"Oh, Lavender, this is just lovely!" Parvati gushed as she gazed at the silver necklace Lavender had handed her. "Where did you buy it?"
Lavender tucked a few strands of hair behind an ear and smiled coyly at Seamus, who was grinning at her from the other side of the room. "Seamus gave it to me on my birthday last month."
"Oh, wow! That is so sweet!"
Lavender winked at her. "That's what happens when someone is head over heels for you."
Harry watched, mouth hanging open in disbelief, as Lavender and Parvati broke into a fit of giggles. Parvati playfully slapped Lavender on her arm, and Lavender shoved her hard on her side. The girls giggled even harder.
"I don't believe it," Harry mumbled to himself as the thought of what he was about to face in roughly four weeks sank into him slowly, yet forcefully. "What have I got myself into?"
Harry, Hermione and the Weasley siblings were sitting on the carpet in front of the fireplace in the common room that evening. Ron and Hermione were engaged in a wizard's chess match, and it looked as though Hermione was losing again. Ginny, meanwhile, looked like she was about to doze off.
"I tell you, Harry," George was saying, "you'll get free samples of Snot Balls from us simply for joining."
"Snot Balls?" Harry repeated.
"Their latest invention," Hermione said, rolling her eyes. "Don't ask."
"You should be glad you joined," Fred told Harry. "This is the most prestigious beauty pageant in the history of Hogwarts!"
"It's the only beauty pageant in the history of Hogwarts," said Hermione.
"Still reading Hogwarts, A History, aren't we?" Ron teased as he watched one of his knights knock off a white pawn. "Fancy adding an entry into it? Harry would love that."
"If ever I get into any book, I don't want my picture in it to be me in a frilly dress," Harry said gloomily. "Seriously, why am I supposed to be thrilled about all this?"
Hermione patted him on the hand. "You'll be helping those orphans, remember that."
"Everyone has told me that, and I don't feel any better."
"You will, once you really get into this contest," Hermione said good-naturedly. "I'm sure the other prefects also had a difficult time convincing their house's choice to join, but I know that in a couple of weeks, you guys will be so into the contest that you'd do anything to win."
Harry shook his head. "I can't imagine why. Who'll join from the other houses, anyway?"
Hermione shrugged. "We haven't told each other, you know. But they told me their choices haven't agreed to join yet. In fact, you're the first to agree, and that's saying something."
"Weird," Harry mumbled, still looking depressed. "They must be lying. I thought you all had to submit the names of the contestants to Dumbledore this morning."
Ron, Ginny, Fred and George looked at each other. Ron and Ginny were suddenly wide-eyed.
Hermione was cocking an eyebrow at Harry. "Uh...did we have to?"
Ron widened his eyes at Hermione, apparently trying to tell her something.
"What?" Harry asked suspiciously.
Hermione, intelligent as she was, didn't seem to have caught on. "What are you talking about? We'll tell the professors and the students who the contestants are at the same time."
Harry's jaw dropped open in shock. "What...what were you telling me about Dumbledore this morning?" he asked, turning to Fred and George.
The twins just grinned sheepishly.
Harry threw his hands up. "Great. Wonderful, you know that? I've been outwitted, at the cost of wearing a wig and make-up." Another thought, a horrible one, crossed his mind. "And in front of Dumbledore! What's he going to think of me?"
"He's going to marvel at the Gryffindorian spirit you showed by joining," Ron said wisely. Ginny nodded in agreement.
Harry gave each of the Weasleys a seriously evil look.
"We are going to help you, you know," Hermione pointed out. "We'll get someone to do your hair and help you with your talent and all."
"Speaking of your talent," George said, "what are you going to do?"
Everyone turned to Hermione, who shrugged at Harry. "You can dance."
Harry suddenly had a vision of himself wearing a hula costume—complete with a huge hibiscus perched on his hair.
"I don't dance," said Harry through gritted teeth.
"You can always play Quidditch on stage," muttered Ron dryly.
"That would be fun, wouldn't it?" said George sarcastically. "Who'd want to see the Seeker fly around the stage like he always does during Quidditch season?"
"Unless you wear a two-piece bikini as you fly, of course," said Fred.
George and Ron snorted in laughter.
"Oh, don't be disgusting, you three," Ginny told her brothers. "As if the professors would allow that."
"Why wouldn't they?" asked George.
Hermione looked at him as if the answer was the most obvious thing in the world. "Do you expect the first-years to take that lightly? We'll probably traumatize them or something. Anyway," she proceeded before anyone could protest, "you, Harry, have to find someone to assist you through the preparation for the event."
"Hermione, I don't just trust my hair with anyone, especially when I expect them to peroxide it blonde."
"Well, don't look at me," Hermione told him. "I'll be busy coordinating the event with the professors—right now we're trying to settle on an age limit on the audience."
Harry raised his eyebrows at Ron.
"No, not Ron. Not any boy. You'll need advice on what to wear—and let's face it, you guys don't know the first thing about make-up."
"Why would we bother with it?" asked Ron.
Hermione ignored him. "I strongly suggest you take a girl as your assistant." She looked around the common room. "How about Parvati or Lavender? They know a lot about makeovers and things like that."
Harry shook his head vigorously, watching Lavender whispering to Parvati. "Nope. No way. They'll—they'll probably turn my face orange or something."
Parvati suddenly let out a twittering sort of laugh. She and Lavender started shoving each other again.
"Check," Ron muttered to Hermione.
"Okay," Hermione said, sighing. "Is there anyone in here, other than me, whom you trust your face and hair with?"
Harry was about to tell her, as his eyes trailed on her bushy brown hair, that he didn't trust her with his hair, either. But she was right—she was one of the very few girls he trusted.
And as he looked around the common room, he had to correct himself—Hermione was probably the only girl he trusted enough for assistance. Having been his friend for five years, Hermione knew him well enough—better than anyone, except perhaps for Ron.
But then again...
Harry's eyes fell on Ginny. She was staring at the chessboard in a jaded manner, and it looked as though she was going to fall asleep with her cheek on her fist.
Ginny looked up and saw Harry staring at her. She blinked and cocked her head sideways. "What?"
Harry raised his eyebrows at her. "You got me into this, didn't you?"
"Why, that's perfect!" exclaimed Hermione as she grinned at Ginny. "Ginny—you know a bit about make-up and stuff, don't you?"
Ginny looked wide-awake all of a sudden. "Well... I can manage, I suppose...."
"Well, that's settled," Hermione said brightly. "Harry—you'll let Ginny do you hair and teach you what you'll be doing in the talent portion, won't you?"
Harry glanced at Ginny. She looked nonchalant about all this, as though she had helped a lot of other boys before Harry become girls, but she looked at Harry expectantly.
There was nothing else to it. Besides, he could trust her, couldn't he? He shrugged. "Sure."
Ginny nodded, her expression still unreadable.
"Great," said Hermione. "We'll leave Harry to you then."
Harry missed Ron, Fred and George's horrified stares.
"I think we'll be able to finalize the contest rules tomorrow morning," Hermione went on. "I'll let both of you know as soon as I get a copy, okay?"
"Okay," said Ginny quietly as she stood up. "Um, I'll just be... upstairs... get some sleep."
"Right, then," said Hermione, smiling at her. "Thanks, Ginny."
"Anytime," Ginny replied, nodding at Harry. "‘Night, everyone."
It was then, as Ginny headed upstairs, that Harry noticed her brothers' stricken looks. "What now?" he asked them irritably.
"Why Ginny?" Fred asked desperately. "Why?"
Harry blinked. "Why not?"
Ron clapped a hand on his shoulder. "Let me tell you something, mate," he told him gravely. "When she was six, Fred and George bullied her so much that she somehow turned their hair into a horrible do without the use of a wand."
"One side of our hair became yellow spikes," Fred told him. "The other side became violet curls up to here." He motioned to his right shoulder.
Harry's eyes widened in shock.
"And she loves doing it!" George yelled. "If you look at the witch doll collection she had as a kid—Harry, they're—"
There seemed to be no words to explain what the doll collection was.
Hermione was smiling. "She's got taste. Violet compliments yellow in the color wheel, doesn't it?"
Harry buried his face in his hands. "What have I gotten myself into?" he whined again.
Ron shook his head, hiding a smile as he moved his bishop across the chessboard. "Checkmate."
* * *
Ginny closed the door to their dormitory quietly. It was then that she finally allowed herself to blush.
Thank goodness the room was empty, for her roommates would have caught her grinning foolishly in the dark. She made her way to her bed and closed the hangings of her four-poster.
Harry had singled her out. Of course, she was only the second choice, but she could live with that. At least he trusted her—even if it was only with his hair. It was already something, especially for someone who had loved him for what he was ever since she was ten years old.
Ginny hugged her pillow and smiled wickedly as she lay on her bed. She had a lot of plans for Harry Potter.