The Sugar Quill
Author: Scabbers  Story: Glass Slippers  Chapter: Default
The distribution of this story is for personal use only. Any other form of distribution is prohibited without the consent of the author.

A/N: Welcome to Glass Slippers, which is apparently what happens when a theater kid writes about Harry Potter, while under the influence of Cinderella. It is my first HP fanfic, the nature of the genre implying that the characters belong to J.K. Rowling and NOT me. Endless thanks to Zsenya, the best and most patient beta reader in the world. Enjoy!

Chapter 1- Harry

 

To tell the truth, I hadn't noticed the parchment until Hermione pointed it out to me.

"Hey, guys, did you see this?"

Ron shrugged nonchalantly, but the sudden flush to his cheeks revealed his shameless interest. "A Muggle play, here at Hogwarts?" he asked, brow furrowing.

I turned to Hermione, surprised. "There are Muggles coming to Hogwarts to perform for us?" I imagined my cousin Dudley delivering Hamlet's soliloquy for an audience of young wizards and ghosts- worth a laugh or two, I think.

Hermione rolled her eyes. "It's a Muggle play, but it's being performed by us, the students. My old Muggle Studies teacher, Professor Geary, is directing it. She paused for a second, and seemed almost embarrassed when she continued. "And I think it sounds interesting."

Ron grinned and nudged Hermione with one elbow. "So when is Hogwarts' number one bookworm going to find the time to become a, whadjamadiggit, actress?"

"I'll find the time," said Hermione, blushing like a Weasley, "And anyway, I think it would be an invaluable opportunity to learn about Muggles and their social-"

"Uh, Hermione," I reminded her, "You grew up with Muggles."

"I know that!" she snapped, "I meant educational for you guys, well Ron, anyway, but nevermind. I forgot that you don't-"

"Hey, if it means that much to you, I'll do it with you," Ron said, attempting an air of self-sacrifice that I didn't buy for a minute.

Hermione raised her eyebrows and said in her loftiest tone, "Well, don't do me any favors."

"I'm not," Ron immediately countered, "I love-". His eyes flashed quickly to the title of the play, which he pronounced slowly and gracelessly.

"Cin-der-el-la."

Suddenly, the dreamy smile on Hermione's face made more sense to me. I don't claim to be an expert on females, but the one thing I know is that they all want to be Cinderella. I guess even girl genius Hermione Granger isn't above that.

As for me and my acting debut, I didn't think so. The whole mess with Voldemort had given me enough attention, thank you very much. Still, for a minute, I pictured myself in the spotlight, waltzing on a stage with Cho Chang. But I could hardly make that kind of time commitment, what with Quidditch and all. Anyway, I realized with some satisfaction, neither could Cho.

I admit, however, I felt a bit left out when Ron and Hermione planned to meet in the common room after dinner, so she could give him the gist of the Cinderella story before they auditioned the next day. "You'll love it," she promised, "The plot is kind of contrived, but...it's sweet."

Ron's ears turned such a striking shade of pink that I wondered, not for the first time, if he didn't, well you know, fancy her or something. Whoa.

 

 

~

I was surprised at how quickly the Cinderella bug spread. I suppose they wanted to give us a nice, safe way to amuse ourselves after last year's disastrous Triwizard Tournament. I preferred not think about the tournament.

I wondered if Professor Dumbledore thought a bit of theater would keep Voldemort at bay. Hmmm...

Anyway, people were really getting into the idea of it. At dinner, everywhere you looked, it was the Muggle-borns at the center of the conversation, because they, of course, know all about Cinderella. Parvati Patil and Lavender Brown had even brought a library book of Muggle fairy tales to read at the table, while their food just sat there getting cold.

And from the conversation in the common room that evening, it was evident that the Gryffindor girls had only one role in mind.

"The story is a finely tuned masterpiece," declared one third year in a authoritative tone, "Making the ultimate statement on the human tendency towards metamorphosis..."

"Actually, it's never struck me as more than an escapist fantasy, pure fluff," said Hermione under her breath, "The cotton candy of the Muggle literature world." She licked her lips, and we all laughed softly.

"So, naturally," concluded the smug third year, "Cinderella is every actor's dream role."

"Not my dream role," said Ron, and I quite agreed. Hermione, however, promptly turned red and wouldn't meet our eyes.

Ron flung his arm across her shoulders and tweaked her nose. "Cotton candy, my bum," he said, "Our Herm-own-ninny wants the part just as much as the rest of them." I believed he was right, but I expected Hermione to trounce Ron for saying so, or at least for making fun of Viktor Krum. I didn't know much of what went on over the summer, why Hermione didn't visit him in Bulgaria; it seemed to be a sore spot with her, so Ron and I usually tried not to bring it up.

But instead of yelling, she said, so softly she was almost whispering, "Just because I'm smart doesn't mean I don't want to wear the dress and be gorgeous and everything."

And with that, she slipped out from under Ron's arm and fled from the common room. We stared after her in confusion, and I half expected her to drop a shoe.

~

 

After that, Ron started acting weird, too. The next morning, he asked me to tell him, honestly, did I think that maybe, just maybe, he had the slightest chance at Prince Charming?

I choked on my pumpkin juice, then answered between coughs. "Sure, why not? You'd make a fantastic prince." Being the supportive best friend that I was, I opted not to tell him I'd always thought Prince Charming was a bit of a pussy.

Evidently, Fred and George Weasley agreed with me; they had heard his question, and were now, based on the bits of the story they had picked up here and there, performing their own rendition of Cinderella at the breakfast table, for Ron's benefit. By the time George had dramatically slid Fred's old tennis shoe over his grubby sock, several Gryffindors were applauding, and Ron's face was as red as his hair.

Finally, as an explosive conclusion to their surprisingly accurate demonstration, Fred and George pranced over to where Ron was sitting. Fred planted a slimy kiss on Ron's hand, while George gave him a noogie. "Good luck at auditions, little brother," George said with a grin.

I glanced across the table at Ginny Weasley, who was hiding a smile behind one freckly hand. "Well, at least he doesn't want to be Cinderella, like everyone else," I said to her with a shrug. At this, she laughed, but the look in her eyes reminded me, strangely, of Hermione' expression last night.

After breakfast, Professor Dumbledore surprised us all with the announcement that, due to the overwhelming number of students signed up to audition for the play, classes would be cancelled that morning so they could fit everyone in. The room burst into uproarious applause, with Lee Jordan and the Weasley twins dancing on the tables. Hermione looked like she was going to be sick.

Our new captain Angelina took advantage of the extra few hours to call a spontaneous Quidditch practice, so I didn't see Ron, Hermione, or any of them until lunch. "How did it go?" I asked them, trying to interpret their expressions.

Ron made a face. "I bombed it. But Hermione, she was fantastic. She was-"

"I was okay," Hermione said bluntly. "Not terrible, but I won't get Cinderella or anything."

I didn't know what to say; I hadn't even seen the audition, you know. "I'm sorry, Hermione. I mean...I mean, I'm sure you'll get the part."

She shook her head and smiled sadly. "Thank you, Harry, but no, I won't. You should have seen some of the girls who tried out. I mean, Ginny was incredible. She surprised all of us."

My jaw dropped. "Ginny? THAT Ginny?" I asked, gesturing to the other end of the table, where the only Ginny I knew was sitting with some other fourth years. She was so shy, I couldn't imagine her even trying out.

Ron nodded. "I don't see why you're so surprised, Harry," he said with a shrug, "I keep telling you she's only like that around you because she-"

"Right," I cut him off, before he could embarrass me further. He grinned and winked.

"Anyway," sighed Hermione, ignoring the death glare being transmitted from me to Ron, "I suppose it doesn't matter who gets the part. I'll be happy as long as it's not Lavender."

Ron and I laughed, because even I knew that Lavender had been going around telling everyone that she was going to be Cinderella. But it was hard to be lighthearted when Hermione looked so disappointed.

The thought of Ginny Weasley in the spotlight secretly bothered me as well. I had her placed in her box just fine, as the timid baby sister of my best friend, the girl with the perpetual blush. It wasn't very thoughtful of her to bust open my perceptions.

~

Chapter 2- Hermione

 

I don't mean to brag or anything, but I knew who would play Cinderella long before the parts were posted. I'm a pretty perceptive person, and Professor Geary's expression as she watched Ginny Weasley's audition wasn't hard to read.

Ginny was good, too, and I was happy for her. Very happy for her. And when I saw her name written by "Cinderella" on the cast list, I was so happy for her that my eyes started watering, and I forgot to look for my own name.

I found out my part from Draco Malfoy, who hadn't tried out, but was, of course, lurking by the cast list. "Ugly stepsister, Granger?" he said nastily (and loudly), "No typecasting there, eh?"

"Shove it, Malfoy!" yelled Ron.

"Don't cry," I told myself, biting my lip until I could taste blood, "You knew you wouldn't get it, and you were stupid to even hope-"

"Hey, Hermione," Harry said softly, "Um, congratulations. You got a great part."

"Thanks," I managed. Ron enveloped me in a big, awkward hug. "And why has he been so touchy-feely lately?" I wondered. It was kind of nice, though. Boys can be so nice when they try.

And suddenly, I felt a bit stupid, with all their efforts to cheer me up about something as dumb as a play. "All right, you," I said to Ron, forcing a smile, "Go congratulate your sister."

And it wasn't until I finally read the entire cast list and saw his name under "Ball Guests" that I remembered he had tried out for the play, too.

~

 

Rehearsals started that afternoon after classes, and the first one was, by all accounts, a disaster. Lavender, who in my opinion should have been satisfied with her role as Fairy Godmother, was not speaking to Ginny. An irritated Parvati finally told her best friend that if Lavender didn't like her part, she, a "Ball Guest", would gladly take it off her hands.

To top everything off, Prince Justin Finch-Fletchley Charming was loudly announcing that, though he was quite happy with his part, he was not going to be doing any of "that kissy stuff" onstage, thank you very much.

"That git should have read the story before he auditioned," I muttered to Ginny, who looked like she was about to cry.

It wasn't until the first day we practiced the Godmother's big scene what the ice was broken, and it started to look like maybe rehearsals would actually be rather fun.

Lavender and Ginny were reading it through, you know, the whole bit with the pumpkin, when suddenly Lavender just stopped.

"I can't do this," she said, shaking with silent laughter. We all stared at her, and I saw Ron's lips twist like he was trying not to smile.

"Keep going," Professor Geary said, but Lavender had already dropped to the floor, giggling helplessly into her script. "I'm sorry," she gasped. "But is this how they think we do Transfiguration? By saying..." She shook her head, shoulders shaking, actual tears streaming down her face. "I can't say it."

By this time, we were all giggling like complete fools. "Say it! Say it!" someone started chanting, and we all joined in, even Professor Geary.

"Bibbidy bobbidy boo," Lavender whispered, with great flourish, and the room exploded into laughter.

From then on, we were kind of like, and I don't know any better way to describe it, kind of like a big, goofy family. Ron and I would tell Harry about whatever had gone on that day at rehearsal, and Harry would just shake his head and pretend to look concerned. "You guys have finally lost it, I think."

But it was fun, more fun than anything I'd ever been a part of before. It didn't even bother me too much anymore when Malfoy would shout across the Great Hall, "What, Granger, dress rehearsal already?" Well, it bothered me less, anyway. And I'd almost forgotten I had ever wanted to be Cinderella. Almost.

~

 

 

One evening, a few weeks later, I was reading on a couch in the common room with Ron sitting next to me. More next to me, I noticed, than he usually sat. Harry was reading, too, in a comfy green chair across from us.

Ron sighed loudly, obviously bored by the sound of our pages turning. "Hey, Hermione, did you tell Harry about rehearsal today?"

"No she didn't," said Harry, not looking up from his book. "I know nothing about how Professor Geary made Justin and Ginny practice the kissing scene today, and they had to do it seven times, because Justin kept laughing and Ginny didn't know what to do with her nose, but at least Justin's finally agreed to do the kissing scenes, and-"

 

"Touché," muttered Ron, and I tried not to giggle. Poor Harry probably knew more about what went on at rehearsal than most of the cast.

Ginny herself walked into the common room a moment later, still bright red from her ordeal at rehearsal. "Hermione, can I talk to you?" she asked in her quiet way. I noticed Harry's face turn pink behind his book, but otherwise, he seemed not even to notice Ginny's arrival. Ron didn't move either.

"Um, alone?" she squeaked, and cleared her throat.

"Right," said Ron, as he and Harry obediently left the room.

"So, wretch," I said in my shrillest stepsister voice, "Scrub the floor and tell me what's on your mind." She flopped down next to me on the couch and buried her head in her hands.

 

"Hey now," I shifted my body so I was facing her, "It wasn't so bad. Anyone would be nervous, doing all that kissing in front of an audience."

"It's not just that," she whispered. I waited expectantly for her to continue, which she did, slowly and hesitantly.

"I didn't...want...that to be...I mean...that was my first kiss," she finally finished. I could practically feel the heat radiating from her flaming cheeks. She was staring miserably at her feet, and her fist was pressed up against her mouth. The kid needed a hug, my job.

After that, I didn't really know what to say. "Well," I declared after a minute, "You made Justin's day, anyway."

"Right," she said, laughing bitterly.

"Hey, I'm not kidding. He is not complaining anymore about the kissing scenes."

She looked at me seriously. "Hermione, Justin sees me as a little kid. Everyone sees me as a little kid, and the thing is, they're right. Everyone was so surprised when they cast me as Cinderella, and why wouldn't they be? I'm not the Cinderella type. I'm a klutz, I have freckles, I'm not at all pretty-"

"They cast you as Cinderella because you were the best at auditions, and you're perfect now," I said slowly and deliberately. I was surprised at how easy it was to say, how little it hurt.

"But everyone must think..."

Something about the way she said it made me think "everyone" was just a single someone, a male someone with messy black hair, glasses, and a funny scar on his forehead. I was quite sure she was done being upset about Justin.

"Ginny, um, is this about-"

"No!" she said quickly, cheeks, to my amazement, turning even redder. Right. Definitely Harry Potter.

I tried to come up with the right thing to say to her- I am so bad at this girly stuff. "I think he likes you! I mean, I guess I really don't k now, we don't so much talk about these kinds of things, but-"

"It's okay, Hermione," she said, cutting off my clumsy speech with a sad little laugh. "I know he doesn't like me, not like that. And I'll get over it, I'm sure, soon enough." She sighed. "The whole thing just makes me feel stupid and ugly. I hate that."

And suddenly, like magic, I knew what to say.

"Ginny, let me tell you a story. Do you remember Viktor Krum?"

Chapter 3- Ron

 

I didn't do anything wrong, you know. I wasn't trying to- I just happened to hear- and anyway, if it was such a private conversation, well then they shouldn't have been having it in the common room. I mean, honestly, Dean and Seamus were like five feet away, and even Fred and George were in there, playing chess by the fire.

And it was just so convenient, the couch they had chosen. It was turned so that, standing in the doorway, I could see just two bits of hair, brown and then red, over the back of it. Planning to creep up on them and give them a bit of a scare, I was perfectly absolutely silent. They didn't even notice me; Hermione just kept on talking.

Well, then she brought up Victor Krum, so how could I just walk away? I mean, she hadn't told Harry and me anything, only that she didn't go to Bulgaria, and I was dying to know why.

I stood motionless in the doorway, concentrating on breathing as quietly as I could. Hermione's voice was so soft, but it was loud enough for someone with six siblings, who knew how to listen properly.

"I didn't even know him all that well," she was saying. "But I was so flattered when he picked me for the second task. It made me feel sort of special, you know?"

My sister did one of those murmurs that girls are always doing when they listen to other girls talk about boys, like "Yes, I understand, keep going," but all they actually say is "Mmhmm." Hermione continued, and she just had no idea I was there. It was like I was under Harry's invisibility cloak, and I kind of wished that I was. It would have been nice to see her face while she was talking.

"He really was so nice, though, and so different when he was around just me. He invited me to visit him in Bulgaria over the summer- well, you know that, I guess."

"Rita Skeeter," Ginny said softly, "Yeah, I read that."

"Right," said Hermione, and you could just hear her rolling her eyes. "Anyway, I thought about it for a long time, and my parents thought about it for an even longer time, but finally we decided it would be educational for me. So I sent him an owl saying okay, I was coming."

"But I thought...you didn't?" My sister's voice sounded as confused as I felt. "Well... I hope you didn't tell Ron, at least. Think he might've been a bit upset?"

They both giggled quietly, and I felt my cheeks go warm. Exactly what was she getting at? I fixed upon the backs of their heads my most ferocious glare, but Hermione continued, oblivious.

"So two weeks later, I'm all set to go, and then I get this owl from him, and it said... it said something along the lines of-"

"Mmhmm..."

She lowered her voice and said the next bit in an impressive imitation of Krum's thick accent. "Dear Herm-own-ninny. Maybe this is not the best time to tell you this, but I am vanting you to know just the same. I have met someone, a girl, and, vell, you can still visit me in Bulgaria if you really are vanting to..."

Ginny gasped. "That jerk! That's a horrible way to break up with someone."

"Well, I wouldn't call it breaking up, exactly," Hermione sounded rather annoyed, "Seeing as HE WAS NEVER MY BOYFRIEND IN THE FIRST PLACE!" She was almost yelling by this last part, and people in the common room began giving them curious looks. My brother Fred noticed me in the doorway and winked.

"Honestly," said Hermione, much quieter this time, "You're starting to sound a bit like Ron."

This was twice they had mentioned me, see, so it really was my business, in a way. No reason for me not to stick around and listen. And Hermione should have told Harry and me all of this, anyhow.

Ginny seemed to be thinking along the same lines as I was. "So you didn't tell any of this to Ron and Harry?" I saw the top of Hermione's head shake "no".

"They're boys," she said, "And it's not that big a deal, anyway."

She paused for what felt to me like a million years, before continuing. "But yeah, I know what you mean about feeling ugly." I heard her take a deep breath. "But it's okay, because you know what I think? I think every girl feels like the ugly stepsister sometimes. But we get through it, and eventually, everyone gets a turn to feel like Cinderella."

Suddenly, I felt like the walls were closing in on me. It was definitely time to make my exit, and I did so quietly, tiptoeing the whole way to my dorm. Everyone else was asleep, but I lay awake for some time, staring at the ceiling. I had a lot to think about.

Chapter 4- Ginny

 

It's funny, the things that happen to you. I never thought I'd get to meet Harry Potter, for one thing, the boy who saved us all while he was still in diapers. I grew up hearing his name and everything about him, from the names of his parents to the shape of his scar. And now he's my brother's best friend.

I knew about Cinderella, too, before this play. My dad brought home a fairy tale book for me once, when I was very little, one that had belonged to real Muggle kids and everything. I loved that book so much, and Cinderella was my favorite. I always made my mum read it to me before I went to bed, even though I had the whole thing memorized.

And here I was now, struggling to memorize it again in its entirety.

But I didn't mind the long hours spent poring over my script, reciting my lines in my head, then checking to make sure I got them right. It was nice, really, having another identity I could sort of slip into whenever real life got too boring or stressful, or just plain crappy. Sometimes it was much more pleasant being Cinderella than Ginny Weasley.

Like tonight, for instance. Some stupid stuff from today had put me in such a foul mood that I couldn't sleep, so I just crept down to the common room in my favorite yellow pajamas to read my lines to myself. "Do you think I'll get to meet the prince? I wonder if he's handsome."

Justin was good-looking in his own way, I decided. Probably better looking than Harry Potter- older looking, definitely. But then, Harry had those eyes...

Not that it mattered, anyway, the way he was always looking at Cho Chang. He knocked over Ron's juice today, staring at her. It reminded me of a million spills of my own, especially when he was around, and it just made me feel embarrassed and miserable all at the same time.

But I wasn't going to think about that right now. I was Cinderella, and my fuzzy yellow slippers were really made of the sparkliest, most delicate glass. I closed my eyes and whispered my next line. So far, I had gotten practically every word right.

"Talking to yourself?" asked a familiar voice. I opened my eyes, startled. Fantastic, it was Harry Potter. I was looking for another opportunity to humiliate myself before bedtime.

I looked at him, and tried to ignore the way my stomach was getting all knotted up. "Hey, Harry. What are you doing up this late?"

Something flashed in his eyes, I'm sure of it, but he shrugged it away. "Couldn't sleep. Mind if I join you?" I shook my head, trying to cover my reddening face with my script. He settled down next to me on the couch, cross-legged, our knees just barely touching. "So, you must have a lot of lines, huh."

I tried to think of some witty response, but ninety-five percent of my brain was focused on that one spot on the tip of my knee, where my pajamas touched his. "Um...yeah, I guess I do."

That's right, Ginny, you have lots and lots of lines. So stop obsessing over Harry Potter and study them. And turn your script right side up.

But it was hard enough not thinking about him when I wasn't sitting next to him on a couch in the common room, with our knees touching.

"I could quiz you...I mean, if you want." He rubbed that lightning bolt scar on his forehead, expression revealing nothing.

"Oh, okay. That would be great," I managed. I handed him the script, open to the page I had been practicing before he arrived. "You don't mind reading the Godmother's part, do you?"

He regarded me seriously. "Ginny, I was born to play the Godmother." God, he was adorable.

"Super. So I guess we could start right here then." And since when did I start using words like "super"? Arg.

"Okay, ready?" he asked. I nodded, and he began in a ridiculous falsetto Godmother voice, "Oh, Godmother, I don't know how to thank you!" He fluttered his eyelashes at me over the script.

"Uh, that was my line," I said, giggling, and he actually blushed a bit. "Oh. Right. Moving on, then."

He readopted the falsetto voice, and reminded me earnestly that I must be back when the clock struck midnight.

"Don't worry, Godmother, I won't forget." I felt very pleased with myself for remembering my lines, even in the face of the ultimate distraction. To my surprise, however, I began to feel somewhat at ease, and actually found myself showing off a bit as we read through the scene.

"Hey, the ballroom part is next," said Harry. "Do you want me to be the prince?"

"Why not?" I said, trying to look nonchalant. I very much wanted him to be the prince.

"Okay, we'll skip to the part where you come in." He flipped the page. "Blah blah blah, okay, here we are. My lady, I couldn't help but notice you as you entered the room. Your face is familiar to me somehow, yet surely I would remember having encountered such a beautiful- is this guy for real?"

"You don't think it's at all sweet?" I asked, and he made a face.

"I mean, he doesn't even know her."

I looked away, blushing. I was pretty sure I had loved Harry from the first time I'd met him. Getting to know him was just making me love him more. I didn't say anything, and for a moment, there was no sound except the soft rustle of someone's pet rat under the couch.

"Um," he finally said uncomfortably, "I guess we should keep going."

"Good idea," I agreed, and suddenly he was back to being silly.

"My lady, you must give me the honor of dancing with you," he said, jumping up and extending the hand that wasn't holding the script.

Was I supposed to...did he want me to...um. Wow.

"Your Highness, I couldn't refuse," I squeaked, and I thought I saw his eyes go wide for a second when I took his hand. Heh, you wish, Ginny.

"You dance beautifully, my lady," he read in a very manly Prince Charming voice, spinning me around in my pajamas. It was getting harder and harder for me to remember my lines.

Suddenly, Harry cleared his throat. "Um, Ginny?" he said, his voice cracking a bit like Ron's used to do. "It says here I'm supposed to... I mean the prince is supposed to..."

"Oh!" I felt my face grow hot. "Um, we don't have to do that. In fact, it's getting pretty late. We should stop here." I realized my hand was still in his, and I pulled it away quickly. He probably thought I had done this on purpose, that I wanted to practice the kissing scene with him.

So what if I did.

"Uh...yeah. Definitely. We should definitely get some sleep."

"Definitely. Right. Goodnight, Harry." I practically ran all the way to the girls' dorm.

"Ginny Weasley," I thought, burrowing miserably between my blankets, "You are a loser."

 

Chapter 5- Ron

 

And on top of everything, something was up with Harry. Like this morning, he slept right through the alarm clock, and finally I had to enlist Pig to help me wake him up.

"OKAY, I'm awake!" he finally gasped, when he'd had enough of the sharp little owl feet on his face. He stifled a mighty yawn with one hand, and fumbled around for his glasses in the other.

"Geez, Harry, are you okay?" I asked, concerned. "You look awful." He had these huge bags under his eyes, and his glasses rested crookedly on his nose.

"Oh, I'm fine. Really I am." I raised my eyebrows.

"No, really, I'm okay. Just didn't get much sleep last night. I was in the common room until pretty late."

"Why were you in the common room?"

He shifted his eyes away from me, but I noticed the way he gently rubbed his forehead with his fingers.

"Your scar was hurting, wasn't it?"

"No!" he answered quickly. "I was just...well, actually, I was helping your sister practice her lines."

"I imagine she enjoyed that," I said, nudging him in the ribs. I was pretty sure he was hiding something about that scar of his, but I decided to let it go. Frankly, I didn't like to think of it.

"Shut up," he said, his cheeks looking rather pink, if I do say so myself. It worried me, actually, that he was letting something as silly as my lovestruck sister bother him. It was just weird, that's all. And then there was Hermione. I couldn't stop thinking of all that stuff she told Ginny, the things I wasn't supposed to hear. I was going crazy, thinking about it all.

~

The weeks passed quickly, and before I knew it, it was time for our dress rehearsal. "Can you believe we're performing in just-" Hermione paused to check her watch, "Eighteen hours?" She smiled nervously at me, and her eyes looked so wide that I had to blush and look away. Did she really think she wasn't pretty?

Parvati and Lavender looked particularly glum when they arrived at the dress rehearsal that evening; I imagine it had something to do with Professor Trelawney's premonition that tomorrow's show would result in an unprecedented number of fatalities, including (of course) Harry Potter. Amazing, considering he wasn't even in the play.

However, everything seemed to be going perfectly in rehearsal. "Shows how much that old bat knows," I said to Hermione. "No one's forgotten their lines or died or anything so far. She gave me a look that would have been condescending if her eyes hadn't looked so terrified.

I wondered what it was that scared her so much. I thought maybe it was something more than just stage fright; with girls, it's always something big and secret that's bothering them, and never what you'd expect. Especially with girls like Hermione, who you can bet are always thinking. Honestly, it just shouldn't be legal to be as smart as she is.

All of the sudden, I remembered something she had said a long time ago, something that didn't bother me much until now. About her still wanting to wear a dress and be pretty, even though she was smart, something like that. I wanted to tell her it's her smartness that makes her pretty, like that look in her eyes when she's figured something out, or the way she bites her lip a bit when she's thinking hard. But you can't just go up to a girl and tell her all that, not if you ever plan on looking her in the eye again.

 

~

 

 

My sister spilled her pumpkin juice twice at breakfast this morning, she was so nervous. Poor kid- I suppose I'd be that jittery myself if I was playing Cinderella in four hours. Although, I predict I'd look mighty gorgeous in a ball gown.

As it was, my stomach was butterfly-free, not that I had any lines to worry about messing up. Hermione, on the other hand, was as white as Hedwig, and she didn't say a word all through the meal.

Draco Malfoy, as always, had something nasty to say to each of us, saving until last his wittiest repertoire of ugly stepsister remarks for Hermione. I mean, I could kill him. How could he fall asleep each night, knowing that thanks to him, a girl thought she wasn't pretty. But wasn't I just as bad, then, letting her just go on believing it?

 

 

~

 

We had to report backstage two hours before the show started, to get into our costumes and such. It was crazy back there, I'm talking total chaos. Everyone was stumbling around, halfway in costume, looking for their props or muttering their lines to themselves. This Hufflepuff in my year, Hannah Abbott, had all this greasy Muggle stage make-up, and she kept smearing it on people's faces, even the boys. I got dressed quickly, then found a nice, dark corner, where I could avoid Hannah and her smelly pink brushes, tubes, and pots.

Everyone was just shaking by now from nerves, except Lavender, who was acting like this was all something she did every day. Most of us got dressed right away, for lack of anything better to do with ourselves, but she was just flitting about, chatting with people and smooching with Seamus "for good luck", until her costume was the only one left on the rack. I imagine she just wanted the dressing room to herself.

I eventually spotted Hermione in her bright orange stepsister dress, watching Ginny's cheeks get attacked with a pink powdery brush. I decided to risk walking over there, which I soon regretted, because Hannah smiled and evilly waved a suspicious looking tube at me before I could even say a word to Hermione. I quickly did an about face and made like I had some important Ball Guest business to take care of back behind the prop table. If Hannah Abbott thought I intended to prance around before my brothers and the whole school, all painted up like some kind of oversexed Muggle girl, well then, she had another thought coming.

I felt a finger gently tap my shoulder, which made me jump; it was Hermione.

"Hey," she said. She was all done up like a stepsister, with a funny hat on her head and big freckles painted on her cheeks. Like freckles were supposed to be ugly or something. Hmph.

I opened my mouth to say something for her, but Hannah must have put some junk on her eyelashes, and it was really messing with my brain. It was driving me crazy, how long her eyelashes looked.

"Well," she said, twirling around so that awful dress flared out, "Do I look ugly enough?" She smiled sadly.

"No," I said, all of the sudden, "They screwed up. You look like Cinderella. You always do."

She stared at me, her lip trembling like she was going to cry.

"Look, I'm sorry," I said quickly, "I didn't mean....I mean...I meant what I said, but I didn't mean to-"

Then, to my surprise, her lips touched mine for just a second, so softly I thought I'd dreamt it.

"Break a leg, Ron," she said.

~

Chapter 6- Ginny

 

So, I know you're not supposed to peek through the curtains at the audience before the show starts, but I couldn't help it. I mean, I really had to look.

Oh gods, shouldn't have looked. My parents were there (surprise!), and Percy. That made two parents, four brothers, and the whole school, all here to witness me mangle my part and ruin the whole play.

Oh, and Harry Potter. In fifteen minutes, I would have to get out there and just scrub the floor of the stage, like I didn't even notice Harry sitting right there between Neville Longbottom and my mum.

I needed to sit down.

Too soon, Hermione came running over to me. She was nervous, too, I guess. I mean, her face was all flushed. "Ginny, we're on!"

I wondered what that goofy smile on her face was all about. I, for one, wasn't smiling. We crept into our places behind the curtains and froze, like Professor Geary had told us to. Frantically, I went over my first few lines in my head.

I heard a few whispered words coming from stage left, and I realized with dread that it was the spell to open the curtains. I took a deep breath and felt the spotlight wash over my face and hair.

The audience started applauding before we even started. I could hear my dad louder than anyone. It half made me want to grin, and half made me want to throw up. I let my eyes flicker to the front row, and you couldn't really see anyone's face. I knew which one was Harry, though. You can kind of tell, the way the light hits his glasses. And I guess I can always tell where he is, somehow.

"Focus," I reminded myself, "You are Cinderella. You can do this." Problem was, I didn't feel much like Cinderella. I didn't even feel like myself. The lights were so bright and warm, and all I could think of was how everyone was looking at me. Inhale, Ginny, now exhale.

Then Hermione started off the play with her first screechy "Cinderella!", and everything just sort of fell into place. It was the most incredible thing, the way it was coming together. I mean, we'd practiced and practiced, but you always expect it to be horrible when it actually counts. It's almost disappointing, in a way, all that worrying for nothing.

But there was something so sweet about being up there with your friends and brothers and everyone all watching you. Even if you say your line all quiet and whispery, they still have to listen. Or if you broke into song and started tap dancing, they'd just keep watching. They'd have no choice.

And suddenly, my feet were just itching to tap. Oh wow. Okay, just keep scrubbing. Back and forth. There you go.

And just like that, it was already time for Lavender's scene with the bibbity bobbity boo. That's my favorite part of the play, because we do all these special effects with Transfiguration right onstage. We had quite a time talking Professor Geary into it, because she wanted to do it just like the Muggles do it, but it was worth it. It's easy, too, you just have someone whisper the real spells backstage, while Lavender waves her fake wand around and says her fluffy godmother words.

Lavender walked onstage, and all of the sudden, I felt the back of my neck go cold like a ghost had just touched it. Something wasn't right and it took me about three seconds to figure out what. She had picked up her real wand by mistake, instead of the gaudy prop one we had always practiced with.

That made me really nervous, because I couldn't help but think she was going to accidentally bibbity bobbity boo all my clothes off, or something equally dreadful. "Careful, Lavender," I pleaded silently. She was acting strange, just scanning the audience with her eyes like she was looking for someone- Seamus, maybe? Fine time for her to be flirting.

Suddenly there was a crash from down in the audience, followed by a soft, collective murmur. I strained my eyes to see Harry burst out of his seat, and run towards the exit, clutching his face. Hundreds of shadowy faces in the audience turned around to watch him.

I looked back at Lavender, who was staring at me like she's just figured out who I was. She had that wand in her right hand, and she was just tapping it on the palm of her left. Something about the way her fingers curved around it made me want to jump off the stage and run, far away. Anywhere.

Instead, I planted my feet, took a deep breath, and said, "But I can't go to the ball. I don't have a proper dress."

The audience tittered. I had skipped about ten lines, but I didn't much care anymore. Lavender didn't even respond, but whoever it was backstage said their little spell and POOF, I was wearing the ballgown and the glass slippers.

Lavender just kept staring at me, and just as I was really beginning to panic, she suddenly ran off stage right. The audience started whispering, but I just stood there like a lump, not knowing what to think or do. Finally, mercifully, someone closed the curtains.

Right then, Ron came running up to me and hugged me so tight I half thought he was trying to kill me for messing up the play. "I'm sorry," I started to say, my voice sounding all trembly, but he shook his head and shushed me.

I looked up at him, then, and he looked so spooked that I just started crying like mad into his green ball guest costume. "You're okay, Ginny," he kept saying, "You're okay now." He stroked my hair awkwardly, like he was worried about messing it up, until I finally took a deep breath and forced myself to speak.

"Something's wrong with Lavender."

Ron nodded, and turned me around so I could see a cluster of witches and wizards, many of them dressed for Cinderella's ball, standing over near the prop table. "Harry's back there," he said softly. "His scar started hurting when she came onstage, so we think maybe this has something to do with You Know Who."

So Harry was back there. Suddenly, I felt super conscious of the wet (and no doubt very colorful) combination of tears and Muggle make-up streaking down my face.

Oh, wonderful, Ginny. You Know Who could be poking his head through the curtains this very minute, and the first thing you think of is washing your face before Harry sees you. Sometimes, I make myself sick.

Hermione saw us, and came running over, almost tripping on the hem of her long costume. "There you guys are!" she said, looking upset. Ron met her eyes and seemed to be asking her a question, although he didn't actually speak. Hermione stared at him, shaking her head and sighing.

"We don't know what's going on," she said, "It's like Lavender went nuts. She started trying to attack people, and...well Professor Dumbledore's back there, now. They've taken Lavender's wand, and some of the tech crew guys are holding her down."

She gestured to the prop table, where I could just see Lavender's small form struggling to escape the grip of two burly Hufflepuff seventh years.

"All I can think of is the Imperius Curse, "she continued, brow furrowed in concentration. "But...I don't know, that just doesn't seem right. It would help if I could go to the library, but Dumbledore wants us to all stay here, together."

"A good idea," said Ron, sounding strangely hoarse. He was looking at Hermione with wide, scared eyes. Hermione blushed, and seeing the way they were staring at each other, I decided it was time to make my exit.

"Well, uh, I'll be going to the dressing room to wash up a bit," I mumbled with a quick wave. I gathered my skirts and started to walk away, but Hermione's sudden gasp stopped me in my tracks. "Dressing room," she whispered, biting her lip. Her eyes flashed from Ron to me. "Who was the last person to use the dressing room?"

"Lavender, I'm almost positive," said my bewildered brother, and Hermione nodded.

"Right. Ginny, I'm coming with you," she said, grabbing my wrist and actually pulling me along. I turned and shrugged helplessly at Ron, who just stood there, scratching his head and saying "huh?"

Chapter 7- Hermione

 

I couldn't tell you what I expected to find in the dressing room, but I knew I would find something. I mean, I just knew, as surely as if I'd read it in a book.

"Well, it makes sense," I told Ginny, "She was normal when she went in, but when she came out, she was...well..."

"Not herself," Ginny supplied, her freckles looking dark against her ghostly pale skin. "Right," I said, taking a deep breath and twisting the doorknob.

The lights in the little room had been left on, and every surface was covered with hairbrushes and Hogwarts robes, tossed carelessly aside in the clamor to get into costume. Exactly as we'd left it.

I worked my way systematically from corner to corner, checking for anything that looked, well, Dark Lord-ish. Truthfully, I didn't want to find anything. I mean, I know Gryffindors are supposed to be brave and all, but we do have our limits. I could tell that Ginny, who was watching me through the mirror as she scrubbed her face, was terrified, but she was trying hard not to show it.

That reminded me of Ron, but then, when you think about someone a lot, everything starts to remind you of him.

My eyes drifted past Ginny to a closed door nearly hidden by a mound of robes. "Is that a closet?" I asked her, and she shrugged, stretching her arm to twist the doorknob. "It's locked," she said, sounding relieved.

I reached automatically for my wand, but of course, I had left it in my room up in Gryffindor Tower, so I wouldn't lose it after I changed into my costume. "Well, I'll just have to open it the Muggle way," I declared, grabbing a wire hanger from off the costume rack. "I think this will do the trick," I peered at the little hole in the center of the doorknob. "I mean, I've seen it a million times on television."

I struggled with it for a while, feeling pretty stupid in my orange dress, staring with such concentration at a hanger. Finally, Ginny heaved a mighty sigh and removed it gently from my hands. "I can do this. Fred and George taught me how."

And like the craftiest of Muggle thieves, she deftly inserted it into the lock and CLICK, it was open.

I took a deep breath and swung open the closet door. I didn't realize my eyes were closed until Ginny gasped, and I opened them abruptly. There, half-hidden by a pile of clothes, sat Lavender Brown, bound a gagged by magic, eyes wide and terrified.

"Should we...should we take her to Dumbledore?" Ginny's voice trembled, and I squeezed her hand before turning my attention back to Lavender. No question, this was the real Lavender.

"Can you move your lips?" I asked, and she mouthed an exaggerated "yes!" You could tell there were a million things she wanted to say, and it was driving her crazy, not having a voice.

"We're going to take you to Dumbledore now, and he'll be able to reverse the spell that was put on you." By now, I was thinking Polyjuice Potion, but a thought kept gnawing away at me. It was a gruesome thought, but a valid one- why didn't whoever it was just kill her and be done with it?

Anyway, Ginny and I carried her out of the dressing room, in the general direction of Dumbledore, Ron, Harry, and everyone. There was a collective bewildered murmur when people saw us, as their eyes darted from the Lavender held by Ginny and I to her wild-eyed double they currently held captive. Amazingly enough, the only people who didn't look surprised were the two Lavenders themselves, who just glared at each other like old enemies.

Dumbledore quickly muttered a counterspell for the real Lavender, and she sighed with relief that she could sigh, and flexed her fingers happily. Everyone could tell by now that she was truly Lavender, and restraining hands gripped the identical stranger even tighter.

Then, everyone began to speak at once. "Well, who is THAT, then?" "Does Lavender have a twin?" "Polyjuice Potion, I'm sure of it." Finally, Professor Dumbledore shushed everyone and asked Lavender plainly, "Did you see who put the speech and motion restricting spells on you?"

"Well, yeah," she replied, matter-of-factly, "It was me...er...I mean her. Whoever she is." She pointed an accusing finger at the anti-Lavender, who actually looked sort of intimidating, despite the fairy godmother costume.

You could see that Lavender was starting to enjoy herself now, what with everyone hanging on her every word. "I don't know where she came from. I was in the dressing room, about to change into my costume, and she just appeared."

"It was Polyjuice Potion!" someone shouted, and heads started nodding in agreement. But some part of me just wasn't satisfied with that explanation. I mean, with You Know Who, it's never your first guess.

Suddenly, Seamus burst into the center of our cluster, dragging by the wrist...well, Seamus. "I don't know who he is," he panted, regarding his identical captive with disgust, "But he knew I was trying to get to Lavender, and he was trying to keep me from coming backstage..." His voice trailed off as he noticed there were two Lavenders. "Oh my God," he whispered, slowly shaking his head. Seamus Number Two just scowled.

And that was about when I decided I was going to the library, and they could just try to stop me. Determined to attract as little notice as possible, I slipped away from the group and crept towards the door.

Ron noticed, though. I knew he would. "I'm coming with you," he said. I nodded and whispered "Fine", not wanting him to know that I'd been hoping he would from the start.

We walked briskly across the grounds together, down the hall, and straight into the restricted section of the library. No one was there to tell us we couldn't; they were all at the play. I quickly grabbed a few books off the shelf, nudging one to Ron and selecting another for myself. "Here, we'll start with these."

I flipped methodically through the pages, looking for something, anything, to explain the sudden duplication of both Lavender and Seamus. I could feel Ron's eyes watching me over a book as he pretended to read, and I tried to sound annoyed. "Ron, this is serious, you know!" But I couldn't keep my lips from smiling the tiniest bit, and I know he saw it.

Doing my best to ignore him anyway, I flipped past page after page of the scariest spells and potions. Spells that would make your flesh crawl. Literally. Ron had just opened his mouth to say something, off topic no doubt, when I stumbled across a spell called Jumelus Maleficus.

"Ron, I think I found something!" I twisted the book around so we could both see it at the same time.

"Jumelus Maleficus," I read, "Or the Evil Twin Curse, draws upon the age-old struggle between good and evil in our natures."

Ron nodded. "Sounds good so far."

I skimmed the lengthy explanation of the spell's history, until I reached the part that had caught my eye flipping through. "The spell is difficult for three main reasons," I continued, tripping over my words a bit in my excitement, "Firstly, the words must be uttered from lips that have kissed the victim. Um, you didn't happen to see if..."

"Lavender and Seamus? Oh yeah. They were like this before the show started." He gave a passionate demonstration on the back of his hand.

Honestly, and how old is he?

"Anyway," I continued, refusing to laugh, "Secondly, the victim must not know the spell is being performed. And thirdly," I declared, underlining with my finger the sentence that meant everything, "Thirdly, the victim must be alive and conscious while the spell is being performed!"

I gave Ron a triumphant look, but he just shrugged and asked, "So what does it do?"

"If the spell is successful," I read, "The next time the victim looks in the mirror, his or her nature will split into two components, good and evil, the latter of which is embodied in the reflection. This "evil twin" will then adopt the ambitions of its creator, he who cast the spell, for his intentions are, no doubt, evil."

It made sense, I thought, in a weird sort of way. There was an asterisk, which complied with a footnote at the bottom of the page. "This spell is often used in conjunction with Polyjuice Potion, as the victim's kiss must be willingly obtained."

I had stood up, by this point, and was pacing back and forth in my excitement. "So what must have happened is that someone used Polyjuice Potion to become Seamus, and then- what is it?" I glared at Ron who had this amused little smile on his face.

"Nothing. So, uh...you just say these words after you kiss someone, and they get an evil twin?"

I shook my head. "It's like any other spell, Ron. Obviously, you have to practice to master it...and what, exactly, is so funny?"

He grinned, and I felt my anger melt away. "Well, I was just thinking that it would be kind of nice having two Hermiones around, so don't you think that maybe we'd better start practicing?"

Don't laugh, Hermione. Don't even smile. But I was losing this battle, and he knew it.

"Come on, Hermione," he said smugly, taking my hand, "Let's go show this book to someone who can use it."

I gave him the fiercest, most evil look I could muster. "I was about to say that, you know."

"Right," he said.

Chapter 8- Harry

So there we stood, like any ordinary group of people, except Lavender and Seamus had each somehow acquired an identical twin, and a lot of the guys were wearing tights. We stared dumbly at each other for a while, until Hermione, followed closely by Ron, burst into the center of our little circle, clutching a book of advanced and dangerous spells to her chest.

"Mystery solved," she declared, cheeks flushed. She opened the book to a page she had bookmarked, and held it up while she paraphrased the text. "So you," she said, pointing to the snarling costumed Lavender," Are the evil twin. And you," her eyes focused on Seamus's disgruntled double, "Well, I don't know who you are yet, but we'll all find out when the Polyjuice Potion wears off."

Amazing. I don't know how she does it.

"Hermione, Ron, I'm impressed," said Dumbledore, and they both blushed at the praise, "And I imagine this book should be able to give us some guidance on how we might proceed."

Hermione nodded, face already buried between the book's yellow pages. "Well, it says here that the force of good must overcome the force of evil. I'm pretty sure that means you, Lavender." She licked her lips. "Yes, I'm positive. They have a counterspell here for you to say, too....Oh!"

Suddenly, she was grinning like crazy. "Let me see," said Lavender, so Hermione showed her. "Are you kidding?" Lavender giggled, and we all regarded her expectantly, wondering what, exactly, was so funny.

But we were quickly distracted, because just then, Seamus #2's Polyjuice Potion began to wear off. Suddenly, I felt myself staring at the familiar trembling figure of Peter Pettigrew.

Ron was the first to recover from the shock of it. "Wormtail!" he hissed, "I should have guessed." Lavender looked equally horrified, and she kept wiping her lips with the back of her hand.

"Well," I said, struggling to keep my voice calm, "I can guess you were trying to do something to me." Wormtail stared back at me, eyes wide. He said nothing.

"So, I was just wondering, any reason you chose to do whatever it was you were planning during this play? Because you do know, I wasn't in it, don't you?" It was nice being able to talk this way to the man that betrayed my parents, I decided, while he was stuck in the firm grip of two Ravenclaws who looked like they might have a bit of giant blood in them.

I was all set to say something I would probably regret later, when Ginny Weasley of all people, in that blue Cinderella dress, started talking. "You were there that night, weren't you?" She was speaking right to Wormtail. "When we were practicing my lines. I thought I heard a rat. Did you hear one, Harry?"

I blushed, because at the time, I'd been thinking of other things. Ginny turned back to Wormtail and continued. "You saw him practicing with me, and you assumed he was the prince or something. You're a pretty lousy spy, Scabbers, you know that? And you ruined our play." Then, she spat in his face, turned around, and stalked off to the dressing room. And before I knew what I was doing, I followed her, hesitating only a moment at the sign that said "Girls".

 

"Um, Harry, you're a boy," was the first thing she said.

"Yes...I, er, realize that," I replied, my voice sounding higher than I would have liked. "But I wanted to talk to you." She didn't say anything; she just looked at me with those big eyes, so much like Ron's, but somehow different.

"Well, I wanted to tell you I thought, I mean I didn't get to see much of it or anything, but I thought you did a really great job. Really. Great."

"Thank you." She smiled at me. I don't think I'd ever seen her smile like that just at me before. It was...nice.

"I mean it. And Ginny, I'm really sorry that your play got messed up because of Wormtail...and because of me. I feel terrible."

"Don't. It wasn't your fault, Harry. And I'm glad I practiced with you, even if it did get Wormtail all mixed up. It was more fun with you than with Justin. I MEAN...I mean, all those funny voices you did and stuff."

I smiled and lowered my voice. "Like this, my lady?" She laughed, and it made me feel all funny, like it was Cho Chang standing there dressed like Cinderella, instead of Ginny Weasley. Why was it that I'd always thought of Ginny as so much …younger? What was she, three months younger than me, four? I found myself noticing the way her red hair caught the light, and the freckles that seemed to have been sprinkled across her nose and cheeks. I looked at her, and I saw her looking at me, too.

Then the door opened, and the light reflected off another head of red hair. "Hey, am I interrupting anything?" interrupted Ron.

"No!" we said in unison, blushing. Ron smiled. Well, anyway, Lavender's about to overcome evil out there, if you want to watch." He gave us a little wave, then frolicked away.

"Well," I said, in my Prince Charming voice, "Shall we?"

"Certainly," she replied, sounding very much like Cinderella. She attempted a graceful curtsy, but her glass slipper caught on her dress, and she tumbled to the ground, landing magnificently on her behind.

I looked at her sitting there, her face Gryffindor red, and I thought, " Well, what do you know. She's the same Ginny Weasley she always was." I reached down to help her up, but I didn't let go of her hand, just in case.

I mean, it can't be easy, walking in glass slippers.

 

~

The whole crowd we'd left behind (sans Peter Pettigrew, of course, who was on his way to Azkaban) was still clustered by the prop table to watch Lavender in her shining moment.

"You know," she said, living up the glory for all it was worth, "My evil self is kind of cute. Do I really have to do this?"

"Yes," said Hermione, evidently not in the mood for jokes, "Do you remember the counterspell?"

Lavender giggled. "Of course." She closed her eyes, raised her wand, and said with a smile:

"Bibbidy bobbidy boo."

So with that, good triumphed over evil, the ugly stepsister turned beautiful, Cinderella found her real prince, and they all lived happily ever after.

 

The End

//
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