which had earned them his lifelong enmity. No, the true cause of his hatred was bitter envy. They were everything that he was not. Handsome, sporting heroes, successful, popular – but most of all, the witches all seemed to adore the pair of arrogant, conceited Gryffindors. While he, himself, led a solitary, miserable existence – lonely, unloved, and unwanted. He had been spurned by the witches, during those hypersensitive and emotionally turbulent teenage years. It was hardly surprising that he had been such easy prey for the Dark Lord’s recruiters. Snape really didn’t want to think about all of that – the progression from his Purgatory at Hogwarts, to his own personal Hell with Voldemort’s Death Eaters. Where did those thoughts come from? he asked himself. He usually managed to keep them well buried, beneath his angry, arrogant, superior persona. What triggered these indulgent thoughts of self-pity? he wondered, as he tried to repress them. And then he saw the answer, right in front of him – Rick Godfry. There in the centre of the dance floor was Rick Godfry, surrounded by at least twenty witches, all vying with each other to be his partner for the next dance. They were starting to get out-of-hand. Several of them were completely motionless – it looked like they’d been hit by an Impedimenta or Immobilus Jinx. Sirius Black! thought Snape to himself. Of course! That’s who Godfry reminds me of. The similarities are so obvious – how did I miss seeing it before? The same irresistible attraction to witches; the same carefree attitude, he thought with disgust. Everything comes effortlessly to Godfry – it all just falls into his lap – it was exactly the same with Black. No wonder he had instinctively disliked Godfry from the very first moment. Plus, he was a Gryffindor – and close to a Potter – the parallels were unmistakable. “Stand aside!” bellowed Snape, as he pushed his way through the gaggle of witches surrounding Rick. “Mr. Godfry,” he said, as he pulled two of his fourth-year Slytherin witches off Rick. “What is the meaning of this unseemly melee? You appear to be causing a riot.” Rick was actually relieved at Snape’s intervention. He was starting to feel rather claustrophobic, and was becoming desperate to escape from his over-enthusiastic suitors. So desperate, that he had briefly been tempted to Apparate away. “I don’t know what’s gotten into these witches tonight,” said Rick. “They’ve gone quite crazy! Perhaps the choice of band wasn’t such a good one; they seem to have all the witches rather ... err ... wound up.” “Don’t try passing the blame elsewhere, Mr. Godfry. There is only one riot happening in this hall and it is happening around you – and no one else. I believe a punishment is in order. You need to be put in your place, Mr. Black – err, Godfry. Ever since you came to this school, you’ve been nothing but trouble. I warned the Headmaster. You think you’re just so wonderful, don’t you? God’s gift to witches! Why they should be attracted to a puny, insignificant person such as yourself, I have no idea ... although I have my suspicions,” he added darkly, glaring hard at Rick. “I have suspected for some time now that you are using Dark Magic – perhaps some variant of the Imperius Curse? There is something amiss about you Mr. Godfry and it makes me very suspicious. By all rights, you should be far behind your peers, in every subject. Yet unaccountably, you appear to be at the top of every class – even surpassing that insufferable Know-It-All Granger in some. Yet, you do not appear to be making any effort at all. How exactly would you explain all of this, Mr. Godfry?” “Err, I don’t really know, sir,” said Rick, feeling most uncomfortable. Well, at least the witches weren’t daring to approach him with Snape about; that was one consolation. Rick became aware that Snape was trying to probe his mind. He had his wand in his hand and had quietly uttered “Legilimens”. Rick kept him out – he had to. But this just made Snape all the more suspicious. He glared hard at Rick. “If I catch you using Dark Magic, Godfry, you’ll be out of this school – I promise you. And if it’s anything illegal, I’ll make sure that you end up where you belong – in Azkaban, just like —” Sirius Black, thought Rick. Snape may have failed to penetrate his mind, but Rick had no trouble reading Snape’s. He understood now, why the Potions master hated him, but there was really nothing he could do about it. “Let me see,” said Snape, having stopped himself before saying Black’s name once more. “Now where were we? Ah yes. I was deciding how many house points to deduct from Gryffindor for your riotous behaviour.” “House points from Gryffindor?” demanded a sharp voice from behind him. “And why Severus, would you be deducting points from Gryffindor?” asked a very stern looking Professor McGonagall. “Because, Professor McGonagall, Mr. Godfry has been causing a riot,” said Snape, glaring back at her. “Well, from what I could see, Mr. Godfry was not the one who was rioting, it was the witches,” said Professor McGonagall. “And I couldn’t help but notice that the ones flinging curses and behaving the most unscrupulously, in their attempts to get to Mr. Godfry, were all Slytherin witches. If you are determined to be a wet rag and put a damper on the festive spirits by deducting house points, then may I suggest that you start with your own house.” “Why that’s preposterous!” spat Snape. “Mr. Godfry was the one causing all the trouble; he needs to be dealt with. Someone needs to take this arrogant, conceited upstart in hand and —” “Oh, for heavens sake! Lighten up Severus! It’s Christmas – get into the festive spirit of the season,” said Professor McGonagall. Then smiling at him, she said, “In any case, I was fully intending to take Mr. Godfry in hand....” She then turned to Rick and said, “Mr. Godfry, would you do this old witch the honour of dancing with her?” Snape’s jaw dropped, his mouth momentarily, wide open, before he snapped it shut, grinding his teeth together. His face turned red and his knuckles white, as he balled his fists, struggling to keep control of his fury. “The honour is all mine, Professor McGonagall,” said Rick gallantly. Then Rick had a truly wicked idea – and once it got hold of him, he just couldn’t let it go. He suddenly remembered all those fanfics written by girls who seemed to be utterly infatuated with the dark persona of Severus Snape. He could never quite understand it. He hadn’t read many, but there were certainly a lot of them. He had also understood that Snape’s hatred of Sirius Black and now himself, was the result of envy. It was jealousy at their popularity in contrast to his own loneliness. He had wanted to be loved, but instead, he was spurned by the witches in his youth. Maybe.... Emboldened by the proximity of Professor McGonagall, Rick said. “Excuse me, Professor Snape, but honestly, I did nothing at all to cause all the pandemonium, and I don’t enjoy being mobbed like that. But there is a way you could help sir, to restore order.” “What are you talking about Godfry?!” barked Snape menacingly. “Well, if the witches had another wizard to dance with – one whom they secretly fancied, then it would take the pressure off me, and things might quieten down.” “And how exactly did you imagine that I might help, Godfry? Perhaps you would like me to fetch that insufferable popinjay, Gilderoy Lockhart, from St. Mungo’s for the evening?” said Snape, sarcastically. “Why no sir,” said Rick. “I was meaning that you should dance with the witches. You’d be surprised how many of them have secret crushes on you, sir. I think it’s the authority figure thing, sir. It seems to appeal to submissive temperaments. I think you might find after the first dance, that you’ll have quite a mob waiting to ask you for the next dance. You might even need to fight them off with your wand, sir.” “Don’t push me, Godfry,” snarled Snape in fury, his wand-hand itching to hex this clone of his hated nemesis Black, into some lowly life-form, like a slug, or amoeba. But, in spite of himself, he wondered if perhaps there wasn’t some truth to Godfry’s words. It might be rather pleasant to spend the evening dancing with a lot of adoring witches. No! It’s just a trick of Godfry’s to try to humiliate me! It’s exactly the sort of thing that Black and Potter used to do. They were always trying to make a fool of me in front of the whole school. No, I’m too wise to fall into those traps again, he thought to himself. Professor McGonagall, meanwhile, had whisked Rick off to dance, leaving Severus Snape musing alone. His thoughts were interrupted by Luna Lovegood. “Excuse me, Professor Snape, but would you care to dance with me?” she asked, looking up at him dreamily. Snape was momentarily transfixed by indecision. “Get out of my way!” he finally growled, and without a further word, gathered his cloak about him and swept out of the hall, determined to take his vengeance upon the Rose Garden and any couples unfortunate enough to be caught snogging there. Professor McGonagall, meanwhile, was in very lively spirits. She was still chuckling over what Rick had said to Severus Snape. It was probably quite true, but she doubted very much that Severus would ever oblige his admirers. After all, he had a formidable reputation to uphold – as The Potions master from Hell. “You dance divinely, Mr. Godfry,” Professor McGonagall said after their second dance. “I seem to have intimidated your fan club. None of them seem very eager to cut in on me.... Ah, but I spoke too soon,” she added. “Minerva, come, come now, you mustn’t monopolise the handsome Mr. Godfry,” said Professor Sprout, taking Rick by the arm. “I believe it’s my turn,” she said, leading Rick away. By the time the supper break came, Rick had also danced with Madams Hooch and Pomfrey, and Professors Sinistra, Vector and Tonks. Tonks was by far the most fun, but Rick was thankful when the band finally stopped after two hours of continuous playing – and continuous dancing for him – he was exhausted. Hermione was not in a good mood when he eased himself into the seat beside her. “Well, Rick, I hope you’ve been having a wonderful time dancing tonight. God knows I have,” she said icily. Rick tried to put his arm around her shoulder, but she shrugged it away angrily. “Honestly Rick, I don’t know why I allowed myself be persuaded to invite you – I’ve had exactly one dance with you the whole night!” she fumed. “I’m really sorry Hermione, but there was nothing I could do – I just couldn’t get away. I kept trying to get back to you after every dance, but witches kept asking me to dance. I swear that I’ll never go to another Witches’ Prerogative ball,” sighed Rick. “And what’s wrong with a Witches’ Prerogative?” bristled Hermione. “That’s a typical male chauvinist attitude – blaming it on the witches – just because they’re in a position of power for once!” “Hermione, I’m not blaming anyone. I’m just trying to tell you that I wanted to come back to you, but I couldn’t. I mean what could I do?” “You could have said no,” said Hermione evenly. “You could have refused to dance.” “You don’t know how hard that would have been for me,” whispered Rick imploringly in her ear. “They were all so ... I don’t know, eager and hopeful. I mean, it was their one big chance to make contact. It would have really hurt them, if I’d refused. I just couldn’t say no – it would’ve hurt me.” “So you hurt me instead,” said Hermione bitterly. She understood why Rick couldn’t refuse. It was because of the empathy he felt with everyone. It was one of the things that she loved about him, but sometimes it had very annoying consequences. “You could have at least refused to dance with that horrible Pansy Parkinson. I mean after what she did – abducting me and delivering me to Draco Malfoy to ... to —” “Hermione, let’s not go there, please?” implored Rick. “I know what she did was terrible, and I’m sure she’s done lots of other bad things. But I can’t hate her. I ask myself what I’d be like, if I’d been born in a Death Eater family and brought up with all their hatreds and prejudices. Just imagine growing up in that kind of environment. Then, when you turn eleven, you come to Hogwarts and get sorted into Slytherin, where lots of your housemates are also the children of Death Eaters, who have all been indoctrinated, since they were little, with that racist Pureblood ideology and all their other warped values. I really feel sorry for Draco and Pansy and the other Slytherins from Death Eater families. Most of them never had a chance. In fact, the only chance they have is if we treat them like human beings, rather than just shut our hearts and minds to them, as if they were irredeemable monsters.” “You’re right,” sighed Hermione. “I know what you’re saying is true, Rick. But it’s incredibly difficult not to hate them – especially Malfoy and Pansy Parkinson, after what they tried to do to me. But I’ll try. I just wish I had your generosity of spirit.” Hermione put her hand on Rick’s arm. “Let’s forget about all of that for now, and try to enjoy what’s left of the evening. I’m sorry I got angry with you before. I know it’s not your fault – you were just the wrong wizard in the wrong place at the wrong time. But I feel much better now that I’ve vented my frustration,” she said, finally smiling at him. “Just call me Mr. Wrong,” laughed Rick. “Hey guys,” said Rick, raising his voice so that the others at the table could hear him. “You just have to hear what happened earlier, when Snape came up and accused me of starting a riot.” Rick amused them, describing his encounter with Snape and his timely rescue by Professor McGonagall. The image of Rick being whisked away from under the Potions master’s hooked nose to dance with Professor McGonagall had them in hysterics. Rick recounted how he had suggested that Snape help him out by dancing with some of the witches, because lots of them secretly fancied him. Most of the boys broke up at this, thinking it was hilarious. Ron almost gagged on the Black Forest cake he had just stuffed into his mouth. Hermione felt ill at the thought of dancing with their Potions master. But she noticed that Lavender and Parvati were blushing guiltily. Goodness, thought Hermione, maybe Rick is right about the submissive ones crushing on Snape – who would have thought it? All that greasy hair and those yellow teeth ... yuck, it made her feel sick. “Hermione,” said Rick, “I’ve just thought of a plan that will allow us to dance undisturbed after supper.” “And what makes you think I want to dance with you?” asked Hermione coyly. “I hope you’re not trying to usurp my Witches’ Prerogative, yet again, by suggesting that I ask you to dance.” “Why no, not at all,” said Rick in feigned innocence. “I was merely indicating that if you did happen to want to dance with me, and, you were the first one to ask me after the break, that I might be able to stop the other witches from cutting in on you.” “Sounds interesting,” said Hermione. “What exactly did you have in mind?” “You’ll have to ask me to dance – and be the first one – if you want to find out. Otherwise you’ll never know,” said Rick, with a big grin. Then looking up, his grin vanished as he noticed Lisa Turpin approaching fast, with several other witches in hot pursuit. “Hermione, umm, I don’t want to rush you or anything, but in five seconds this discussion is going to become purely academic.” Hermione looked up and spotted Lisa coming towards Rick and said quickly, “Any chance of another dance, Mr. Godfry?” “There sure is,” said Rick relieved, as he stood to lead Hermione to the dance floor. It was a nice slow number, and Rick pulled Hermione close to him, wrapping his arms around her waist. Hermione, who was only a little shorter than Rick, put her arms around his neck and snuggled up to him. It felt so good; she was lost in the feelings which flowed from him, when they were physically close like this. It wasn’t until the fourth dance that she thought to ask Rick what he had done, because no one had tried to cut in on her this time. “It’s my Wizard Repelling Charm,” said Rick. “It’s just like a Muggle Repelling Charm, except it works on witches and wizards. I cast it around the two of us. If I had just cast it around myself, then you wouldn’t be noticing me, and that would never do.” “No, it certainly wouldn’t,” agreed Hermione. “It wouldn’t be any fun at all,” she said, resting her head dreamily on Rick’s shoulder. “You know, I could kiss you,” said Rick, “and no one would even notice.” “I’d notice,” giggled Hermione. “Well, I certainly hope you would,” said Rick. “Come on, let’s give it a try. Err ... purely in the interests of science, you understand. This is the perfect environment for assessing the effectiveness of the Wizard Repelling Charm, wouldn’t you say?” asked Rick hopefully. “Purely in the interests of science,” answered Hermione. That was the last thing she said for a very long time. When their kiss ended, the music had stopped and the dance was over. “That’s some charm, that Wizard Repelling Charm, of yours,” purred Hermione happily. “Although, I think, in light of how it has been deployed, and the fact that this is a Witches’ Prerogative, it should be renamed the Witch Repelling Charm, for this evening.” “I couldn’t agree more,” said Rick cheerfully, lifting the charm as they walked back to their table to join their friends, who were getting ready to leave. “Where have you two been?” asked Ginny. “No one has seen either of you since supper.” “Rick’s been using some kind of Disillusionment Charm to stop witches cutting in on us – it worked brilliantly,” said Hermione happily. “I’ve had him all to myself since supper.” “I wish I knew how to do one,” said a very frustrated Ginny Weasley. “The few times I managed to get a dance with Harry, one witch or another would cut in as soon as it was over; and then it was impossible to get through the mob to ask him for another dance. I was furious – I was ready to start hurling hexes! It was terrible.” “You can say that again,” added Harry as they left the hall. “I’m not all that fond of dancing, and I just couldn’t get off the dance floor and back to our table. It seemed like all the witches had decided it was open season on Harry Potter tonight,” he sighed. “You can’t really blame them,” said Hermione wisely. “Most of them will never get another chance to talk to you or make contact. They’ll probably all be telling their children and grandchildren one day about the night of the Hogwarts Yule Ball of 1996, when they danced with the famous Harry Potter.” “Yeah, come on Harry, just think how happy you’ve made so many witches ... get with the spirit of the season,” said Rick, smiling at him and clapping a hand on his shoulder. “Well, I guess you’re right,” said Harry, “but I was sure feeling like Scrooge at the time. I was desperate to get away from them. In the end, Ginny and I had to hide out in the Rose Garden.” “What?” demanded Ron, in a rather unfriendly tone. “And what exactly were you doing in the Rose Garden with my little sister?” “How dare you, Ronald Weasley!” said Ginny, bristling. “I’m not your little baby sister any more, and I’ll do exactly as I please. I’ll go to the Rose Garden or wherever I please, with whomever I please – and do whatever I please! It’s absolutely none of your business!” “Hey, relax Ron,” said Harry. “Ginny’s virtue was safer out there in the Rose Garden than in a convent full of nuns. You should have seen the way Mother Superior Snape was prowling about, blasting rose bushes apart – the sadistic slimeball. He was deducting house points like there was no tomorrow – he even took points from Slytherin. It was five points just for holding hands!” “It was so funny,” giggled Ginny. “He caught Blaise Zabini and Pansy Parkinson in a very compromising situation. He deducted fifteen points each, from Slytherin.” “But didn’t Parkinson go to the ball with Malfoy?” asked Ron, puzzled. “Yeah, she did. In fact, Snape caught her with Malfoy a little later, and deducted more points,” laughed Ginny. “Pansy Parkinson has quite a reputation, you know. I think she may have read a meaning into Witches’ Prerogative that Professor Dumbledore hadn’t fully intended,” she added, giggling.
~~~~~ ~~~~~ ~~~~~ ~~~~~ ~~~~~
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