“Well, that turned out just great, didn’t it?” said Ron bitterly.
Harry sat despondently in the corner next to his best friend, echoing the same thought in his mind. Not only had Cho turned him down, but he had just found out that the two other girls he might have chosen to take to the Yule Ball – Hermione and Ginny – were both already taken. Not that Hermione would likely have said yes anyway, given her reaction when Ron had asked her. But in any case, Harry was now faced with the prospect of asking a girl he didn’t know. And then he was supposed to dance with her, in front of hundreds of people. Awkward.
Well, there wasn’t much else for it. He might as well get a partner as quickly as possible, and to hell with the consequences. A bad date was better than none at all. Harry didn’t much fancy trying to dance the opening dance by himself. That would be even more awkward.
The next girl who walks through that portrait hole, vowed Harry to himself, I'll ask to the ball, no matter who it is.
No sooner had he finished that thought than the portrait swung open – and a girl walked into the Gryffindor common room. A Slytherin girl.
The girl was in Harry’s year, he knew that much. He was quite certain he had seen her in Parkinson’s giggling gaggle of girls before. It took five seconds for him to come up with a name: Daphne Greengrass.
Harry couldn’t help but notice that Greengrass was very pretty. Silky dark brown hair framed her symmetrical, aristocratic face and cascaded down her back, and her eyes were dark and striking. At the moment, though, her beauty was marred by one thing: the thunderous expression on her face that promised endless pain and dismemberment to whosoever might be unfortunate enough to get in her way. Oh, yes: Daphne Greengrass was mad.
Well, here goes nothing, thought Harry, and screwing up all his Gryffindor courage, he stood up and approached the fuming girl.
“Hello, Potter,” said Greengrass in a sickeningly sweet tone. “Would you happen to know where I might find Seamus Finnigan?”
“No idea,” said Harry cautiously. “Why?”
“Because I’d like to hex his bollocks off,” said Greengrass, finishing her sentence in a growl. “That’s why.”
Yup. Definitely mad.
Harry sighed. “What’s Seamus done now?”
Seamus had this year developed a reputation as one of the most perverted blokes in the school. His sheer lack of anything resembling tact or subtlety when it came to the fairer sex put even Ron to shame (pun intended) because, unlike Ron, Seamus backed up his words with actions. The last Harry had heard, Fay Dunbar still adamantly refused to speak to him.
“For starters, he asked my sister to the ball,” explained Greengrass through gritted teeth. “My second-year sister.”
Harry frowned. Seamus was depraved, yes, but propositioning second years had to be a new low.
“Then,” snarled Greengrass, “he had the temerity to dump my sister like yesterday’s Prophet when that Brown bitch agreed to go with him! Astoria’s been crying in the Ravenclaw common room all day. So tell me, Potter, why I shouldn’t find Finnigan and murder him!”
Harry grunted noncommittally. Privately, he felt Greengrass should be very glad her sister wasn’t going to the ball with Seamus anymore, but he wasn’t stupid enough to argue the point with a girl who seemed intent on either homicide or emasculation.
“Wait, how’d you get in here, anyway?” he said suddenly. “No one else is meant to know the password, least of all Slytherins.”
Greengrass scoffed. “Puh-lease. You Gryffindors are so indiscreet. On that note... ‘Fairy lights’? Really?” She shook her head. “But don’t change the subject. Either tell me where Finnigan is, or leave me alone so I can find him myself.”
“I don't know where he is,” said Harry again. “He might be in the dorm. I haven’t checked.”
Then, remembering his promise, he spoke quickly before Greengrass could start ranting about Seamus again. “Anyway, I have a question, too. Would you like to go to the ball with me?”
Greengrass looked dumbstruck. She opened her mouth to speak once, twice, and then finally settled on: “What the fuck, Potter?”
Harry said nothing, mentally preparing for a hex in the face. At least, he hoped it would be in the face.
Greengrass stared at him as though he were something foul she’d found on the sole of her shoe. “You do realise I’m not one of your fan club.”
Harry shrugged. “I’m fine with that. Fans are annoying. I’d sooner go with someone who hates me, honestly.”
“Well, Malfoy would hate it,” said Greengrass thoughtfully. “Oh, what the hell. I’m in.”
“All right, then – wait, what?” Harry had been expecting a completely different answer.
Greengrass sniggered. “What part of ‘I’m in’ don't you understand, Potter?” she said in a patronising tone. “Yes, I’ll go to the ball with you, and no, you’re not getting out of it now, not unless you want the same treatment as Finnigan.”
Harry winced. “I’ll be good.”
“You’d better. Meet me in the Entrance Hall at five to – SEAMUS FINNIGAN, I AM GOING TO KILL YOU!”
Harry turned around. At the top of the staircase leading to the boys’ dormitories, Seamus had just appeared. And he looked terrified out of his wits.
“What the hell, woman?!” he shouted, turning tail and running for his life as Greengrass bolted up the stairs, pulling out her wand.
“THIS IS FOR MY SISTER, YOU –” She let out a string of swear words, several of which Harry didn’t recognise, but from what he gathered, Greengrass was implying Seamus must have been the offspring of a mountain troll and a very promiscuous hag.
“Blimey, those are some new ones,” said Harry, collapsing beside Ron again, who was bemusedly observing the whole scene.
“What was that all about?” asked Ron.
“Seamus being Seamus again,” said Harry, as if that explained everything. “Oh, and I asked her to the ball,” he added lightly.
“Okay, that – wait, what?” said Ron.
“I promised myself I’d ask the next girl who walked into the common room,” explained Harry. “And Gryffindors charge in, right?”
Somewhere above them, Harry and Ron heard a high-pitched shriek of pain. It sounded very much as though Greengrass had caught Seamus, and followed through with her threat to curse him… and in a very unfortunate place, judging by the shrillness of Seamus’ scream. Harry winced again.
“She sounds a piece of work,” said Ron wryly. “At least she didn’t say yes.”
“Actually, she did.”
What the hell was I thinking?
It took only a few minutes for Harry to start seriously regretting asking Daphne Greengrass to the Yule Ball, and that feeling had blossomed into a full-blown panic by Christmas Day. He barely paid any attention in the annual Gryffindor Boys’ Snowball Fight (which was now a significant enough event to merit capitalisation) because he was trying to plan how he was going to escape his doom later that evening. His best plan so far involved Neville Longbottom, the Imperius Curse and the theft of copious amounts of Polyjuice Potion from Professor Snape’s private stores. It was only illegal if you got caught, right?
In the end, Harry decided to give in and accept his fate. I made my bed, so I’d better lie in it.
Harry arrived alone in the Entrance Hall at about a quarter to eight, to find students milling about waiting for the doors of the Great Hall to open. Ron’s partner, Parvati Patil (why didn't I think of her?! thought Harry ruefully) had dragged Ron away while they were still in the common room. This annoyed Harry somewhat because, while he’d never admit it to Ron, Ron’s lacy pink dress robes made him feel more than adequately dressed by comparison in his bottle-green robes.
Harry whiled away the time watching other couples meet in the Hall. The dress robes worn by the girls were somewhat more revealing than the Hogwarts uniforms he was used to, so he tried to strike a balance between appreciating the beauties (because he was a teenage bloke) and not leering too much (because nearly all of them were taken and he considered himself a mostly decent person). Finally, just as the doors of the Great Hall opened at eight sharp, Harry’s date appeared at the entrance to the dungeons passageway, and Harry forgot to breathe.
Greengrass was wearing a tight, velvety red robe that showed off a lithe, athletic figure that Harry hadn’t known she possessed, and a slender pair of legs. Her hair was tied up in an intricate pattern and, as Harry caught her gaze, she smiled prettily at him. Harry had heard of love at first sight, but now he was certain he was experiencing it first-hand.
Then Greengrass ruined the whole effect by stumbling and nearly falling flat on her face.
Greengrass righted herself just in time and hurried over to Harry. “I hate heels,” she muttered. Up close, she smelled pleasant, fruity with a dash of something Harry knew but couldn’t quite place. She seemed to size Harry up for a moment. “You look… nice enough. Are we waiting out here?”
“No idea,” said Harry, but at that moment, Professor McGonagall called them over from beside the doors to the Great Hall, where the last stragglers were heading in and the other champions and their dates stood waiting: Cedric and Cho, Fleur and Roger Davies and Krum and his date, a pretty girl in periwinkle robes that Harry didn’t know.
At least, he thought he didn’t know her – until the girl spoke up, her eyes fixed on Greengrass in disbelief. “Greengrass?”
Harry knew that voice. So too, it seemed, did Greengrass.
“Granger?” she spluttered.
Harry rolled his eyes as Greengrass and Hermione started to converse in furious, animated whispers. “Krum,” he said, extending his hand to greet the Durmstrang champion.
“Potter,” rumbled Krum, shaking his hand. “Our dates do not like each other much, I am thinking.”
“You’re not wrong,” said Harry dryly. Greengrass and Hermione were nose to nose now, hissing at each other, and Harry went to rescue his date from his best female friend.
“Greengrass, let it go,” he said firmly, taking Greengrass’ arm. “Hermione… we’ll talk later, okay?”
Hermione shot Harry a look that said, you bet we will. Cho, Cedric, Fleur and Davies were all watching the drama unfold with no small amount of bewilderment.
McGonagall cleared her throat. “It is time,” she said simply. “Champions and partners, please assemble and follow me.”
They got in line, with Harry and Greengrass bringing up the rear.
“Well, that was a fine start,” said Harry darkly, as they started walking.
Greengrass giggled. “It was, wasn’t it? If Granger had that kind of reaction, wait till the rest of the school sees us!”
She seemed to be looking forward to it. Harry wasn’t.
“Oh, cheer up,” said Greengrass. She then giggled again. “Can you wait to see the look on Malfoy’s face?”
That thought did cheer Harry up, if only slightly. “You don’t like Malfoy either, then?”
Greengrass scoffed. “What, you thought we were best buddies because we’re in Slytherin? No, first rule of Hogwarts, Potter: no one likes Malfoy.”
At that moment, they walked through the doors into the Great Hall to deafening applause. At the far end of the Hall, where the teachers’ table usually was, stood a large round table where the Heads of all three schools, Mr Bagman and, for some reason, Percy Weasley were seated. Where the house tables had been were many smaller circular tables, where all the other students were seated.
People stared as Harry and Greengrass passed. Well, they were staring at all the champions and their partners, but there was something more intense about their gazes when they noticed the odd couple at the rear. Greengrass was right, though; when they passed Malfoy and Pansy Parkinson, their identical looks of horrified disbelief made Harry feel that this entire ordeal had almost been worth it. ‘Almost’ being the operative word, of course.
“See?” said Greengrass. “Not so bad, is it?” But she was clinging to his arm a little more tightly than necessary, and Harry figured that she was just as nervous as he felt. For some reason, that made him feel better. That was, until he noticed that they were heading towards Percy, and that he was looking pointedly at Harry while pulling up a seat next to him.
No, no, no! If Harry were to choose how he was to spend the last hour of his life before dying of embarrassment on the dance floor, talking with Percy Weasley about cauldron bottoms would be very near the bottom of the list, somewhere between having tea with Lord Voldemort and snogging a Blast-Ended Skrewt. He tried his utmost to communicate his distress to Greengrass telepathically, but it was all to no avail. By the time they reached the table, all the other seats were taken, and Harry slunk dejectedly into the chair Percy had offered.
Without even the courtesy of a hello, Percy immediately started rambling on about how he was now Mr Crouch’s personal assistant and that Mr Crouch was ill and that he was expecting Mr Crouch’s lovechild, et cetera. Actually, not the last one, but Harry felt sure he’d bring it up any moment now.
Harry shot a pleading, kill me now sort of look at Greengrass. Apparently, Greengrass misinterpreted his expression, because she recoiled and said, “If you’re going to puke, Potter, don’t do it on my dress robes, please.”
Actually, returning to the idea of Percy having Mr Crouch’s lovechild, maybe she wasn’t so far off the mark.
There were menus and cutlery on the table, but no food and no waiters. Harry watched as Professor Dumbledore started intently at the menu in front of him, spoke his choice – “Pork chops!” – and they appeared on the sparkling golden plate in front of him.
Harry didn’t feel at all like eating, so he decided to order the traditional Hungarian goulash so that no one would question him when he didn’t tuck into the unappetising brownish muck.
Greengrass, meanwhile, chose a highly unconventional first course. After carefully scanning her menu, she called out, “Clinker’s Original Butterbeer!”
A gold-embossed bottle appeared on the table in front of Greengrass. She uncorked the bottle and, entirely forgoing her glass, took a long swig directly from the mouth. She then gave an intense shudder of pleasure that momentarily sent Harry’s mind to a very naughty place. “Ohh… that’s good stuff.”
Harry caught a whiff of the Butterbeer bottle as Greengrass set it back down on the table, and suddenly realised what he’d smelt when he’d met her in the Entrance Hall. He stared at Greengrass, his mind rapidly putting together the clues and coming to an unthinkable conclusion.
“Hmm?” said Greengrass absently, staring at the menu.
“Er… were you drinking Butterbeer before you came up to the ball just now?”
Greengrass turned to face Harry, then giggled. “Yeah, a bit,” she said finally. “Helps to settle the nerves, y’know?” She succumbed to another giggling fit.
“Exactly how many bottles have you had tonight?” said Harry, whose stomach was feeling more and more leaden.
“Er…” said Greengrass musingly. “Four? Maybe five? I wasn’t counting…”
Harry stared, unable to believe what his brain was telling him. He didn’t know too much about alcohol, and less about wizarding alcohol. He figured that Butterbeer must not be too strong if they let students drink it. But five bottles? That might well be enough to make one a little tipsy. It must be, given Daphne Greengrass, cold-hearted Slytherin extraordinaire and the bane of Seamus Finnigan’s bollocks, could not stop bloody giggling.
Now, under normal circumstances, Harry would say that if some Slytherin were to decide to drink themselves into a state, it was not his problem in the slightest. But these were far from normal circumstances, and Greengrass’ gluttony for the grog was about to become very much his problem. An extremely big problem.
“Greengrass… you do realise we’re going to have to dance, don’t you? The very first dance? In front of everyone?”
As Harry spoke, Greengrass’ giggles faded and were replaced by a look of abject horror.
“Oh,” she said quietly, her head drooping down to stare at the floor between them. “Shit. I forgot.”
Harry blinked. “How do you forget that there’s dancing at a ball?”
Greengrass said nothing. Apparently, the floor was very interesting.
“Never mind,” said Harry, sighing. He reached out, grabbed Greengrass’ Butterbeer and moved it until it was well out of her reach. “But no more of this until after the dance.”
Greengrass pouted, but did not argue. She turned back to her menu and, at length, ordered the goulash – the same as Harry. Harry wondered if she had ordered it for the same reason.
At the end of the world’s most boring eating competition – Harry and Greengrass were competing to see who would eat the least – came the hour of Doom. (Harry thought it appropriate to capitalise that as well.) Dumbledore stood and asked everyone to do the same; he waved his wand, clearing out all the tables and chairs to the back of the Hall; another flick and a stage materialised to the right, with several instruments set upon it. A group of very hairy-looking young men in ripped robes started to ascend the platform, to wild applause, none more enthusiastic than Greengrass.
“He couldn’t have,” she gasped. Then she squealed. “He did! Morgana’s tit – I don’t believe it – the Weird Sisters – right here at Hogwarts!”
Ordinarily, Harry would be rather amused to see someone fangirling over a celebrity who wasn’t him. At the moment, he was a little preoccupied with his rapidly approaching demise. “Yeah, and now we’re going to have to dance,” he reminded Greengrass.
“Way to bring down the mood, Potter,” said Greengrass irritably. “Please tell me you know how to dance.”
Harry shook his head. “McGonagall gave us one lesson, and we spent the whole thing laughing at Ron while she tried to demonstrate with him as a partner.”
The champions were now trooping out onto the dance floor, and Harry and Greengrass took the hint and followed.
“Can you dance?” asked Harry hopefully. “Five-and-a-bit Butterbeers aside, I mean?”
“Never danced in my life,” said Greengrass immediately.
Harry blinked. “Never? Seriously? I thought all girls were born dancing.”
“I know, right?” said Greengrass, nodding glumly. “Stupid gender stereotypes.”
The song finally started – a slow, mournful tune that Harry thought might soon herald his own funeral.
“Well, you’re the expert here – what’d you learn from McGonagall?” said Greengrass.
“Er – right hand on the waist, left hand holding your partner’s – wait, is it the other way round?”
“Right hand on the waist…” repeated Greengrass slowly.
“No, for you I think it’s left hand on my shoulder – this is confusing –”
Greengrass put her right hand on Harry’s shoulder.
“The other left.”
“No – wait, yes –”
Five excruciating seconds later, Harry and Greengrass had assumed a position of minimum awkwardness for dancing. The three other couples had already started moving.
“Okay…” said Harry, “one, two, three, go.”
In one moment, Harry stepped to his left, Greengrass stepped to her left, and they both overbalanced and collapsed to the floor in a tangle of limbs.
The whole Great Hall stared.
Harry pondered the merits of bolting out of the Hall and down to Professor Snape’s office, and downing every poison he could find so as to finally end this pain.
After an age, Harry figured things really couldn’t get worse from here. Carefully, he untangled himself from a red-faced Greengrass and stood up again, still holding her right hand in his left.
“Come on, Greengrass,” he said in an undertone. “We’ve got to finish this – get up.”
“Don’t wanna,” said Greengrass complainingly, her eyes shut tight. “Just let me die here.”
“Greengrass,” said Harry insistently, and Greengrass huffed, but allowed Harry to pull her back to her feet.
Harry put his other hand on Greengrass’ waist and started rocking on the spot, from one foot to the other – not really dancing, but he figured it was better than standing still, and a heck of a lot better than another rendezvous with the floor. The Slytherin soon got the gist, and started doing the same, her unclaimed hand resting on Harry’s right shoulder.
Harry didn’t trust himself to speak. Instead, he focused all his energies on making absolutely certain that the two of them remained standing. Finally, after what felt like hours, the song ended.
“Can we get out of here now?” said Greengrass plaintively.
“Yes, please,” agreed Harry fervently, taking Greengrass’ arm and half-dragging her to the nearest table, which was empty but for a few unopened bottles of Butterbeer standing unattended.
“Oh, goody,” said Greengrass. “I need a drink after that.” She snatched the nearest bottle, uncorked it and turned it up at her mouth. She gulped the liquid down as though it were the Elixir of Life, and when she’d finished she threw the bottle to the ground, where it rolled away towards the adjacent table. “Thank Merlin for Unbreakable Charms,” she said, wiping her mouth on the sleeve of her dress robe.
Harry stared. Greengrass had just downed the entire bottle in twenty seconds flat. Harry didn’t know whether to be impressed or frightened, and settled on the former.
“You know, I don’t think even Seamus can do that,” said Harry, “and he’s Irish.”
“Anything Finnigan can do, I can do better,” said Greengrass loftily, uncorking another Butterbeer. The drink seemed to have brightened her mood considerably.
Harry opened his own Butterbeer and took a far more measured gulp. Suddenly, he noticed the change in atmosphere. The Weird Sisters had struck up a far more lively song, comparable to some of the rock ‘n’ roll music Harry had heard on Uncle Vernon’s old cassettes, and the dance floor had taken on the appearance of a rock concert arena.
Greengrass had noticed too. “Why couldn’t they have started with this one?!” she demanded, as the band broke into the chorus. Evidently, Greengrass knew the song, because she started singing at the top of her lungs, while waving her arms like crazy: “CAN YOU DANCE LIKE A HIPPOGRIFF? MA-MA-MA, MA-MA-MA, MA-MA-MA…”
Harry buried his head in his hands.
Greengrass noticed. “Lighten up, Potter! No one’s watching.” She continued singing and performing what Harry could only dubiously assume were dance moves. “SWOOPING DOWN, TO THE GROUND…”
Harry gazed at the dance floor and saw one of the odder sights of the evening (which was saying something). “Is that Flitwick crowd-surfing?”
Greengrass blinked, then shrieked with laughter. “Merlin’s sack, it is! I’ll never think of him the same way again…”
Harry sat back and watched the show, as Greengrass’ antics, matched by what he had to estimate was about three-quarters of the Hogwarts student body, turned what was an average if catchy song into a lasting memory. Harry couldn’t decide whether that was for better or worse, but he learned, if nothing else, that the normally stodgy Ernie Macmillan had moves.
As the last electric guitar chord reverberated, the students roared their approval, Greengrass among the loudest. She then settled back in her seat, Butterbeer in hand, as the band began a more sedate melody.
“That,” she said breathlessly, “just made my night.” She took another gulp.
“Well, I’m glad you’re having fun,” said Harry sincerely, trying to keep his voice light. “You know, the dance is over, so you can ditch me if you like – find your friends and enjoy the rest of the ball. I won’t mind, honest.”
Greengrass hummed and finished her drink. “Y’know what?” she said, reaching for another bottle. “I don’t think I will. You’re much better company than most of my House. ‘Sides, I don’t much fancy running into Malfoy and having to explain our little tumble.” She grimaced, as if only just remembering it.
Harry didn’t know how he felt about that answer. On the one hand, about all he wanted right now was to be alone and wallow in self-pity for the rest of the night. On the other hand, Greengrass was making for surprisingly good company for the moment. Perhaps it was the alcohol.
Harry sighed. “All right,” he said at last to Greengrass, who grinned broadly and did what looked like a little victory jig. “But if you’re going to stick around, maybe tell me a bit about yourself?”
And that’s how Harry Potter found himself voluntarily having a conversation with a cute, half-drunk Slytherin girl from Pansy Parkinson’s posse. He learned that Greengrass (he couldn’t find it in himself to think of her by her first name yet – that would just seem too weird) lived in Suffolk, that she knew both Malfoy and Parkinson well before Hogwarts and had little fondness for either, that the Sorting Hat had nearly put her in Hufflepuff before she threatened to set fire to it if it did, and that she secretly loved Muggle alternative rock bands. The least surprising thing Harry learned was that her favourite drink was Butterbeer, and when the subject was broached she spent a good ten minutes explaining the many different brands and varieties of the drink, and their various tastes and subtleties. Harry just nodded and hummed assent in what he hoped were the right places.
Half an hour later, Greengrass had finished two more Butterbeers and it was really starting to show: her cheeks were rosy and she’d slopped some of her last drink down the front of her dress robes. Of course, a Scouring Charm quickly took care of things. Magic was useful like that.
Greengrass reached out for another bottle and frowned. They were all empty.
“Be a good date, Potter, and fetch me another, will ya?” she drawled, stretching in her chair – an action that did certain things to her body that interested Harry very much.
“Er,” said Harry, trying to focus. “Don’t you reckon you’ve had enough for tonight?”
Greengrass pouted and gazed at Harry winsomely. Harry hadn’t quite noticed before how big and dark and pretty her eyes were.
“Okay,” he relented. “One more.”
“Yay,” said Greengrass, doing another happy dance – which caused more interesting things to happen. Harry shook his head as he walked away, deciding he too needed another drink.
The drinks were on the other side of the Great Hall, opposite from the stage. There were plenty of students around, and several of them stared at Harry or stifled giggles. Harry felt his bad mood returning; he’d nearly managed to forget his debacle of a dance.
Harry had collected two Butterbeers and was about to make his way back to his and Greengrass’ table as quickly as possible when a familiar, shrill voice erupted right next to his left ear: “Harry Potter, what on earth were you thinking?!”
“Ow!” yelped Harry, snapping around to face the speaker. “Eardrums, Hermione!”
Hermione stepped back a foot, but didn’t look particularly sorry. Her usually bushy brown hair was tied up sleekly, and her periwinkle dress robes were somewhat ruffled; that and the flush of her cheeks made Harry think she must have been dancing for some time. She was, Harry had to admit, very beautiful. But she was also very angry, and Harry knew that this time, there was no way he could avoid the impending confrontation.
“Okay,” said Harry resignedly. “Out with it. What’s your problem?”
“What’s my problem?” exploded Hermione. “What’s my problem? Do you really – are you really that blind? Well, obviously you are, otherwise you would have never turned up to the ball with Daphne bleeding Greengrass!”
“What have you got against Greengrass?” said Harry, trying to keep his voice level. People were already beginning to stare at the obvious argument.
“What have I got against her?” said Hermione sarcastically. “Gee, it wouldn’t have to do with the fact that she’s a Slytherin, one of Parkinson’s gang, the type that goes around hanging off Malfoy’s every word and calling people like me a Mudblood, now, would it?”
Harry couldn’t pretend that hadn’t crossed his mind a few times over the last few days. And yet… “She doesn’t seem that way to me. She hasn’t said anything like that tonight – if she had, I’d have ditched her on the spot. You know that, Hermione.”
“Well, yes, but –” stuttered Hermione, “– but you know what she’s like! Didn’t you hear about the other day when she broke into our common room and put Seamus in the hospital wing?”
The group of people listening in had by now become a crowd.
“Well, yeah,” said Harry, deciding not to mention that that was when he had asked her to the ball. “But that’s Seamus, Hermione. We’ve all hexed him dozens of times, and for good reason.”
“She Transfigured Seamus’ testicles into a pair of tweezers!” screeched Hermione.
“Hey!” yelled Seamus from somewhere in the observing mass of people. “Shout it out for the world to hear, why don’t ya!”
“He got better!” argued Harry, ignoring his Irish dormmate. “And besides, Seamus deserved it!”
“No, I didn’t!”
“Shut up, Seamus!” said Harry and Hermione at the same time.
There was a very awkward silence.
“Oh, honestly!” said Hermione, and she grabbed Harry’s arm and pulled him away from the spectators. She led him all the way to the back of the Hall, passing not far from Greengrass along the way (she was engrossed in the song the band was now playing and did not seem to notice them), and out the doors into the Entrance Hall, where they were alone.
“That’s better,” said Hermione. “Now we’re not making a scene anymore.”
“I wasn’t the one making a scene,” said Harry grumpily.
Hermione took a deep breath. “I’m not as mad as you think I am –”
“– Could’ve fooled me –”
“– I’m just shocked, honestly. There’s barely a girl in the whole school who wouldn’t have gone with you and you chose Greengrass? For starters, I thought you fancied Cho?”
“Well, Cedric got to her first, didn’t he?” said Harry irritably. “And you and Ginny were taken, so there wasn’t much competition after that.”
“I know, but why her?”
“I know you don’t believe me, but she’s been a better date than – well, than I could have hoped, really,” said Harry. “We’ve talked, gotten to know each other… And she hasn’t tried to hex me once in more than two hours. For a Slytherin, that’s got to be a record.”
“Do you like her?” said Hermione abruptly.
Harry intended to answer with a firm ‘no’, but found he couldn’t. The truth was, Greengrass was obviously pretty, she was friendly enough once you broke the ice, and he’d found her easier to talk to than just about any other girl apart from Hermione herself. Suddenly, he realised that for the entire night, he’d been so distracted by Greengrass that he hadn’t thought about Cho at all.
“Maybe?” he finally settled on. “I know there’s the whole Gryffindor-Slytherin thing, and maybe we won’t see each other again after tonight – I don’t know. But she really is all right, Hermione. Please believe me.”
Hermione’s eyes bored into Harry, as though she were trying to read his mind. Finally, she sighed. “All right,” she said. She didn’t look angry anymore, only anxious. “I just – I hope you know what you’re doing, Harry.”
Without another word, she strode off, back into the Great Hall. After standing stock still for a few moments, Harry followed suit. It was barely half past ten, but Harry felt incredibly tired. This ball had been entirely more trouble than it was worth, and he just wanted to go to bed and forget about everything.
Well, not everything, Harry amended his thoughts as he re-entered the Great Hall and made a beeline for Greengrass. As much as his troubles that night had been mostly caused by the Butterbeer-loving Slytherin, he couldn’t find it within himself to resent her. It had been his choice to ask her to the ball, and her company had truly been the only reason he’d found the whole thing bearable.
Maybe Hermione was right. Maybe he was starting to like her.
Greengrass was reclining in her chair as Harry arrived back at the table, looking so comfortable that Harry wasn’t certain she was awake until she spoke to him.
“What kept you?” she asked, as Harry handed her the Butterbeer he had gotten for her what seemed like hours ago.
“Don’t ask,” said Harry heavily, uncorking his own Butterbeer and taking a liberal gulp from it – about a third of the bottle. Greengrass stared. “It’s been a long night,” said Harry by way of explanation.
Greengrass nodded and then, suddenly, she yawned. “Sleepy,” she said. “’S the only problem with Butterbeer. I should turn in… don’t wanna end up kipping out here.” She waved an arm around in a sweeping motion, indicating the whole Great Hall.
“Yeah,” said Harry, “yeah, I was thinking about bed too. Think anyone’ll notice if we slip out now?”
“Who cares?” Greengrass made to stand up, and immediately nearly fell over. “Whoa.” She clutched the table dizzily, and Harry wondered how many Butterbeers she’d drunk in total for the night. A dozen?
“I’ll walk you out?” said Harry, offering his arm. Greengrass took it gratefully and they walked together, Greengrass leaning heavily on Harry, out into the Entrance Hall.
On entering the Hall, Harry noticed for the first time that the oaken front doors leading out to the grounds were wide open, and that an entire rose garden, complete with fairy lights (which Harry suspected were actual fairies), had been conjured on a patch of lawn outside the doors. Several figures were moving around within the bushes: Harry rolled his eyes as Seamus and a girl in Ravenclaw robes disappeared into one. Ron – where has he been all night? – was also outside, with both of the Patil twins, but he didn’t seem to be enjoying himself; on the contrary, he appeared to be pleading for mercy as both Patils hit him with what looked like Beater’s bats.
Harry considered for a moment going outside to rescue his friend, and then decided that Ron probably deserved it for whatever he had said.
“We should…” said Greengrass, who was gazing blearily at Harry. “Y’know. Do this again sometime. You ‘n’ me. How about it?”
Harry got the gist, and he surprised himself with his response (perhaps he, too, had drunk more than he’d thought).
“Yeah, that’d be nice,” he said. “Just one condition, though. Cut back on the Butterbeer. I’m not dating an alcoholic.”
“Oh, pooh,” said Greengrass, and then she was kissing him, full on the lips, and their mouths were open, and Harry felt her tongue move inside his mouth. The kiss tasted like Butterbeer. Harry decided he didn’t mind that much. Or at all, really.
They broke apart only when Harry was starting to notice the lack of air. “That felt… good,” said Greengrass decisively. “Wouldn’t mind doing that ag–”
Suddenly, Greengrass’ eyes widened as she caught sight of something behind Harry, in the direction of the garden.
“FINNIGAN! WHAT THE FUCK ARE YOU DOING TO MY SISTER?!”