Harry Potter and Ron Weasley grudgingly climbed the steps heading to Gryffindor Tower. Both were obviously drained after their detention. Harry was taking every step slowly, clutching the banister as he did.
"Give me a run-down of the day, will you?" Ron grunted, rolling his sleeves up to nurse his biceps.
"Well," Harry gasped, "this morning, Errol fell on your porridge and spilled it all over your front."
"And at Herbology, Ernie Macmillian toppled that pail of fertilizer all over our shoes," added Ron.
"And we had to go back to the dormitory all smelly," Harry went on. "Then Filch caught us putting dung tracks on the entrance hall, and gave us detention."
"Don't forget the stupid assignment Trelawney gave us."
Harry snorted. "You had to put the Uranus joke on her, didn't you?"
Ron didn't seem to hear him. "And then this bloody detention. Who would have thought of sweeping the bleachers in the Quidditch pitch at nine in the evening?"
They had reached the portrait of the Fat Lady, who was putting her hair into rollers. "Only Filch," muttered Harry.
"Sorry, dear, that's not right!" the Fat Lady said cheerfully.
"Glumbumble," Ron groaned. The portrait swung open.
Harry sighed. "Could this day get any worse?" he asked Ron as he stepped into the portrait hole.
Harry suddenly had to clap his hands over his ears. The common room had burst into riotous applause as he entered. He barely had time to register what he was seeing when Seamus grabbed his arm and shoved him into the crowd.
"All right, Harry!" Dean Thomas cheered, thumping a hand on his shoulder.
"Yes indeed, well done, old boy," said Fred, shaking his hand vigorously in an uncanny impersonation of Percy.
"You're going to make Gryffindor very proud!" squealed Parvati Patil.
"Proud? What's going on?" asked Harry, but the noise drowned his own voice. It seemed as he was passed around the common room, had both hands shaken by everyone, until he was somehow returned to Ron's side, who looked as bewildered as he was.
"Now what did you do?" asked Ron.
"Nothing!" said Harry indignantly. Through the crowd, he noticed Hermione sitting beside Ginny on the couch. Both of them seemed to be stifling amused smiles.
"Hey, WAIT A MINUTE!" Harry roared. The cheering died, and Harry found his opportunity to speak. "Would anybody mind telling me what exactly is going on around here?"
Everyone's heads turned towards Hermione. Ginny nudged her on the elbow.
Hermione, biting her lip, stood up. "Well, Harry," she told him, "we've been…planning for a while now, while you and Ron were gone."
Ron raised his eyebrows at her. Harry thought he saw her give Ron a look that said, You're going to enjoy this.
"I'm listening," Harry said guardedly.
Hermione jumped straight into the point. "We want you to be the Gryffindor contestant for Miss Hogwarts."
Harry blinked. He wasn't sure he heard right. "Why would I miss Hogwarts?"
Everyone snickered. "Oh, Harry, honestly," said Hermione, rolling her eyes. "Miss Hogwarts. It's a competition. A beauty pageant. You do know Miss Universe, don't you?"
Everything still didn't seem to fit. "So, uh…I'll be escort or something?"
"Even better," Fred countered. "Didn't you hear? You're going to be a contestant."
Harry stared at Fred. Then, after a while, he held both palms up. "Hang on. I think you're all a little confused. Do I have to put my pants down or something to make you see with your very own eyes that I'm not a girl?"
The boys roared in laughter; the girls let out one collective gasp. "No, Harry—and shut your mouth, will you?" Hermione said. "We don't want to see it."
"I know a few here who'd love to," Fred said. He shoved Ginny from her back.
In the blink of an eye, Ginny cuffed her brother on the chin. Fred fell back, Lee fortunately catching him before hitting the ground.
Ginny dusted her hands and turned back to Harry and Hermione.
"It's like this, Harry," Hermione explained patiently. "Miss Hogwarts is a beauty pageant—but only boys are supposed to join. And we chose you. Meaning, you are going drag."
Harry stared blankly at Hermione, not sure how he was going to take it all in. He thought he heard her mention him going drag. For a beauty pageant.
"It's not for something without a cause, you know," Hermione added. "Proceeds for the sale of tickets will go to the orphanage being planned in Hogsmeade. You know about that, don't you?"
Harry looked at her suspiciously. "You're all planning this when Ron and I weren't around, weren't you?"
"It was an unanimous vote, Harry," George said. "Practically everyone here wanted you to be the contestant."
"Even you?" Harry asked Hermione.
Hermione smiled guiltily. "Well…you're a good choice, you know."
Harry stared in disbelief. "That's not fair. You made your choice without asking me what I think. Right, Ron?" He looked over Hermione's shoulder.
Ron was standing against the wall, his arms folded in front of him. He wore a serious expression on his face. "Harry, I only have this to say," he began.
Harry looked at him hopefully.
Ron broke into a goofy grin. "It's not a bad idea."
Hermione positively beamed at Ron.
Harry gave Ron a withering look. So much for his loyal, supportive best friend. I'll get back at you for this, you git, Harry mentally told him.
"We'd have chosen you even if you were here," said Lavender.
"You wouldn't be able to back out," Fred added, fully recovered from Ginny's wallop. "You're the only one with that kind of charisma."
Harry scowled at him. "No. NO WAY. NO—WAY. I'm not doing it. Do what you want, you can't convince me."
"But Harry, you're the best we could think of," Hermione moaned.
"I'm flattered," he said sarcastically. "What about—what about Ron? He's tall, he's slim—"
"—And freckly," finished Ron. "They wouldn't want Goldilocks, they'd want someone with a dark, natural kind of beauty." He smiled. "For once, I'm proud of my freckles."
"Harry, come on," Hermione implored. "Please. Isn't the orphanage important to you?"
Orphanage. Harry faltered a bit. For a moment, he remembered himself lying awake in that cupboard under the stairs back at the Dursleys, wishing that someone would just take him away from that awful place and love him like a real parent would. An orphanage would have been so much better than that cupboard, had he been privileged enough to be put into a wizarding one.
"No," he said, in a choked sort of voice. "I'm not going to do it. I'll donate some, sure, but going drag for a cause is a stupid idea."
Hermione looked hurt at Harry's statement.
"I'm going to bed," Harry finished, looking at all of them.
Everyone stared as Harry dodged Hermione and headed up the stairs. They all winced as they heard the distant slamming of a dormitory door.
"Seems like we have a problem," muttered Seamus.
George shook his head. "Convincing him is going to be harder than we thought."
Ginny, however, was smiling. "Don't be silly," she told George. "He's softening."
"You really do have the measure of him, don't you?"
There was a malicious glint in Fred's eyes when he spoke. "Measure of which, precisely?"
It didn't take Ginny a long time to realize that Fred was talking about something very rude. Fred ducked his head too late. Lee caught him again as he fell, and Ginny walked away and stomped up the girls' staircase, dusting her hands.
You're doing it, was what Harry's mind told him the moment he woke up the next morning. You'll go drag and help the school raise money for the orphanage. You can take an evening of humiliation—it's for a cause!
Harry groaned and buried his head under his pillow. "I'm not doing it, I'm not doing it, I'm not doing it."
Yes you are, yes you are, yes you are.
He suddenly had a mental image of himself in blonde curls and a ruffled dress, clutching his glasses to his nose. Not a good sight at all. "Shut up, shut up, SHUT UP!"
He suddenly heard someone open the curtains of his four-poster. He removed the pillow over his head and squinted. It was Ron.
"Are you losing your mind?" Ron asked, more hopefully than concernedly.
"No, thanks for asking."
"Oh." Ron looked disappointed. "I hoped you were. Then you'd have changed your mind about representing Gryffindor—"
"I told you, I'm not going," Harry said flatly. He reached for his glasses and got out of his bed.
"You want to go, don't you?" Ron asked. "You just want to be prodded a bit more."
"Try me." Harry inwardly winced at what he just said. Yeah, let him tempt you and you'll eat your words, something in his head said.
"Fine." Ron gave him a triumphant smile. "See you at breakfast."
Harry only realized then that Ron was already wearing his robes. Ron headed out of the room, practically jogging.
Sighing, Harry went over to his closet and took out his own robes.
The first thing Harry noticed when he got down to the Great Hall for breakfast was the cluster of red hair on one end of the Gryffindor table. The most brilliant red of them shot up as he arrived.
Ginny nudged Ron on her side as she grinned up at Harry. "‘Morning, Harry," she said.
"Hi," Harry managed to say. Ginny rarely spoke first in Harry's presence. He grew a bit suspicious.
"So." Fred, whose jaw seemed a bit swollen and red, sat back on his chair. He and George wore identical mockingly somber expressions. "You've given it some thought?"
You have no idea, Harry almost said. "I stick with what I said last night. I'm not doing it."
"Well, there seems to be a problem," George said. He put his hands together on the table. "Have a seat—we've got…very shocking news for you."
Harry looked at the four Weasleys. Ron and Ginny were obviously trying not to smile. Dreading what they were going to say, he sat down beside Ron.
"It's like this," said Fred. "The prefects of each House had to submit the names of the contestants a while ago, for Dumbledore to approve them."
George nodded grimly. "Unfortunately, our resident prefect has already given…your name."
Harry swore under his breath, thinking of ways to torture Hermione without Ron killing him for it.
"It's not that bad, you know," George went on. "Think of what you'd be earning for Gryffindor—glory, fame—"
Harry looked at the bacon served in front of him. He suddenly didn't feel like eating. "Please. I've had enough fame to last me a lifetime."
"Okay, then. Think of what you'd be doing for those poor kids. Think of how they'd look up to Harry Potter as a very central character in building their orphanage."
"I'll back out," Harry said suddenly. "That's it. We won't have a Gryffindor representative!"
"And we're all going to kill you," Ron said.
"The Gryffindors chose you, Harry," said Ginny beseechingly. "Why let them down?"
"You chose me without my consent," Harry replied.
Fred, George and Ron looked at each other. They seemed to agree to take a different approach.
Fred took a deep breath. "Okay. What is it you want? Just name it. The Firebolt Three, a girlfriend—Cho Chang—"
"Oh, shut it," Harry muttered, casting a glance towards the Ravenclaw table. Cho was still talking animatedly to her friends.
"You don't want a girlfriend?"
"No," Harry said flatly.
Fred looked at Ginny sadly. "Aww, isn't that a pity?"
Ginny narrowed her eyes into slits.
"We'll get you a make-up artist, talent instructor, the works," George said, apparently trying to prevent Fred from being hit again.
"And all I have to do is humiliate myself in front of the school, is that it?"
The image of him in the dress became much, much clearer. Harry shuddered. "No." Harry poked his fork into a sausage and bit it savagely. "I'm backing out."
"We're removing you from the team if you don't join," Fred abruptly declared.
Harry shrugged nonchalantly. "Go ahead. Find a new Seeker and train him real well for the match against Slytherin in November. It's about…a month and a half away, isn't it?"
Harry sounded so irritatingly confident, and yet the others knew Gryffindor couldn't do without him on the Quidditch team. The four Weasleys slumped back on their chairs in defeat. They seemed to have used up all plans to convince Harry—until Ginny spoke up.
"Look, are you a Gryffindor or not?"
Harry looked at her, surprised at hearing her voice so sharp towards him. "I'm on this table, aren't I?"
Ginny was looking at him straight in the eyes. "Yes. So what happened to the ‘bold and daring' part? Don't you know that the measure of a true Gryffindor is how willing he is to be humiliated in front of people to help other, less fortunate ones? Don't you know that a true Gryffindor is brave enough to be a girl?"
Her elder brothers looked at Harry in tense anticipation.
Ron had been right. Ginny wouldn't shut up most of the time, especially when provoked.
And she had said what had been running in his mind since last night. He could take an evening of humiliation—knowing it's for a cause. But pulling it off was another question.
Was he brave enough to be a girl? Harry swallowed. Ginny—Ginny Weasley had dared him to be a girl to test his bravery.
Ginny was starting to smile. "You're getting convinced," she told him.
Harry narrowed his eyes at her. "This will be all your fault."
Ginny's mouth gaped open in shock. "So you're doing it? Really doing it?"
Fred, George and Ron all dropped their jaws in unison.
"You're doing it!" Fred jumped off his seat victoriously and stood up, facing the other Gryffindors. "HE'S DOING IT! HE'S—"
George had clamped a hand over Fred's mouth and dragged him back to his seat. "SHUT UP! This is supposed to be a secret from the other Houses!"
Ron had turned to Ginny, still looking dumbstruck. "Ginny…do you have any idea how hard it is to talk Harry into something?"
"You, little sister, are a genius!" George told her.
Fred grinned at her. "Listen, do you want a boyfriend?"
Ginny shot Fred an intimidating look.
Harry, meanwhile, felt numb, even when the image of him in blonde curls appeared in his head again, more creepily defined than ever, for he began to see pink eyeshadow and red lipstick painted on his face.
Jenna's Notes: Yes, of course it's H/G. Gracias, Amy and Laurel, for the beta!