Chapter 21 : The Yule Ball
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"I didn't say I wasn't going to go with him," Penelope glanced nervously around the common room to check that no-one was listening in, but everyone else had gone to bed and there was only the four of them left, "I just said I wasn't going to go."
"But...why?" Audrey spluttered.
"Because, believe it or not, the whole of this started because Davies wanted to take you to the Yule Ball, so excuse me for not wanting to attend!" Penelope hissed as Audrey glared at her. "Don't look at me like that," she pointed her finger at her, "you know it's true."
Penelope had wasted no time in telling Audrey and Kathy what had happened in Oliver's detention, she was hardly able to since they were sitting on her bed and waiting for her when she got back; and yet, one week later, Audrey was still reliving the same moment every time she got Penelope in a good enough mood to have a go at her, but Penelope still wouldn't budge.
"Now, there is absolutely no way I am going to the Yule Ball, and there is nothing that you can say that will convince me otherwise." She turned away from Audrey and looked at Kathy, speaking quietly, "I thought you might understand."
"I do," Kathy shook her head, "but I thought that you might come to your senses and realise that you might want to do something that made you happy."
"I am happy." Penelope said tensely, grabbing a book from her bag and thrusting it open at a random page, sick of the same conversation that they had every day.
There was a knock at the common room door and they fell silent, listening in to the knocker reading its riddle. Obviously the person didn't know the answer, and decided that the best way to be allowed entrance was to bang their fists repeatedly on the door.
"I'll get it," Derek moped over to the door and Penelope held the book over her face, trying to listen in to hear who the person was and what they wanted, and yet knowing that if it was one person in particular, she might just have to throw herself off the Astronomy-
"Don't worry," Derek said, standing in front of Penelope and holding his arm out, "it wasn't Percy. But they did want me to give you this."
Penelope brought her arms down and rested the book on her lap, staring from the rolled-up parchment in Derek's hand to Derek's face, "Who? Who wanted you to give me this?"
He smirked and bent down to give Audrey a kiss, "Goodnight."
"Night night." Audrey smiled and watched him go before turning back to Penelope and the note in her hand. "Well then, need I ask who it is?"
Penelope could barely contain her laughter as she handed Audrey the note. "Oh for the love of-" she giggled as she read it through.
"What? What does it say?" Kathy said, leaning across Penelope who was now rolling from side-to-side on the sofa laughing manically.
Audrey cleared her throat and sat up straight, "Roses are red, Violets are blue, I'll take the Giant Squid to the Ball, If I can't take you. Flobberworms are brown, Blast-Ended Skrewts are black -slash- red, (Penelope snorted with laughter at this point and Audrey grinned) But I'll dump her in a second, If you come instead-"
She suddenly howled with laughter and threw her head back, stamping her feet on the floor and unable to read on. Kathy tried to take the note off her but Audrey wiped her eyes and took a deep breath.
"Any more?" Kathy asked and Audrey nodded, swallowing another bought of laughter before reading:
"Argus Filch has warts, Harry Potter has fame, I bet you'd like to find out, How I got my name."
Audrey looked up from the note, tears of laughter shining in her eyes, and saw Kathy staring at her with her mouth hanging open. "It's..." she gulped and look around for the right word, "well, it's sincere."
"It's awful." Penelope grinned and took the note off Audrey, gazing down at it as if she was waiting for the parchment to sing the words for her.
"So...you'll be going to the Yule Ball then?" Audrey asked after a moment.
"What?" Penelope looked up and smiled broadly, "Oh no, I wouldn't deny Oliver the chance to go on a date with someone far above his league. I hear the Giant Squid's extremely picky, he should feel very lucky. Only last week," Penelope called after Audrey as she stormed up the staircase swearing under her breath, "that Vincent Crabbe was heard sobbing in they boys' loos after being cruelly rejected by her."
Penelope grinned and sighed, turning to Kathy, "What?"
Kathy continued to shake her head and stood up, "She's only looking out for you, you know."
"I know, I just can't help teasing her." Penelope smiled.
"You might want to cut her a break; she's done a lot of good in getting you and Oliver back on speaking terms. So maybe just make all that effort feel worthwhile to her?" Kathy looked pointedly down at Penelope and picked up her bag, "I'm off to bed, don't be long."
Penelope nodded absent-mindedly, the sinking feeling of guilt already weighing on her stomach and doubts starting to creep their way into her mind.
Christmas Day came fast enough and after much palaver with unwrapping presents, feigning thanks for her present from Kathy (framed Chocolate Frog cards and the wrapper they came in on which Kathy had drawn pictures of her surprised face opening said wrappers) and pulling crackers, Audrey sat back on the sofa with Penelope, writing a letter to their parents.
"And tell them about my dress! And tell them about Kathy and Ernie! And," she flung her arm out in front of Penelope, causing her to spill the ink onto the half-formed letter, "tell them about how I'm coming top in Herbology, Transfiguration and Ancient Runes!"
"And shall I tell them about yesterday's Quidditch match?" Penelope muttered snidely, siphoning the spilt ink off the letter and instantly regretting her catty remark. "Sorry," she said, "I didn't mean that."
"It's okay, it's what Roger deserved." Audrey said softly.
The Ravenclaw vs Gryffindor match had been played the day before in the freezing cold, and they had lost spectacularly. Their defeat was completely Roger's fault, although he wouldn't admit it and blamed it on the Chasers poor scoring ability, as he had spent most of the match hovering in front of Fleur Delacour and re-enacting all of his favourite personal goals from the past seven years.
Audrey glanced down at her watch and got up from the sofa, "Send them my love, I've got to go and get ready for the Ball."
Penelope nodded and finished off the letter, rolling up the parchment and was about to walk up to her dormitory to ask Kathy if she could borrow her adopted owl when she saw that her path was blocked by none other than Roger himself.
"Well well well," he smirked, looking Penelope up and down, "and what do we have here?"
"Move out of the way, Davies, before I hex you." Penelope said, folding her arms over her chest.
"You know," he said, pretending that he hadn't heard her, "I thought you might be getting ready to go to the Yule Ball like Audrey, but then I remembered, you're a bitter self-righteous hag who has no friends, so who would want to go with you? Certainly not Wood. He could hardly wait to get shot of you."
Penelope glared at him and tried to let everything he was saying slide over her head, but he moved closer to her and sneered down at her and it was hard to ignore what he said when these thoughts had run through her mind before. "He took a lot of convincing to ask you out. I practically had to beg-"
Penelope laughed and glanced around to check that no-one was looking before swinging her fist back and punching him right in the eye. He stumbled back and fell against the stairs clutching his face, completely silent.
"You know, being male and an arsehole doesn't make you worthy of my time. I warned you once, now I'll warn you again: move or I hex you." She pointed her wand down at him. Roger looked from the tip of her wand to Penelope's determined face before pushing himself up and elbowing his way past her, his hand still held protectively over the shiner that was already appearing around his eye.
"Oh, and Roger," he turned around with one hand on the common room door handle, "don't you ever talk to me again." And with one casual flick of her wand, Penelope could still hear Roger attempting to beat off the Bat-Bogey Hex as she got ready up in her dorm.
The Yule Ball was in full-swing. The Weird Sisters had been hired, much to the excitement of just about every single girl in the school, and had finished playing their first song. The dance-floor was completely packed, circles broken off here and there for some idiots to break-dance whilst their fellows stood around them and laughed, and couples seemed to prance and show off just how in love they were right in front of Oliver.
He glanced around again, checking to see if he could find her in this mass of people but knowing at the same time that it was completely pointless. Davies barged past him, Fleur Delacour on his arm and staring at him in disgust.
"What ‘as ‘appened to your face, Roger?" She said as they walked by, "Zer eez somezing wrong wiz eet, I am sure."
Oliver smirked. Anything that caused pain to Roger made him feel a hundred times better. The Weasley twins disengaged themselves from their dates - Angelina Johnson and Katie Bell - and joined Oliver over by the snacks table.
"You look like you're having the time of your life, mate." Fred said, smacking Oliver around the shoulders.
"Yeah, like you're having a real ball." George smirked and Fred grinned.
"I dunno, I just thought she might change her mind." Oliver said and swigged his glass of punch.
"Well, look on the bright side," Fred said handing him another one, "at least she didn't come with Percy, either."
"Come to think of it," George said, craning his neck over the crowd, "where is Percy?"
"There. He seems to have taken it fairly well with some punch." Oliver said, pointing to the other side of the room and to where a group of unasked girls were sitting, each of them gazing longingly at the dancers and wishing they had been asked to dance. And amongst them, his glasses askew, a Christmas cracker hat sitting on his curly ginger hair and an absent smile on his lips, sat Percy.
Fred and George snorted into their drinks and turned away. Audrey came through the crowd a moment later, dragging Derek behind her, with a look of sympathy on her face.
"Sorry," she said, throwing her arms around Oliver's neck and giving him a brief hug, "I tried to convince her but she's such a stubborn little-"
"Care to finish that sentence, Audrey?"
Oliver whipped around to face the voice and found Penelope standing right behind him, a grin slowly forming on her lips as he looked her up and down. "I didn't think you were going to come."
"Yeah, well, I thought I might as well follow Dumbledore's orders and ‘let my hair down' for one night."
"Where'd you get the dress?*" Audrey asked, standing next to Oliver and gazing at the periwinkle blue dress Penelope had on.
"Oh, just something I had. You know, lying around.*" Oliver grinned and held out his arm.
"We shall." Penelope laughed and took his arm, leading him into the middle of the dancers and snaking her arms around his neck. He gazed down at her, unable to tear his eyes away, and swayed to the music. "You're a terrible dancer, you know that?"
"I play Quidditch, I don't do ballroom." Oliver glared and then laughed, bending down to kiss her, but a hand on his shoulder made him turn around.
"I would l-like," Percy slurred, wobbling slightly, "to ask my guuuurlfriend -hic- to dance."
Oliver grinned and look down at Penelope, raising one eyebrow. She let her hands fall from around Oliver's neck and turned to face Percy. "Percy, I'm sorry, I just don't think we suit each other after all. You're a power-hungry moron who I only asked out to get back at Oliver, and I'm just not ready for that level of commitment." She refrained from rolling her eyes but couldn't stop herself from smiling.
"Oh, bloody fantastic!" Percy threw his arms up in the air and stumbled slightly. Oliver caught his flailing arms and stood him up, "You're break-k-ing up with me?"
"Yes, I'm truly sorry," Penelope laid a hand over her heart and tried to look sincere with a huge grin on her face.
"Why don't you go and drown your sorrows, mate?" Oliver said, clapping a hand across Percy's back and turning him around to the punch table, all hostility he ad been feeling towards him in the past few weeks completely forgotten. "I hear Seamus Finnegan has some Firewhiskey he might let you buy from him."
Percy held up a hand to stop Oliver and swayed on his feet, "Good idea, dear Woody ol' pal. And well done for bloody smashing those Ravenclaws yesterday. Ruddy good job well done!"
Oliver shook his head as he walked away and turned back to Penelope, taking her hand and her waist and swaying once more to the music. "So," he smirked, "you asked Percy out to get back at me, eh?"
She blushed and looked down, giggling in embarrassment, "Yeah, I thought he might annoy you the most."
"Yes, well, ruddy good show," Oliver grinned and Penelope snorted with laughter, getting a few bemused looks from other dancers. "Is it just me or does he get even more concentrated with a few drinks down his neck?"
"It does seem so. You know, had I known this, I might have shoved a few glasses of Firewhiskey down his throat every night and then he might have been bearable." Penelope shuddered and they danced in silence for a bit. "So, er, couldn't you get your friends from the Howling Hags to perform tonight?"
Oliver chuckled, "Well, you know they say-"
But before he could tell Penelope what they say, there was another tap on his shoulder, only this time the intruder was even less welcome than the last one.
"What the hell do you want, Davies?" Oliver said, turning around and facing Roger.
"You don't need to keep up this pretence any more, Wood," he smirked, "you won, we lost and-"
"Oh, hello, dear Roger," Penelope called from over Oliver's shoulder and came to stand next to him, "we meet again. You must have forgotten what we talked about earlier. Now," she dropped her voice and glared at him, "you leave me and Oliver alone or I swear I will not refrain from giving you a matching bruise. Comprendez?"
Well, no, she wouldn't. But Oliver would. And within another second, Roger was lying sprawled on the floor whilst Penelope and Oliver twirled away from the scene of the crime.
"I - don't know what to say," Penelope said, staring into Oliver's closed face and he stopped dancing, still holding onto her hands and looked into her face.
"It wasn't a pretence. It never really was. I just don't think I understood at the beginning what it was that I was feeling when I asked you out. And I wouldn't let myself believe that I was actually falling for you. For you! The Penelope Clearwater who told everyone in our fourth year that I cried when I got a ‘D' in Potions."
She laughed, "I forgot about that. Sorry, I didn't really mean it."
"I know," he smirked, "it was just some stupid stunt so I would give you some attention." He winked and took advantage of her being momentarily stunned and kissed her.
All thoughts fled from her mind from the moment his lips touched hers. It was like the last month hadn't happened and, dear Godric, it was wonderful.
"You know," Penelope said as she pulled away, "you better not turn into one of these lovesick teenagers and lose the Quidditch cup. I don't date losers."
"Yeah, well," he tucked a strand of hair behind her ear, "it looks like I'll have to take out some other girl to get some tips-hey!" He laughed as she whacked him across the arm and then grinned. "I've missed you."
"It's not every day you find a girl who'll blast half of the corridor off to get you out of detention."
"Oh no." She winced, covering her face with her hands as Oliver laughed.
"I love you."
Penelope froze and let her arms drop from her face. She had never actually heard him say it to her, those three little words, and as much as he might have said it aloud to other people, having it said to her was like a cannonball right in the stomach.
Oliver looked worried and bent down to look her in the face. "Are you okay?"
"Yeah," Penelope said, shaking her head. What was she getting so worried about? She had known in her heart-of-hearts for a long time know that she felt the same way, but she had never actually told him. Well, there was no time like the present.
"I love you too." She smiled, looking up at him and into those blue eyes of his. "I actually love you. Dear Merlin, I'm in love with a Gryffindor."
He grinned and kissed her again, and she knew that there was no need to worry anymore. Roger would never bother them again, Audrey and Derek were happy, Kathy had Ernie, and now she had Oliver. The only thing standing in her way of complete bliss was her bloody N.E.W.Ts.
And if Oliver thought she was going to let him and her fail because of Roger's little stunt this year, he had another thing coming.
A/N: The end! I am beyond sad that it's over. This was definitely my favourite story to write with some of my favourite characters, and I am going to miss writing it and hearing what you think about it. Thank you to all you wonderful people who have stuck with me through this, and I hope you've all enjoyed reading it as much as I have done writing it! ♥
* taken directly from Paramount Pictures' "10 Things I Hate About You"
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