The Sugar Quill
Author: Mintha  Story: Peppermint Princess  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.

Disclaimer: None of these characters are mine

Disclaimer: None of these characters are mine. 

Author’s Notes: Based on the movie version of GoF.

Many thanks to the wonderful Beth, who has kindly beta-ed everything I’ve written so far for the Sugar Quill. :)

 

Peppermint Princess

 

The invitation had taken her completely by surprise. She, Ginny Weasley, lowly Third Year, was going to the Yule Ball. And with Neville Longbottom, of all people.

 

It wasn’t as if she hadn’t been dreaming about the dance right along with everyone else. But her dreams had always come completely furnished with a velvet ball gown of deepest green, the ability to waltz (possibly conferred by magic slippers) ~ and Harry Potter.

 

Now that she had actually been asked, and the harsh light of day was shining on the very real responsibilities that came with such a privilege, she was beginning to feel a bit panicked.

 

I don’t know how to dance! I don’t have anything to wear! I don’t even own shoes without scuffmarks!

 

She did know one thing ~ she couldn’t ask her parents to buy her an expensive ball gown. They hadn’t been expecting her to attend the Yule Ball this year, any more than she had, and they’d already been forced to send Ron to school with dress robes that looked like they’d been made from an eighteenth-century couch cover.

 

“What am I going to do?” she implored Hermione that night as they climbed towards their dormitories.

 

After that, things moved fast. Hermione asked Parvati for a bit of advice, Parvati went straight to Lavender, and before Ginny knew what was happening, she had become the pet project of every older girl in Gryffindor. Katie Bell had produced a frock from her own wardrobe that she claimed to have worn only once to a wedding and promised Ginny she was welcome to have it. Parvati and Angelina had promptly ripped it to shreds and proceeded to cobble it back together to fit her better ~ layering the fabric to make it longer, adding a sash, and removing the too-short sleeves. 

 

There were several afternoons of frenzied activity. Between fittings, and standing around like a dressmaker’s doll, Ginny had been schooled in the mysterious art of make-up by Parvati, and Lavender had shown her how to pile all her hair on top of her head like some fancy red birthday cake held together with sticks and pins.

 

“You look just like a princess!” the older girls gushed. Ginny groaned inwardly. She did not want to look like a princess. She felt ridiculous.

 

~*~

 

 

The night before the ball, Angelina and Alicia invited Ginny up to try everything out for a practice run, and stood her in front of a floor-length mirror, gathering behind her in the reflection. Ginny wasn’t at all sure about the dress ~ it was extremely... pastel. And it was extremely… pink and green. But all of them had worked so hard, and been so generous, she didn’t have the heart to tell them she didn’t like it, and besides, she had no other options.

 

As she cast about for something to say, a firm rapping on the door suddenly interrupted them. Alicia let Professor McGonagall in with some surprise.

 

“I’ve heard that there have been some very busy little mice helping you get ready for the ball, Miss Weasley,” the woman remarked, her eyes sweeping over Ginny appraisingly.

 

Angelina and Alicia were soon busy talking their Head of House out of making Ginny wear a shawl, Minerva seemed convinced the girl would catch her death of chill and muttered a lot of comments about sleeveless dress robes and ‘in her day’.

 

The next thing Professor McGonagall did was declare Ginny much too young for the sophisticated hairstyle Lavender had proposed. Ginny was secretly a little relieved about that, she hadn’t really wanted to spend the whole evening worrying about all those stupid pins.

 

“Give me that hairbrush, please,” Minerva ordered, steering Ginny into the chair in front of the vanity table.

 

Minerva plucked out the pins and Ginny’s hair fell down like a red landslide. It was soon being brushed out by a pair of weathered hands.

 

After a while, Ginny sighed. It was a small sigh, but it did not go unnoticed.

 

“Is something the matter, Miss Weasley?”

 

“Don’t mind her, Professor,” Angelina offered. “She’s probably just thinking about Harry again.”

 

“I am not,” Ginny protested. “I just can’t believe Parvati’s getting to go with him, that’s all. She was his second choice, you know,” she informed Professor McGonagall solemnly. “He wanted to go with Cho Chang.”

 

“Mmmm,” said Minerva, lips thinning a bit as she picked through Ginny’s hair with a comb handle and divided it for braiding.

 

“Well, if Neville hadn’t asked me, Harry would’ve had to go with me. He was getting desperate and then Ron said I should go with him, but it was too late.”

 

“So you could have had the dubious honor of being second choice?” Minerva asked sharply.

 

“But Professor, I was Neville’s second choice,” Ginny explained blithely. “He wanted to go with Hermione, but she was already going with Viktor Krum, and Viktor was her second choice, because she really wanted to go with Ron but he never asked her.”

 

Minerva shook her head a little. “Good heavens. And who did Mr. Weasley want to go with?”

 

“Fleur Delacour.” There was a rather unladylike chorus of snorts and giggling from the other girls, while Minerva’s eyebrows arched towards her silver hairline.  “The Beauxbatons champion herself? Really? Well, I do suppose there’s no harm in aiming high. Who was his second choice?”

 

“Padma.” Angelina, Alicia, and Ginny all said at once.

 

Professor McGonagall murmured something that sounded suspiciously like, “Those poor girls.” but Ginny wasn’t sure why. After all, the twins were beautiful, and poised, and had had silk dresses delivered all the way from India.

 

 “I wonder if they flipped a coin for Harry,” she sighed wistfully.

 

At that moment, Minerva’s eyes met Ginny’s in the mirror and she spoke with a hard edge in her voice. “Now you listen to me, young lady. That’s quite enough foolishness regarding Mr. Potter. Perhaps when you are older… much, much older… things may work out as you wish. But just know, Miss Weasley, that you are going to the ball with a boy who thought you were worth the effort to ask!”

 

Angelina nodded in agreement. “And he asked you very nicely, too. Like a proper gentleman…. unlike your brother Fred, I might add, who used the poetic medium of mime.” She and Alicia dissolved into shared laughter again.

 

Ginny flushed. “Oh, it’s not all romantic and dreamy like that. It’s Neville. He’s like my big brother or something.” She rolled her eyes dramatically. “I already have six of those.”

 

“You can never have too many people who care about you,” Minerva said crisply, making the final adjustment to Ginny’s small crown of braids. “Now, have you any suitable jewelry, Miss Weasley?”

 

Ginny shook her head.

 

Minerva unclipped the small brooch from her own collar, and slid it onto a satin hair ribbon. She stood behind Ginny and held the makeshift necklace up to her throat, considering it with a calculating eye, like a raven speculating on something shiny. “Yes, that will do, I think.” She tied the ribbon gently around Ginny’s neck. “He’s growing into quite a handsome young man, our Mr. Longbottom,” her professor went on casually, as if commenting on the weather. “I scarcely recognized him the first day of term.”

 

I did,” Ginny laughed. “Who else keeps a toad under their hat?”

 

~*~

 

The big night finally arrived, and Ginny found that her slight case of nerves was starting to morph into full-fledged fear. She carefully put her ensemble together as she’d been taught – glad she’d started early because it took her three times as long doing it all by herself – then gathered a bit of Gryffindor courage and made her way downstairs. The closer she got to the Great Hall, however, the more she felt like she didn’t belong at this event at all. Everyone around her looked older and more glamorous. She’d seen Cho waft by earlier looking like a swan.

 

A large mirror had been set up in the corridor to help students with last minute adjustments to their couture. Ginny, who’d never spent much time in front of mirrors, felt compelled to stop in front of this one. Her braids were holding up, the brooch was still centered, and she hadn’t smeared her lipstick. But the dress... the layers of pink and green film reflecting back at her were just so... so... pink and green. She was grateful, she really was, but...

 

“I look like a watermelon,” she whispered, eyes beginning to prickle at the corners.

 

“You do NOT look like a watermelon,” the mirror assured her indignantly. “You look like... like...”

 

“Peppermint ice cream,” Neville said.

 

Ginny jumped and turned around. “Neville!” After she got over being caught in such a moment of narcissism, she thought about what he’d just said. “Is that a good thing?” she asked uncertainly.

 

“Peppermint ice cream? It’s wonderful. Fortescue’s only serves it the week before Christmas, and one day after.”

 

“I didn’t know they even made peppermint ice cream,” she admitted. With a pang of homesickness, she thought about how her family usually spent the holiday cloistered in the Burrow with her mother’s home cooking and boxes of candy.

 

“Well, they do, and it happens to be my favorite flavor,” Neville informed her, as they approached the hall doors together. “Gran and I usually go to Diagon Alley for lunch the day after Christmas. Less crowd.”

 

It was the crowd inside the Great Hall that was taking all of Ginny’s attention at that moment. It was vast and rather terrifying, but the decorations were spectacular and she paused a moment to try to take it all in. She felt much better about her dress, at least. Neville seemed to like it; he’d even made her feel it might be suited to the Yule theme. He himself was looking extremely dashing in his dress robes, she couldn’t help but notice, and she felt better, somehow, now that she was standing next to him.

 

He offered her his arm and she took it gratefully. Remembering a bit of advice from an elderly aunt, who had once told her to “Act how you want to feel”, she lifted her chin and tried to pretend she was confident and beautiful. Tomorrow she could go back to being herself – tomboy and Quidditch genius – but tonight she would be a princess. A Peppermint Princess, she thought with a smile.

 

Soon they were watching the Champions start the dance. Harry looked like a deer caught in a lantern light, and she was suddenly glad she wasn’t out there with him with the whole school and all their foreign guests staring at her. It was alarming enough being on the periphery, and for a moment she felt frozen, but then there was some cue she didn’t catch, and Neville was walking her out on the floor and after that she remembered the steps to the graceful turn they had all practiced and everything was all right.

 

He trod on her new shoes a couple of times, and she made a few missteps of her own. But whenever they got tangled up or confused, they always seemed to get back on course somehow. In fact, they made rather a good team, she thought. Dancing proved to be a lot more fun than she’d expected (especially after taking lessons from Fred and George) and she didn’t have to pretend to be having a good time because she really was.

 

Eventually they decided to get some punch and rest for a while, and Ginny found it was almost as much fun to just sit and watch all the other couples float (or in some cases, stumble) by.

 

At one point Hermione and Viktor waltzed past gracefully. Hermione’s dress was stunning, a very expensive spelled satin that gradually changed from rose to indigo as she moved across the room. Ginny started to feel like a little girl again, sitting there in her candy-colored frock and harvest braids. Maybe she shouldn’t have listened to McGonagall about her hair. Maybe…

 

 “I’m sorry you got stuck with me,” Ginny blurted out to her companion suddenly. “I know you wanted to go with Hermione.”

 

“Well, to be honest, I only asked Hermione because I knew Ron and Harry weren’t planning to, and I didn’t want her to be disappointed.”

 

“Why didn’t one of them ask her?” Ginny asked curiously, still perplexed by the bizarre behavior of her brother and his best friend.

 

“I don’t know. Maybe they just see her as one of the guys, though I expect that might change after tonight.” Neville took a drink of his punch. “Sorry you got stuck with me, I know you would’ve rather gone with Harry.”

 

Ginny’s gaze darted across the hall, to where Parvati and Padma were fuming next to their inattentive dates, looking like a pair of disgruntled and slightly wilted orchids.

 

“At the moment, Neville, I think I’m pretty glad to be here with you.”

 

Ginny sipped the last of her punch. She had just decided she was ready to go back to dancing when a thought suddenly occurred to her.

 

“Neville? You said that peppermint ice cream was your favorite flavor, but they only

served it a few days out of the whole year? That’s a bit, well... trying, isn’t it?”

 

Neville smiled a little as he stood up and offered Ginny his hand.  “Some things are just worth waiting for, I guess,” he said.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

//
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