An ever-renewing glitter fountain sat in the centre of the small room at the top of Ravenclaw Tower. The fountain was surrounded by four tables, each with two chairs, a box of ‘ice-breaker questions', two goblets of pumpkin juice and individual copies of The Illustrated Guide to Lesbian Sex.
It looked, if Lavender did say so herself, utterly brill.
The Wizarding Wireless tended to favour maudlinly hetero power-ballads over the upbeat disco tunes Lavender presumed gay girls preferred but, after a few agonising minutes, Ginny Weasley had come to the rescue. Waving around one of her brother's magically adapted iPods and putting on some Riot Ghoul.
"Don't worry.” Luna had murmured, charming the candles to glow pink as angry screaming blasted from the iPod. "She's got some Spice Girls on there as well.” Luna's creepy mind-reading skills aside, it was a bit of a relief.
Not that she should be calling Luna creepy, Lavender sternly reminded herself. They were about to go on a sort-of-date and while Lavender had absolutely no interest in someone who kept their nails as raggedy as Luna kept hers, she should try to be nice. Especially as Luna was the only one who'd bothered to help with the tables.
Glancing around, Lavender noted that Hermione was being as useless as ever and reading right where Parvati was trying to finish the rainbow streamer charms. Ginny was still fiddling with the iPod, Pansy was telling Millicent a very loud story, her dark eyes constantly flicking towards Hermione, and Padma was staring out of the window as if she'd just had to wave her lover off to war.
It was nearly time to begin so, taking a deep breath, Lavender walked to the front of the room and clapped her hands together.
"Hello and thank you for coming to the first Hogwarts Hungry Hearts Speed-Dating Event. As you know it did take a while to organise and we do appreciate you taking the time. I do hope I'm not boring you, Hermione."
Finding herself the centre of attention, Hermione carefully closed the copy of Doxies and Dental Dams she had been reading and sat up straight.
"As I was saying, the rules are simple. People with a red flower, that's me, Padma, Luna and Pansy,” Lavender pointed to each of them in turn, "stay seated and those people with a white flower,” she indicated Millicent, Parvati, Ginny and Hermione, "move to the table on their left when they hear the bell go.” She paused, beaming as Parvati gave her a thumbs up. "The bell will go every two minutes, hopefully that's enough time for a quick chat and to decide if you'd like to go on a date. At the end everyone will give me scorecards to Parvati and me and-”
"Just a moment.” Pansy raised an immaculately manicured hand. Now there was a woman who knew how to dress for an evening of queer speed-dating. "Why do we give our cards to you?"
"Oh, well it's so we can tell people who they've matched with.”
"Meaning that you know who everyone likes?" Millicent asked.
"Well. That is what the Muggles do," said Lavender, feeling a hot flush creep up from her collar. She had rather been looking forward to seeing who picked who.
"Can't we just say if we want to go out with someone? Like, ask them on a date?" Ginny piped up.
"Um... I suppose.” Lavender darted a glance at Parvati, receiving a small nod in return. "Yes, alright. Any more questions?"
Everyone shook their heads. Pansy and Millicent smirked at each other. Bloody Slytherins.
"Wonderful!” said Lavender, trying to sound enthusiastic and not the tiniest bit terrified at the thought of going on a date with another girl. With a room full of girls. With one particular girl. "I'll just set the charm and then let's go!”
♥ Lavender and Parvati ♥
"I think it's going rather well, don't you?" asked Lavender, almost bouncing in her seat. "Everyone seems to be getting on. Apart from Pansy and Hermione, of course, and your sister looks like she's about to murder Millie, but that's to be expected.”
"Oh honestly.” Parvati craned her head to peer past the glitter fountain towards her sister's table. "I did tell her to behave herself.”
"Not to worry,” said Lavender, also craning. "Millie doesn't seem to mind. Anyway.” She swung back around, a trailing spiral of hair only just missing the candles. "You still haven't told me how you knew Hermione liked girls before I did.”
"Shh.” Parvati giggled, eyes flicking to where Hermione was scowling at Pansy. "I'll tell you later. Now, come on-” she reached forward to tap a finger against Lavender's wrist. "We're supposed to be on a date. Woo me!”
"Pav!” Lavender dissolved into giggles. "I don't know how to woo, shouldn't you be wooing me"
Feeling rather brave at the sight of Lavender's happy, hopeful face shining in the candlelit, Parvati reached across the table and grabbed her hand. They both froze.
"Pav" Lavender was looking at Parvati, hers eyes big and bright.
"Come to the Spring Ball with me?" said Parvati, tightening her grip as she felt Lavender start to pull herself free. "Just as friends, if you want.”
"Friends,” said Lavender.
"Well I was hoping that-” Parvati was interrupted by the bell ringing. Ginny was already on her feet, almost climbing into Parvati's lap in her eagerness to switch tables.
♥ Luna and Ginny ♥
Luna looked lovely. She always looked lovely but the soft pink of the candles were turning her blonde buzzcut into a beautiful peach fuzz and she was looking especially lovely. Like a beautiful Pygmy Puff, Ginny mused as she opened her mouth to tell Luna that she was the loveliest woman in the room. No. In the whole castle. Unfortunately Ginny's mouth seemed to be giving her brain the cold shoulder because what came out was:
"Looking well fit, Lovegood.
What. The. Fuck.
"Thank you,” said Luna, her cheeks going a little pink. "No one has ever called me "fit” before. Probably because I don't like Quidditch and I always get a bit out of breath climbing the stairs.” She smiled happily and picked up Getting Off: A Witch's Guide to Magical Masturbation.
Normally, Ginny would have enjoyed the way Luna carefully turned the book upside-down. Right now, however, she was frozen with horror. Had she really called Luna "well fit" Had she called her "Lovegood" Oh fuck, why did this keep happening?
They'd been on-and-off since before the Battle (that kiss with Harry happened during one of the ‘off' periods and no, Ginny did not want to talk about it thankyouverymuch). It wasn't like this was new, but recently whenever Ginny opened her mouth around Luna she seemed to be channelling her older brothers at their most gormless and something completely horrific like ‘well fit' came tumbling out.
"Ahh.” she cleared her throat, reminding herself that it was just Luna. Except it was never just Luna, or rather it was always just Luna. Only Luna. Always Luna. Shit.
"This is rather interesting,” said Luna, tipping her head at a 90 degree angle and staring at the page. "Do you think we should try it?" She turned the magazine to show Ginny.
"Arghhh-ahem, yeah. Nice one.” Ginny could feel her face burning. She tried not to think about the fact that Luna had suggested they try a Mermaid's Lasso in the bedroom and Ginny had responded as if she'd been offered a packet of crisps in the pub.
"Or not.” Luna flipped the magazine around again, blue eyes roving across the page. "I already like everything we do.”
"Sound,” said Ginny, miserably rubbing the back of her neck and resolving to stay silent until the bell rang.
♥ Padma and Millicent ♥
"I'm asexual and I'm only here because my sister blackmailed me. I like books more than I like people and I think Quidditch is stupid.” Padma crossed her arms and glared at Millicent. Parvati had been rather pathetic ( "please Pea, it's the only way I'm going to get Lavender to talk about us without her being able to run away”) but that didn't mean that Padma was going to play along with this ridiculous game.
"Alright,” said Millicent. She gave Padma an appraising look, then lent forward, beefy forearms on the table. "I'm a lesbian, I'm only here because Pansy wants to fuck Granger. I like cats more than I like people and I love Quidditch.”
"Right. Good.” Padma felt herself relax a bit. The chair felt a bit softer against her back and she noticed a nice breeze coming from one of the turret windows. "You know... That's the first time I've told someone. Who isn't my sister.”
"That you don't like people? It's fairly obvious.”
"No, that I don't like dating.” Padma didn't miss the way Millicent's face fell. "What"
"Nothing. You can call me Millie, by the way.”
"Alright, Millie. What's your problem?"
"Um...” Millie's thick dark eyebrows scrunched together. "Nothing. I don't want to make things awkward.”
"But you're going to anyway.” Padma folded her arms.
"No, I'm not.” Millie folded her arms too, hunching forward even more. "Let's just talk about something else.”
"Um... Do you know any good books about cats?" It was the best question she could have asked. They spent the next 40 seconds talking about Ursula Le Guin's Catwings and Padma was almost disappointed when the bell rang.
♥ Pansy and Hermione ♥
The timer had been running for 90 seconds and all Pansy and Hermione had done was glare at each other. Silently. It was ridiculous, Pansy reminded herself. Hermione was the one who'd insisted that the two of them became friends ( "We have to work together anyway and if I have to listen to Lavender and Parvati debate the tackiness of ankle bracelets for a moment longer I will lose my mind”). Hermione was the one who'd been soft and giggly in Pansy's lap at the Gryffindor Christmas Party. Hermione was the one who'd sat up to hug Pansy and mumbled into her hair "Ron's abit boring in bed, nver wan's to try… stuff.”
All Pansy had done was agree to spend time with Hermione. She had listened to Hermione drunkenly mumbling about how Weasley didn't want to eat her out and, despite the fact that she, Pansy Lettuce Parkinson, had both a tongue stud and a positive fondness for pussy, Pansy had humed and nodded and tucked Hermione into bed.
"Weasley dumped you then.” She broke the silence, ignoring the flicker of uneasy the harsh words sent through her chest.
"Yes,” said Hermione, still glaring at Pansy's forehead.
"For telling everyone that he's atrocious in bed.”
"Not... not everyone.”
"Enough people that it went around the castle like the clap on a hot air balloon.”
"What? A hot air balloon? Where... Where did you get that one from?" Hermione looked like she was trying not to smile. Bitch.
"None of your business. I believe that we were discussing the fact that Weasley broke it off because the whole castle knows that he prefers the yellow section of the Neapolitan ice cream tub-” Hermione's pained expression let Pansy know that at least some of the Muggle metaphors Daphne had taught her were correct, "-and you blamed me,” she continued. "Despite the fact that you were the one who-”
"Oh do shut up,” Hermione hissed. "You don't know anything about me and you have no right to talk about Ron in that horrible, sneering way. He's worth ten of you.”
It was a bit like being slapped. Draco had warned Pansy that Hermione had a tendency to do that. She should have listened. Somewhere in the distance a bell rang.
♥ Lavender and Ginny ♥
Things were already going wrong. Ginny, Millicent and Parvati all stood as soon as the bell rang but Hermione ignored it, caught up in her argument with Pansy. Lavender was just about to go over and remind her of the rules when, with a philosophical shrug, Millicent moved past Pansy's table and sat down opposite Luna.
Which did technically solve the problem but...
"Are they allowed to do that?" said Ginny. A long stand of ginger hair was clamped between her teeth (disgusting) and she chewed vigorously as she watched Millicent smile at Luna.
"Not really,” said Lavender. "I'll make sure she moves on the next bell.” Ginny nodded, continuing to stare at Luna's table. "Um. How are things with you and Luna?"
"Yeah, alright.” Ginny exhaled, dragging her eyes away from the next table. "Bit up in the air at the minute, you know how it is.”
"I'm not sure I do.” Lavender leant forward, "I'm a bit new to this. Girls.”
"But what about you and Parvati?"
"Sorry.” Ginny cupped both hands around her mouth and, in an exaggerated whisper asked, "what about you and Parvati?"
"There's... that's over,” said Lavender.
"Oh, sorry. It seemed like maybe something was happening between you last year?"
"She asked me to the Spring Ball "as friends”.” Lavender felt her mouth twist as she added the air quotes.
"Ouch.” Ginny winced. "That's rough. Um... so you're new to this?" Lavender nodded. "Right then, have you ever heard of scissoring?"
Before Lavender could finish shaking her head, the bell rang.
♥ Pansy and Hermione ♥
"Does it really matter how I talk about him?" asked Pansy wincing at how vicious she sounded. "You're not together anymore, barely even friends as far as I can tell and-”
"I don't care. That doesn't mean you get to be horrible.”
"No.” Hermione slapped the table, making the candles flicker. "Ron is still my best friend and you,” she stabbed a finger towards Pansy. "Don't get to talk about him. At all.”
Right then. Taking a couple of deep breaths, Pansy reminded herself why she'd come to this event in the first place. Aside from the fact that Millie fancied one of the Patil twins.
"Let's start over,” she said. "I would like an apology for the way our friendship ended and-”
"You don't want to be my friend?" Hermione interrupted, an incredulous look on her face. "Just because I won't let you be mean about-”
"This is not how we treat our friends, Granger.” Pansy tried to sound snippy but realised, in a horrifying turn of events, that she just sounded a bit sad. "You accused me of spreading gossip about you and Weasley, all the while knowing that it was all your own fault.”
"What" said Hermione. "That's not... Well... Well maybe I was a little hasty.”
"Gryffindors.” Pansy sniffed. This conversation would be a lot more fun if she didn't feel so wretched about the whole thing.
"Look.” Hermione leant forward, a dreadfully earnest look on her face. "I didn't know that I had told anyone else about... that... I thought I had only mentioned it to you. Really.” She seemed to be waiting for something but, feeling contrary, Pansy kept her face expressionless. "When Ron told me people were talking about our sex life.” Hermione carried on, eyes still darting across Pansy's face. "I didn't think it could have come from anyone else and so I...” she trailed off.
"Marched into Charms and accused me of laying your secrets bare to the castle.”
"And then when I tried to defend myself you refused to listen and spent the next few weeks avoiding me.”
"And now you are asking why I don't want to be friends with you, despite the fact that you've behaved abominably and still have not apologised.”
Hermione opened and closed her mouth a few times and then, before she could say anything to make Pansy feel even worse, the bell rang.
♥ Luna and Millicent ♥
"Do you think they're alright?" asked Lovegood. Hermione and Pansy's increasingly loud argument was starting to fill the small room, drowning out the Atomic Kneazle coming from the gently smoking iPod.
"Um...” Millie allowed her head to loll to the side, eyes slowly rolling around to find Pansy's rather red face. "They're fine.” She rolled her head back around to face Lovegood. "We've got a signal if things get too much.”
"A secret signal?" said Lovegood, sitting up straight. "How intriguing, can I guess what it is?"
"Er... sure." There was absolutely no way Lovegood was going to guess the signal. Still, good chance to see how Crosspatch Padma was getting on on her date with her own sister. Millie couldn't wait to tease her about that later.
"Is it... oh! It's a Nox charm, isn't it?" Lovegood was smiling happily, nodding her head as if Millie had already confirmed she'd got the right answer.
"How did you... yes... that's it,” said Millie, blinking rapidly. "How did you know?"
"Hmm? Oh, well it was quite easy,” said Lovegood. "Pansy is in love with Hermione and a Nox would disrupt the room enough to interrupt any unpleasant conversations, while also hiding her hurt feelings.” Lovegood continued, smiling all the way through as if she wasn't talking about the incredibly fragile heart of Millie's best friend. It was unsettling and refreshing in equal measure. "You don't like me very much, do you.” Lovegood tipped her head to the side, examining Millie.
"Er, actually I think I do,” said Millie, feeling even more disconcerted. "In a platonic way,” she hastened to add.
"Oh.” Lovegood's forehead creased in a frown. "That's... that doesn't normally happen,” she said, grinning ruefully. "People liking me. In a platonic way. Or in any other ways.” Her eyes flicked across to Ginny.
"Just be nice to Pansy, yeah? She's not had a great few weeks.”
"Of course. Do you think it would make her feel better if she knew that Hermione only agreed to come tonight when Ginny told her that Pansy was coming?"
"Definitely.” Millie felt herself starting to grin back at Lovegood.
The bell rang and she stood, tucking in her chair and pointing a finger at Lovegood. "Next week, you and me are having lunch together,” she said, grinning even more as Lovegood, Luna, nodded eagerly back.
♥ Padma and Parvati ♥
"Millicent and Luna are getting on well,” said Parvati, smirking when Padma's head whipped around to see.
"Luna's with Ginny,” said Padma.
"I don't think they're exclusive.”
"Really? Where did you hear that? Did Ginny tell you?" Apparently realising that she was giving far too much away, Padma scowled across the table. "Don't start,” she said.
"Not doing anything.”
"I know what you're thinking.”
"That's the two of us going on a date isn't going to help stop those twincest rumours?"
"You're the one who suggested this.” Padma huffed. Really, it was almost too easy to wind her up. "And we're not dating, we're waiting to date other people.”
"Oh? What "other people" are you waiting to date" asked Parvati, blinking slowly.
"Don't be a twat, Pat,” said Padma, evoking Parvati's detested childhood nickname. "I told Millie that I was asexual and her face transfigured into a smacked arse. Sorry to ruin your fantasies about double-dating with you and Lavender but-”
"Alright shut up,” said Parvati, glancing at Lavender's table. She couldn't really see much over the fountain, just the top of Lavender's curls close to Ginny's slightly greasing red hair. They must be talking about something very interesting, something that was making Lavender's eyes sparkle and causing her to lean towards Ginny. She'd probably forgotten all about the candles, without Parvati there to keep an eye on her, what if Lavender's hair caught fire? Parvati had reinforced the fire-proof charms but-
"Shit.” Padma's sigh drew Parvati's attention away from Lavender. She blinked and felt her eyes prickle. "What happened?"
"N-nothing,” said Parvati, frantically examined the ceiling and blinking rapidly.
"Did she say no?" Padma pushed on.
"She was about to, the bell rang and...” Parvati trailed off. She'd been so focused on teasing Padma that this was the first time she'd thought about how wrong that whole conversation had gone. "I asked her and she didn't say anything but it felt like her hand was pulling away.”
"You were holding hands?"
"I...” This was so silly. "I said we could go as friends and then the bell rang and… And...” Parvati stopped to rub under her eyes, careful not to smudge her mascara.
"You're an idiot.” The sympathy was gone from Padma's voice, she sounded completely ticked off. "Go back over there and tell her that you want to go to the Ball as something a lot different than bloody friends,” she said, her voice rising. "Tell her that you still fancy her, that you-”
The bell cut her off. Ginny was already marching over to them - honestly, she was practically hounding Parvati - and it was time to switch tables.
"I hate you.” Parvati had time to mutter as she pushed past Padma to get to Pansy's table.
♥ Lavender and Millicent ♥
"Eeeeee,” Lavender whispered to Millie, bouncing in her seat. Millie's only response was to raise an eyebrow. "Well you work fast,” Lavender prompted. "I did rather think that you were interested in a different Ravenclaw.”
"Start making sense Brown, or I'm marking this date with a ‘C' for Confunding,” said Millie.
"You asked Luna out.”
"Not on a date.”
"Of course on a... oh. Not a date.” Lavender felt herself deflate. She slumped back in her chair, mimicking Millie's pose. "Well, that's boring. This is supposed to be speed-dating, not speed...”
"Mating?" Millie raised both her eyebrows now, waggling them a bit until Lavender started giggling.
"Stop.” Lavender reached forward to swat her lightly on the arm. "So you do like Padma?"
"Yes.” Lavender decided. "You do. I've seen you watching her in Transfiguration.”
"Maybe I was watching her wrist action.” This time Lavender raised an eyebrow. "Oh, sod off,” said Millie, raising a hand to scrub across her own face.
"She watches you too, you know. You should ask her out.”
"Er... should I? Isn't she... er...” and now Millie was going pink, honestly this was the most fun Lavender had had in ages. "She said she was aro.”
"Aero? Like the chocolate bar?" Lavender only knew about Muggle chocolate because Parvati always brought some back after the Spring hols. Maybe it was some kind of code. This whole business was so confusing.
Before the Battle she and Pavvy hadn't needed any of these codes. They'd just kissed a bit and held hands under the covers. Now they hadn't kissed in months, not since Lavender came back to Hogwarts with her face swathed in badges. Even when the badges had comes off Parvati hadn't tried to kiss her, and then Lavender got the idea for a speed-dating event and now here she was, trying to impress Millie Bloody Bulstrode and act like she knew lesbian code words and it was all so bloody-
"Aro, like aromantic,” said Millie, interrupting Lavender's spiralling hysteria. "It was the first thing she said when I sat down.”
"Oh.” Lavender frowned. "I thought she was asexual.”
"Yeah she said that, but then she said she didn't date,” now Millie was frowning too. "Do you know which it is?"
"Sorry, I'm always getting the words mixed up.”
"S'alright.” Millie waved her off. "Would be good to find out though.”
The bell rang and Millie was out of her chair, wiping her hands on her jumper as she walked over to Padma.
♥ Padma and Ginny ♥
"What are we going to do about this?" said Ginny, thumping down in front of Padma. "You're a Ravenclaw, time for a plan.”
"Luna and Bulstrode,” Ginny elaborated, rolling her eyes.
"What about them?"
"They're going on a date. A proper one.” Ginny seemed to be waiting for something but Padma was feeling a bit light-headed. "Bulstrode asked Luna at the end of their chat.”
"Oh.” Distantly, Padma realised her voice sounded a bit odd. Small. "What did Luna say?"
"Bloody yes.” Ginny snapped, ducking down to peer through the glitter fountain at where Luna was talking to Hermione.
"I thought Luna was going out with you.”
"It's complicated,” said Ginny, swinging back around to look at Padma. "What about you and Bulstrode? Doesn't this bother you?"
"Her name's Millie.”
"Don't care, what are we going to do about this?"
"We're not together, I've only really spoken to her this evening.” It was true, Padma had hardly noticed Millie before her name appeared on the list of speed-dating attendees. Obviously Padma had done a bit of research into everyone who was going.
It hadn't taken much to find out which classes Millie was taking that year. At first Padma had lingered in the corridor until, after a few days, Millie started to raise her chin in greeting. After that Padma began doing her homework in the Quidditch stands during the Slytherin team's practise hour.
Ginny was still looking at Padma, her eyebrows raised as if Padma should care that Millie was going to take Luna on a date. They'd probably be good together. A nice match. Luna could sit in the stands while Millie was at practise and then they could share a hot chocolate together on the colder days. Maybe Luna would bring a book down with her and read to Millie while the wind pulled Millie's tight, dark brown curls around and made her cheeks flush deep red.
"Do you need a moment?" asked Ginny, pulling at her own bottom lip. "Sorry, I should have told you in a nicer way.”
"I don't care,” said Padma, ruefully noting that it certainly felt like she cared. A bit.
"Okaaay,” said Ginny, her brow crinkling in confusion. "But you like Millie, right?"
"I... Yes. But that's not how it works.”
"Right. But that could be how it works.” Ginny ducked her head to peer up at Padma. "If you like her and she likes you.”
"Does she?" Something squirmed in Padma's chest as Ginny nodded. Then the bell rang and Ginny was out of her chair, making a beeline for Luna's table. Padma half stood to call her back, only to freeze in place when she saw Millie making her way over.
♥ Luna and Hermione ♥
Luna did not like Hermione. Hermione was fussy and she cared far too much about her marks, she got cross when Luna joked about Nargles and just generally she was a spiky, difficult person to have around. All of which was difficult to remember when Hermione was sitting there looking so utterly pitiful.
"Are you upset about Ron?" Luna asked. "You seem much happier since the two of you went back to being friends.” Hermione's bottom lip trembled. "He seems happier too,” Luna tried, sincerely hoping that Hermione wasn't about to start crying. Or talking about Ron's bedroom skills. "Is it Pansy?"
Hermione gave a miserable jerk of her head.
"You probably think she won't forgive you.” Luna pressed, on letting her eyes drift across the room to Ginny. "Because you didn't want to admit that you're in love with her and so blamed her for your break-up with Ron.” Ginny was leaning close to Padma, ducking her head to made eye contact through the long thick hair falling across Padma's face. "Are you aware that Pansy is in love with you too?" Luna kept talking. She didn't understand all this moving tables business. Why did Ginny need to sit with Padma? "She's already forgiven you, that's why she's so cross. If you were to ask her to go to Hogsmeade with you I'm sure she'd say yes,” Luna pulled her eyes away from Ginny.
Hermione's mouth was slightly open and she as staring at Luna. The bell rang and Luna beamed as Ginny immediately jumped up and headed towards her. That was more like it.
♥ Pansy and Parvati ♥
"Don't start.” Parvati held up a hand. "We can just sit here in silence until the bell rings.”
"Very well,” said Pansy, glancing around the room. "Or we could pretend to be civil.” The suggestion was greeted with an inelegant snort from Parvati.
"I wasn't aware that Slytherins did "civil”.” Parvati actually charmed bright green air quotes to appear when she said the word "civil”.
"Dear me, how did I ever forget what a drama queen you are?" Pansy marvelled. "You know very well just how… civil… Slytherins can be.” She punctuated the sentence with some red air-quotes of her own that, before Parvati's uneasy eyes, formed into the shape of lips blowing a kiss.
"Stop it,” said Parvati, straightening up and checking to see if Lavender was looking their way.
"She doesn't know, does she?" Pansy had suspected as much, back when Parvati only ever wanted to meet in the darkest corners of the library.
"No.” Parvati was eyeing Pansy uneasily, the corners of her mouth drawn down.
"I'm not going to tell her,” said Pansy, mentally chastising herself for not using the opportunity to torture Parvati. Just a little bit. "Is that why you stopped wanting to meet me?"
"Yes, sorry. It was… I didn't know if she was coming back to Hogwarts and…” Parvati trailed off, turning slightly red eyes back towards Lavender.
"You were lonely.”
"A bit.” Parvati lifted one shoulder in a shrug. "I thought Lav and I were the only queer girls in Gryffindor. Yes, yes,” she lifted up a hand. "I was an idiot.”
"Gryffindors.” Pansy shook her head, smiling despite herself. "You shared a bedroom with Hermione Girl-Hungry Granger and a house with Ginny who is-”
"Look.” Parvati shifted in her seat, fighting off a small smile. "I only knew Hermione liked girls when I saw her chatting to you at the start of the year. Next thing I knew she'd charmed her duvet the colours of the bisexual flag which looked absolutely rubbish with all the red and gold.”
"Right… so she does like girls?"
"Yes. Who do you think put Lavender up to this?"
"Of course.” Pansy shook her head. "Do you,” she looked quickly around the room. "Do you know if she's here for… er… for anyone in particular?"
"I don't know,” said Parvati, enthusiastically nodding her head. "It would probably betray her trust to tell you,” she said, pointing at Pansy. "I don't want to be accused of spreading gossip,” she mimed a heart and then pointed at Hermione and then Pansy. "It really isn't-”
"Understood.” Pansy held up a hand. "I suppose one good turn deserves another.” She moved forward, beckoning Parvati closer. "Everytime you smile at Lavender she touches her scars.”
"What?" Parvati jerked back.
"Her scars. She touches them. And both the Greengrass sisters have tried to chat her up since she got back and she said no to both of them. Now,” Pansy inclined her head as the bell rang. "Don't you think it might be time for you to tell her how you really feel?" Hermione came over to stand behind Parvati's chair, shifting from foot-to-foot. Taking a deep breath Pansy continued speaking to Parvati. "Or at least bugger out of that chair so Granger can sit down and finally give me my apology."
♥ Lavender and Parvati ♥
"Your scars are beautiful,” said Parvati as she fumbled her way into the chair. One of her sleeves caught on the edge of the table.
"What?" Lavender's voice was small as she reached up to touch the long, ropey scars running down her face, straight through her right eye.
"Lav...” The scars weren't beautiful. She should of known that Lavender would see through her lie. But Lavender was beautiful and if this was the only thing holding them back from picking up whatever sweet, fumbling thing had been building between them before Lavender was attacked by Greyback then… "You are beautiful.”
"Why are you… Let's talk about something else.” Lavender fixed a ghastly smile on her face, looking around the room. "Millie is going to ask Padma out. At first I thought she was going to ask Luna but-”
"I'm sorry, I didn't mean to make you feel uncomfortable. I just don't want you to think I don't still think you're beautiful.” It all came out in a rush. Parvati didn't really know what else to say.
I want you back sounded presumptuous, all they'd really done was exchange a few tentative kisses. I miss you wasn't right either, it made it sound like being friends with Lavender wasn't enough. Which of course it was, Lavender was Parvati's best friend, her sister in arms. But there had been a few moments, the night before the Battle, when Parvati had hoped they might be more.
"Just... Come to the Ball with me,” she said, watching miserably as Lavender shook her head.
"N-no, it's alright Pavvy. I don't want you to feel sorry for me.”
"I don't!” Parvati shifted to sit closer to Lavender. "I want us to go to the Ball together. As more than friends,” she clarified. "Or as friends, if that's what you want.”
"You don't feel sorry for me?"
Parvati wasn't used to seeing Lavender look this small and crumpled. Lavender was usually the one filling a room, taking up space with her beautiful curves and her loud giggles and Parvati was the one who hung back a bit, smiling admiringly whenever Lavender caught her eye.
"I will feel sorry for you if you don't come to the Ball with me,” she said. "I plan on being a truly excellent date.”
"Really? What are you going to do?" Lavender's eyes were bloodshot and hopeful.
"Well… I'm going to talk to you,” said Parvati. "Which is a lot more than Harry Potter got.” Lavender laughed, ducking her head and moving closer to Parvati. "And I'm going to dance with you, and tell you that you look pretty. You can tell me I look pretty, too. Then I'll get you an ice-cream and we'll go up on the roof…” Parvati stopped talking as with one final, searching look Lavender reached over and, finally, held her hand.
♥ Luna and Ginny ♥
Before she'd even had a chance to properly sit down, Luna leant across the table and kissed Ginny.
"Hello,” she said, pulling her own chair around the corner of the table so they were almost side-by-side. "I've missed you.”
"Oh. Me too.” Ginny looked a bit dazed, her eyes changing colour between auburn and chestnut in the candlelight. "Are you going to go out with Bulstrode?"
"Millie? Only as friends.” Luna watched as relief swept across Ginny's face. ‘Were you worried?"
"No,” said Ginny. Why was she lying? Ginny always told Luna the truth, it was one of the reasons Luna liked her so much. Even if it had stung a bit last year when Ginny had said that she didn't want Luna to be her girlfriend.
("It's just all a bit much.” Ginny said, reaching forward to tuck some of Luna's newly cropped hair behind her ear. "You and Harry, I don't even know if he's still alive or if there's anything between us, you know?" Luna hadn't known, but she'd nodded her head anyway and smiled when Ginny kissed her.)
Why had Ginny started lying now? She'd had been so sweet and open recently, tugging Luna behind tapestries and making sure they sat together in all their shared classes. It had almost been like...
Smiling, Luna reached forward and gave Ginny, her future girlfriend, another kiss on the cheek.
"It's always more fun with you,” she said.
"Er. Yeah. Me too, I think that too. About you.” The words rasped against the shell of Luna's ear and she shivered happily, tugging Ginny's chair even closer.
"I think I'd rather spend the next speed-dating evening with you.”
"The next one?" Ginny's arm came back to wrap around Luna's shoulders, her chin rasping against Luna's fuzzy head.
"You don't think Lavender's going to do another?"
"Er...” Ginny gently curled her body in towards Luna, rotating them in their chairs until they were facing Lavender and Parvati's table. "Not sure.” Ginny mouthed the words against Luna's temple. "Looks like things might be getting serious over there.”
"Mmm.” Luna sighed, leaning back against Ginny's shoulder as they watched Parvati and Lavender start to smile at each other. The candles were burning low, darkness creeping into the small warm room. "I could stay here forever,” said Luna, turning to press the words into the side of Ginny's throat.
"Yeah? With me?"
"Yes.” Luna ran her lips along soft, warm skin. "With you.”
"Nice one.” Ginny shifted again, a freckled arm coming to wrap around Luna's waist. They sat like that, with Luna's back pressed to Ginny's front and her lips smiling against Ginny's throat until the bell rang.
♥ Padma and Millicent ♥
"Hello,” said Millie, thumping down in front of Padma. "Look, sorry but I need to check something.”
"Alright.” Padma tried to keep still as Millie fiddled with the still untouched glass of pumpkin juice.
"Yes.” It hadn't sounded like a question but Millie seemed to be waiting for an answer.
"Are you... I thought...” Millie trailed off.
"It's really not a big deal,” said Padma, jumping in before Millie said something awful. Or pitying. "I've always felt like this, so it's not like I'm missing anything or... you know... anything...” now she had trailed off too and the silence was blossoming between them.
This was why Padma hadn't told anyone apart from Parvati, and via Parvati probably Lavender. She hadn't even meant to tell Millie. Except for that tiny part of her that had hoped that maybe Millie wouldn't care, that maybe she'd shrug her big round shoulders and smile at Padma and-
"So I thought you were aromantic as well.” Millie finished up something that Padma had the uneasy suspicion might have been part of a much longer sentence. She'd maybe zoned out a bit.
"Aromantic? Why?" Now would be a really good time to work up some righteous indignation at Millie's assumptions, rather than this giddiness that was starting to take over Padma's body.
"You said you didn't like dating,” said Millie, starting to smile. With a start, Padma realised that she was smiling too.
"I don't, it's rubbish isn't it?" she said, smiling even more.
"But you're alright with having a romantic relationship?" Millie's cheeks went pink at the word ‘romantic', her eyes skittering away from Padma's across the table.
"Yeah, that'd be alright. I think. Do you... do you want to talk about something else?" Padma chickened out of whatever new dreadful thing her stupid smiley face had been about to say.
"Oh, yes please.” Millie sighed with relief, the colour still high in her cheeks as she reached across the table and rested her hand very close to Padma's. "Tell me. Why do you keep loitering in the stands if you hate Quidditch?"
♥ Pansy and Hermione ♥
"I am sorry,” said Hermione. "Really.”
"Really?" Pansy looked skeptical.
They sat in silence for a few moments while Pansy examined Hermione's face. The candles were starting to burn out, those anti-flammable charms Parvati used were far too strong. Hermione had tried to warn her when they were setting up and-
A dry cough snapped Hermione back to the present. Pansy appeared to have finished her examination and was back to admiring her own nails. Dark eyes flicked up to glance at Hermione and then back down.
"I accept.” Pansy's voice was low, almost the soft whisper she used to breath into Hermione's hair during Potions. The memory sent a shiver through Hermione, propelling her forward into a speech that she had rehearsed a thousand times and was fairly sure she'd regret.
"I know I've been horrible. Luna says that I'm not used to being the one in the wrong and while this is the girl who once told me that rainbows are streams of dragon urine I might have to defer to her judgement here.” Hermione paused, took a deep breath. "I shouldn't have told anyone about Ron, especially not you because I… I… er…”
"What? Should have known better than to trust a Slytherin?"
"No.” Hermione took another deep breath. "I knew that things weren't quite right with Ron, especially because I… because I couldn't stop thinking about you.” The memory of how cross she'd been at this realisation was still vivid. "It, thinking about you put me in a terrible mood,” she carried on, avoiding Pansy's eyes. "I wanted to be with you and that was… it felt ridiculous because we'd only known each other properly for a few months. You were still going through the Harmony Training and Ron and I were always fighting and it was just stupid and far too soon. Do you understand?"
She glanced up to find Pansy staring back at her. Pansy's small, plump lips were parted, her breathing laboured. It was the way she'd looked the first time Hermione called Pansy her friend in public. Was it really that easy? A small part of Hermione demanded to know. Was she really able to make Pansy lose her thoughts, lose her composure, just by telling the truth?
"I love you,” she said, feeling braver than she had in months. "I know that's a bit soon but I do.”
"Oh. Well, that's… that's good,” said Pansy. She then blinked a few times, reaching for Hermione's hand even as she shrugged a shoulder and mumbled "I suppose.”
"You suppose.” Something in Hermione's voice seemed to bring Pansy back to herself and she scowled.
"Are you laughing at me?"
"No.” Hermione quickly raised her free hand in denial, happily noting that Pansy's grip was too tight for her to raise both hands.
Somewhere nearby, the bell rang