My dad always said a thing worth doin’ was worth doin’ well an’ he was a smart man, even if things didn’ work out so good with my mom. He did his best by her and he did his best by me, an’ there’s not a day goes by I don’ miss him. But I can still make him proud, and today I’m goin’ to do somethin’ well and make him proud. Today’s the day I’m goin’ to tell Olympe how I feel about her, and ask her to the Yule Ball.
I’ve got everythin’ ready. Tea, sandwiches, those li’l decorated cakey bits. I let Hermione talk me into askin’ the house elves for help with those. But I made the tea and the sandwiches—pickles and sausage. My suit’s pressed, my hair’s combed, Fang’s curled up with a bone so’s he’ll be occupied. There’s flowers on the table and some soft music on the wireless.
And, more importantly, I’m ready to tell Olympe how I feel in style. She’s a classy lady, after all. Elegant as a hippogriff and smart as a sphinx. I can’ just go blurtin’ out that I fancy her like she’s some girl down at th’ pub. She deserves better. She deserves the best. She deserves…poetry.
Hermione’s been helpin’ me get it memorized. I think she ’n Ron ‘ve been fighting again, so she’s been comin’ here for tea most every day. She did say I should just be myself, but once we got to pickin’ the right poem and drillin’ on memorization, she was as tough as any teacher I ever had a Hogwarts. Hermione’s a right smart girl, she is.
I’m just straightening up my plaid bowtie when I hear Olympe’s knock at the door. I know it’s hers because don’t no one knock with that kind ‘o authority. I give myself a last look in the mirror, square my shoulders and open the door, hopin’ the smile on my face looks confident instead of nervous. It don’ do to be showin’ magical creatures that yer nervous, and I don’ think it’ll do to let ladies know yer nervous neither.
“Olympe, thanks for comin’. I know yer busy an’ all,” I say, taking the hand she holds out to me and pressin’ it fondly as I lead her into my house.
“But of course, Rubeus,” she replies. Somethin’ special happens to her eyes when she smiles at me, they get bright like a salamander’s. “I’m always ‘appy to drink tea with you. And roses! ‘ow lovely!.”
She glides over to the chair and I don’t spill a drop ‘o tea when I serve the two of us, even though it feels like there’s billywigs aplenty doin’ a jig in my stomach.
“I dunno if I’ve said it before,” I say when we both have our plates full of sandwiches and cake, “but I thought Miss Delacour’s puttin’ the dragon to sleep was brilliant. She shoulda got more points for that.” I do know that I’ve said it before, but I also know that Olympe doesn’t mind hearin’ it again.
“Ah, yes you have. But I agree with you and you may say it as many times as you like. Fortunately there are two more tasks to be had. We may ‘ope that the judges do a better job next time.”
“That’s right. It’s still anyone’s Quidditch match. Are the Beauxbatons students doin’ alright in this cold? I can’ see about settin’ yer place up with some more fireplaces.”
“That is very kind of you, but we are hardy people and are quite comfortable. But I ‘ave been wanting to ask you about Roland. ‘e is favoring his left leg still and I do not like it.”
“I’ve been watching him. He doesn’t want to stay in the stables and rest. I’ll double up on his rations of whiskey and see if I can get Professor Snape to make me another batch of Perfect Poultice for Roland’s hoof.”
She sniffs; I know she’s not too fond ‘o Severus Snape. I don’t know as I’m too find of him neither, but he knows how to make a Poultice and he always makes it, even if he sneers at me first.
“Are you sure he must be consulted? I don’t like his look.”
“He’s a mean one, but there’s no better Potions Master in Britain, an’ that’s a fact.”
“Well, I suppose you know ‘im better than I do.”
“Do you like poetry?” I ask. I don’ really wan’ to be talkin’ about Professor Snape just now, and this seems like the time to move things in the direction I’m tryin’ to get to.
“But of course!
‘Yver, vous n'estes qu'un villain;
Esté est plaisant et gentil
En témoing de may et d’avril
Qui l'accompaignent soir et main.’ But I think that winter can be quite as nice as spring, don’t you agree?”
“Yes! The snow and the trees…We’ll be doin’ up the Great Hall something special for the Yule Ball.”
“'ow nice. I look forward to seeing it. And you will be doing the decorating, I think?
“Dumbledore wouldn’t trust no one else to do it. The way you speak French is somethin’ magical. You know so many good words, and in two languages!”
“Four, but who is counting?”
“Tell me another French poem, would you?”
I think she likes that I’m interested, and I could listen to her speak French all day. It makes me warm to my toes when she launches into another one.
“Very well, let me see. Ah, what about this one?
‘Dans ton cœur dort un clair de lune,
Un doux clair de lune d’été,
Et pour fuir la vie importune,
Je me noierai dans ta clarté.’”
“Just beautiful. Really fine. What’s that one?”
“Chanson Triste. Chanson means ‘song’ and triste means ‘sad,’ but it is not actually a very sad song,” she explains with a wink. “Now it is your turn, you must tell me a poem.
“I was hopin’ you’d ask. I’ve been workin’ on this one just for you.”
“C’est vrai? ‘ow lovely.”
“I’ve been learnin’ it by heart because it reminds me of you and I hope you won’t mind my tellin’ you how I feel about you.” I can feel my heart poundin’ and my face gettin’ red, but it’s now or never. I clear my throat, take a swig of tea, and launch in.
“‘Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day?
Thou art more lovely and more temperate.
Rough winds do shake the darlin’ buds ‘o May,
And summer’s lease hath all too short a date.’
Sometime…uh…sometime…blast, th’ rest of it’s gone right out of my head…”
“That much is lovely, I think I quite understand,” she reassures me.
“Hermione’s been drillin’ me for weeks,” I protest, upset that I’ve gone and forgotten it after all that hard work. Fang decides to take that minute to start barkin’ too. “That’s enough Fang! Everyone’s a critic. I had it this mornin’ and I haven’t finished sayin’ what I have to say.”
She puts her hand over mine and looks at me with those salamander eyes. “Why don’t you speak plainly, Rubeus? Poetry is all very nice, but I admire gentlemen who speak directly.”
“Well…” Her hand on mine is makin’ my heart go pitter-pat and I’m havin’ a hard time keeping my thoughts together. So I just blurt out the next thing that comes to mind.
“It’s just…Do you play Quidditch? Because you look like a Keeper!”
Olympe starts laughing her elegant laugh, and Fang starts barking again. I pull my hand away and make a show of goin’ over to shush Fang, more to have somethin’ to do than anything else.
“I shouldn’t of said that,” I mutter to myself. “Shouldn’t of said that. Hush Fang. I don’t need your opinion.”
It takes a little while for me to settle Fang with another bowl of water and some fresh treats. By the time I do, Olympe’s stopped laughing and is gathering her cloak to go. We’ve finished the tea and I know she’s got private lessons with Miss Delacour this afternoon. So much for my date to the Yule Ball.
I see her to the door in spite of my shame. Maybe we can still be friends, anyway. I’m standin’ there, holdin’ the door open for her when all of the sudden she plants a kiss right on my cheek.
“Rubeus, I think that you are a keeper too,” she says with a smile that isn’t triste at all.
I feel like I could float right up to the top ‘o the castle and I stammer, “Do ya think you’d…go to the Yule Ball with me?”
“I’d be insulted if you asked anyone else.”
“Right. Then I’ll pick you up at eight.”
“Manifique. Au revoir until dinner.”
I shut the door softly behind her, still feelin’ light as a feather. Fang barks at me, but I know he’s sayin’ good job. I catch a glimpse of my face in the mirror and I know that, while it might not have gone the way I’d meant it to, I did my dad proud.
This is goin’ to be the best Yule Ball in the history ‘o Yule Balls, and I’m goin’ with the best lady. Can’t complain about that.