It had come as no surprise to George Weasley when the Yule Ball had
been announced. He'd researched the Tri-Wizard Tournament, and so he'd
known exactly what was coming on Christmas night. He also knew exactly
who he'd be going with.
Oh, it would have
been fun to be as horribly obnoxious as only he and Fred could be in
pursuit of a girl to go to the Ball with, but he was much more
interested in who Ron would end up going with.
So he set up a
side book on Ron's date to the Yule Ball, as well as the one that he
and Fred were running on the Tournament itself, the book on when Oliver
Wood would make his full debut for Puddlemere, the book on when Draco
Malfoy would go too far and get himself hexed by a member of Gryffindor
in front of the rest of the school – Mad-Eye Moody didn't count, they'd
decided – and the book on when Ginny would get up the courage to ask
So he was quite busy enough, even leaving aside the
ongoing problem with Ludo Bagman, without having to worry about
choosing a girl to go to the Ball with. Much easier to tell everyone
who asked that he would just dance with them on the night.
After all, there was plenty of George to go around.
Goldstein hadn't even planned on going to the Yule Ball. He wasn't a
Tri-Wizard champion – wasn't even that interested in the whole thing,
as there were no Ravenclaws involved. He had nearly hexed Vincent
Crabbe when the great lump had tried to sell him a Potter Stinks badge,
People should have respected the champions – whoever they were. People died at the Tournament.
had never known his uncle Tony, but his mother said that he had been
the pride of Hogwarts. Quidditch star, top student, and headhunted by
Professor Slughorn from his first week at the school, it had only been
natural that he should have been one of the students that went to
Bulgaria for the Tournament.
What hadn't been natural was the way that Anthony had not returned.
"You prat. You forgot again, didn't you?"
his mother said softly, every Christmas morning, running her finger
over the frame of her brother's photograph. It was the last one that
their family had of him – he was sitting atop an unconscious troll, its
heavy club hefted over his shoulder, beaming at the camera.
Anthony had once asked his father what his uncle had forgotten.
"Freezing Charms," his father had replied. "Your uncle could never manage them. And in the second task, it cost him his life."
Anthony had resolved never to be caught short of a spell when he needed one.
was Christmas Eve. In less than twelve hours, his mother would spend a
few minutes alone in the study with the picture of her brother. It
wasn't fair, but death didn't choose fairly. It didn't choose at all.
It just was.
Just like it just was that he'd volunteered to accompany one of Fleur Delacour's friends to the Yule Ball that morning, as a favour to Roger Davies.
Roger Davies, who'd never spoken to him before, and who had called him Alastair.
if he wanted to be on the Quidditch team, he needed to be noticed by
the captain, and an evening of being called Alastair and trying to
entertain someone who didn't speak any English seemed like a logical
way of at least making overtures in that direction. If there was one
thing that Anthony enjoyed more than anything else, it the logic of
Eloise Midgen hadn't planned to go to the
Yule Ball. She hadn't planned it – she hadn't expected it. She knew
exactly what the male Hogwarts students thought about her, and if she
ever forgot, she could always look in the mirror.
friends had begged her to go with them ("Just us girls! And we have to
support Cedric, don't we?") and she had finally relented, and spent too
much money on a set of dark green dress robes upon which her wavy red
hair sat, just so.
And then Jessica, her roommate, had dug up
an ancient spell in the library – she may have been a Hufflepuff, but
she was a clever one, something she shared with her brother, a
Ravenclaw. The spell, when cast, had shimmered across Eloise's face and
turned the scars and blotches into pale, near-flawless skin.
"El," Jessica had assured her, "you look amazing."
stared in wonder at her face in the mirror. She hadn't seen it unmarked
in such a fashion since she was ten – and then she'd had crooked teeth
that a brace had tugged into position until she'd finally abandoned it
"Is that me?"
"For a few hours – it's not a permanent spell. I think it'll hold until midnight, or thereabouts."
sighed in acceptance. Even for just a few hours, it was wonderful.
Every year at Christmas, she wished to be rid of the acne that had
plagued her for so long. Now, for once, she would be.
She tore her
eyes away from the clear skin and looked the rest of herself over as
Jessica did several passes over her hair with her wand, washing it and
untangling it. Her hair looked fine – even glossy. Her skin... but
she'd already spent long enough looking at that. Her teeth were white
and straight, her eyes a deep brown, and her nose... She smiled now,
remembering the bewilderment of seeing her nose fall to the floor.
Shock had made her obsessed with irrelevancies – why wasn't she
bleeding? And then Amanda had walked in, shrieked, and run off to fetch
Professor Sprout. Thirty minutes later, she'd been in detention for two
weeks, and her nose had been reattached – at an angle. Madam Pomfrey
and Professor Sprout had agreed that it would teach her a lesson if she
had to put up with a wonky nose while it healed and reattached itself
perfectly. She knew full well that it had grown back perfectly straight
– but people still looked at her strangely from time to time. She'd
grown used to it, and didn't really mind. She had learned her lesson.
Tonight, she wouldn't mind the stares at all.
Tri-Wizard Cup stood on the top table, with Percy Weasley carefully
positioning himself to be close to it. George snorted. There were
legends of babies snatched and replaced with those of other families by
goblins. Maybe that was how Percy had popped up, in the midst of the
otherwise wild Weasleys. He'd already told George off once for dancing
with Lee, saying that it was inappropriate.
"Maybe if I'd let you lead, it would have been better?" Lee suggested, as Percy stalked off to the top table again.
then, George had danced with Angelina, Alicia, Katie, Hermione, Ginny
and her friend Luna Lovegood. Feeling that he had obliged everyone who
might have felt that he was obligated to dance with them, he instead
concentrated on dancing with everyone that he wanted to – including
Professor McGonagall, who complimented him on his quick feet.
He'd let her lead, as well.
he took a breather. Steering clear of the spiked punch – some amateur
prankster had turned the Pomegranate Surprise green, although that could
just have been the surprise – he dipped a cup into the Pumpkin Broth
and took a sip of the warming, refreshing drink. Turning around, he
came face to face with Draco Malfoy.
"Oh, look," Malfoy spat.
"Another Weasley. God, I can't imagine anyone finding your mother
attractive enough that she got so many kids out of it. The depths some
people will sink to..."
George let it flow over him, looking
past Draco for a moment as he sized up the situation, deciding exactly
where and who his allies were, if it came to that.
slightly, as he remembered another Christmas encounter with Malfoy, two
years before, when he and Fred had dropped the Slytherin boy headfirst
into a six-foot deep snowdrift, and left him to dig himself out.
Apparently he had been so flustered, he'd then let Harry and Ron into
the Slytherin common room. And now – George leaned back to avoid
Malfoy's breath – he was drunk as a skunk, and smelt just as bad. No
wonder his girlfriend had abandoned him for the evening.
No wonder he was in such a foul mood.
"And you!" Malfoy shouted, pointing past George. "Didn't your dad die in this tournament or something?"
turned slowly, having given Malfoy a cautious glance on his way towards
the door. His date spoke no English – but apparently the Gryffindor
seventh year who'd taken her off his hands had no problems speaking
French. Roger Davies had ignored him although, Anthony had to concede,
as he had been sitting with Fleur Delacour on the top table, that was
partially forgivable. All in all, it had been a thoroughly forgettable
evening. Until now.
"My uncle, Malfoy. Have a care," he bit out, his voice low enough that it didn't reach anyone but Malfoy and the Weasley twin.
father, who cares? The less of you, the better, you stupid Half-blood!"
Malfoy drawled, his words slurring to the point that it took Anthony a
few seconds to realise exactly what it was Malfoy had said.
By that time, the most amazing girl he'd ever seen had her wand pressed up under Malfoy's chin.
had thoroughly enjoyed the evening, and had barely stepped off the
dance floor since the Weird Sisters had begun to play. Dancing with her
friends was great fun, and dancing with boys that she'd never normally
have had the courage to speak to was a revelation.
she had caught sight of Roger Davies, the almost painfully handsome
Ravenclaw, staring in a besotted manner at Fleur Delacour, and when she
looked at the expression of her dance partner, she saw much the same
look there. Excusing herself, she had dashed away, and taken a moment
to catch her breath.
That was... unusual. And rather unpleasant.
had heard those words, in that voice, more than once – quite often
directed at her. Draco Malfoy had acted as though he owned the school
from his first day. Never mind that she was older – she was a
Halfblood, "and an ugly one at that," he never failed to add.
to focus on something else, Eloise reached into her clutch bag and drew
her wand, planting the tip squarely against Malfoy's jugular. She was
dimly aware of two other boys drawing on Malfoy at the same time, but
she was faster.
"Malfoy, you evil little ferret," she hissed.
She paused, not sure of what to do next. Feeling rather self-conscious, she glanced at the other two boys.
was her age, a Gryffindor – one of the Weasley twins, although she had
no idea which. The other one was a Ravenclaw boy, she realised. She'd
seen him around, and he had always caught her attention, just as he had
done now. Dimly, she remembered that she was holding someone captive –
but who and why eluded her.
"Perhaps I can be of assistance?" George offered. He placed his own wand alongside the girl's, and pushed her hand gently away.
"I'll, er, just leave you two to it. Oh, yes, one last thing..."
twitched his wand, and sweat broke out on Malfoy's forehead. Instead of
a painful hex, however, a single white lily appeared in the boy's hand.
that's my selfless good deed for the day," he said to himself, nudging
the boy in the back as he marched Malfoy past them. The boy stumbled
forward, holding out the lily as he did so. The girl took it, and
George was gratified to note how well it went with her dress.
now for the one that's not selfless. After you, Malfoy. If anyone asks,
folks, I'll be back in two shakes of a rubber wand..."
If they heard me, I'll be surprised.
Anthony, the evening passed in a whirl of dancing and laughing, stories
and jokes. To be with someone whose company he enjoyed so much was...
intoxicating. He found himself telling her his uncle's story – the
first time that he had shared the story with anyone.
wonder you don't like Christmas very much," she sympathised. "Your
mother obviously tried, but I don't suppose she enjoyed it very much."
I suppose not," he said, feeling serious and sober. "Although as a
child, I was just concerned about the number of toys I got."
"Well of course," she said, smiling. "That's how any child is."
He smiled. Sometimes he felt guilty about that – and every Christmas day he remembered it with embarrassing clarity.
But now it doesn't seem so bad, he thought. Most children would be that way.
was having so much fun that thoughts of his uncle soon flew from his
mind – although when they ventured outside, he smiled to himself as he
cast a freezing charm on the pond to allow them to skate on it.
closer to a fairytale evening would be hard to imagine. It even seemed
to fit with the theme of the evening when she looked up sharply as the
clock struck midnight and said-
"I have to go."
He looked resigned.
"Will I see you again?"
"Of course," she smiled. "I do go to school here, you know."
Her face fell slightly.
"Yes. I see you in the corridors quite often."
"I... I don't know what to say. I'm sure I would have remembered someone as striking as you."
She closed her eyes for a moment, and then nodded, sadly.
"Yes, maybe you would have done," she said. "I have to go... before I turn into a pumpkin."
"But... will I see you again?"
"If you keep your eyes open, perhaps."
turned, and walked away, grateful for the twilight of the rose garden.
She touched her face lightly, and could feel her spots swelling again.
She didn't look back.
"I am a Malfoy! I demand to be set free this instant!"
not even the most ardent of Casanovas went near Hagrid's Blast-Ended
Skrewt enclosure that evening, so no-one heard Malfoy's demands, nor
saw him dangling just above the food bowl, upside down, with his face
and hair smeared with the chopped liver that the Skrewts particularly
Two months had passed, and still
Anthony looked for the girl in the corridors. Each time he saw red
hair, his heart leapt, but mainly it was Michael's new girlfriend, or
one of her brothers.
He waited outside Herbology, listening absently to the fifth year Hufflepuffs talking.
all Ernie MacMillan's fault, you know," one of them said. "He's so set
on making Prefect that as soon as he heard about our still..."
grinned, and looked up at them. A flash of red hair caught his eye –
but it wasn't her. His girl had been, well, alive. Confident. Vibrant.
The girl in front of him was shy and near silent, even among her
She looked around, and their eyes met. She looked at
him for a moment, as though searching for something. Briefly he
wondered what it was, but as he walked into the warm greenhouse, all
thoughts of her slipped from his mind.
walked with her friends towards the carriages. After all the excitement
of the last year, she was glad to be returning home.
she touched her face again. It was amazing how much better she looked,
after spending as much time as she could studying in the bright
springtime sunshine, and treating herself regularly with Madam
Pomfrey's Bubotuber lotion.
"We all have to get together this summer, okay?" Jessica said.
me a few weeks, and I'll have the still at home up and running," Amanda
said, glaring at the back of Ernie MacMillan's head.
"That'd be good," Eloise said, absently. She was watching out for him, as she had done for the last seven months.
"We're taking this carriage," Amanda said. "El, we'll see you at the station?"
looked around in surprise, but her friends had already shut the door,
the carriage was pulling away and Jessica, the girl with the Ravenclaw
brother, was waving and pointing madly.
She bit her lip, and turned around.
He was there, staring at her in astonishment, and she couldn't think of a thing to say.
George was helping Fred and Lee with their trunks when he caught sight of the Yule Ball pair by the next carriage.
Where's Malfoy when you need someone to hex as a bonding experience? he
wondered. Shaking his head, he cast a freezing charm at the ground
beneath their feet, making them slip and slide, before their feet went
out from underneath them and they had to grab hold of one another to
prevent themselves crashing to the ground.
They looked into one another's eyes, as George grinned and turned away.
"What's that about?" Fred asked, reaching out of the carriage for the last trunk.
"Nothing," George asked, hefting it up to his brother. "Hey, what's a seven month anniversary?"
"Dunno – morning sickness, wasn't it? I'm sure that's what Mum said that time."
"Oh, yeah, that's right. Anyway, got those order forms?"
"Yeah. Enough to keep us busy this summer. I've got this great idea for a listening device, by the way..."
climbed up into the carriage, and sat back, relaxing in the feeling of
another year over and done with. He glanced back from the carriage and
smiled, before putting his hands behind his head, and stretching out
his legs, listening to his brother's plans.
Good job there's plenty of me to go around...
(Author's Note: 'Plenty of George to go around' comes from a debate at Gryffindor Tower, back in the day.)