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A LONG WAY by LeonorScott
Chapter 18 : THE YULE BALL
 
Rating: MatureChapter Reviews: 1


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by myself

Hogsmeade bristled with illuminated decoration. The snow flurries of the past days dipped the streets and roofs into a shining white glamour and muted the steps peacefully. The middle of the week was clear and dry. Leonor stepped into the clothes shop and wiped the snow from her boots. She waited on the doormat, doubting if she’d made the right decision to buy something new on the occasion. The shop assistants helped several customers to select sweaters, gloves and other little accessories. Most of the things were packaged into boxes and wrapped with gift paper. The shop was full of winter clothes and last-minute presents. Leonor wandered between the displays to a hallstand with gowns. She hoped to find something special, but likely it was too late. Leonor sighed inwardly and almost convinced to wear the same dress as for the graduation dinner at the ministry.

“Mrs. Scott, I’ve been waiting for you since you moved to Hogsmeade! I’m so sorry to keep you waiting today.”

Leonor startled, it was the same young shop assistant from a year ago. The round-faced friendly witch beamed into her direction. “How can I help you? I assume it shouldn’t be a scarf this year?”

“I look for an evening gown”, answered Leonor and felt the heat in her cheeks.

“I see, you are invited to the ball? The ball at Hogwarts?”, said the shop assistant excitedly and continued without waiting for an answer. “Many girls bought their robes here, already weeks ago. We are almost sold out.”

Leonor noticed the scolding undertone, but followed her through a door into a large changing room with many open wardrobes full of white wedding gowns and pastel shaded dinner dresses. The young witch spun around with her arms wide to present the total remaining stocks.

“Are there no other colours?”, said Leonor a little miffed. She had no clue what to choose. The bell-shaped skirts, the rather revealing necklines and the puffy sleeves looked good with the bridesmaids and school girls. The shop assistant left the changing room grumpy to come back little later with a stern looking witch. The two bore an uncanny resemblance, like mother and daughter. The older witch looked Leonor up and down, not unfriendly, but scrutinizing.

“Ashley, get the past seasons collections. The school ball is no wedding”, the older witch waited for her daughter to exit the room and smiled suddenly.

“It’s hard to compete with the young girls once you cross the thirties, but we find something for you. How would you look like, elegant, modest, respectable … sexy?” The motherly witch grinned knowingly.

Leonor was lost for words by thinking of Severus and what he would like. She had little issues with age, but was unaccustomed to such an invitation. It felt so exciting as if it could change everything of the dreary love life and still it could mean nothing. She almost messed up the potion in one of the lessons while daydreaming and now she blushed vigorously. It was enough of an answer for the experienced owner of the shop.

“I’m Alma. I run this shop already a while. My daughter doesn’t get wedding gowns out of her mind since she will marry in spring. You are not the first coming on the last minute. You must be one of the youngest staff members at Hogwarts?”, jabbered Alma conversationally.

“Yes, likely”, answered Leonor while observing mother and daughter to search through a large pile of dresses. They picked a few and levitated them with their wands. Leonor started to try on the black gowns first and then some others. The old witch only shook her head in disapproval before grubbing two more dresses.

“It will be one of those”, she said omnisciently.

Leonor was already tired of dressing and undressing. One of the new dresses shimmered in dark red velvet. The shade of red changed dependent of the light. The round low neck and the long sleeves looked elegant and modest; the colour radiated a passionate energy. There was no expensive decoration; a simple straight cut. Leonor liked it.

“I take it, it’s perfect.”

“Try the last one too. I’m sure …”, Alma gave her a pleading look.

Out of sheer politeness Leonor tried the last dress half-heartedly. It was made of a silvery grey lace fabric, without sleeves and a V-neck. The tight skirt had comfortable walking slits. The back was covered in transparent lace with a graceful vent. The older witch brought a black cape with a glossy lining and put it around Leonor’s shoulders. She also put a black belt and high-heeled sandals to a side table. It was the special dress Leonor had been looking for. It was festive and elegant. The back was gorgeous, and Leonor felt desirable. She really liked the velvet dress, but the lace had an unmistakable flair for a ball; it would sparkle with the colours of the party lights.

“You look beautiful with both dresses, both are from Italian designers. The fashion is not everyone’s style. Most witches prefer it more traditional”, said the older women motherly. “I hope your partner will like it … he’s no man if he doesn’t”, added Alma mischievously before handing over two large bags with both evening gowns. Leonor was wrong in believing that a good buy would calm the flustered state and tingling emotions; she slept restless all following nights awaiting and despising the Yule Ball at once.

*


Montague scuffed slowly along the dungeon corridors to the Slytherin common room. It had been Snape’s idea to add one more detention over the weekend, to punctuate the repeated loss of house points. Even McGonagall found it a bit harsh, but Snape showed no mercy. Old Filch had been so delighted to have somebody polishing the cutlery for the feast. What use had it been to devastate the transfiguration lesson? It had been an awful week in Snapes office and he was tired. He liked to fall on the mattress and sleep, but had to get into the dress robes quickly or his date would claw out his eyes.

Severus observed the hunched figure of Montague skulking through the corridor and clenched his teeth. When did some of the Slytherins learn that it made no sense to play havoc in McGonagall’s classes? Severus checked all unused classrooms in the dungeons and sealed them with extra spells. The students didn’t welcome the underground chill, except if boys could play hero in a damp cellar room. The dungeons were always a place to rescue girls from spiders and ghosts and then snog them all over. What would Leonor expect tonight? Severus grunted jinxing the last door. She engaged his attention and interest, she was in his mind and he was unable to brush off some dirty phantasies. He acted like love-struck against Karkaroff and the same teased him at meals now. Severus clenched his fist around a small item in his pocket. He felt guiltless and free of the need to justify himself in Leonor’s company. The first time in a long while he did not constantly dwell in the past. If he couldn’t sleep, he recalled snippets of the two nights with the frail body in his arms and no sleeping draught could outperform the relaxation. There was no antidote to it. The once so strong rationality to push her away became weaker and weaker, he would not fight the distraction tonight. The Dark Lord had not yet returned.

The loud bell chimes of the tower clock resonated through the seventh floor when Severus exited from a hidden staircase. His hands sweated when he knocked the door. He blamed the numerous stairs for it. The door cracked half-open.

“Come in, I’m almost ready”, called Leonor from inside. She stood side-tracked in the bedroom, the wardrobe with the large mirror open. He watched her unnoticed. Leonor fidgeted unsuccessfully at the back of her dress. The dark hair was dressed in silky curls, some strands framed her face playfully. The silvery lace revealed an attractive backside and the tight skirt showed nice curves. She was attractive. Severus cleared his throat.

“May I help you?”, he said awkwardly and stepped through the door. He could see her face clearly in the mirror; she smiled and took the arms down.

“I was too late back from Beauxbatons. Please can you fasten the button before it comes off?”

She blushed and her nervous fidgeting calmed Severus paradoxically. The odd sensation of protectiveness welled through his body again. He knew what to do next.

“Close your eyes!” He spoke quietly.

“Why? Just do the dress and we can go.” She looked questioningly into the mirror, straight to his eyes.

“Trust me.” He closed the button, but left his hands on her shoulders, massaging her neck with his thumbs. “Close your eyes”, repeated Severus. He was holding her gaze until Leonor obeyed insecurely.

Severus took the thin necklace from his pocked and untangled the fine white golden chain to put it around Leonor’s delicate neck. He took a step back waiting to see her expression when she opened her eyes. The necklace had the exact length for the neckline, the little charm was placed correctly on the cleavage when she turned to face him.

“Severus, I cannot take that!” The juicy rosé colour of Leonor’s face drained away abruptly. “It’s Goblin-made, a white diamond, it’s so beautiful… you cannot give that to me.”

Her shock made Severus almost smile. “Why not?”, he teased with a deep low voice.

“I have nothing in return, it’s too expensive.”

“Who says it’s valuable?”, answered Severus averting his gaze from her breasts.

“Do you remember, I worked for Gringotts? Severus …”

“… what if I don’t want anything in return, except that you wear it anytime you like?”, he said sheepishly. She stared at him. “If I didn’t pay for it, would it then be alright?”, he added defeated.

Leonor wasn’t convinced and scowled. Severus heaved a sigh and gave Leonor a photograph.

“If you must know … it belonged to my mother. I found it when my parents were both death. I searched the house and the envelope with the necklace and the muggle picture was hidden below the floorboards. You are right, it’s the typical white gold used by goblins. The little charm is made with a white diamond. I cannot use it myself”, and a grin curled his lips before he continued. “I hope you will enjoy it; at least my mother looks happy on the picture”, he added more softly.

“She looks a lot like you, but your hair and the colour of your eyes …”

“… are those of my father”, answered Severus unemotionally.

“She looks like in the age of about seventeen. Maybe it was a gift for good exam results?”

“Maybe …”, Severus shrugged, “… will you keep it? It’s no use to me, but it’s perfect with you.”

“If that is what you want …”, whispered Leonor and placed a chaste kiss on Severus’ lips, “… thank you.”

“We need to go”, he answered with a low voice.

*

Severus and Leonor climbed up the stairs from the dungeons after the last couple of Slytherins. The decoration in the large Entrance Hall and around the marble staircases presented itself majestic. The noises faded with the entering students, most waited already in the Great Hall. The Triwizard Champions and their partners were just arranged by Minerva McGonagall for the grant entry. She commanded them with a tense voice. Severus let go of Leonor’s hand facing the headmistress with an unfathomable expression. His stern but more paternal behaviour in the dungeons vanished into the regular sneer.

“Oh … Severus I thought you didn’t like to be the chaperone …”, stated Minerva sardonically while studying the pair and glancing pointedly at the younger witch. Leonor had firmly wrapped the black cape around her body and smiled noncommittal, whatever Minerva concluded from the scene with Karkaroff.

“Are the Slytherins completely inside now?”, asked Minerva. Severus bowed slightly in agreement.

“Severus, your place is between Professor Karkaroff and Albus. Leonor take the round table with Poppy, Pomona and Charity. Hurry up, we are about to begin.” Severus placed his hand around Leonor’s waist and they walked through a side entrance to bypass the excited crowd before they parted. Leonor was glad nobody saw them entering together. She just wanted to drink the happiness alone, the prying questions would come undoubtedly soon enough.

Everybody craned the necks when the champions and their partners entered and paraded to the dance floor. It was such a beautiful sight. Hermione, Fleur, Cho and Parvati radiated a smile to illuminate the world. Leonor felt a similar tingling sensation, the small diamond touched her skin gently, as if it had always been there. She beamed with all the onlookers to the dancing couples swaying rhythmically to the music. Dumbledore and McGonagall waltzed gracefully. Igor shot Leonor a series of to be nice side-glances. What a gloating satisfaction to him to turn Aurora Sinistra and Septima Vector lively on the dancefloor while Severus didn’t even bother to move at all.

Leonor wasn’t a great dancer. It had always been the other women to be asked for a dance. She looked wishful to Severus while he spoke with some of the guests. Daniel captured her on a party with an attractive smile; he was a good dancer. The other girls never stopped drooling at him. She sighed, maybe it was better that way. Leonor woke from her daydream with the realization to listen to the gossip of some ancient ghosts, still firmly tucked into the cape. The dungeon stairs were cold and draughty if the large oak gate in the Entrance Hall stood open. Her feet felt like ice blocks and she was hungry. She envied all men for long pants and decent footwear. She had to crack on or everybody would believe her to be an old maid with a cloak not unlike the one of the dungeon bat. She chuckled and excused herself to take one of the seats at the large round table. A heating spell sent a heartfelt warmth through her body. The cape was easily reduced to a transparent veil matching the dress. Menu and wine lists appeared in an instant. Leonor didn’t even need to speak her selection; food and drinks served themselves. Magic was sometimes just great.

After a long while Leonor was well fed. It’s been a great day; there was no reason to be unsettled. Some students spoke to her and made compliments while she was eating. Hermione and Victor noticed the necklace before questioning about the January lessons, but they were quickly satisfied when she told them about an old family heirloom. Leonor closed her eyes and a tired sigh escaped her lips.

“What about a drink to wake you up?”, asked a velvety voice.

“Sparkling wine … if you can afford it?”, answered Leonor jokingly and the glasses floated into their hands, Leonor’s mood of light melancholy vanished in an instant.

Severus and Leonor toasted before observing the party in silence just standing beside each other.

“Would you like to dance?”, said Severus almost inaudible.

Leonor looked at him surprised and happy.

“… if you don’t want … with all the gossip …” Severus watched her timid as if the question required all courage.

“They won’t see us dancing, and if, I wouldn’t mind it”, said Leonor taking Severus’ hand to drag him to the dance floor.

“You are hardly to overlook; you are beautiful”, he whispered embracing Leonor tightly.

“People tend to see what they expect to see; they gave up watching us after Karkaroff’s advances. There’s something good, even in awkward situations”, smiled Leonor. She snuggled closer and Severus responded with tightening his grip. Leonor never danced so passionately. After a few moments, all fears to tread on Severus’ feet were gone. Daniel never held her that way, she never knew his next move and was frequently teased as ‘bull in the china shop’ by his ruthless friends. All was different with Severus. The music ended too fast, minutes were only seconds and they returned to the table.

“Is there a dance at the annual guilt celebration?”, asked Leonor curiously.

“Usually.”

“Did you learn to dance there?” Leonor was a bit tipsy and she couldn’t tell if it was the wine or the dance. It made her nosy.

“Partly.”

“I heard Burke’s wife is obsessed by you and maybe it is because of your ability to dance?” Leonor was kidding. Severus didn’t look amused on the mention of the guild chairman’s wife, but she didn’t pay attention, still distracted by her own happiness and the cheerful atmosphere.

“They look so happy, so grown-up. It’s so different than in the lessons. All the wonderful evening robes …” Leonor watched the students absentmindedly.

“… and what stopped you to remove that cloak from your evening dress if you admire it so much?”, smirked Severus.

“I was freezing from your dungeons!” Leonor grinned and put some effort to sound accusingly, but Severus just frowned looking at her intently.

“I was overwhelmed by your present, completely distracted, forgot a heating spell …” She shrugged and smiled entwining Severus’ hands with her slim fingers.

“How can you know if I lie or let’s say not tell the full truth?”, continued Leonor piercing the dark grey eyes for an answer.

“I don’t.”

“You read my mind”, kidded Leonor.

“No”, answered Severus sternly.

“And if I would read your mind … now”, she teased.

“You would embarrass yourself …”, spat Severus. He stormed away with red cheeks and Leonor looked after him ashamed to joke about something she had not even planned to do. She noticed Karkaroff skulking around. His gaze followed Severus. It was odd until Igor gave her a triumphant look and followed Severus out into the courtyard. Leonor was mortified, Karkaroff was the last person to calm Severus. Could she not have said something different, any silly small talk? She had been in a merry mood and all went wrong. She took another sip of the sparkling wine, but it tasted lukewarm and sour.

*

Leonor looked around for distraction. The rock band played the newest catchy tunes and the students danced dissolutely. The formal part of the ball was over. Some couples cuddled together, others snogged wildly or searched an unwatched bench between the rose bushes. Leonor followed Pomona’s and Charities boring conversation, but couldn’t stop to observe the Entrance Hall guiltily. Igor returned a while ago, took a drink and disappeared into the direction of the ship. More and more students found the way into the dormitories. Staff members retired for the night too. Leonor waited for Severus and begged an imaginary force to send him inside, she was so sorry.

Dumbledore stood a little apart in the Entrance Hall. Leonor spoke rarely to him. The last conversation was after the accident with the dragon. He merely smiled fatherly when inquiring about her state of health and then asked for the extra lessons. Leonor agreed to it without hesitation. She liked teaching and the idea with the Christmas decoration before term break was born instantly. It had been fun to the participants. Not even Severus complained about the sticking and shining snowflakes on the dungeon doors. It gave the undecorated basement faults an unusual colourful brightness. Leonor walked unreadily towards the door, she’d given up hope to talk to Severus again tonight. And then … she stopped in her tracks and hid behind fairy lights with mistletoes, watching covertly. Severus appeared and spoke briefly to Dumbledore before the headmaster walked away. Severus looked after him like being slapped. He stood there like waiting for the headmaster to return and say more, but when it didn’t happen Severus walked briskly into the courtyard and out of sight.


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