Chapter 8 : The Yule Ball
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With the first task out of the way, the mood around the castle seemed to be much lighter as December arrived at Hogwarts. One morning we woke to find the grounds covered in a thin sheet of snow; the post owls arrived at breakfast dusted with white, and Hagrid began to bring in the fir trees that I was told were a Christmas tradition at Hogwarts.
On Thursday of the last week of classes, I met the twins and Lee in the entrance hall and we made out way in to breakfast.
“Morning, all,” Hermione greeted us. “Have you signed up to stay for the break? The list is longer than ever this year…”
“Not yet, no,” Fred replied. “But I figure we will, right George?”
“No use going home,” George agreed. “We’ve got a lot we want to get done over the break, and having mum breathing down our backs isn’t exactly conducive to productivity.”
Fred and George had debuted a new invention of theirs at the party after the first task – Canary Creams. They were a smash hit with the students, and they’d sold out their entire inventory, but apparently their mum wasn’t keen on the project.
“Wonder why so many people are staying,” Lee mused, looking round the great hall as if hoping to see a great neon sign pointing out the reason behind the anomaly.
“Probably all the business with the tournament,” Harry guessed. “Beaux Batons and Durmstrang are here over the break – ”
“Then I’m definitely staying,” Ron said firmly. “It’ll be much easier to get Krum’s autograph without all those girls following him around.”
Hermione rolled her eyes.
“Alright,” she sighed, standing. “We’d better get going. Harry, Ron, come on. We’ll see you lot later!”
The followed her dutifully from the hall and disappeared from view.
That evening I was playing wizard’s chess with Lee (who was losing spectacularly, I might add), while the twins shouted useless bits of advice from where the lay head-to-head on the sofas, when Hermione and Ron came in, with Harry trailing slightly after them, looking sickly.
“Alright, Harry?” I asked, looking up from the game as one of my pawns violently eliminated Lee’s last rook.
Harry nodded mutely.
“We’ve just found out about the Yule Ball,” Hermione said.
“The what?” Lee asked.
“The Yule Ball,” Hermione repeated. “Didn’t you hear? That’s why so many people are down to stay for the break.”
“We’re having a ball?” Fred asked. “What for? They’ve never done that any other year.”
“It’s a traditional part of the tournament,” Hermione explained.
“So what is it, a dance?” Lee wondered.
My heart skipped in a funny way. Suddenly an image burst into my mind of Fred Weasley, in a brand new tuxedo, holding a bouquet, of roses, and me, in a gorgeous gown, waltzing through the Great Hall –
“Yes,” Hermione replied, dragging me from my errant thoughts. “And the champions are meant to lead the dancing, so…”
“Oooooh,” Fred whooped.
“Harry’s gonna bust a moo-oove,” George sang, doing a little dance from where he lay on the couch.
“Are you really worried about that, Harry?” I wondered. “You’ll be great!”
“How am I supposed to ask a girl to go to the ball?” Harry exclaimed, sinking into an armchair.
“Dunno, mate,” Fred said, unhelpfully.
“But you’ll have a better time of it than Ron,” George put in.
Ron aimed a kick at him.
I laughed with the others, but my focus was elsewhere. Where had that image come from? I didn’t fancy Fred, did I?
“Oi, Ruby, we’ll see you later, yeah?” Fred called as he left the common room behind Lee and George.
He winked as he slipped through the portrait hole, and I felt my whole body flush with heat.
Within days, the hype about the Yule Ball had reached a ridiculous level. The gossip at Hogwarts travelled faster than a Firebolt, and before long everyone seemed to have been convinced of a different lie; for example, that there would be free firewhisky and mead, or that Professor Moody would be performing a solo juggling act. I even overheard a couple of third years saying they were sure McGonagall would be rapping with her secret Animagus hip-hop band: Kitty Kat Krimes.
The subject of getting dates for the ball was also a source of great entertainment for the population of the castle. All the Triwizard champions were highly sought after, obviously, but so far it wasn’t clear that any of them were actually taken. I knew Harry wasn’t, despite proposals from several students.
Fred had asked Angelina Johnson, Hermione wouldn’t say who she was going with, and Ron, George, and Lee were all unspoken for. Ron was getting increasingly frustrated by Hermione’s refusal to spill the beans, and he had taken to springing the question on me, hoping I would tell him. He didn’t believe that Hermione hadn’t told me; as her closest female friend, the boys all assumed I would be privy to her deepest secrets, but no: I didn’t have a clue who she was going with.
A few days before the ball, Hermione and I were in my dormitory, half- working on some of our homework, and half- discussing the Yule Ball.
“Ron and Harry’ve both got dates now,” she said with an off-handedness that was so perfectly calibrated I knew it was fake.
“Yes,” she continued. “The Patil twins, Padma and Parvati? Parvati was quite excited to be going with Harry, I heard.”
“And what about Padma, is she alright with Ron?”
“I suppose so, or she wouldn’t have agreed to go with him,” Hermione said with an air of perfect indifference. “Personally I can’t imagine going with either of them would be great fun. I mean, they’re great fun as friends, obviously. They just haven’t got any clue about what girls like.”
“Most boys don’t,” I nodded.
“What about you, what’s your story?” Hermione asked, sliding a bookmark into the great tome she was flipping through and tracing the embossed cover with the tip of her finger.
“No definite plans yet,” I confessed.
“I thought Lee might’ve asked you,” Hermione said lightly.
I grunted non-commitally. Lee hadn’t told anyone else yet what he’d told me, and I wasn’t about to out him to the school.
“I don’t think he’s interested in me that way,” I said.
“Well what about George?”
“What about him?” I asked.
“Is he going with anyone yet?”
“Don’t think so,” I replied. “Fred’s going with – ”
“Angelina Johnson, I know,” Hermione interrupted.
She looked up from her book and met my eye.
“I’m sorry about that,” she said.
“Sorry about what?” I asked. “What do I care if Fred’s going with Angelina?”
“I know you might not want to admit it, but I saw your face when you heard he was taking her,” Hermione said.
“Don’t be ridiculous!” I laughed, trying to ignore the blush that had risen to my cheeks. “I don’t fancy Fred Weasley!”
“I’m not saying you’re in love with him or anything,” Hermione said, rolling her eyes. “Frankly, I’m not surprised.”
“What’s that supposed to mean?” I asked, sitting up.
“I’m not judging you, will you calm down!” Hermione snapped. “I’m just saying. The twins are sweet, in a sort of… unusual way. And they’re good-looking.”
“Sounds like maybe you wanted to go with them,” I joked, tossing a cushion at her.
“Oi!” she laughed, chucking it back at me. “Don’t be cute.”
“So who’re you going with anyway?” I asked.
“Not telling,” Hermione replied, blushing.
“Come on,” I complained. “Ron won’t let up, he keeps asking and asking…”
“All the more reason not to tell you,” she said.
“’Mione!” I huffed, exasperated.
“Sorry,” she said, and she looked it. “I’m just… It’s embarrassing! I’ll tell you the day of, alright?”
“Fine,” I sighed. “Want to come up here and get ready with me?”
“Ooh, yes please!” she said, grinning. “Oh, but Ruby?”
“You’ll need to help me with my hair.”
After what felt like years of waiting, Christmas day finally arrived. Lee and I were planning to go to the ball together as friends, with the full understanding that if a better opportunity came up, we could take it without feeling guilty about leaving the other. George was going with Alicia Spinnet, and I still had no idea who was taking Hermione.
We spent Christmas morning in the Gryffindor common room, exchanging gifts and eating chocolates. Mrs. Weasley had knitted me a lovely grey jumper, with my first initial on the front in royal blue. Everyone kept making Ron and I stand next to each other in our matching “R”s, which got tiring very quickly.
After lunch, the rest of the group went out into the grounds for a snowball fight, but I – with permission, of course – went into Hogsmeade to see mum.
“Ruby!” she cried as I came through the little garden gate.
“Happy Christmas mum!” I called, hugging her tightly.
“Happy Christmas, love,” she replied. “Come in. D’you want some hot cocoa?”
“Ooh, love some, thanks!”
I kicked my boots off at the front door and hung my coat over the bannister, same as usual. As I was walking into the kitchen, though, I noticed something out of the ordinary.
“Hey, mum,” I called. “Is there someone else here?”
Mum didn’t normally have anyone up to the house besides me; all her business contacts were very busy, and they saw each other at school; as far as I knew, most of her friends were still in France. Yet, standing on the mat by the front door was a pair of large, black, men’s boots.
“Oh, erm,” mum hurried back into the hall, looking slightly shifty. “Yes, actually! Come through and you can meet him.”
I came down the hall and into the kitchen, where a tall, thin-ish man was sitting at the table, sipping a mug of hot cocoa.
“Hello,” I said cautiously.
“Oh, goodness!” he put down the mug and stood up, shaking my hand. “Ruby, you’re the spitting image of – ”
“Ruby, this is Remus Lupin,” mum interrupted. “He was one of my best friends when I was at Hogwarts. He taught there last year, Defence Against the Dark Arts.”
“Oh, cool,” I grinned at him, sitting down. “So am I allowed to call you Remus, or would you prefer Professor Lupin?”
“Remus is fine,” he said kindly.
“Alright then, nice to meet you Remus.”
“I hear you’re quite the student,” he said.
I shrugged, blushing.
“She’s always embarrassed about it, aren’t you,” mum said, laughing. “But she’s enrolled in sixth year at Hogwarts, if that gives you any idea.”
“Well!” Remus looked at me, impressed. “You certainly are your mother’s daughter. So you must have classes with the Weasley twins.”
“Yeah,” I replied, trying not to blush further. “I spend a fair bit of time with them, actually.”
“And their younger brother, Ron?”
“Yes, actually. I’ve become pretty close friends with Hermione Granger, so a lot of the time I end up hanging around with him and Harry, too.”
“Excellent!” Lupin said. “You know, Harry can produce a corporeal Patronus charm, Addy.”
“What!” Mum exclaimed. “But he’s fourteen! How did he learn to do that?”
“I taught him, last year,” Remus replied. “He was having trouble with the Dementors, so we sorted him out. I must say, he rose to the challenge magnificently.”
“Wow,” I breathed. “I’ve been working on my patronus for a year now, and it’s barely even mist right now! D’you want to teach me, Remus?”
“You’ll get there soon enough. But in the meantime you should get Harry to demonstrate his for you,” Remus said. “His patronus is a stag.”
Mum inhaled sharply. I glanced at her, and her face was crumpled in pain. For a moment I was afraid she would cry again, but then she smiled.
“Looks like he’s his father’s son,” she said.
“He has so much of Lily in him, as well,” Remus agreed. “Have you spoken to him yet, Addy? You might want to. He’s… he’s a remarkable boy.”
“Wait, wait,” I held up a hand. “Mum, did you know Harry Potter’s parents?”
“Yes, James and Lily and I were very good friends. I was the maid of honour at their wedding.” She had a slightly glassy look in her eyes, and I knew she was reliving some distant memory.
“We were all in the same year in Gryffindor,” Remus explained.
“Oh, wow!” I leaned forward eagerly. “So what was Hogwarts like back – ”
“Your father and James were inseparable,” mum interrupted quietly.
I stared at her, shocked.
“He was James’s best man,” mum continued. “We had you just when Lily got pregnant with – ”
“Mum,” I interrupted. My voice sounded too high. “What are you doing?”
“What do you mean?” She looked genuinely confused.
“You can’t just spend fifteen years not talking about him and then suddenly want to tell me everything,” I said angrily. “I’m not… I don’t want…”
“You don’t want to hear about him?” she asked, sounding hurt.
“No I bloody well don’t!” I exploded. “I don’t know his name, for Merlin’s sake! You expect me to sit here and listen to you tell me about how he was James Potter’s best mate?”
“Ruby,” mum began in her most persuasive tone, placing a hand on my arm.
“No!” I shouted, jerking away from her touch. “Don’t. I’m leaving.”
Ignoring her calls, I pulled my things on and stormed out of the house, making my way back to the castle. I went straight to my room, locking the door behind me. I grabbed a pillow and collapsed on the bed, pressed it to my face, and screamed. I screamed and kicked and shouted all the horrible things I’ve ever want to say to my mother, before succumbing to noisy tears, and then a fitful, exhausted sleep.
I woke just after five to a sharp rapping on my door.
“Ruby? Are you in there?”
Groggily, I made my way over to the door and peered through the peephole to see Hermione’s face. I pulled the door open.
“Come on in,” I said, yawning.
“Are you alright, Ruby?” she asked, looking at me with slight concern.
“Never better,” I said. “I’m just going to hop in the shower… I’ll be back in ten.”
As I was getting into the shower, I caught my reflection in the bathroom mirror. Hermione was right to look concerned: my hair was an absolute disaster, hanging in tangles around my puffy, red face, creased by my sheets and still blotchy from crying. My lips were cracked, and my skin looked dryer than old parchment.
Sighing, I turned up the hot tap and let the water flow soothingly over me. I brushed the knots out of my hair and shampooed excessively, exfoliated every surface of my body, shaved, and then shut the water off and dried myself, pulling on a large, fluffy bathrobe.
When I returned to the living room, Hermione was wearing a long dressing gown, lounging on the couch and filing her nails.
“Hope you don’t mind,” she said, gesturing to her gown. “I just couldn’t bear to be in jeans any longer.”
“Not at all,” I replied, grinning. “Now, what are we doing about your hair?”
Hermione leapt up and pulled a large plastic tub out of her book bag.
“Sleekeazy’s Hair Potion,” she said, shrugging and looking embarrassed. “It’s supposed to work fairly well… I guess we’ll see, though, right?”
“Well let’s have a look at it.”
I took the tub from Hermione and read the label on the back.
“Apparently it’ll take half an hour to get it on,” I said, scanning for more information. “We should probably do it when you’re done your nails, just in case it doesn’t work. That way we’ll have time to fix it up some other way.”
“Alright,” Hermione agreed, and went back to filing her nails.
“Have you brought your clothes?” I wondered.
“Yes,” she replied. “They’re hanging in that closet.”
I lowered myself on to the sofa next to her and began to paint my nails with a clear polish.
“So are you going to tell me who you’re going with, then?” I asked.
“Oh, right,” Hermione said.
Two spots of red had appeared in Hermione’s cheeks and she pulled her knees up on to her chair as if to hide behind them.
“Fine, I’ll tell you, but don’t laugh, okay?”
“Alright…” She took a deep breath. “It’s Viktor.”
“Victor…” I mulled the name over. I couldn’t remember anyone at Hogwarts named…
“Viktor Krum?!” I shrieked. “Merlin, Hermione! You’re going with Viktor bloody Krum! He’s an international Quidditch star!”
“I know, I know,” Hermione said hurriedly. “Shut up!”
“I’m sorry, but Hermione, this is huge! Ron is going to faint.”
“He’d better not,” Hermione said in a serious voice, though her lips quirked up at the edges. “Padma wouldn’t be very happy about that.”
At ten to eight, we were ready to make our way downstairs. The entire way down, Hermione wouldn’t stop tugging at her dress, and every time we passed a reflective surface, she would stop and anxiously check her reflection.
“Hermione, would you cut it out?” I said impatiently. “You look great.”
She looked absolutely stunning in her periwinkle blue dress. Her hair (which had been subdued after half the bottle of Sleekeazy’s and a considerable amount of wand work) was wound into a shiny twist at the back of her head, and she held a small beaded purse in her hands.
She grinned nervously at me as we made our way into the entrance hall, where the twins and Lee were waiting.
Lee cat-called as we crossed the stone floor towards them.
“Shut up,” I laughed, smacking him lightly on the arm.
“See you later,” Hermione murmured, then flitted quickly off to join Krum with the other champions.
I caught Harry’s eye and winked; his partner, Parvati Patil, looked very pretty. Harry grimaced in response.
“Blimey! Ruby, you look fantastic.”
I turned back towards the group to see Fred Weasley looking me up and down. I blushed.
“Thanks,” I replied.
I felt pretty spectacular in my gown. It was floor-length royal blue silk, strapless and low-cut in the back, fitted through the bodice, draping gently past my waist. I’d left my hair down, swishing softy across my bare back, and accessorized with a simple pair of tear-drop diamond earrings.
At that moment, Angelina Johnson came over, captivating Fred’s attention. She was dressed in a bright red mini-dress, her braided hair twisted up into a bun on top of her head. She looked incredible. I tried not to pout as Fred winked back at us and led her into the great hall.
Lee held out his arm, which I took gratefully and grinned at him.
“You really do look great, Ruby,” he said as we entered the hall.
“Thanks,” I said. “So do you. Dress robes suit you! Too bad you’re a poof,” I joked.
Lee grinned and winked.
We found a table with the twins (Angelina was, for the moment, absent). George’s date, Alicia, joined us after a few minutes, and eventually the table was full and chatter swelled around me. I looked around for my mum – I wasn’t sure I was ready to see her again after my outburst this morning.
Honestly, I was really embarrassed that I’d gotten so worked up when she started talking about my father. I mean, hadn’t I been asking her about him for years? But to spring it on me like that, with no warning…well, that just didn’t seem like the right way to go about it.
Lee’s voice pulled me from my thoughts.
“Want to dance?”
“Sure,” I agreed, and followed him on to the dance floor.
The Weird Sisters were playing a slow-ish waltz, to which a number of couples were slowly dancing. Harry looked very uncomfortable in the middle of the floor, as did Ginny, the youngest Weasley – then again, it looked as though her partner, Neville Longbottom, was stepping on her feet.
Lee put an arm around my waist, placing his hand at the small of my back, and took my hand in his. We revolved slowly in a circle, watching the couples near us.
“I told Fred and George,” Lee said quietly in my ear.
“You did? When?”
“Yesterday,” he replied.
“And…how did it go?”
“Perfectly,” Lee said, grinning. “They just said ‘cool. Shall we go for a quick fly?’ and that was it.”
“I couldn’t really imagine them being weird about it,” I said.
The song finished, and a much faster one kicked in. Fred and Angelina came out of nowhere, dancing like maniacs. Angelina grabbed my hands and started twirling me about, and I couldn’t help but laugh. Next to us, Fred and Lee were doing some very funny can-can inspired moves. Angelina caught my eye and giggled.
“Ruby, come to the loo with me,” she insisted, pulling me from the dance floor.
I shrugged at Lee as I walked away, following Angelina to the bathroom.
“I love your dress,” she said as she bent forward over the mirror, touching up her makeup.
“Thanks,” I replied, smiling. “I really like yours, too.”
“Cheers,” Angelina grinned. “Listen, I know we haven’t really talked much this year outside of classes, but I think you’re really cool.”
“Oh, erm, thanks!” I said, taken aback. “I think you are too.”
“I’d really like it if we could be friends,” she continued.
“That’d be… great!”
It’s always a bit awkward when somebody asks you to be their friend. But then, she seemed like a nice enough girl, so why not give her a shot, right?
She adjusted her dress slightly and then turned to face me.
“Can I tell you something?”
“Of course,” I replied.
“It’s pretty embarrassing,” she said. “You can’t tell anyone.”
“I won’t,” I agreed. “Promise.”
“Alright.” Angelina sighed. “Well, you know how I’m here with Fred Weasley?”
“Yeah,” I said, trying not to let my face show how much that fact irked me.
“Well…oh, Merlin, this is bad.”
“Just tell me!”
“Fine, fine. Well, I really wanted to go with George,” she said in a rush. “But I knew Alicia did too, and I couldn’t just say, ‘no, I’m going with him’, and then Fred asked me, and… I don’t know. Fred’s a great guy, we’re good friends. I knew I’d have a great time with him, anyway.”
“Wait, so you don’t like Fred?”
“Of course I like him!” she exclaimed. “As a friend, I mean. Not, you know…not like a boyfriend.”
I tried not to grin, but it couldn’t be helped.
“Well that’s fine!” I said, relieved. “Does he know that?”
“Oh, yes,” Angelina said quickly. “I mean, he knows I don’t like him that way. He doesn’t know about the George thing, I thought that was probably unnecessary information.”
“Probably,” I agreed. “Well, Angelina, I don’t think that’s embarrassing at all.”
“No! I mean, if I had my way I wouldn’t be here with Lee,” I said, smiling. “Even though he’s a great guy. But I’m not into him, you know?”
“Well sure. He’s gay,” Angelina said, laughing.
“How do you – ”
“Oh, please!” Angelina interrupted. “Anyone who knows Lee at all knows he’s gay.”
“Really? I had no clue before he told me!”
“Well maybe not everyone,” she amended. “Maybe it was just me.”
“Maybe,” I allowed. “Anyway, more importantly: it doesn’t matter that you’re not here with the guy you really wanted to come with. Most of us aren’t.”
“Who would you have wanted to go with, then?” she asked, curiosity alight in her deep brown eyes.
“Oh, nobody,” I said, shrugging and trying to ignore the blush that had risen to my cheeks. “Shall we get back? We don’t want to miss – ”
“Oh my God, it’s Fred, isn’t it!” she shrieked.
“Shhh!” I said frantically. “Would you shut up?”
“Oh this is too good!” she said, flapping her hands excitedly. “Does he know?”
“No, he doesn’t!” I hissed. “And Angelina, please don’t say anything!”
“I won’t,” she said.
“I’m serious, not a word!” I insisted.
“Alright, alright,” she laughed. “You have my solemn promise that I will not say anything to him.”
“Thank you,” I sighed, relief washing through me.
I recognized the voice outside the bathroom at once – my mother had tracked me down.
“Oh, bugger,” I muttered.
“Who is that?” Angelina mouthed at me.
“My mum,” I replied.
“Ruby, are you in there?” mum called again.
“Yes,” I called back, kicking myself internally. “I’ll be out in a minute.”
“What does she want?” Angelina wondered.
“We sort of had a row this morning,” I said. “I’ll tell you about it later.”
I pushed the door open and walked out of the bathroom towards my mother, who was waiting at the far side of the hall.
“See you in a minute,” Angelina called.
“See you,” I replied.
Mum looked good – tired, but good. She was wearing a crimson dress with sapphire petticoats that peeked out on one side, with a beautiful set of silver jewelry.
“Where’d you get the outfit?” I wondered.
“I got it ages ago,” she replied. “Before you were born. I can hardly believe it still fits.”
“Look, Ruby…” she paused, seemingly searching for words. “I’m sorry about this morning, it’s just that – ”
“I’m sorry too,” I cut her off. “It just caught me off guard. I wasn’t really prepared.”
“I know,” mum said. “I get it. I’ve just been talking to Dumbledore a bit, lately, and he’s had some, well…interesting things to say on the subject.”
“I don’t want to get into it now, but maybe we could talk tomorrow?”
“Alright,” I agreed. “Can I head back in, then?”
“Of course,” mum said. “So who’s the boy? He’s cute.”
“Lee Jordan,” I replied. “He’s gay, so don’t get too excited.”
“Oh, well,” she replied. “I’ve got to get back to Ludo... See you tomorrow, love.”
I made my way back to the table, and was surprised to find Harry sitting there, alone.
“How are you, Harry?” I asked, sitting down next to him.
“Been better,” he said, sighing. “You?”
“I’m pretty good. My mum’s just driving me mental.”
“It’s bizarre, all of a sudden she wants to talk to me about my father,” I told him. “After years of saying nothing at all.”
“Really?” Harry turned to me, his expression eager. “So she told you?”
“Well, she hasn’t really told me the whole story yet,” I clarified. “But she started to this morning.”
“Great!” Harry exclaimed. “That’s fantastic. Well, maybe some time we can go see him together.”
“Well I assume your mum knows where he is,” Harry said. “They must be in contact. I met him last year, but he still hasn’t been cleared – but obviously you know that.”
“Wait, what?” I shook my head. “What are you talking about, you met him? My father’s dead.”
“No he isn’t,” Harry laughed. “Don’t be daft. He’s still a bit under-nourished, but he’s alive.”
I stared at him. I could hear my heartbeat pounding through my ears. My face felt hot, and tears threatened at the corners of my eyes.
“He’s alive?” I whispered hoarsely.
My voice sounded far away. The room was spinning, the music was distorted, all the faces were blurring together and blackness crept in around the edges of my vision –
A/N: Hello everyone! I hope you're all doing well! And I hope you're enjoying the story so far! Please review, it makes my day!!! Cheers! xox
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by safire smith