The First Lesson
On Friday afternoon Harry, Ron, and Hermione stood
in the hallway outside the classroom where the dreaded dance lessons were
about to begin. The tables and chairs had all been removed to make a large
dance floor, and Harry noticed with dismay that the walls were lined with
floor-length mirrors all around the room.
"Great!" he muttered to Ron. "Now everyone will
have a perfect view of our mistakes!"
Ron looked a little green. "Maybe we should just
forget the Ball. That way we wouldn't have to be here at all." He brightened
a little at this new idea. "It wasn't much fun last year, anyway."
Harry had to agree with that, but Hermione had
overheard and stepped in front of them before they could turn away.
"What are you talking about? You can't miss the
Yule Ball just because you're afraid of a few silly dance steps! Now come
on, we're going to be late." She tugged on their robes to make them follow,
ignoring their gloomy expressions. "Honestly!" she murmured to herself,
"You'd think they were about to face their doom against You-Know-Who!"
They entered the classroom to see that all of the
Gryffindor fourth through seventh years were already assembled before
Professor McGonagall. Unfortunately, so were the students from Slytherin.
Harry groaned. He really did not need Malfoy taunting him on top of everything
Ron was looking meaningfully at the Slytherins
and glaring at Hermione. "Oh, yeah, this is a great idea!" he hissed at
her peevishly. "Another class with Malfoy--good one, Hermione!"
"How was I to know we'd be stuck with them?" Hermione
retorted crossly, moving to stand with Ginny, Neville, and the other Gryffindors.
"All right, class." Fortunately, Professor McGonagall
called them to order before the argument got any worse. "Today we're going
to learn the basic steps to the waltz. But first, we have to arrange partners."
The students shifted with unease, eyeing each other
warily. Draco Malfoy snickered as several Gryffindor girls inched away
from Neville, and Hermione shot him an evil scowl. Harry smiled sympathetically
at Neville, noticing that Ginny stayed where she was, though she looked
a little concerned for the welfare of her feet. When she caught him staring
at her she ducked her head, and Harry quickly looked away. His thoughts
turned wistfully to Cho Chang, and he wished that they were sharing the
class with the Ravenclaws instead. But it occurred to him that Cho would
be no more anxious than he to be here after everything that had happened
last year, and Harry suddenly found it difficult to swallow. He blinked
hard and tried to concentrate on what Professor McGonagall was saying.
"In my experience people do not always choose the
partners best suited to them," she smiled wisely, "and so to save time
and embarrassment I will be assigning your partners for the class. Of
course you are still free to choose your own dates for the Ball, should
you decide to attend. We'll start with the Slytherins. Mr. Malfoy, please
join Miss Parkinson..."
Neville sighed with relief as McGonagall began
pairing off students. "Thank goodness!" he whispered to Harry. "I'm such
a horrible dancer no one would have picked me!"
"You're not horrible, Neville," Ginny said kindly,
touching his arm. "I had a nice time at the Ball with you." Neville's
eyes lit up and he smiled gratefully at Ginny.
"Don't worry, Neville," Ron added. "You can't be
worse than me." He chewed his lip nervously. "I can't believe we're doing
this." He glared at Hermione again for good measure.
"I don't know why you're glaring at me, Ron," she
snapped. "You're making this harder than it is."
"Oh, that's fine for you to say!" Ron huffed. "The
girls get the easy part. We're the ones who have to do all the work!"
"What?" Hermione's voice rose slightly and she
turned to face Ron more fully. "Easy? We have to keep our feet out of
the way of clodhoppers like you!"
Ron's ears flushed crimson. "Well too bad your
boyfriend Vicky isn't here, then! You didn't seem to have any trouble
"He's not my boyfriend!" Hermione bristled instantly.
"I only went with him because--"
Harry cringed as Professor McGonagall approached
his bickering friends.
"Miss Granger, Mr. Weasley. Since the two of you
seem determined to disrupt this class I think it fitting you should be
paired together. Perhaps being partners will make you either set aside
your differences or work them out. Now, step over here with the others,
Subdued but still glaring, Ron and Hermione followed
her instructions and took their place on the dance floor. They crossed
their arms sullenly and refused to look at each other. Harry sighed. So
far the class was not going well.
Professor McGonagall had nearly finished pairing
off the rest of the Gryffindors. With a few exceptions, everyone kept
the partners they had taken to last year's Ball. Ginny looked very surprised
when Neville was paired with Parvati, leaving only her and Harry without
"Miss Patil, I think Mr. Longbottom could benefit
from a little guidance from you," McGonagall smiled, "which leaves Mr.
Potter and Miss Weasley. Yes, you two seem very well matched." She clapped
her hands together briskly. "Now, we're ready to begin as soon as my partner
arrives for the demonstration. Why don't you all spread out around the
floor and give each other some room."
Harry took Ginny's hand timidly and led her off
to one side, feeling very awkward. Ron was constantly teasing him about
his little sister's crush on him, and the way Ginny's eyes refused to
leave the floor made her look even more uncomfortable than Harry felt.
He swallowed nervously and tried to think of something to say.
"That was nice of you to make Neville feel better,"
Harry began at last, gesturing towards an equally apprehensive Neville.
Ginny blushed and continued to stare at the floor.
"Well, it was nice of him to ask me to the Ball," she managed to shrug.
"I wouldn't have gotten to go otherwise."
"Right," Harry said, feeling stupid. It occurred
to him that he could have taken her to the Ball if he hadn't waited so
long to ask someone. She wasn't Cho, but she was a sweet girl and he owed
her family a lot. It wouldn't have hurt to do something nice for her.
Harry straightened with new resolve. Maybe he could make it up to her
by working extra hard in dance class. "Ginny?" he tapped her arm. "I'll
try not to step on your feet."
For a moment Ginny looked up at him with serious
eyes. She shook her head earnestly, fiery hair shimmering across her shoulders.
"I bet you can dance just as well as you play Quidditch, once you learn
the steps," she offered with rare boldness before dropping her eyes again,
Ginny's obvious faith in his abilities only made
Harry feel worse. "I hope so," he replied. "For both our sakes."
Just then the classroom door opened and Professor
Dumbledore entered with a wide smile. "Ah, Professor McGonagall, I see
the students are ready to begin. I hope I haven't kept you waiting."
"No, no, you're right on time." Professor McGonagall
returned his smile as he joined her in the middle of the floor. "Now,
class," she began, "the Headmaster and I will demonstrate the correct
dance form. It is very important that you and your partner maintain a
steady dance frame--it makes the steps much easier." She turned to face
Dumbledore and motioned the students to do the same with their partners.
Ron and Hermione reluctantly complied, wearing matching sour expressions.
"Gentlemen, take your partner's right hand in your
left and place your right behind her left shoulder blade. Ladies, your
left hand should rest on your partner's right shoulder, like so." Professor
McGonagall stepped easily into position with Professor Dumbledore. "Remember,
gentlemen, you will be guiding your partners with your right hand, not
your left, so you must always keep a firm grip at her back."
"Not a problem!" whispered Fred Weasley, winking
devilishly at Angelina.
Professor McGonagall flashed him a warning look
and stepped away from Dumbledore. "Now, everybody practice the dance position
while Professor Dumbledore and I come around the room and help you."
Harry took a deep breath and turned back to Ginny.
Fred and George had already grabbed their partners and begun waltzing
in crazy circles in the corner, and even Malfoy stood smugly with his
partner in a stiff embrace. At least Ron and Hermione looked equally uncomfortable.
Harry smiled weakly at Ginny, whose eyes still seemed to be glued to the
Ginny nodded slightly and let him take her hand.
He moved closer to rest his other palm against her back, and after a moment
she let her arm fall gingerly into place below his shoulder. When Professor
McGonagall came by to compliment them on their good form, Ginny at last
seemed to find the courage to smile up at Harry for a brief moment. He
wondered why he had never seen before how bright her eyes were.
A few couples away, Ron and Hermione faced each
other with clenched fists. Harry could hear them continuing their argument
in heated whispers.
"I can't believe I'm stuck with you!" Ron raked
his fingers through his hair in exasperation, making it stick up almost
as much as Harry's.
"It wasn't my choice, either!" Hermione retorted
irritably. "But I'm not going to let you ruin this class for me, so you
better do like the Professor says. Give me your left hand."
"Hey! I'm the leader here, not you!" Ron barked.
"This is one time you can't boss me around! Now hold still!" He stepped
closer to Hermione and took her right hand, pulling her swiftly into a
fairly accurate rendition of the proper dance hold. Harry was surprised,
and apparently so was Hermione. She blinked up at Ron with a strange expression
on her face.
"What?" Harry thought Ron's tone sounded even harsher
than usual, which seemed odd compared to the way he was holding Hermione,
as if afraid to touch her.
Hermione shook her head. "Nothing."
It was going to be a long term.