(All characters and locations within belong to J.K. Rowling unless otherwise stated.)
“Belonging. It is perhaps mankind’s strongest urge. We may want to feel like we belong to a group of just two people, or a group of millions, all of us feel it. It is a desire so strong it can cause people to throw away everything they believe in for just the illusion of belonging.”
General (ret.) Jigme Dorji Wengshuk
The news that Harriet Potter was going to the Yule Ball with Fred Weasley spread through Hogwarts faster than Harriet had ever seen. The entire Great Hall was buzzing the next morning. Harriet could feel hundreds of eyes on her as she entered and took her seat at the Gryffindor table.
“What’s the big deal?” Harriet asked looking around self-consciously, “It’s just a dance?”
“Well, for one thing Harriet, a lot of boys were planning on asking you to the Ball. You shot all of their chances down almost instantly by saying yes to Fred right out of the gate,” Hermione explained.
“What’s wrong with Fred?” Harriet asked defensively.
“Nothing, of course,” Hermione said rolling her eyes. “But boys are going to be jealous.”
“Eh, let ‘em be,” Ronnie said, shovelling a hefty forkful of rashers into her mouth with indecent glee.
Harriet had been very surprised by Ronnie’s reaction. She hadn’t expected Ronnie to be upset by the news, but she certainly hadn’t expected Ronnie to be downright gleeful about it. Ronnie had spent the entire night grinning to herself.
What surprised Harriet the most was Dora’s reaction. All the way back to Gryffindor Tower, Harriet had slowly grown to dread how Dora would respond when Harriet broke the news to everyone. To her great surprise, Dora actually joined in the mini-celebration that had gone on in Gryffindor Tower. Harriet wondered if Dora had guessed that was what Fred was up to, and so had already prepared herself for the possibility of Harriet saying yes.
This morning was no different as Dora sat to join them.
“So, is everyone ready for the big day?” Dora asked, her eyes wide with excitement.
“The Yule Ball?” Ronnie asked. “Weeks away, isn’t it?”
“No, not the Yule Ball,” Dora said, rolling her eyes. “Weekend after this; Hogsmeade trip.”
“So?” Marcus asked, raising an eyebrow.
“Boys,” Dora sighed. “And Ronnie… anyway, hello! Dress shopping!”
“Oh that will be fun!” Hermione said. “You know I’ve never really had the chance to do any serious dress shopping.”
“Me neither,” Harriet said.
“Heh, like you’re going to have to do any dress shopping,” Dora teased.
“What do you mean?”
Dora rolled her eyes again. “Harriet you can be so thick sometimes. Do you think there’s the slightest chance Daniel hasn’t had a dress ready made for you for like weeks now? Maybe even months?”
Harriet blushed brightly, suddenly feeling stupid.
“Well, maybe,” Hermione said. “But if he works with clothing this much, maybe he won’t have? I mean that is a big part of the fun isn’t it? Getting to try on dresses till you find that perfect one?”
“That… sounds… so… boring!” Dean Thomas said nearby, clearly having been listening in.
“Hey, just because you boys don’t give a damn about your appearance doesn’t mean we can’t,” Parvati said, crossly.
She and Lavender gave Dean and Seamus very stern looks indeed. Both boys seemed to shrink a little.
“We got our dress robes already,” Seamus insisted.
“Yeah,” Dean agreed. “We boys had to get ours before term even started.”
“Good,” Parvati grinned. “It’ll be interesting to see how you clean up.”
“Who said I need to clean up?” Dean asked.
“We did,” Parvati and Lavender retorted in unison.
“Wonder why they didn’t make us buy dresses ahead of time?” Harriet asked.
“Well, it’s sort of the nature of dresses,” Scott said. “Especially at our age because we’re all growing and girls are filling out, so, there’s a chance that in the time between the end of August when most students go Hogwarts shopping, and the end of December, your dress will fit a lot differently than it did when you got it.”
Everyone but Kieran was staring at Scott with bemusement. Scott looked around at them all, shrugging.
“Mum has to get dresses all the time for charity functions and things. I usually had to go along too for suits and things.”
“Oh yeah,” Ronnie said. “I always forget you’re one of those posh types like Dora.”
“I’m not posh,” Scott snorted.
“Well, Scott, you kind of are,” Hermione said sympathetically, reaching across Kieran to pat Scott’s arm. “But we love you anyway.”
Marcus sniggered into his pumpkin juice while Scott rolled his eyes.
“Well, you don’t act like it often, so there’s that,” Ronnie said cheerfully.
“Hey, there’s a lot to be said for not acting the way people would expect,” Erica Quoy said as she stepped up behind the group along with Fred and George.
“Yeah, take Harriet here,” Fred smiled.
“Me what?” Harriet asked, suddenly feeling nervous.
“Most famous witch in the world and still finds the likes of us worthy of her time,” Fred said, holding out a glass of pumpkin juice towards her like a toast.
Harriet felt her cheeks redden.
“Ah, you’re only saying that because she said yes,” George laughed nudging Fred’s shoulder.
“Hey, I’m allowed to be nice to someone at least once a year with no ulterior motives aren’t I?”
George gave Fred a very sceptical look.
Fred laughed. “Okay, even well—even if I did, does it matter?”
“Nope,” George said.
Harriet gave Fred and ever-suffering look. Fred’s smile softened but he still gave her a wink as the three moved off.
“Well, you two are certainly playing it cool,” Dora observed as she watched Fred departing.
“Well, it’s just a dance,” Harriet said. “We’re not like… officially dating.”
Harriet suddenly felt a small rise of panic. “Oh god, we’re not, are we?” she asked feeling a bit frantic. “That’s not what he thinks this is, is it?”
“Harriet, calm down,” Hermione said. “I’m sure if Fred thought you were actually dating, there would be no confusion about it.”
“Yeah, subtlety isn’t exactly Fred’s forte. Remember the fireworks on the Quidditch pitch in our second year?” Kieran said.
“Yeah… good times…” Marcus said smiling wistfully.
Dora stuck her tongue out at him.
* * * *
Over the next week, Harriet found herself coming around to the conclusion that she had made the right choice in saying yes to Fred so soon. For once it allowed Harriet to actually step back from the drama instead of being a part (or worse a cause) of it. It allowed Harriet to just sit back and watch as everyone else gossiped over who was going with whom, who people wanted to ask, what dress colours and styles they were likely to get.
Her biggest moment of excitement came when Hermione came late to the dormitory, just as the rest were getting ready for bed.
No sooner had she shut the door than there was a quiet hoot and a tapping at the window next to her.
“An owl?” Parvati asked. “At this hour?”
Hermione opened the window. From her angle, Harriet could not see the owl as Hermione leaned out. Hermione kept her back to everyone as she stood back up, closing the window again. Harriet could hear the sound of an envelope being opened.
“Someone just ask you to the ball?” Basheera asked with a knowing smile.
Even though she hadn’t turned around yet, Hermione slowly nodded.
“Who?” Rachel asked, sitting up and grinning.
Harriet sat up as well, dislodging her tiny Romanian Longhorn which had been sleeping on her shoulder while she read from her Charms book. It growled before crawling onto her pillow and falling asleep there instead.
Hermione slowly turned, the letter in her hands, her face very red but grinning a wide, toothy smile.
“Guess!” Hermione grinned wider still.
“Hmmmm,” Ronnie hummed to herself, leaning back on her bed thinking. “Malfoy?”
“What?!” Hermione gasped. “No, don’t be silly.”
“Besides, he’s already going with Pansy Parkinson,” Parvati said, flipping a page of her Witch Weekly magazine.
“Parkinson? Really?” Tori Hoffman snorted with disgust. “I thought he at least had some standards.”
“Bet you anything his father bullied him into it,” Harriet said. “He seems to be that type.”
“Yeah, the Parkinsons are another old wizarding family, like the Malfoys,” Ronnie agreed.
“So, enough fuss, who asked you?” Rachel said, turning the attention back to Hermione.
Hermione held her breath, looking as though she was going to keep making them guess when finally, the excitement burst out of her.
“Marcus!” Hermione said.
Rachel gave a squeal of delight and hurried over to Hermione. They took each other’s hands and bounced up and down in place, giggling.
“I knew it, I knew it, I knew it!” Rachel said.
“…Please never do that again…” Ronnie said sounding a little disgusted.
“Oh just because no one’s asked you yet,” Rachel snapped.
Ronnie glowered to herself. Hermione hurried over to Harriet holding out the letter. Harriet smiled, taking it and reading.
I know we see each other every day and it’s probably a bit silly of me not to ask in person, but if I did I’d probably trip all over myself trying to get the words out so I thought maybe this would find you a bit more privately.
So, would you go to the Ball with me? Just you’ve done so much for me in the last year. After having to deal with my boggart, and then after seeing Karkaroff… well, don’t know how I would have gotten through it all without you. So I hope you say yes.
Lots of love,
“You don’t have to be asked, you know?” Lavender said to Ronnie reassuringly, drawing Harriet’s attention back to the room as she handed Hermione back the letter. “Lots of girls are asking boys, too.”
“Like who?” Ronnie asked, though she didn’t sound terribly interested.
“Well, I hear Pixie Fanfarró actually asked Cedric Diggory to the ball. He turned her down of course, he’s going with Cho Chang.”
In spite of her good feelings over going with Fred, Harriet couldn’t help a small jolt in her stomach at hearing this.
“Anyway, she’s going with Blaise Zabini now,” Parvati said.
“That’s a match made in hell,” AJ grunted.
“Who are the other champions going with?” Harriet asked.
“Well, Fleur Delacour is going with Roger Davies,” Lavender explained knowledgably.
Rachel whistled. “Not sure who made out better there.”
The room went quiet as they considered the question.
“Davies,” they all agreed in unison.
“What about the rest?” Hermione asked, not bothering to look up from Marcus’ letter as she reread it on her bed.
“So far, Krum, Aello, and Kazu are unaccounted for,” Lavender answered. “Rumour has it that Kazu has asked someone, but no one knows who it is.”
“Ugh, that’s no fair,” Parvati said, switching places with Lavender to comb her hair now. “We should at least get to know so we can talk about it!”
As the night wore on, Harriet felt an odd sense of giddiness rising up inside her. These were things she’d never really cared about, or thought about before. Why was she suddenly so interested now? As she looked around the circle of beds, everyone smiling and laughing, she decided that it wasn’t so much to do with the topic, as for once having something she felt like she could relate to the rest of them with. She finally felt like everyone else.
“Has Kieran asked anyone yet?” Tori asked.
“You know… I don’t think he has,” Parvati said. “I know a lot of girls are asking him, but apparently he keeps turning them down.”
“Why do you ask?” Harriet asked Tori. She did her best to keep her voice casual.
Tori simply shrugged. “Well we’ve just accounted for pretty much everyone in our year but him and Neville.”
“What about you?” Ronnie asked. “You never said who you were going with?”
Tori gave a little sheepish smile that didn’t suit her usual tomboyish nature. “I’m going with Chris Jerome.”
“Jerome?” Ronnie asked sitting up. “That big prat who hangs around with that bigger prat, McLaggen?”
“Chris… isn’t that bad,” Tori said. “Not as bad as Cormac anyway, especially when you manage to get him on his own.”
“I heard Cormac’s going with that Slytherin girl, you know the one? She was the one who got petrified in our second year,” Lavender said.
“Kenley?” Harriet asked in surprise.
“That’s her,” Lavender said. “Ugh, poor girl, she could do so much better.”
“Jackson asked me just after Transfiguration today,” Rachel blurted out randomly, giggling.
“Yeah, we were there, remember?” Ronnie said.
Rachel rolled her eyes.
“What about you, AJ?” Hermione asked, changing the subject.
“Me? Oh, I’m actually goin’ with Cedric Diggory.”
“What?!” Parvati and Lavender both gasped.
AJ fell back on her bed laughing. “No! I just wanted to see what you’d do if I said that.”
Parvati rolled her eyes and resumed brushing Lavender’s hair.
“What about you, Basheera?” Harriet asked over AJ’s laughter. “I would have thought you’d be going with Neville?”
“Well…” Basheera said awkwardly. “I…”
“Well, don’t hold out too long or someone else might ask him,” Hermione said in an encouraging tone.
“Are we talking about the same Neville?” AJ said, trying to quell her laughter.
“Neville has come a long way,” Basheera said indignantly. “He is very nice and kind and has a good heart and loves all living things and—”
“Whoa nelly!” AJ said. “I was just joshin’ ya. Neville’s a great guy.”
“Joshin’?” Basheera asked.
“Teasing,” Tori explained. “Joking around, kidding.”
“Ohhhh,” Basheera nodded. “But… that is not the issue…”
“What is then?” Rachel asked.
“It’s not allowed, is it?” Hermione asked. “Dancing?”
“Not exactly, no,” Basheera admitted. “The rules are… open to interpretation, but for a dance like the Yule Ball, no.”
“Well, you can still go, can’t you?” Parvati asked. She actually looked aghast at the idea of not at least going to the Ball. “I mean… just not dance?”
“I’m… I’m not sure,” Basheera said awkwardly. “I… I’ll have to write father and ask.”
The room went very quiet after this.
Harriet looked around, fishing for something to talk about to change the subject. “So, why is Kieran turning everyone down?”
Lavender shrugged. “He says he can’t dance because of his leg anyway, so he’s just going to go with Scott and Dora as a group.”
Harriet sat up a bit. “Scott’s not going with anyone? I would have thought he’d go with Atsuko.”
“Yes, I thought that was a bit strange too,” Hermione said thoughtfully.
“She’s going with that Mount Phoenix boy,” Parvati said. “Marius.”
“The one who played the piano at Hallowe’en?” Harriet asked.
“That’s the one,” Parvati replied.
“That was rather cute that they had such complimentary costumes,” Hermione agreed.
“You know, speaking of that, I’m a bit surprised at you,” Parvati said turning to look at Harriet.
“Why?” Harriet asked.
“Well, I would have thought you’d have asked that Rathlin boy you keep writing to,” Parvati replied. “The one you danced with at the party.”
Harriet felt her stomach shrink again a bit. “Well, yeah, I mean…” Harriet fumbled for words. “It’s not that I didn’t think about it just… Fred’s right here… and he hit me with the question right out of the gate… and I’ve known him so much longer… and I mean, are Rathlin students even allowed to come?”
“I’m not sure,” Hermione said. “But I suppose Fred is the more sensible decision. Don’t feel bad, Harriet.”
“You better not,” Parvati said pointing at Harriet and narrowing her eyes, though the corners of her mouth were twitching. “You got one of the hottest boys in the school to ask you to the dance. You darn well better not regret it!”
“Although… if you did have second thoughts…” Lavender said in a tone too casual to be believed.
“But you’re going with Seamus aren’t you?” Rachel asked.
“Gee, Seamus, or Fred Weasley…”
Again there was a moment’s pause before everyone chimed in: “Fred!”
Ronnie however simply groaned in despair, flopping back on her bed.
* * * *
Finally, the day arrived. Harriet could feel the excitement in the air as everyone awoke on Saturday the seventeenth, the final Hogsmeade weekend of the year and the day everyone was going dress shopping. Many of the girls, like Parvati and Lavender, were excited because their own mothers were travelling up to Hogsmeade to help their daughters shop. Even Mrs Weasley was coming to shop with Ronnie.
Ronnie was not very happy about this.
“It’s going to be a nightmare,” Ronnie said as they made their way down to the Entrance Hall. “I’m going to get the most horrible dress in the whole shop.”
“Well, at least you’ll be able to go?” Harriet said, trying to grasp for any bit of encouragement she could.
Judging by the look on Ronnie’s face, it had far from worked.
“Yeah, how terrible it must be to have a mother to go shopping with,” Rachel said.
Harriet looked at Rachel, taken aback. Rachel’s tone had been downright venomous, quite unlike her usual cheerful attitude. Ronnie spluttered a bit, going as red as her freckles.
“Sorry, Rach, I didn’t mean anything by it…”
Rachel simply sniffed and walked off ahead of them to catch up with Tori and AJ.
“I get so used to them being around,” Ronnie said, watching Rachel’s back. “You kinda forget they’ve gone through all that…”
“Yeah…” Harriet agreed. She considered pointing out the fact that Harriet herself didn’t have a mother to go shopping with, and as Hermione’s parents were muggles, they couldn’t come shopping with her either, but the look on Ronnie’s face told Harriet that Ronnie felt bad enough.
“Ah, there you are,” came the cheerful, familiar voice of Professor Sinistra from behind them.
Harriet turned around to look up at her professor and running partner and smiled. “Hello, Professor,” Harriet said. “Going into Hogsmeade?”
“As a matter of fact, I am,” Professor Sinistra said. “And since Rosie and Nanette are too young to attend—”
“Well, they could if someone who is old enough… asks… them…” Ronnie said, trailing off as she took in the look on Professor Sinistra’s face.
Clearly, the idea of older students asking Professor Sinistra’s daughters to the ball was not on with her. Remembering what Professor Sinistra had told her about her days in school, Harriet figured she understood why.
Professor Sinistra hitched a smile back on her face as she turned back to Harriet. “Well, since Rosie and Nanette are too young to attend the Ball, I’ve decided I will go along as your unofficial ‘mother for a day’ to help you pick out a dress for the Ball. How does that sound?”
Harriet felt her cheeks get a little warm, but she smiled and nodded. “Yeah, that’d be great,” Harriet said, feeling her mouth turn into a very wide smile all on its own.
“Marvellous,” Professor Sinistra said. “Follow me then, Harriet.”
“Oh my Ronnie!” shrieked the unmistakable voice of Mrs Weasley from the doors to the Entrance Hall.
“Oh Merlin,” Ronnie groaned as Mrs Weasley hurried over to them. She pulled Ronnie into a rib-cracking hug. Quite a few people around them sniggered openly.
“And Harriet!” Mrs Weasley said, giving Harriet an equally tight embrace.
“Hello,” Professor Sinistra said politely. “You must be Mrs Weasley. I’m Professor Sinistra, your daughter and Harriet’s Astronomy professor.”
“Oh hello!” Mrs Weasley said taking Professor Sinistra’s outstretched hand in hers. “Ronnie has told me all about you.”
Ronnie went scarlet.
“Wonderful,” Professor Sinistra said. “Well, let’s all go into town together then, shall we?”
“Together?” Mrs Weasley repeated.
“Well, yes, I was going to take Harriet into town for her dress shopping.”
Mrs Weasley’s smile faded a little. It was clear that Mrs Weasley had intended to take Harriet in for her shopping.
“Umm, Mrs Weasley,” Hermione said stepping up to the group.
“Oh, hello Hermione dear,” Mrs Weasley said cheerfully giving Hermione an equally tight hug. As she did so, Harriet could just hear Hermione whispering something in Mrs Weasley’s ear. Mrs Weasley’s eyes went wide and after they stopped hugging she looked at Professor Sinistra with an overly polite and cheery smile.
“Oh yes, o-of course, Professor, that would be lovely.”
Professor Sinistra smiled as though nothing had happened. “Please, call me Aurora.”
“Aurora,” Mrs Weasley corrected herself.
She turned and gave Harriet a very glowing, knowing smile before she began shepherding the little group towards the entrance.
“What did you tell her?” Harriet asked Hermione under her breath as they walked across the grounds towards the gate.
“Oh, nothing terribly secret,” Hermione said, grinning an enigmatic smile before speeding up to talk with Mrs Weasley so that Harriet could not ask her anymore questions.
Finally, they reached Daniel and Remus’ shop. Harriet and Hermione both openly giggled at the giant “No Boys Allowed” sign that had been hung over the entrance. Predictably, there was barely room to move inside. The combination of students and their parents made the shop much more full than usual, even with the internal enlargements.
Harriet was looking around hopefully for Daniel, but couldn’t see him anywhere. She caught sight of Remus, though he was behind the counter, both he and Hyland inundated with irritable mothers.
“Well, let’s get looking, shall we?” Professor Sinistra suggested, gesturing to a section that was not as full as the others.
“Okay,” Harriet said as she and Hermione followed Professor Sinistra over.
Professor Sinistra perused the selection with deep scrutiny. Finally, she took one from the rack. “Here, let’s try this one?”
Harriet blinked as Professor Sinistra held it up to her.
“It’s… very pink,” Harriet said looking it over, doubtful.
“Oh you never know until you try,” Hermione said. By the look on her face, Hermione was enjoying herself a little too much.
Harriet sighed and took the dress and headed into the changing room.
“I look like a fairy princess,” she said dismally as she stepped back out a few minutes later.
Hermione looked as though she was doing her best not to burst out laughing. Harriet rolled her eyes. The dress was a shiny, lurid pink, with salmon sash and bow, and large, poofy shoulders and sleeves. The trunk fitted her a little tight, while the skirt was floor length and poofed out wide in an almost perfect half-globe.
“Actually, rather like the Fat Lady,” Hermione said, failing at not laughing.
“Nope, definitely not,” Professor Sinistra said with no hesitation. Harriet noted that she already had another dress ready. “Back into the changing room with you.”
Harriet actually rather liked this dress. It was a blood red velvet, floor length that seemed to fit her well. The only thing she didn’t like was the odd fur collar.
“Nope,” Professor Sinistra said the moment Harriet walked out. “Certainly not.”
Off Harriet was whisked into the changing room again. This time with a strapless red dress, with only a knee length skirt. It would have been nice, Harriet thought, if not for the gigantic bow on the bust that was almost wider than Harriet’s shoulders.
“Absolutely not,” Professor Sinistra said.
Despite her seeming disdain for all the dresses Harriet tried on, Harriet couldn’t help but sense that Professor Sinistra was enjoying herself more and more with each dress. Harriet couldn’t help but remember her first time in Ollivander’s, how he had made her try nearly every wand in the shop until finally her wand chose her. Well, Harriet reminded herself as she tried on yet another dress, when this is over, it’s highly unlikely my dress will have anything to do with Lord Voldemort.
After two hours, Harriet had tried on nearly every dress in the shop. Finally, she was starting to get a bit irritable. She just wanted her dress, and the chance to see Daniel, who still seemed to be absent from the shop.
“Oh dear,” Professor Sinistra said, giving an overly dramatic sigh. “It seems as though we’ve tried every single dress and not a single one will do…”
“It’s just awful,” Hermione said, adopting much the same tone.
“Unless of course… she tries on that one,” Professor Sinistra said, leaning to the side to look past Harriet.
Harriet turned around and her mouth fell open.
Daniel was there, beaming almost as bright as he had after Harriet had got past her dragon. Beside him, he had his hand on a dress form, and on it was a truly magnificent dress. It was silver, and strapless, tight fitting along the top, with the skirt loose and flowing, only knee length in the front, tapering down to floor length in the back. It was also covered in a very fine golden lace, which covered the top entirely, until it reached the skirt, where it split at the left hip, covering only the right side of the skirt, leaving the left silver. The effect of the lace was to make the dress look either gold or silver, depending on how the light hit it.
“Oh…” was all Harriet could manage to say as she took in the dress.
Daniel just kept smiling.
“Well, guess you better try it on so we can get the adjustments right, shouldn’t you?” Professor Sinistra said.
“O-oh, yes,” Harriet said.
“I’ll help you,” Hermione insisted and moved to the form, wheeling it after Harriet into the changing room.
“I… I don’t…” Harriet managed to say as she just stood in the little room, looking at the dress.
“I don’t think you have to say anything,” Hermione said, helping Harriet out of the dress she was currently wearing.
“You knew?” Harriet asked.
“Of course,” Hermione replied, putting the dress back on its hanger before turning her attention to the new dress.
Harriet felt a little unreal as Hermione helped her into the dress. It felt silky smooth, as though she wasn’t wearing a dress at all, despite how well it hugged her torso.
“I may or may not have been sneakily guessing your measurements for Daniel for a while,” Hermione admitted.
Harriet didn’t really hear her. She was too busy staring at herself in the mirror.
“I… I look…”
“You’re gorgeous,” Hermione said, clasping her hands together over her mouth as she always did she got overly excited.
Harriet felt her lip tremble a little.
“Harriet, are you okay?” Hermione asked.
“I just…” Harriet fumbled for words. “I just never, ever thought I’d get to do things like this… I expected I’d be living with the Dursleys forever… wearing second-hand clothes, never…”
Hermione stepped around in front of Harriet, hugging her tight around the shoulders, leaning over awkwardly so not to press on the dress.
“Well, you aren’t living with the Dursleys forever, and you have someone who loves you like a daughter, and best friends like us,” Hermione said leaning back, her own eyes over-bright now.
“How’s it coming?” Professor Sinistra called.
“R-ready,” Harriet said, still too emotional to keep the choke out of her voice. Hermione opened the door and Harriet stepped out of the little changing room and onto the shop floor again.
Professor Sinistra put her hands over her mouth and audibly gasped. Remus had come over and was standing with Daniel now, an arm around his friend’s shoulder. Both were beaming, Remus in fact rubbed a knuckle against the corner of his eye. Harriet was sure he’d wiped away a tear.
“Oh my gentle goodness,” came the voice of Mrs Weasley as she came over with Ronnie in tow.
By the looks of it, they had picked out Ronnie’s dress and already had it wrapped up. Ronnie didn’t look terribly happy about it.
“Oh Harriet,” Mrs Weasley continued. “You look stunning, simply stunning.”
“Th-thank you, Mrs Weasley,” Harriet managed to say. “Thank all of you…”
“Oh, Harriet dear,” Mrs Weasley said, hurrying over and drawing a handkerchief to dab Harriet’s eyes for her.
“The-uh… the train still drags a bit,” Daniel said, sounding as though he was doing his best to keep it together too. “I’ll adjust that, and we’ll get you some nice heels, that will help too.”
Harriet didn’t hesitate before she hurried over and flung her arms around his neck as tightly as she could. Daniel chuckled and hugged her back.
As they hugged, Harriet opened her eyes. The first person she saw was Professor Sinistra. At first, Harriet thought Professor Sinistra was looking at her, but then realized she was mistaken. Professor Sinistra wasn’t looking at her; she was looking at Daniel. Professor Sinistra did look at Harriet now, and Harriet saw her cheeks go a little red. Harriet just smiled and closed her eyes again.
“Well, Harriet dear,” Mrs Weasley said as Daniel lowered her to her feet again. “We’ll let Daniel get to work with the last adjustments for you while we take care of the last bit.”
“What’s that?” Harriet asked.
“Why, finally getting your ears pierced, dear.”
Harriet’s smile vanished at once.
* * * *
The final week of term seemed to drag on forever. Predictably, Professor McGonagall and Professor Snape kept their noses to the grindstone right up to the final class. The other professors, however, gave in to the inevitable and let students play games and talk during the last few lessons.
Professor Flitwick in particular seemed glad of the chance to finally talk to Harriet about how well she’d performed her Summoning Charm and the Conjunctivitis Hex.
Other classes were not so lucky. Professor Snape would sooner adopt Harriet and Neville than let anyone play games in his class.
“Well, I can’t entirely blame him,” Dora said reasonably as they left the final Potions lesson of the year. “I mean, imagine if we were playing Exploding Snap and it blew up in there?”
“Yeah, that’d bring down half the castle,” Marcus agreed.
“Say, let’s go down to Hagrid’s,” Harriet said. “We haven’t been down to see him in ages.”
“I’ll… I’ll catch you all up,” Hermione said thoughtfully as they reached the bottom of the stairs up to the Entrance Hall.
“What’s up?” Kieran asked.
“I forgot something,” Hermione said.
Harriet noted that Hermione was looking down the corridor towards the Hufflepuff common room.
Hermione took a deep breath and apparently made up her mind. “Catch you all later,” she said and hurried off.
“Anyone else get that odd, ominous feeling?” Marcus said as he watched her disappear down the corridor.
“She’ll be fine,” Dora said. “Only one of us in any danger now is Harriet, remember?”
“Thanks, Dora,” Harriet muttered.
“Don’t mention it,” Dora said, throwing Harriet a little wink before they headed up into the Entrance Hall.
They met Scott outside the Great Hall and they all headed down to Hagrid’s. They greeted Aurochius on the way out.
“Hello all,” Aurochius greeted them cheerfully. “Where’s Hermione?”
“She’s trying to liberate the house elves,” Dora answered without skipping a beat.
“She’s what?” Ronnie said.
Dora rolled her eyes. “Okay, she’s started a club called the Society for the Promotion of Elfish Welfare, which none of us have really joined, and now just ran off in the direction of the kitchens after doing her ‘I’m off to do something brave on my own so I’m not telling you anything’ thing she always does. What else do you think she’s doing?”
Scott groaned and Kieran sighed. Marcus actually looked a little hurt.
“Really? She might have asked me to come…”
“Isn’t that just who Hermione is though?” Kieran said reasonably. “Just… runs off and does her own thing all the time?”
“Yeah…” Marcus said still sounding put out.
They wished Aurochius a good day and headed down to Hagrid’s. Hagrid was presently tending his front garden. They all gave the crates of Skrewts uneasy looks as they passed. Hagrid however smiled down at them pleasantly as they approached.
“Ahh, there yeh are. Was wonderin’ when yeh were all gonna make it down to me.” As with Aurochius, Hagrid looked around for Hermione. “Where’s Hermione?”
“Whipping up the house-elves into rebellion,” Dora replied sarcastically.
“Ah now, I doubt that,” Hagrid said and bowed them into his cabin.
“Well, I don’t know what she’s going to accomplish,” Harriet said, taking her usual seat at Hagrid’s table. “Daniel took me to the kitchens last year, the same night Sirius took Erica. It was pretty cool actually. But the elves all seemed pretty happy.”
“Of course ‘ey are,” Hagrid said as he put a kettle on the rack over his fire. “They live a life of luxury compared to some of ‘em. Like yer elf Dobby when ‘ee was with the Malfoys.” He nodded at Scott. “But most of ‘em live decent enough lives with fam’lies that treat ‘em like one of their own. And here at Hogwarts they get all the best wearin’s and there’s plenty of work and they get treated some of the best in the world.”
Hagrid sighed. “But I mean, settin’ them loose. Set the ones ‘ere loose and there’s a good chance many of ‘em would end up working for folk like the Malfoys. They tend ter go through elves a bit faster than others…”
“Heh, Hermione could stand to be here for this,” Dora said.
“Nah, her heart’s in the right place, Hermione,” Hagrid said quickly. “Just ain’t gonna be as easy as she thinks. It’s a bit like teachin’ a hippogriff not to bite or scratch.”
Everyone gave each other uncomfortable looks.
“Yeh can do it, just takes time,” Hagrid continued. “’Spectin’ a whole other magical race ter think the very same way yeh do about summut, though. That’s gonna be a whole other animal, that is.”
“Heh, you should have told her this last time,” Marcus said.
“Ah, well, she did kinder spring it on me,” Hagrid admitted. “Didn’t know really what ter say! But I’ve had me time to think on it aft’wards. And hey, I did buy one of her badges, didn’ I?”
They lunched with Hagrid, before heading back to the castle.
“We should go down to try and find Hermione,” Marcus said as they crossed the threshold into the Entrance Hall.
“Good plan,” Kieran agreed.
They headed down but were stopped on the staircase by Justin Finch-Fletchley and Ernie Macmillan of Hufflepuff.
“There you lot are,” Ernie said, puffing a little, out of breath. “We were coming to look for you.”
“For us?” Harriet asked. “Why? What happened?”
“Parkinson and Fanfarró,” Justin answered darkly. “Ambushed her on the stairs.”
“Where’s Hermione?” Marcus asked.
“Hospital Wing,” Justin said. “Professor Sprout took her right there.”
Marcus ran off at once.
“Wait, she’s going to be okay!” Ernie called after them as Harriet and the rest gave chase.
Harriet was kicking herself. Why hadn’t they gone with her? Hermione was the best in their year at every subject, but she wouldn’t have put it past Parkinson or Fanfarró to have done something to Hermione when her back was turned.
“We’re here to see Hermione,” Marcus said to Madame Pomfrey as they entered the Hospital Wing.
“I’m here,” Hermione said from a nearby bed.
To Harriet’s great surprise, Hermione was actually smiling at them, and wasn’t even in the bed. She was sitting calmly in the chair next to one as Miss Momori walked away, scribbling onto her notepad and pocketing her wand.
“Sorry about that. It was a silly thing,” Hermione said, picking up her book bag as she stood and walked over to them.
“What happened?” Marcus asked. “What’d they do?”
“Oh, nothing really, like I said, a silly thing,” Hermione answered. “Don’t get upset.”
Harriet raised her eyebrows. Hermione was still beaming toothily at them, and looking quite pleased with herself.
“Are… you sure?” Dora asked. “Sure you don’t have a concussion or something?”
“Or got hit with a Cheering Charm?” Ronnie suggested.
“Nope,” Hermione said. “I’m the epitome of health.”
Hermione stepped past them leading them back into the corridor.
“Hermione…” Marcus said. “Your teeth…”
“Yes?” Hermione asked. “What about them?”
“Yeah… now you mention it…” Scott said looking at Hermione with scrutiny. “You had her shrink them, didn’t you?”
Hermione turned back around and gave them all another glowing smile.
“You did!” Dora gasped.
Finally, Harriet noticed. She was so used to Hermione’s prominent front teeth that she took them for granted. But as she took in Hermione’s smile, it was clear Hermione’s buck teeth were gone.
“What did they do?” Marcus asked, bewildered.
Hermione rolled her eyes and resumed walking. “Well, Parkinson and Fanfarró cornered me when they saw me coming up the staircase back into the Entrance Hall. I figured you all were still at Hagrid’s and I was in such a rush to tell you what I’d seen I wasn’t paying much attention. So they stepped out and well… they engorged my front teeth so much they’d grown down to my waist by the time Professor Sprout got me to the Hospital Wing.”
“No!” Marcus gasped. Harriet noted his hand almost instinctively moving towards his wand.
“Yes,” Hermione said dismissively. “At first I was horrified, of course, but then Miss Momori gave me a mirror to look in as she shrank them back to size and well… I just let her keep going a bit.”
Even from the side, Harriet could see the little twinkle in Hermione’s eye.
“But didn’t you say your parents wanted you to keep using your braces?” Marcus said.
“Yes, they don’t really think teeth and magic should mix, but I was done with them once and for all. And there’s nothing they can do about it now.”
“So, what was this big excitement that caused you to let your guard down around those gits?” Ronnie asked. “Finally get your rebellion?”
“I’m not after rebellion, Ronnie,” Hermione said sharply. “But I do have to show you all. Come on!”
Hermione began to hurry back the way they’d come and down the stairs again. She stopped at the portrait of fruit and tickled the pear which giggled and turned into a door handle.
“That’s all you had to do?” Ronnie scoffed. “Fred and George always made it sound like they had to climb halfway up the bloody mountains and back.”
The group stepped inside the kitchens. Hermione was looking around eagerly, as though trying to spot someone. The room looked exactly as Harriet remembered. The ceiling was high, and the room itself was the same size as the Great Hall which was directly above. Brass pots and pans, all scrubbed so clean they had mirror finishes, hung all around the walls. There was a giant fireplace at the other end of the room, and the middle was filled with four long tables, positioned directly underneath the house tables, along with a smaller table for the staff.
There was a brief moment where Harriet couldn’t help but giggle as rows of bright, round eyes of many colours popped up over the tops of the tables.
“Wow, there really are a lot of house-elves,” Marcus observed.
The elves were all walking towards them now, smiling warmly and bowing deeply. They were all still wearing the same sort of uniform they had worn when Harriet last came here, white tea-towels worn like a toga, and stamped with the Hogwarts crest.
“Ah, there she is,” Hermione said.
“She?” Kieran asked.
“Yes,” Hermione replied and pointed to one of the elves. “Winky.”
Harriet blinked. She hadn’t recognized the little elf at first. The last time Harriet had seen Winky the house-elf, Winky had been flailing about throwing a fit over being given clothes by her owner at the time, Barty Crouch.
The Winky in front of them now was completely changed. She was smiling broadly, wearing a tea-towel just like the rest.
“Winky?” Harriet asked. “You’re working here now?”
“Oh yes, Miss Potter,” Winky said, bowing.
“How did you start working here?” Dora asked, kneeling.
“Winky was most miserable, Miss. Winky could not even think to find work. But then, Master Dumbledore came to Winky and offered her work here at Hogwarts. Winky is now a Hogwarts house-elf. Winky has purpose and meaning to her life again!”
Harriet and Kieran gave each other uncomfortable looks. Hermione twisted her lips, clearly disapproving of Winky speaking that way.
“Well, you’re over working for Mr Crouch then,” Hermione said trying to sound more cheerful. “That’s good, isn’t it?”
Winky’s smile faltered, and the corner of her left-eye twitched. One of the other house-elves gave Winky an apprehensive look and sidled up to Hermione.
“Do not mention Winky’s past owner, Miss. Winky does well when Winky has work to do to distract her from her past owner and being given—” The elf gave Winky another nervous look before whispering in Hermione’s ear, just loud enough that Harriet could overhear “—clothes. But she is losing focus and enjoyment in her work when she thinks of them.”
Winky’s lips began to tremble. The other elves crowded around Winky, guiding her back to the tables where she went back to work, washing more pots and pans from lunch. As she washed, Winky seemed to cheer up once more.
Harriet and the rest all looked at each other awkwardly.
“Please do not judge us all by Winky, young sirs and misses,” another of the elves said. “The rest of us take complete enjoyment in our work and proper pride in our roles serving such wonderful students.”
Ten minutes later, they were heading back up the stairs.
“That… was weird…” Marcus said.
“Yeah,” Dora actually agreed. “I mean… that was…”
“They all seem so happy, but… with Winky there…” Kieran added. “And the way they all talked about her…”
Everyone fell silent. Harriet didn’t blame any of the others. She had a hard time putting how she felt into words too.
“I… on the one hand, I see what Hagrid said, they’re better off here than somewhere like the Malfoys,” Harriet reasoned. “But at the same time… looking at Winky, even that feels like it’s a bit of a… ugh, what’s the word?”
Harriet looked at Scott.
“Façade?” he suggested.
“Uh, I guess,” Harriet said. “Still… you guys pay Dobby; you care for him…”
“We do,” Scott agreed.
“But even those of us who do have elves in the more traditional sense, we do care for our elves,” Dora said. “Offering clothes or pay or anything to our elves… I don’t know how they’d take it. How do you fix something that goes that deep?”
“I wish I knew,” Ronnie said.
She hesitatingly put an arm around Dora’s shoulder. Dora sighed and rested her head against Ronnie’s shoulder.
“Sorry, I just have a lot to think about I guess,” Dora said and then tried to move away. “I’m just gonna go to my room…”
Ronnie responded by actually hugging Dora’s shoulders tighter. “No,” Ronnie said with surprising firmness. “We’re friends and we all stick together, got it?”
Everyone raised their eyes at Ronnie. Even Dora looked taken aback, but slowly nodded.
“One things’ for sure,” Hermione said thoughtfully.
“What’s that?” Harriet asked.
“If we’re gonna fix house-elves… the elves themselves are probably not the place to start…”
* * * *
Harriet felt a strong sense of relief when the final day of classes came to an end. Harriet happily sat with her friends at the Gryffindor table for dinner.
“Omigosh,” Dora said. “It’s only two days! Can you believe it?”
“And we have our next football match tomorrow,” Ronnie said, sounding much more excited at that prospect than the Ball.
“Yeah, match should go better this time,” Marcus agreed. “Us verses Hufflepuff this time. I saw their match against Ravenclaw, both are doing a lot better with more practice.”
“That’s wonderful,” Hermione smiled.
“We’re doing a lot better too,” Ronnie said. “Might have the makings of a real match this time around.”
“Isn’t Slytherin in the tournament?” Kieran asked. This won’t be your last match will it?”
Dora rolled her eyes. “We were originally sitting out, but after the first match went over so well, Professor Snape agreed to let us have a team. But he requested extra time to you know—assemble players, get them properly outfitted and trained—”
“Otherwise known as stalling for the good weather in spring,” Harriet grumbled.
They had done the same trick the year before, using Malfoy’s injured arm as an excuse not to play Gryffindor at Quidditch. As a result, Harriet had lost her first Quidditch match after the Dementors guarding the school flooded the pitch. In spite of this, Harriet had to laugh a little internally at the irony that had they actually played, they probably would have won. Instead, they lost to Gryffindor in the final match, this securing Gryffindor the Quidditch Cup for the first time in years.
“Isn’t it a bit snowy out to play a sport like that though?” Scott asked.
“I guess Professor Flitwick said he’ll vanish the snow for us before the match,” Marcus said.
“That’s good,” Harriet said, smiling.
“Hey, Harriet…” Rachel said, leaning over towards Harriet. “Think you have a visitor.”
“What?” Harriet asked.
Rachel pointed to the door and Harriet looked around. Her heart jumped. Daniel and Remus were standing in the doorway to the Great Hall, looking around before spotting her and smiling. Harriet rose but Daniel had already started towards her.
“Hey Harricane, packed?” Daniel asked.
“Harricane?” Harriet asked.
Daniel laughed. “Thought I’d try it out. After the first task it seemed to fit. Anyway, packed?”
Harriet blinked. “Packed?”
“Yeah,” Daniel said.
Remus smiled down at her as he approached too. “Yes, it will be a bit strange wearing the same thing all holiday, won’t it?”
Harriet tilted her head. “But… what?”
Daniel and Remus simply continued to smile down at her. Finally, the truth clicked in Harriet’s brain.
“Wait… I’m coming to stay with you?”
“Yep,” Daniel replied. “I know you’d signed up to stay at Hogwarts, but… funnily enough the Headmaster just so happened to find a loophole.”
“The loophole of just asking him, you mean?” Remus chuckled.
“Yeah, that,” Daniel said.
Harriet didn’t know what to think. She felt like she’d gone numb from shock and happiness. She sprang up at once to hug Daniel as tightly as she could. Daniel laughed hugging her back. There was a wave of giggling and open laughter sweeping the Great Hall. A few students whistled too.
Harriet didn’t care. She couldn’t care. For once, she was the one who had somewhere to go for the Christmas holidays. She had a place to go, and could still attend the Yule Ball. Her head was positively swimming as Daniel finally set her back down.
“So, packing?” Daniel chuckled.
“Y-Yes…” Harriet said. “N-now you mean? Like, we’re leaving now?”
“Yes,” Remus said smiling politely.
Her legs worked entirely on their own. She moved past everyone and all but ran all the way back to Gryffindor Tower. Her heart was pounding and her lungs burning but she didn’t notice as she began frantically stuffing all of her clothes back into her trunk. She kept having to stop and think, making sure she remembered everything. The last items into the trunk was her jewellery box and the golden egg. She’d almost left the room when there was a screech from her bed. She hurried back to her bed, scooping up her model Longhorn, putting it on her shoulder.
She carried her trunk awkwardly back down the staircase and jumped at the sight of Remus and Daniel already standing in the Gryffindor common room, along with her friends. Remus was smiling around the room with an air of nostalgic contemplation. Daniel, however, had his back to Harriet. She leaned to the side just enough to see that he was talking to Fred, who had a very serious look on his face, indeed.
“—Her carriage will be picking her up at quarter-past twelve.” She overheard Daniel saying to Fred.
“Yes, Mister Dusk,” Fred said seriously.
Harriet just barely stopped herself snorting. It was bizarre seeing Fred look so serious and nervous.
“Good,” Daniel said before turning back to Harriet.
He smiled up at her and gave Fred a nudge with his elbow. Fred jumped and hurried forward.
“I’ll help you with that, Harriet,” Fred said, taking her trunk.
Harriet didn’t know why, but she noticed something else about Fred in that moment. She remembered too well how much he had struggled with her trunk during her first trip on the Hogwarts Express. Now, while he grunted a bit, he certainly didn’t seem nearly as encumbered. She noted how strong his arms looked, how broad his shoulders were. He was only sixteen, but he was starting to bear a rather strong resemblance to Charlie.
“Well, shall we be off?” Remus suggested.
Harriet nodded but then paused, looking at the rest of her friends.
“You… you’re all okay with this?” she asked. It just sank in to Harriet that this was going to be the very first Christmas holiday she had spent away since coming to Hogwarts.
“Go,” Dora said rolling her eyes.
“Yeah,” Kieran agreed. “It’s not like we won’t see you at all. You’re only down in Hogsmeade.”
“And we’ll all come down to get ready for the ball together,” Hermione added.
“Good,” Harriet said, smiling.
They headed out the portrait hole and down the many staircases to the Entrance Hall. As they stepped out into the grounds, Harriet saw one of the Hogwarts’ carriages waiting for them. Fred hoisted Harriet’s trunk into the passenger compartment as Harriet one by one gave her friends hugs.
She paused as she got to Marcus. Once more, he was standing frozen, staring at the front of the carriage.
“You alright?” Harriet asked.
Marcus jumped coming to his senses.
“N-nothing,” he said quickly. “I-I mean, yes.”
Harriet gave him a searching look but he just smiled. So, she simply gave him his hug and finally she came to Fred.
“So, I’ll see you Sunday?” she asked, feeling a bit awkward.
Now that they were going to the dance together, something felt different about talking to Fred. He felt like a whole new Fred to her somehow. She suddenly realized she had no idea how to act around him anymore.
“Yes ma’am,” Fred said, raising one hand to his brow as if tipping an invisible hat to her.
“Well, shall we be off then?” Remus suggested.
“Okay,” Harriet said before turning back to her friends. “See you all Sunday!”
Her friends waved to her and Harriet climbed into the carriage, Remus and Daniel following.
“Dusk til Dawn,” Daniel said through the little window to where the horses would be on a normal carriage and at once the carriage began to move forward.
“So, Harriet,” Daniel said, leaning towards her. He had a concerned look on his face now. “Your friend there, Marcus.”
“He was the one who saw when Karkaroff was killed, wasn’t he?”
Harriet nodded. Daniel and Remus exchanged looks. There seemed to be some unspoken understanding passing between the two and they rode the rest of the way in silence.
The carriage arrived and Remus opened the door. Harriet stepped out after him, followed by Daniel. Remus took Harriet’s trunk while to Harriet’s surprise Daniel walked up to the front of the carriage. As Harriet watched, Daniel took something from his pocket and held it out, looking around surreptitiously. Harriet’s eyes snapped wide open as whatever it was Daniel was holding vanished. Daniel patted thin air and turned back around.
Harriet looked away quickly. She didn’t want him to know she’d seen him doing whatever he’d just done. Daniel and Remus each took a handle of Harriet’s trunk and carried it around the carriage, which started off again, turning around and heading back to the school. Harriet looked up and smiled finally taking in Daniel’s house. It was modest in size, at least on the outside. It was a simple looking two-story flat, with pleasant blue-grey shingle siding and white trimmed-windows.
Harriet followed Daniel and Remus up the steps. She felt an odd tingling sensation as she stepped over the threshold. The interior was a bit bare, at least compared to the Dursleys’ and the Weasleys’. There was a small hallway table which had a plant on it in a vase. To their right was a small sitting room with a sofa, two recliners and a coffee table. To the left was the kitchen, which Harriet noted had an ice box rather than a proper refrigerator.
“Being so near to Hogwarts, things like fridges don’t work very well,” Daniel said, noticing Harriet looking at it.
“Well, I’ll get back to the shop and you can continue the tour,” Remus said. “I’ll see you tonight after closing, Harriet.”
Harriet gave him a hug goodbye and followed Daniel as he resumed the tour.
“Back here is mine and Remus’ rooms,” he said, pointing out two rooms past the stairs up to the second floor. “And um, the stairs down to the basement.”
Harriet noted that Daniel didn’t seem eager to lead Harriet any further on the ground floor and instead he started up the stairs with her trunk.
“You’ll be staying up here,” Daniel said more cheerfully as Harriet followed.
“Heh, Remus and I have meant to do more decorating, just… not much time between running the shop and everything else,” he continued self-consciously.
“It’s wonderful,” Harriet said, sincerely.
Daniel smiled back at her when they finally reached the top. There were four bedrooms up here, one over where the kitchen, sitting room, and ground-floor bedrooms were.
“We picked out this one for you,” Daniel said, leading Harriet to the room over the sitting room. “It has the best view.”
Harriet smiled at the sight. The room was just as plain, but it had a bed at least as large as her bed at Hogwarts, a desk and chair, and a large bay window with pillows in it. Harriet hurried over to the window looking down. It had a full view of the Hogsmeade high street. Harriet could watch everything happening down below, and had a view of the castle itself in the distance.
“Well, I’ll let you unpack. I’ll be in the kitchen making some snacks if you want,” Daniel said. “The bathroom’s right next to you here when and if you need it. Um… welcome home, for now…”
Harriet hurried over and hugged him tight around the waist. Daniel smiled and hugged her back.