The youngest of the family of Sprouts, she was used to taking up the role of observer. But Gilderoy Lockhart was not quiet, and constantly egged her into speaking her mind. Not because he annoyed her, but because he paid her attention, and Pomona, you could say, was not exactly used to attention.
On the last day of April, Pomona was walking back down to the common room, when she was stopped by a large hand on her shoulder, holding her back. She looked up to see the large smile of Gilderoy Lockhart, who was already chattering away about something or other that he was going to do when he grew up and graduated. Pomona waited for him to say something of importance: not that his desires and dreams were unimportant, no, never that. It was only that Gilderoy, often speaking of his goals to many different people, often forgot to whom he had told certain fantasies, and Pomona was quite used to having to tune Gilderoy out when he was retelling her a story.
When he stopped for breath, Pomona smiled widely and said, “I’ve got to get back to the common room, I have a Herbology test next week.”
Gilderoy was instantly the picture of a delighted listener. His blue eyes flickered over Pomona’s face and his mouth, still smiling, fell quiet. He winked once, and then, reasonably sure that Pomona wasn’t going to speak again, he said, “You hardly need to study, eh?” He seemed to smile even more brightly than before, and once again, Pomona felt a queer little quiver in her heart. She knew that Gilderoy understood, only too well, his physical charm. He was too handsome for his good, and Pomona knew it. But that didn’t stop her from noticing the special attention that Gilderoy paid her, and the way that he only ceased speaking when she spoke. He ran right over anyone else when he had something to say, but he listened to Pomona, who was a nobody. That made Pomona feel like a somebody.
Pomona smiled up at Gilderoy, and said quietly, “I always need to study.”
“But you’re so brilliant at Herbology!” Gilderoy protested. Hufflepuffs and Ravenclaws had Herbology together, so she blushed, not knowing how to accept a compliment.
“Thank you,” she said after a moment. “You’re very good at everything else.”
“Nonsense,” Gilderoy said, flapping his hands with a comfortable air. He was used to diffusing praise. “I’ll walk you back to the common room. It’s after hours, after all, and a prefect’s company wouldn’t hurt if someone were to catch you,” he offered, raising his eyebrows.
Gilderoy was always so thoughtful. Pomona smiled and allowed him to accompany her down to the dungeons. On the way down the staircase to the second floor, Gilderoy asked, “Are you going to the May-day festival tomorrow?”
Pomona was surprised. She thought everyone was going. “Are you?” she asked, looking up sideways. He was staring straight ahead, though when he noticed her looking he looked down with a bright blue eye and smiled widely.
“Of course. Prefects will be required to oversee the activities.” He gestured unnecessarily to the large bronze badge on his chest. Pomona smiled softly, nodding. Of course.
They walked the rest of the route to the Hufflepuff common room in silence. When they reached the door, Gilderoy stood with his hands behind his back and said grandly, “Farewell, Pomona, until tomorrow.”
“Bye, Gilderoy,” Pomona said, shaking her head a little. He was already half-way up the corridor and rounding the corner. He could move surprisingly quickly. But she supposed that Seekers were generally speedy people.
Pomona had trouble falling asleep that night. She had always gotten mixed messages from Gilderoy. She wasn’t sure if she was too quick to allow her heart to flutter at his attention. He was not popular, so there wasn’t a real reason to think that he didn’t dote on all his friends. He tried to appeal to the masses of the Hogwarts generation, but they were too busy admiring James Potter and his clan of marauders, as they called themselves. There was a huge divide in the popularity system that called attention to Slytherin and Gryffindor and left the other two houses quite nicely put out of the limelight. Pomona’s sister Sloane, now a seventh year, loved the attention her house received, and Lumina, fifth year like Gilderoy, didn’t mind that Ravenclaw stayed out of the action. It bothered Gilderoy, mostly because he didn’t feel that his prowess at Quidditch was appreciated. The number attending the Hufflepuff vs. Ravenclaw matches was very low, and Pomona had seen the way that it pained Gilderoy that two houses were glorified beyond the other two.
But this was not something to think about before the day of the May-day celebrations. With a smile on her face, and thinking of Gilderoy’s famous Obliviates, Pomona drifted into sleep.
When Pomona awoke the next morning, the dormitory was empty. Their false window showed a wonderful amount of sun out on the grounds, and Pomona went to it to look outside.
There was a large maypole set up on the grounds out beyond the far shore of the Black Lake; and Pomona had to assume that it was very large if she could see it from this part of the castle. It was tall and white, and had various coloured ribbons streaming away from it, waiting to be held. Pomona felt a flutter of excitement in her chest, and ran to her wardrobe to get out the dress robes that her Mum had sent her for the event. They were a light blue, which would compliment her fair skin and grey eyes, Mother said in her letter, and fit loosely, like the garment of a wood nymph. Mother had also sent Pomona a wreath of baby flutterby twigs and roses. The leaves were too young to move constantly, but when the breeze hit them, they would give little twirls and last for a little while.
Pomona checked her watch before unlatching it from her wrist—it was not delicate enough to match her sleeveless gown. Eight o’clock gave Pomona an hour to dress and ready herself before meeting Lumina at the Entrance Hall, so Pomona set to work, washing her hair and allowing it to dry in the warm air, even though she knew it would turn into a horrible frizz. Eyeing a jar of magical pomade, Pomona dabbed a bit of makeup on her face before deciding that there really wasn’t any use—there was no getting past her grey bug eyes or her freckles or her slightly-gapped teeth. But that was alright. Today would be fun, and she wouldn’t have to look in a mirror all day.
She took up the pomade and read the directions carefully before sticking in a finger and rubbing the waxy material between her hands. Pomona jumped as there was a loud rap on the door, and turned around to see her sister Lumina standing in the doorway, dressed in soft green robes, her golden hair flowing down to her waist and her dark blue eyes alight with excitement. Her wreath was made from Laurel and Lily-of-the-Valley, and did nothing to hold back her hair.
“Hello, Mona,” Lumina said, walking into the dormitory.
“How’d you get in?” Pomona asked, and then ran to her bed to look at the time, worried that she was late. She wasn’t. It was only a quarter past eight.
“There isn’t a password,” Lumina pointed out, raising her eyebrows. Then she frowned. Pomona frowned back in trepidation.
“You’re not wearing makeup.”
“Am too,” Pomona defended herself. She pointed to her nose. “I put some right there. See? It’s not even red.”
“That’s true,” Lumina said, tilting her head. Pomona saw that Lumina’s face was fully painted, and lovely, although she didn’t need paint for loveliness. “Although it’s not enough. Today is May-day, Pomona, it’s the day that Mum and Dad met all those years ago. This festival is destined good-luck for women looking for love.” Lumina put her hands on her hips, meaning every word she said. And it was true that their parents had met during this festival, all those years ago. Pomona sighed and sat down on her bed, wiping the pomade on her bedspread, but Lumina promptly grabbed her arm and dragged her into the small lavatory, setting up all of the little pots and things that Pomona had only known how to stare at.
“This is concealer,” Lumina began, picking up something that looked like a colour-wheel of different creams and pointing at each one in turn. “You use the green one for redness. I bet you didn’t. And the salmon-coloured one is for underneath the eyes, although you’re fairer than that, so we’ll use the lemon-coloured one, there, see? And the lavender-coloured one covers blemishes.” Lumina went on explaining the different items as she proceeded to strap Pomona down to the wicker hamper with a silent spell and cover her face. Pomona whined several times to no avail before giving up.
It took nearly half an hour, but when Lumina finally silently uttered the counterspell to the one arresting Pomona to the hamper, and allowed Pomona to peer into the looking-glass.
“Don’t squint, you ninny,” Lumina ordered, smacking Pomona on the shoulder.
Pomona widened her eyes exaggeratedly, and then looked over her face. She didn’t think that she would ever be as lovely as Lumina, but she was startled to notice that she didn’t think that she looked normal. She was, although she would never admit it, looking a little nicer than average today.
“Thanks, Mina,” Pomona said begrudgingly, returning her sister’s happy hug.
“Let’s go now!” Lumina said excitedly, glancing at her dainty silver watch and tugging at one of her sleeves anxiously. Pomona was jealous of Lumina’s tiny, flutter sleeves. Pomona’s arms looked even plumper completely bare, but there wasn’t much time to worry about that. Grabbing her golden cloak, Pomona followed her sister out of the dormitory and up to the Entrance Hall. Lumina ran over to the corner where she had left her own, dark silver cloak and as she threw it over her shoulders, Pomona held open the great oak doors and the two sisters crossed the grounds arm-in-arm.
When they reached the Northern Shore of the lake, which was the closest to the castle, they could see at the South-Eastern end the large maypole already in use, and several arbors, as well as a whole lot of dancing and swirling of brightly-coloured robes.
Pomona and Lumina turned at the sound of the familiar voice. Gilderoy was dressed lavishly—lavender-coloured robes, with a perfectly poised, matching hat set on his golden hair. He offered Pomona his arm and Lumina dropped Pomona’s other one quickly, scampering off to clasp hands with Xenophilius. Xeno looked back over his shoulder before walking off with Lumina, and sent Pomona a wink. Pomona felt a blush creeping up her neck. It was a slightly annoying thing, that the people who were nicest to her also found it necessary to tease.
“Let’s run around the maypole!” Gilderoy said excitedly, with a flourish of his wand. A bouquet of flowers erupted from the end in a nice little bunch, and he handed them to Pomona with a slight bow.
“Milady,” he said, and Pomona had a hard time trying not to roll her eyes. Mina said that it was a form of deflection; Pomona wasn’t used to having attention. It took her out of her comfortability. So she got cheeky.
She tried to reign it in, graciously accepting the bouquet. “Kindest thanks, gentle sir,” she said, curtsying as well as she could while Gilderoy had her arm.
They skipped (Gilderoy skipped, Pomona scurried to keep up) over to the large while pole set into the middle of the grounds. It was much more beautiful up close, covered with vines and flowers.
“Snapdragons,” Pomona exclaimed as she regarded the strangely-shaped buds on the pole. “They don’t usually grow this way, that’s strange.”
“Not strange,” Gilderoy corrected, his Prefect kicking in, “magical!”
“Oh,” Pomona said, smiling slightly. Gilderoy looked very pleased with himself, and Pomona’s stomach fluttered as his clear blue eye sent her a wink. “Yes, magical.”
Gilderoy lead her over to the maypole and picked out a light blue ribbon for her to hold. “It matches your dress,” he announced, perhaps a bit unnecessarily. He was, always, a fan of colour-coordination.
“You’ll have a lavender one, then?” Pomona joked, and Gilderoy played along, yelping as he let go of the golden ribbon he had only just been grasping and running along to find another ribbon. There weren’t any lavender ones, to his dismay, but he found a pale pink one as substitute, shrugging as he grasped the end. Pomona nodded. Knowing Gilderoy, he might actually have been serious.
He smiled as the procession began. Pomona couldn’t help but let out a little laugh as she watched him skip and dance merrily. Pomona was almost fooled into a feeling of kinship; it wasn’t every day that one skipped in strange company around a painted tree in the middle of the Hogwarts grounds.
Pomona lost track of time. It was sudden when she found that she was nestled closely between the other two people behind and in front of her; they had reached the end of their ribbons, and the maypole was completely wrapped. At the boom! of a bodrhán, every dancer turned the other way, holding their ribbon in their opposite hand, and began to skip the other way. Pomona caught sight of Gilderoy, who wiggled his eyebrows and jumped especially high, clicking together his heels, when he saw her watching. She smiled, surrendering herself to the frenetic motion.
At the sound of a loud boom! from the bodrhán, every other dancer knelt, holding out their arms with their ribbons. Pomona was left in the remaining half, and held her ribbon high above her head as she and the other dancers skipped around those kneeling. She met Gilderoy’s gaze and he held it, grinning as usual. She looked away with a flutter of her midsection. Stupid flowers. They made her woozy.
On their third time around the maypole, the dancers knelt down while the others stood, and began to skip. Pomona watched Gilderoy skip merrily, often waving to people that he saw milling about or playing at the booths. She looked away quickly as his face turned in her direction: she wasn’t sure that she could understand what was going on. It wasn’t that Pomona wasn’t used to not understanding things, because she certainly was. Something that she couldn’t explain made her nervous.
Gilderoy’s group came to an end. Pomona looked up at the maypole, which was covered in the braided ribbons. She was about to get up, but there was yet another, unexpected boom! of the drum and she saw the heads of the other dancers turn towards the drum master questioningly. Filius Flitwick, the new Charms professor, smiled widely, nodding in confirmation. The last circle around the maypole was the trickiest to do, as it was meant to unweave the braids while half of the circle moved in and out of the other half, moving in the other direction. Pomona saw Gilderoy shrug to the person beside him, and all at once the motion began.
It ended very quickly. Collisions exploded all around Pomona as ribbons were tangled and robes of different colours clashed. Pomona was about to flee the circle when a lavender-clad dancer collided with her, and sent her crashing to the ground. Pomona opened her eyes, looking up into clear blue ones that were only too easy to recognize.
“You can get up now,” Pomona said, but Gilderoy didn’t budge. He lifted a hand to push back Pomona’s headdress, which had fallen down onto her forehead. His eyes bounced back and forth between Pomona’s, and he cupped one cheek in his palm.
Pomona knew what was going to happen before it did; so she gave Gilderoy a hearty shove while masking her distress with what she hoped was a pleasant smile, and not the grimace that it stemmed from. He looked slightly dazed for a moment, but quickly recovered and smiled brightly. It froze at the edges. Pomona didn’t know what that meant.
Gilderoy got to his feet, and offered Pomona a hand up, before clearing his throat grandly and wondering aloud, “did that just happen?”
Pomona didn’t know what to say. “What?” was all that she could force from her lips; she felt an unpleasant foreboding settling to the pit of her stomach.
“It’s just—I thought that you—” He shook his head slightly, making a sheepish face. “I thought that you fancied me.”
Pomona’s eyebrows shot up. That wasn’t the explanation that she thought he would have offered. “Oh,” she said, and wandered over to a nearby bench, sitting down. Gilderoy followed her.
“Do you?” he persisted, his smile clearly becoming a grimace. “I thought you fancied me.” His tone was slipping; so often elevated and soft, it was becoming pleading, desperate. “Don’t you fancy me?”
Pomona tried not to frown. She hadn’t seen a picture of Gilderoy that wasn’t unruffled in every manner. “I—I think—I don’t know, honestly,” she said, shaking her head. “But I think so.”
“Then let me kiss you,” he said, pleading again. “Today is the first day of May, the day people are supposed to fall in love.”
“Supposed to?” Pomona asked, her mild nature stirring. “Look, Gilderoy, I thought we were friends. The last thing that I would have expected you to do is take advantage of me because it’s the day that people are supposed to fall in love.”
Gilderoy’s eyes glinted for a moment, and his jaw slacked. But in only another moment, he was smiling and the picture of confidence. “Of course, I understand. We are friends, and nothing should change that.” He turned and strode off quickly.
Pomona sighed, clasping her hands together and resting her chin on them. She sat watching the festivities, not noticing much of what was happening.
Hours passed, and the sun sank lower in the sky. Nearing evening, Lumina and Xeno wandered over to Pomona’s bench and sat down next to her.
“What went on with you and Gilderoy?” Lumina asked, looking concerned. “That is his name, isn’t it? Lock-something. I saw him over by the archery booth snogging Mae Parker!”
“I think I did, too,” Pomona said when Lumina was unable to finish her question. Xeno reached across Lumina’s shoulders to pat Pomona comfortingly. “It’s alright, really,” she said, smiling.
“There’ll be someone else,” Pomona mused aloud, looking up at the maypole. A light pink ribbon glimmered in the setting sunlight. She couldn’t help but look around at the beautiful grounds and feel a sense of awe. Here I am, she thought, and here is beautiful.
“You’re right, Pomona,” Lumina said, grabbing her hand. Xeno put an arm around Mina’s shoulders and smiled at Pomona encouragingly.
“I’ll take my time,” she whispered, talking to no one in particular.
A/N: lyrics in this chapter from Parachutes by Coldplay: "here I am, and I'll take my time."