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  1. The change in their relationship happened during fourth year, when an exhausted and dateless Harry groaned out the important question of, Why cant we just go together?

 

 He meant it in the sense that the two of them just go stag together, just a pair of friends without dates. He meant it as in him ditching all his champion responsibilities and going to a school dance to actually have fun with his best mates, instead of being paraded around for everyone to gawk at.

 “That’d really make ‘em talk,” Ron said with a snort. “Merlin, that’d be so much easier than this fuckery. We even kind of already practiced it too.”

 During the dance lessons for Gryffindor House, Harry and Ron had been partnered together pretty often, whenever one of them hadn’t been partnered with Hermione. They’d been pretty good together actually, much better than Harry had been expecting. Harry hadn’t been afraid to stomp right back on Ron’s foot, Ron hadn’t been petrified like he’d been with Professor McGonagall, and, unlike dancing with Hermione, they’d been able to practice leading.

 Also, they were used to moving around together. They knew each other.

 Harry stopped to think about it and… hmm… how about it? It would be pretty great to go to the Yule Ball with his best mate. To go out there with someone he actually knew and trusted and could talk to. He wouldn’t even have to worry about looking like an idiot, because Ron had already seen his absolute worst bedheads and more, and Harry knew just as much about Ron.

 “It’d be a giant fuck you to the Tournament people too,” Ron mused. “Old blowhards. And Percy.”

 There was also that.

 It was a really tempting “also that” too, because Ludo Bagman was kind of a sleaze and Harry couldn’t think of anything more enjoyable than introducing Ron to Mr. Crouch as his date. “I’m sorry, Mr. Crouch,” Harry would say loftily, “but where in your ‘oh-so-important and completely unbendable’ rules does it say that I can’t bring my best friend to your stupid mandatory dance?”

 Harry looked over towards Ron, trying not to smile. “We really shouldn’t.”

 But Harry couldn’t help but smile, because Ron was already grinning a savage and daring sort of grin.

 “Oh, no,” Ron said. “We really should.” 

 

~

 

  1. Hermione stared unblinkingly for a straight minute when they told her.

 

“Well,” she said finally.

 Then she trailed off and just sort of stared at them for several seconds. Then she cleared her throat and continued pragmatically:

 “That’s a… solution. You won’t be alone, of course, because Lavender and Parvati are going together. And Anthony finally asked Wayne Hopkins, I heard from Su Li, despite his father’s disap-”

 “Is that what all the shrieking was at Hufflepuff table yesterday?” Harry wondered.

 Ron just shrugged at him, because he didn’t keep track of what Hermione’s Ravenclaw study buddies did either. Sometimes it seemed like there was a lot more drama than studying happening there.

 Hermione ignored them both and cleared her throat again. “Just to… be clear on this… um, how long has this been going on? Exactly. I mean, if I’m being invasive, you of course don’t have to tell me, but, um, I just never really suspected that there was… more than friendship? Between the two of you?”

 Harry and Ron exchanged a horrified look.

 “Hermione,” Ron said with strangled calm. “We’re going as friends.

 “Oh.”

 “Lavender and Parvati are dating? Harry wondered.

 He felt mildly stunned. All of that cuddling and giggling in the Gryffindor common room made so much more sense now. The frequent exchange of affectionate kisses – on cheeks, it had always only been on the cheeks that Harry had seen, but there had been a lot of red faces and happy squealing for friendly kisses – between them also made a lot more sense now.

 He hadn’t known… He hadn’t really considered you could do that. Of course, he was no going to Yule Ball with a boy, but it had originated as a joke and it was still kind of a joke, and… huh. Suddenly everything made a new and enlightened sense.

 Katie Bell’s “girlfriend” Sarah was actually her girlfriend. Harry suddenly understood so many jokes and so much of the advice that Angelina, Alicia, and the twins had offered a red-faced and sputtering Katie. Oliver Wood had kept trying to clap his hands over Harry’s ears or eyes. Oh, Merlin.

 “…Mate, how the fuck did you not know that?” Ron said disbelievingly.

 “I have no idea,” Harry said.

 His mind ignored his screaming refusals and dragged him off to wonder about his godfather’s latest letter. Because there had been an awful lot of references to and rambling about Professor Lupin. An awful lot. Of course, Harry’s godfather and Professor Lupin were just very good friends, but Harry and Ron were very good friends and now they were going to a dance together, so…

 “Well,” Hermione said again, her cheeks pink with mild embarrassment. “Alright. I’m very sorry for assuming, then. I didn’t mean to make anything awkward or-”

 “It’s fine,” Ron said dismissively. He was still staring incredulously at Harry. “Seriously, mate, how? You were right there when Seamus asked Lavender if she’d ever thought about having both twins.”

 “I thought he meant being friends with them,” Harry said, aghast.

 Ron and Hermione were both staring disbelievingly at him now, like they couldn’t comprehend how Harry ever could have thought Seamus’ question had been that innocent. Yeah, in hindsight, given every other joke that Seamus had ever told, that made way more sense. Especially with how Dean had looked like he’d wanted to expire of horrified embarrassment on the spot, before Lavender had immediately tried to hex Seamus.

 “I’m going to the Ball with a brick wall, Ron groaned.

 “Hey!”

 “You two suit each other,” Hermione said decisively, and finally disappeared back into her book.

 

~

 

  1. With his best friend back and a date for the Yule Ball, Harry was loving life.

 

 It was hard to feel stressed now. How could Harry feel stressed when he felt on top of the whole damn world? He had his best mate back at his side, a great date for that dance he thought he was going to hate, and a delighted fuck you ready for any adult at the Ball who wanted to tell him that he was doing his involuntary participation wrong.

 Harry Potter, for once in his life, was going to have fun.

 This week, Draco Malfoy had tried to get an outburst out of Harry by: 1) insulting Harry’s performance in the First Task for what felt like the hundredth time, 2) making dramatic predictions about Harry’s horrific death in future tasks for what felt like the thousandth time, and 3) commentary loudly on Harry’s apparent lack of date for what felt like the millionth time. This was an inclusive list, not a limited one, by the way.

 Harry had just laughed in Malfoy's face and he had never seen Malfoy look so startled and unhappy. Just imagining Malfoy’s face when Harry and Ron walk into the Ball together made Harry feel giddy. It was going to be so good.

 Harry and Ron had been keeping their dance partnership secret for maximum impact when they showed up.

 Hermione knew though, of course, because they could never have not told her.

 Fred and George had somehow figured it out and laughed until they cried, then promised a red-faced Ron that they wouldn’t tell anyone because they thought it was hilarious. Last Harry had heard, the Weasley twins were begging a camera off Colin Creevey for the night. Fred’s reasoning was that they would seriously be disowned by their mother and two eldest brothers if they didn’t get pictures of Harry and Ron dancing the night away together. 

 Ginny also figured it out and she, like Hermione, seemed torn between slight judgement and amused approval. Harry and Ron had both been worried, but it seemed they needn’t have been. Last Harry had heard, Ginny was going to talk Colin, who was one of her many friends, into giving up that camera.

 Neville also probably knew, because he was going with Ginny and had been helping them practice their dancing. On weekends, out by the Herbology shed, Harry, Ron, and Hermione would meet up with Neville, Ginny, and some of Ginny’s other friends. Neville was really good at this dancing thing.

 If anybody else knew, they hadn’t said anything.

 The best thing about it all was that Ron seemed equally happy, if not more so. The date thing had been really stressing him out apparently. Ron said that even if he wasn’t doing this for himself, he’d have been more than glad to do it for Harry after those stupid weeks of fighting.

 Harry had told Ron that he didn’t have to do anything to make up for that. He understood why Ron was upset and that Ron hadn’t known just how dangerous this Tournament was going to be. However, Harry’s understanding hadn’t stopped Ron from being a little overly considerate with him – holding open doors, serving him at meals, getting stuff for him off shelves, slowing down that stupidly long-legged gait, etc. Harry felt bemusedly touched by it all.

 The one point of minor terror was when McGonagall held Harry back after class one day. She stared at him with clear, forceful suspicion. Harry was nervous to the point that his smile, which had been perpetual for days, actually faltered under her interrogative gaze.

 “Mister Potter, have you found a date for the Yule Ball?”

 “Yes,” Harry said.

 McGonagall’s eyebrows rose in surprise at his quick response, then immediately came back down. Harry flushed under the intense look.

 “I really do,” he said. “I’m not lying.”

 “I didn’t suggest that you were, Mister Potter,” McGonagall said, with a warmth slowly overtaking her gaze. “I am glad to hear that you are taking your responsibilities as a champion of Hogwarts seriously.”

 Er, yeah.

 For the first time since coming up with the plan to bring Ron, Harry felt a vague sense of guilt. It was one thing to bring his best mate to the Ball in the face of Bagman’s questions about which “lovely lady” that the Hogwarts champions” was bringing.

 It was another thing to bring Ron in the face of a comment that Crouch had made to his assistant, one that Harry probably hadn’t supposed to hear. Mr. Crouch had made this comment in the hallway after a Tournament meeting, saying that he expected to see three proper young ladies and a decent young gentleman from their champions. Ideally these partners would be from good families, Mr. Crouch had continued, but he’d take at least “well-behaved rabble” if he had to.

 Crouch hadn’t seen it, but Harry, eavesdropping and peering around the corner, had caught a glimpse of the incredulous expression on Percy’s face at the statement.

 But to Professor McGonagall? Who only wanted the best for him, for Gryffindor, and for Hogwarts? Harry’s fun, rebellious date with his best mate might reflect badly on her somehow and he felt badly about that. He didn’t want to change his plans, but… he didn’t want to disappoint her.

 “You may go, Mister Potter,” McGonagall said, her lips twitching at the edges. “And do give my best to Mister Weasley.”

 Harry stared at her disbelievingly.

 McGonagall’s stare was nothing less than all-knowing. “I’m glad to hear you’ve been practicing your waltz for the opening dance. Your teacher says you’ve both been making excellent progress.”  

 

~

 

 “Neville! You told McGonagall?!

 “I’m sorry! I didn’t mean to! She gave me tea and made me eat a biscuit and I couldn’t help it!”

 

~

 

  1. A few days before the dance, Ron pulled Harry aside to a quiet corner of the common room.

 

 The words were still ringing in Harry’s head as he went along.

 Mate, I need to talk to you.

 Did… did Ron not want to… anymore?

 “So, uh, look, I might’ve… forgotten myself and made a mistake – another mistake – and you’re totally allowed to get mad at me if you like,” Ron said to begin with, which didn’t at all help the frantic pounding in Harry’s chest. “I was just out picking up Hermione’s Christmas present – Goldstein helped me get it – and, uh, I sort of ran into Fleur.”

 Fleur Delacour, the Beauxbatons champion, was an extremely beautiful and talented part-Veela witch. She was only the person Ron had been quietly mooning over whenever he saw her. Ron hadn’t said anything or visibly gawked since before Harry became champion, but Harry still caught Ron sending a few sidelong glances towards Fleur whenever she walked by. Admiring and wistful glances.

 “She was alone and she looked upset,” Ron continued, desperately watching Harry’s face. “So I stopped and… tried to comfort her and…” He took a deep breath and then said very quickly, “I might’ve told her that we’re going together. I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to tell anyone.”

 Harry blinked, then managed, “…What?”

 “Uh, alright, um…” Ron ran a hand through his red hair, looking quite stressed. “Maybe I’d better start from the, um… so it turns out that Fleur doesn’t have a date yet. Unbelievable, right, mate?”

 Harry nodded, because that was pretty unbelievable.

 “I think, from what she said, that she’s just not interested in anyone? She doesn’t want anyone to get any ideas, or something, so I… I kinda suggested that she go with one of her friends? And I sorta fucked by admitting that we were going together, and I don’t know if she’s going to tell anyone but she gave me this look and then I… I sorta ran away, but… Harry, I’m sorry.”

 It took Harry a moment to clear the block in his throat. In this time, Ron was getting increasingly upset and stressed by the look of him, like he thought Harry was going to blow up on him.

 “It’s alright,” Harry assured him, as soon as he could speak again. “No, really, Ron, mate, it’s fine. I’m not mad.”

 Ron deflated, the tension melting out of his shoulders. “You’re… you’re not?”

 “No, I’m not. I don’t care if she tells everything. They might not even believe her. It’s just…” Harry gave a quiet, nervous laugh. “I thought you were going to tell me that you’d asked her to the Ball and she’d said yes or something.”

 “Oh, Merlin, fuck, no,” Ron said, looking horrified. “I mean, some part of me almost… but… I’m going with you, Harry. I mean, I said I would and I want to, and I wouldn’t do that to you.”

 “Yeah, I know. It’s just… for a moment…”

 A wry sort of smile crossed Ron’s face. “Yeah, I know,” he said. “Me too.”

 Harry smiled back, the worried ache in his chest gone.

 Ron’s smile widened at the sight of Harry’s, before a thought seemed to cross his mind. “Wait, you thought Fleur would have actually said yes? To me? Harry, what the fuck, that’s ridiculous.”

 “Nah, not that ridiculous,” Harry said, and grinned as Ron’s ears reddened at the compliment.

 “Yes, it is, you nutter,” Ron muttered, looking away. “Okay, good. So, now that I know you’re not mad at me, I’m going to hide this book-” A hand hovers over the rectangular shape hidden under his robe. “-and wrap it before Hermione sees it.”

 “Alright,” Harry said, and watched as Ron disappeared into the dormitories.

 Crisis averted, Harry went back over to the circle of chairs where he’d been sitting before and picked up the book he’d been reading.

 The book was called Hairy Snout, Human Heart and it was an anonymous author’s heartrending account of their life with lycanthropy, published in 1975. Sirius had recommended it to him and sent the copy along, writing that it helped his friend group all better understand some things. It was a very good book and Harry had learned a lot about the difficulties of being a werewolf.

 That the book was also incredibly and explicitly… um… queer didn’t help Harry’s attempts to avoid having questions about his godfather and Professor Lupin. Harry only had even more questions now.

 Before Harry could find his paragraph again, he noticed that he was being stared at. Hermione, Dean, and Neville had apparently abandoned their illustrated Herbology essay project in favor of giving him a three-pronged look of what was either concern (Neville) or judgement (Hermione) or what might have been a suspicious mix of both (Dean, who supposedly didn’t know yet).

 “Is everything alright?” Hermione said finally.

 “Yeah,” Harry said, more than a little bewildered by their intensity. “Everything’s great.”

 The stark relief on Neville’s face and thoughtful squint on Dean’s face were both a little frightening, but neither was half as frightening as whatever expression crossed Hermione’s face. Her stare was like being under a microscope. Professor McGonagall, if she saw it, might have made a run for her money.

 “Alright then,” Hermione said, going back to her writing. “Good.”

 Harry stared at them all for nearly a full minute, to his further bewilderment being steadfastly ignored. Hermione was definitely working, but Neville was just staring at his page without even reading it and Harry was fairly certain that Dean was just doodling hearts in the margins of his notes. Their drawing of a Giant Roman Running Radish herd was left untouched.

 For lack of any understanding, Harry went back to his book.

 

~

 

  1. The day of the Yule Ball came with one final, significant complication.

 

 “You can still dump me,” Ron volunteered, with a distinct note of true hopelessness in his voice. “Ask one of Ginny’s friends or something. They’d probably leap at the chance to go.”

 Harry just kept staring at the ruffles and lace on Ron’s dress robes. How could he have forgotten about those? There was no possible way for him to salvage that into something less hideous. Ron had already rejected Harry’s weak offers to just buy new dress robes for him.

 “We need an expert,” Harry said decisively.

 “Expert?” Ron said.

 Harry dragged his date’s robes off to find an expert, because while he might not know how to transfigure clothes into something not blindingly ugly, he was willing to bet that there was someone in Gryffindor Tower who might know what they were doing. Harry knew for a fact, for example, that Ginny Weasley actually owned maybe two skirts and knew a wardrobe’s worth of charms to subtly modify them. At the very least, they can try to make the robes fit.

 The sound that Lavender Brown made when she saw Ron’s dress robes was deafening. If Gryffindor Tower suddenly collapse, their House’s cumulative screams couldn’t have come close to the shrillness, volume, and absolute horror in Lavender’s screech.

 “WHAT THE HECK IS THAT?”

 “Dress robes,” Harry answered, wincing. “We need your help.”

 Lavender looked him dead in the eye, her brown face greyed, and said, “I’m a witch, Harry, not a miracle worker. You can’t expert me to make something I’d admit to having a hand in out of that.

 “We wouldn’t tell anyone,” Harry assured her.

 Lavender didn’t appear to hear him. “I mean, I have excess materials and such, and there is plenty there to work with, but I’m very busy and your mate should’ve found better robes earlier if-”

 “He’s my date,” Harry said desperately. “I’ll owe you for this.”

 The speech of refusal immediately cut off and Lavender’s eyes narrowed in a terribly predatory fashion. Harry wondered if he shouldn’t have gone to one of the older girls he knew instead, but he didn't know if Angelina, Alicia, or Katie liked clothes the way Lavender did. Even if they did like clothes, Harry had figured that none of them liked clothes quite like Lavender Brown did. 

 “Huh,” Lavender said. “Parbear was right, then. Alright, you have a deal. I want you to distract and run interference with Hermione so Parbear and I can have the form to ourselves sometimes. Deal?”

 I have no idea how Im supposed to do that, Harry didn’t say. And doesnt she spend all her waking hours in the library? Why would you need privacy in your own dorm oh OH.

 “Deal,” Harry said, only feeling slightly horrified.

 It turned out that Lavender Brown was both a witch and a miracle worker, because in the end, Ron looked amazing. The robes were still sort of old-fashioned, there were still quite a few ruffles and a lot of lace, but they’d been simplified, hemmed, and layered over black slacks and shined boots. The whole outfit had been tailored to fit Ron perfectly. Ron looked taller, almost mature, and Lavender had actually called him dashing while she forcibly gave him a haircut to suit her handiwork.

 Then, because Lavender couldn’t only do one half of a pair, Lavender forcibly got her hands on Harry’s dress robes and hair too. Under her speech on the importance of coordination, Harry quickly surrendered. He felt rather like he’d gone through a whirlwind of trimming and tailoring, but he also felt… good. He felt confident, almost… attractive.

 “You’re amazing,” Ron told Lavender, genuinely, as they got ready for the Ball.

 “Thank you,” Lavender said, slightly pinked.

 “You are a miracle worker,” Harry assured her. “And you look great, too. Parvati’s really lucky.”

 Lavender shook her head and sighed dreamily. “Im the lucky one, really.”

 Harry felt his own face heat up at that expression and tried not to think about the deal he’d made. He didn’t want to know or think about it. Thankfully, a sly expression quickly came on Lavender’s face as she looked between them.

 “I’m not going to be the only lucky one tonight,” she said. “You two aren’t going to believe your eyes when you see Hermione. Do you know who she’s going with? She wouldn’t tell us for anything.”

 “Nope,” Ron said, straightening his ruffles again. “Wouldn’t tell us either.”

 “Darn,” Lavender said. “Stop playing with those. Alright, I have to get my make-up done. I’ll see you boys down there and seriously stop playing with those or Ill hex your hands off.

 

~

 

  1. It turned out that Harry had been right, because the looks on peoples faces as he and Ron descended the stairs arm-in-arm were incredible.

 

 “I could die happy tonight,” Ron murmured. “Look at Malfoy’s face.

 Harry looked and immediately inwardly agreed that he too could die happy tonight. Malfoy looked like he did when Hermione socked him in the face, only the moment had been frozen to last several minutes. Harry made sure to wave at Malfoy, grinning, and Malfoy looked like he’d been hit with a Confundus, a Stunner, and an Obliviate all at once.

 One look at him and it was already the best night of Harry’s life.

 It only got better.

 Fred and George were both at the bottom of the stairs, wearing their dress robes and wicked smirks, and George had Colin Creevey’s camera around his neck. Fred was pointing out faces for George to snap pictures of, since they’d already snapped several pictures of Harry and Ron together, hollering like celebrity photographers to embarrass their little brother. Malfoy’s face, much to Harry’s delight, was one of the first on their list.

 Harry and Ron breezed grinningly past Malfoy and Pansy Parkinson and their shocked entourage.

 Behind Fred and George Weasley, their dates, Angelina Johnson and Lee Jordan, looked unsurprised and amused at the twins’ antics. In fact, Angelina and Lee looked to be in the middle of their own antics. Lee had procured a microphone of some kind and was narrating the Ball like he was a news reporter – Harry had heard that Lee had planned to broadcast the night for all the younger students, until someone, presumably Professor McGonagall, caught him at it – and Angelina seemed to be his partner.

 “-there’s Harry Potter and Ron Weasley coming towards us now, looking absolutely gorgeous tonight,” Lee was saying in grand fashion, as they came near. “Don’t they look great? What a couple. I’m just stunned, Angie, stunned. How ‘bout you?”

 “I have two words for you, Lee,” Angelina drawled, and stuck her fingers in her mouth and wolf-whistled outrageously loud.

 Ron made a rude gesture towards his brothers’ friends, but he was grinning, while Harry just laughed. They passed everyone by, arm-in-arm, and Harry felt like he was flying. He made sure to wave at a crowd of upper-years containing Alicia Spinnet, Katie Bell, and Katie Bell’s girlfriend Sarah. He also waved towards Neville and Ginny, who were standing by Seamus and Dean, who looked like they’d agreed to take along some of Ginny’s friends as their dates.

 Harry and Ron went straight for Cedric Diggory and Cho Chang, who were already waiting where the champions had been told to gather. They both looked fantastic. Cedric was grinning broadly at the both of them and Cho had a hand over her mouth at the expressions that Harry and Ron were leaving behind them, trying and failing to hide her laughter.

 “Hey, Cedric,” Harry greeted.

 “Harry!” Cedric returned, looking absolutely delighted to exist in this moment. “And Ron! Hello! The two of you look stunning together.”

 “Thanks,” Harry said proudly, feeling a little red-faced. “Hi, Cho. You look really nice.”

 “Thank you. You as well,” Cho said, smiling.

 Before they could say much more than that, Viktor Krum joined them. He was alone, it looked like his date hadn’t joined him yet, but he looked great in sharp red robes and a furred cape.

 “Diggory, Potter, you are looking vell,” he said, to which they returned the greeting. He then turned to Ron. “Mister Veasley, I believe? I did not know that you two vere together. Congratulations.”

 Ron sputtered in the face of his Quidditch hero talking to him, but thankfully Viktor had already turned to be properly introduced to Cho. He kissed her hand and everything. Harry patted his date on the arm, while Ron attempted to breathe normally because oh my fuck, its Viktor Krum.

 There was no time, unfortunately, to correct Viktor on Harry and Ron’s relationship, because that was when Hermione appeared at the top of the stairs. She was an absolute vision in periwinkle blue. Lavender had been right; Hermione didn’t look like Hermione at all.

 Viktor’s face broke into a wide smile at the sight of her. He immediately excused himself from the group to meet Hermione at the bottom of the stairs and offer her his hand.

 There were still some people staring at Harry and Ron together, but most of them were now gawking at Hermione Granger and Viktor Krum smiling at each other. Harry was too busy to gauge the staring properly, because he was gawking too and Ron had a fucking death grip on his arm.

 “Harry, Hermione’s date is Krum,” Ron hissed.

 “I can see that, Ron,” Harry whispered back. “Stop trying to choke my arm.

 Viktor rejoined them quickly, beaming proudly with a flushed Hermione on his arm, and there was another round of exclamations over how nice everyone looked. The intensity of the crowd’s staring threatened to really get annoying then, but Cedric quickly rose to the challenge and quickly regaled them all with his humorous misadventures in learning to dance. Everyone was quickly put at ease.

 “He’s lying,” Cho assured them, after Cedric had gushed about her incredible patience with him. “He was not that bad. It was me who began with the two left feet.”

 “I am not lying,” Cedric said, looking overdramatically offended. “I was that bad. You were incredibly patient with me, even if you were also terrible. You know, I think you started with two left feet and I started with two right feet and we somehow miraculously managed to switch one each.”

 “Yes, except we now both have our new feet on the wrong foot,” Cho said teasingly.

 “Dear Merlin,” Cedric said, aghast. “You’re absolutely right!”

 "Oh, no," Cho answered, with her own mock horror and a glowing smile. "I thought that I  was absolutely left? I have both your two right feet now?"  

 It was pretty funny. 

 Unfortunately, the ease pulled away when Professor McGonagall joined them, wearing elegant red dress robes with some tartan, and Ludo Bagman in a goldish suit on her heels. McGonagall was smiling so broadly that Harry nearly gaped at her, but Bagman was gaping at Harry and Ron. Not in a good way. 

 “Excellent, we almost have everyone,” McGonagall said, before a word could come out of Bagman’s open mouth. “You all look wonderful. I am so proud to see such wonderful young witches and wizards representing our schools.”

 Bagman’s mouth opened and closed like a fish. Ron’s arm went tense and tight around Harry’s, who pressed closer to his best mate in the face of Bagman’s obvious disapproval. But before Bagman could say anything, Professor McGonagall continued onwards, trampling him in her wake.

 “We will begin the Yule Ball with its traditional opening dance, which will be a waltz,” McGonagall said, as though she hadn’t been saying this for over a month. Then, uncharacteristically and out of nowhere, Professor Minerva McGonagall said conversationally, “I have never been much for the waltz, but my younger brother and his husband adore it. They danced for half the night at their wedding, it seemed.”

 Then McGonagall turned on the man beside her, like a barely contained tempest in red and tartan.

 “Do you waltz, Mr. Bagman?” she said. 

 Her tone might've still been conversational, but she stared at him so intensely that her eyes seemed to warn, I graded your first year essays, once upon a time. Do not test me on this. You will fail like you failed all of my pop quizzes.

 “Ah…” Bagman said, quailing under that stare. “Not particularly well, I’m afraid!”

 “What a shame,” McGonagall said, witheringly, before she turned back to the awestruck champions watching this display. “Has anyone seen Miss Delacour and her date?”

 Cedric, who had not stopped grinning broadly through this entire exchanged, seemed to spot something in the crowd. He turned away and craned his head.

 “I think that’s them now, professor.”

 They all turned to see Fleur Delacour and her date carving a path through the crowd, like sharks through water. The Beauxbatons champion was a breathtaking picture of blonde and silver, while on her arm was a short, curvaceous, dark-haired, and swarthy witch in bronze. They put every wide-eyed couple around them to absolute shame.

 Harry grinned up at Ron. “So that’s why she didn’t say anything. Guess she took your advice.”

 Ron swallowed, staring disbelievingly. “I guess,” he said weakly.

 The others’ reactions were also pretty great. Viktor’s eyebrows had gone really high, Hermione’s eyes had gone really wide, Cedric’s smile had somehow gotten even wider, and Cho was blatantly checking out… their dresses? Harry couldn’t tell. McGonagall, meanwhile, was beaming even brighter than before and Bagman’s eyes looked like they were about to fall out of his head.

 “Sorry we are late,” Fleur said, once she reached them. “I would like to introduce to you my date and good friend, Joséphine Béchard.”

 There wasn’t any hint of shame in Fleur’s eyes, but rather a challenging glint daring anyone to comment. Her grin was breathtakingly gorgeous, but it was also very, very sharp.

 No one did dare to challenge her and Ron managed to calm down enough to be the first one to greet Fleur’s friend. Harry couldn’t stop smiling, his chest bubbling with pride and happiness.

 He didn’t even notice he’d been smiling so strongly, until halfway through the new introductions and compliments – Cho adored Fleur and Joséphine’s dresses. Bagman had excused himself to run away into the Great Hall, red-faced and clearly far out of his depth, to announce the opening dance. Harry watched him go and looked right into Fred and George’s camera, unintentionally grinning wildly.

 Unfortunately, as it turned out, Mr. Crouch was too ill to attend the Yule Ball. Fortunately, Harry was absolutely sure that Mr. Crouch would have been pleased. After all, the champions had ended up attending with three lovely young ladies and one very decent young gentleman.

 

~

 

  1. To be honest, the Yule Ball between the opening dance and the end was almost a blur for Harry. It passed by far too quickly. Time was flying and Harry couldnt stop smiling.

 

 The few moments before the opening dance started were nerve-wracking. Harry almost froze up on the spot, but then Ron grinned at him and Harry grinned back. Before Harry knew it, they were whirling around the dance floor well enough to make Neville beam with pride.

 Harry saw Neville, actually, while whirling around the Ball. Neville really had been beaming with pride, right before he and Ginny swept onto the floor to join them.

 Dancing was really fun, actually. Harry had never thought it could be so fun, but he knew the steps and he liked his partner and it was great. Harry and Ron whirled around the Great Hall for several songs, occasionally switching who was leading, twirling each other around. During the last song, when Ron was leading, he actually dipped Harry and Harry almost shouted in surprise.

 Then they switched it up – a lot.

 Harry danced with Hermione a few times, and then with Cho, Viktor, Cedric, Fleur, and Joséphine at least once each. He also danced with Ginny because she asked him, Lavender to thank her for everything, both of the twins because they asked him, Angelina because Fred nearly dumped him in her lap, Lee because Angelina shoved him, Alicia and Katie because they popped out of nowhere and refused to be left out, and then Neville because why not.

 By the time that Harry and Ron finally stumbled off to eat something, Harry head was a whirl of music and steps, and he had the taste of liquid courage leftover on his lips. Joséphine carried a flask and there had been a secret toast between the champions, when nobody (especially Professor McGonagall) had been looking, right before they’d entered the Great Hall. Apparently Beauxbatons kids didn’t call it a party unless there was a good drink or potion flowing.

 It had turned out that Fleur and Joséphine had arrived already kind of buzzed, Viktor could drink whatever poison was in that flash like water, Hufflepuffs named Cedric Diggory were readily and scarily game for anything, and Harry’s curiosity and knack for trouble had been happy enough to try a sip. Despite Hermione’s disapproving glare, it wasn’t like Harry hadn’t had a sip of wine or horrified cough of whiskey before, what with Gryffindor Quidditch after-parties being what they were.

 Speaking of disapproving glares, Harry thought that Percy might have been glaring at him and Ron on the dance floor at some point, but he hadn’t been paying attention. Harry also thought that Malfoy might have tried to insult them at some point, but he hadn’t been paying attention then either.

 Except, of course, to notice that his not paying attention really seemed to piss Malfoy off.

 After some food and drinks – just pumpkin juice, because Lee had warned him that the punch bowl had been spiked – he and Ron headed back onto the dance floor. They whirled with each other and friends, ignoring the frequent and now familiar flash of the camera borrowed from Colin Creevey, until they had to stumble back off it again. Ron’s comments on the looks they’d been getting had made Harry laugh so hard that he couldn’t see or walk straight. They’d had to leave again before they were kicked off.

 Together, they wandered laughingly off towards the courtyard for some fresh air and quiet. They weren’t the only ones. Some people had even tottered off to bed hours ago. Ron and Harry threw themselves down on a bench between two of the courtyard’s columns.

 “This,” Ron said, leaning with happy tiredness against one column, “was a great idea.”

 Harry hummed in agreement from where he was leaning against Ron. They’d tucked themselves away in a corner, mostly out of sight, with a great view of the couples and groups wobbling in and out of the castle. They could still hear the Yule Ball’s music and would probably rejoin the dance soon, because it was kind of cold out, but this was nice for now.

 “Can you imagine if we’d had to find other dates?” Ron said, amused.

 Harry laughed. “Not really. I think that would’ve been a disaster.

 “Yeah, probably,” Ron said agreeably. “Real fucking disaster. But… who do you think you would have actually asked, you know? To be your real date?”

 It took Harry several seconds to really register what Ron was saying. His brow furrowed with the thought. Real date? He tried to imagine going to the Yule Ball with anyone else, but he couldn’t. He couldn’t even imagine who else he’d have asked.

 He couldn’t imagine anyone else as fun and amazing and funny and good as Ron Weasley.

 What was a real date? What would they be doing if this was a real date?

 Harry pulled away from Ron just enough to look up at him – to really look up at his best friend. Ron looked back down at him, confused but smiling, slightly tired but still dashing in his terrible ruffles, and still without doubt the best person to ever happen to Harry.

 Reaching up, Harry sat up tall, brought Ron’s face down, and kissed him.

 Harry didn’t know what he was doing. He didn’t even give himself time to consider how he might regret this or what this might do their friendship. The kiss was far more awkward than he’d imagined. It was pretty much just lips pressed together and the taste of pumpkin juice.

 At least, it was at first. Until Ron stopped being startled and settled his arms around Harry like they were dancing again, then kissed him back. It became more then. Harry quickly found out that Ron didn’t really know what he was doing either, because their noses bumped together and Ron needed to gasp for air like he’d forgotten to breathe.

 It was pretty good, though, whatever they were doing together.

 So, they kept doing it.