The Many Faces of Harry Potter 31

“The Many Faces of Har—er, Adira Potter: Chapter 31”
By = Fayanora

Chapter Thirty-one: The Yule Ball

Note 1: Text in 'Italics and British quotes' is Parseltongue.

Note 2: Once more, I apologize for the bits and pieces of canon dialogue/narration here and there.

Note 3: I have different styles for the internal speech of Alastair, Adira, and Zoey, and now #Iliana (bold, italic, underlined, and now between hashtags/pound signs because some people's computers don't do the B.I.U.).# , {Tier}, ~Chandra,~ and %Mother% if I get around to it in this chapter.

Note 4: People assume that Harry Potter is a strict progression of cause to effect, but *actually* from a non-linear, non-subjective viewpoint - it's more like a big ball of wibbly wobbly... Rowling-wohling... stuff.

Note 5: I am afraid I suck at writing French accents.

*FAYANORA*

It was the 23rd, the day of the Yule Ball. Zoey was in the tub taking a full-on bath to try to relax a little before going into the busy day they had ahead for themselves. To try to take her mind off things, she had Tier give her gills so she could practice breathing underwater. He did so, closing up her lungs as he did, and she quickly ducked underwater to take in a mouthful of water. It passed over her new gills and felt just as good as breathing normally after holding one's breath. She stayed under for several minutes, rather enjoying the experience of floating in the warm water. She wondered how they would be able to keep warm in cold water since the task was in February. It must be possible, or else they wouldn't be stupid enough to ask the Champions to do it. Would a warming charm be good enough? But that was for dry clothes, out in the air, right?

She finally got out of the bathtub and got dressed into her outfit for the ball. She looked at herself with her one green eye and one blue eye, her hair (still black and unstyled, though she would be changing that later today), and at her light brown skin. It'd been a while since she'd properly looked at herself in a mirror, and seeing herself like this made her decide she would need to insist on a series of pictures with Sirius and Remus and Hagrid if they could fit him into the picture, where each one of them would turn up, so there were photos of what the others used to look like. Zoey, for her part, hadn't changed a bit since first showing up years ago.

Nodding, she changed back into her school robes, ready for the day. She used her wand to float the outfits she'd made for the Weasley twins and marched into their dorm with them.

“Here you go, boys. I hope you like them.”

“Wow!” George said.

“Cool,” agreed Fred. “Very snazzy. I like the color scheme. Very fitting.”

“Thank you.”

“Thank you too, Zoey!”

“You're welcome. By the way, I expect you to be at the top of the grand staircase for my little fashion show at 7:30 pm, at the top of the stairs, okay?”

“Sure thing, Zoey. It'll be a small price to pay for these.”

“Cool. See ya later! I have to get Remus his outfit, too.”

She went back to her room and was soon hiding Remus's outfit in a black clothing bag because she wanted it to be a surprise to everyone later. She went about floating it down to his office.

When she got there, she knocked on the door.

“Come on in.”

Zoey opened the door and brought in his outfit.

“Here's the outfit I made you. Now mind you, it'll turn back into a pumpkin in 36 hours unless I recharge the transfiguration or pull it into the place where I store stuff when I pull it in.”

“A pumpkin?”

“Muggle reference. Just look at it, will ya?”

Lupin unzipped the black bag and revealed the robes inside. When he saw them, his eyes went wide as saucers.

“Zoey... these are beautiful. You could do this professionally, for a living!”

“If you think those are nice, wait til you see what I have for Adira and Iliana.”

“I look forward to it. Thank you, Zoey.”

She gave Lupin a hug. “You're welcome, Professor. By the way, I insist you come to the top of the grand staircase by 7:30 pm for a fashion show I'm putting on.”

“A fashion show? I don't know about that, Zoey...”

“You'll be there or I'll turn your hair into seaweed in front of everyone at the ball. I've done the spell before, I know how to do it.”

He sighed. “Fine, fine. I'll be there.”

“Goody. See you later! I gotta get Ron's one now, I forgot.”

When Ron saw his own robes, how Zoey had transformed them, he was rendered speechless with delight. Zoey giggled at his expression and that snapped him back to his senses.

“Merlin's pants, Zoey, these are amazing! They look like they cost hundreds of galleons!”

“It's pretty cool what you can do with a little transfiguration. Of course, I had to do it by designing it in my head, putting your ugly old robes on, transforming into one of the others, and coming back out with it like this, rinse and repeat until it looks right, but they'll last over a day that way before they turn back.”

“Thank you, Zoey! You have no idea how much this means to me. I hated these robes before, but now... wow. They're bloody brilliant!”

“Glad you like them. Oh, also you have to be at the top of the grand staircase at 7:30 pm, dressed in these robes, because I have a fashion show planned.”

Ron rolled his eyes. “Okay, sure. I don't mind showing these off. That's only a half an hour before the Ball anyway.”

“Cool. Seeya!”

She ran off, determined to tell everyone she met about the fashion show.

~

When 7:30 rolled around, a crowd had formed around the grand staircase, comprised of most of the school. They were all already dressed for the ball, since that was just a half an hour away. Everyone was interested to see this 'fashion show.' Even Malfoy and his friends were waiting, so they could mock people at their leisure.

“Welcome everyone,” said Zoey Potter's voice, as she appeared at the top of the stairs dressed for the Yule Ball. “This is the start of my fashion show! We start with me, because why not? Also this outfit is poo compared to what's coming up next.”

She walked down the stairs, and everyone got to see her outfit better. It certainly matched her usual style, only taken to an extreme. It was, as they could see, a dress covered with metallic pink sequins. Her opera gloves were also pink and sequined, as were her shoes. In one hand, she carried a clutch purse that looked like a pink teddy bear. Her hair, normally black, was bubblegum pink and shaped in a style that all the Muggleborns recognized at once as Princess Leia buns. Then, as if for contrast, she had around her neck a necklace of snowflake obsidian beads.

“Like I said, pure rubbish compared to what's coming up. Next on our lineup is Fred and George Weasley. Boys!”

The two Weasley twins came into view and started down the stairs, making a big show of strutting their stuff. The fabric of their robes was shiny in a metallic sort of way. Both boys' robes went to their ankles, and over the main robes were fancy tailcoats. Fred's main robes were 'red carpet' red, and his tailcoat was blood red with gold buttons. He wore a gold cape that barely showed in the front, but went down to his mid-back. He had around his neck a gold silk ruffled cravat.

George's were identical in style, but his main robes were a dandelion colored silk, his tailcoat was gold with red buttons, and his cape and ruffled cravat were blood red.

“Would you believe, ladies and gentlemen, that these robes are transfigured? Yes, that is fake gold and fake silk, but it's real enough to fool someone until they cast a Finite Incantatem at it. Which, I assure you, would take Professor McGonagall's level of power to do, so don't bother trying it.”

When the twins were done strutting their stuff, they went over to their dates, Angelina and Alicia, to watch the rest of the show together.

“Next on the list is Ronald Weasley!”

Ron nervously came into view and walked down the stairs. Thankfully, his hair was nicely styled; she had insisted on it when she saw him at lunch earlier.

Zoey had transfigured Ron's ugly maroon robes into cobalt blue silk robes with grey trim. He, too, had a silk tailcoat over his robes, which were a very different style and were navy in color with shiny silver buttons shaped like little pentagrams. Pinned to his lapel was a brilliant fire opal that looked like a sunset through clouds, in a silver setting, and he wore matching cuff-links. The style was still a little old-fashioned, but in a cool steampunk way. It certainly looked a lot better than Malfoy's outfit; he looked like he was a vicar.

“Bloody hell!” someone from the crowd shouted. “Are those fire opals?”

“Yes, they are.”

“You made that with transfiguration?”

“Yes. I made them from ordinary rocks I found outside.”

“That's amazing transfiguration! But how long can it last?”

“Since I had to use our transformation power rather than my transfiguration, it'll last 36 hours without a recharge. With timely recharges, it could last indefinitely.”

There were a lot of murmurs of interest at this. Even Professor McGonagall came over to admire the transfiguration work. Ron was beaming at the attention, even though most of it was directed at his clothes rather than at him. He'd never worn something so nice before, and it felt very good.

After almost five minutes of admiring Ron's dress robes, Zoey got everyone's attention again.

“Thank you all. Now we have one more men's fashion to reveal before moving onto the girls. Professor Lupin, if you would?”

Lupin came into view, also looking nervous. There were audible gasps from many of the girls and some of the guys at his appearance. He was clean-shaven and his hair done nice, with some kind of hair potion used on it. But it was his robes that were getting most of the gasps. As he came down the stairs, people got a better look.

Professor Lupin's under-robe was visible only as a strip down the front of pure white silk with a pattern of crescent moons embroidered in thread that was barely visible next to the white silk. He, too, had a fancy coat on over his robes, but his went all the way down to the floor, and the coat's color was a very pale, whitish mother-of-pearl. The buttons on the coat were little silvery crescent moons, and his cuff-links were made of moonstone.

When he got down to the bottom of the stairs, he gave Zoey a look that promised they would talk later. She pretended to look innocent.

They let everyone fawn over Lupin's robes for a little bit. This gave Zoey time to get back upstairs and change into Adira. It was harder to get everyone's attention without Zoey there to do it, but she managed, and soon began to walk down the stairs.

Adira wore a bottle-green backless silk dress with no trim. She wore a choker of black lace with an emerald gemstone. Her shoes looked like gold wire, but were mostly a clear plastic that had been magically reinforced. She bore a clutch purse that matched her dress. And her hair was tied up in a knot at the back of her head, simple but elegant. She had to endure a lot of wolf whistling and other catcalls, but she did so with quiet dignity.

It was a little tiresome climbing back up the stairs, but Zoey was being insistent in their mind. For there wasn't much time left, and they wanted to get Iliana showed off and end with Al, so he could meet Javier before the doors opened.

With Professor McGonagall's help, they got everyone's attention for Iliana. Iliana wore an emerald green backless dress with whitish rainbow-opal trim that glittered like real rainbow opals. The dress was a full gown, just barely showing her shoes. She had on 'opera gloves' made of transfigured silver chain mail in flower-shaped patterns that had transfigured emeralds at their center; if it had been real, the piece would have cost a medium-sized fortune. Iliana's hair was a crown shape at the back of her head, which was made of braids with transfigured fully-colored rainbow opals in it. Her shoes were made of transfigured silver, with a daisy pattern in front – the center of the flower was onyx, the petals were rose quartz. She, too, had a clutch purse matching her dress.

And last down the stairs was Al. He, too, had the same jacket-over-robes thing going on as the others. His under-robe was blue silk, while his jacket – long like Lupin's – was royal purple silk with buttons that were stylized gold suns. His cuff-links were larger stylized suns with large yellow zircon stones taking up the bulk of the sun design's mass. The stones were even faceted to look like stylized suns with rays coming off them.

“My feet already hurt, and the ball hasn't even started yet,” Al complained as he reached the bottom.

“Well with all the times you went up and down those stairs, I'm not surprised,” Javier said.

Al took a good look at his date for the ball. They, too, were silk – real silk – in Slytherin green with Slytherin's silver trim. He had ruby cuff-links on, though.

“You look nice, Javier,” Al said.

“Likewise, Alastair.”

“You lot finished just in time,” Professor McGonagall said. “We've only got five minutes before the ball starts.”

Two more came down the stairs then, and the murmurs drew Al's eyes over to them. The first was a girl he didn't recognize at first. Grinning, she went over to Viktor Krum. His jaw dropped.

It was Hermione.

But she didn’t look like Hermione at all. She had done something with her hair; it was no longer bushy but sleek and shiny, and twisted up into an elegant knot at the back of her head. She was wearing robes made of a floaty, periwinkle-blue material, and she was holding herself differently, somehow — or maybe it was merely the absence of the twenty or so books she usually had slung over her back. She was also smiling — rather nervously, it was true — and she had gotten her oversized teeth shrunk; Al couldn’t understand how he hadn’t spotted it before.

“Holy crap!” he said.

But he didn't have long to ruminate on Hermione's appearance, for Luna came down the stairs then. She was wearing a remarkably normal looking sunshine-yellow dress with grass-green trim, with a matching purse on a long cord. Her normally straggly hair was styled into a beautiful French braid. She had on silver and ruby earrings and a matching necklace. Luna noticed him and waved with a smile on her face. He waved back, and felt something faint from one of the others, but what it was and who it was coming from, he didn't know.

Then Professor McGonagall’s voice called, “Champions over here, please!”

Al took Javier's arm in his and the two boys went over to her. The chattering crowd parting to let them through. Professor McGonagall, who was wearing dress robes of red tartan and had arranged a rather ugly wreath of thistles around the brim of her hat, told them to wait on one side of the doors while everyone else went inside; they were to enter the Great Hall in procession when the rest of the students had sat down. Fleur Delacour and Roger Davies stationed themselves nearest the doors; Davies looked so stunned by his good fortune in having Fleur for a partner that he could hardly take his eyes off her. Cedric and Cho were close to Al too.

Hermione and Viktor Krum came over, then.

“Hi Al!” she said. “Hi Javier!”

Javier beamed at her. “Hi, Hermione. You look nice.”

“Thank you,” she said, grinning.

Al noticed that several of Krum's 'fan club' of girls were staring at Hermione in unflattering disbelief and deepest loathing. Pansy Parkinson gaped at her as she walked by with Malfoy, and even he didn’t seem to be able to find an insult to throw at her. Even Ron gaped open-mouthed at her, once Lavender brought her to his attention.

“Hermione?” Ron said at last.

“Yes, Ron, it's me. You look very nice tonight.”

“You too. You look amazing!”

“Thank you, Ron.”

Once everyone else was settled in the Hall, Professor McGonagall told the champions and their partners to get in line in pairs and to follow her. They did so, and everyone in the Great Hall applauded as they entered and started walking up toward a large round table at the top of the Hall, where the judges were sitting.

The walls of the Hall had all been covered in sparkling silver frost, with hundreds of garlands of mistletoe and ivy crossing the starry black ceiling. The House tables had vanished; instead, there were about a hundred smaller, lantern-lit ones, each seating about a dozen people.

“Looks like we're going over here,” Al said.

Dumbledore smiled happily as the champions approached the top table, but Karkaroff wore a very sour expression as he watched Krum and Hermione draw nearer. Not that he had a much better look for him and Javier. Ludo Bagman, tonight in robes of bright purple with large yellow stars, was clapping as enthusiastically as any of the students; and Madame Maxime, who had changed her usual uniform of black satin for a flowing gown of lavender silk, was applauding them politely. And of course, in the last seat was Mr. Alder. He was very glad that Iliana or Adira weren't the ones who had to sit next to him; that man made Al feel very protective of the girls in their collective. And all the other girls, too, come to that. He made a point of positioning himself and Javier between Alder and Hermione.

Mr. Alder turned and looked at him curiously.

“Who are you?”

Al pointed at the curse scar that never left them.

“Alastair Potter,” he said.

“Ah, I see,” Alder said, but Al could feel his disbelief. Alder plainly thought what so many others did, that they were faking for attention or something.

“Well, Mr. Potter, you did very well on the First Task. I hope you'll impress us during the second.”

“Yes, so do I. In fact, since I have you here, Mr. Alder, I might as well ask some pertinent questions. Like, how do you expect us to not freeze to death in the Black Lake in February?”

“Ah, figured your egg out already, I see. Well I can't tell you that, Mr. Potter, you have to figure that out on your own.”

“Well can you at least tell me how something that's underwater is going to be a spectator sport?”

“Ah yes, as to that, we have a spell that we'll cast on the Champions before you all go in. Once you're underwater, the spell will broadcast an enlarged image of you and your surroundings onto the surface of the lake for the spectators.”

“Oh. Well that's good. I don't suppose we'll be able to see it in the lake?”

Alder chuckled. “No, of course not. The lake will look as it always looks from underwater.”

“Good,” Al said, turning away from Mr. Alder to focus on dinner.

There was no food as yet on the glittering golden plates, but small menus were lying in front of each of them. Al picked his up uncertainly and looked around — there were no waiters. Dumbledore, however, looked carefully down at his own menu, then said very clearly to his plate, “Pork chops!”

And pork chops appeared. Getting the idea, the rest of the table placed their orders with their plates too. Al considered his options and soon had a steak dinner with rice pilaf on his plate.

The conversation with the meal was a mixture. Al listened to Krum talking about Durmstrang while one of the others – he didn't know who – was listening to Dumbledore and Karkaroff. From that conversation, they picked up that there might be a hidden room on the seventh-floor corridor across from that tapestry of the dancing trolls. He made a mental note to ask Dobby about it sometime.

Much more dull was Fleur talking to Roger Davies about how Beauxbatons was better than Hogwarts in the aesthetics department. This annoyed him greatly.

“Beauxbatons may be a very nice place, I don't know,” he said to her. “But I'd rather have the safety of the castle.” He paused, blinking, then said, “Wait, what am I saying? My life has been in danger every year I've been here so far.”

“Vat do you mean, Alastair?”

“Oh let's see... first year, Dumbledore kept a giant cerberus in the school to guard the philosopher's stone, and that was the year I almost got eaten by a troll at Halloween and nearly died after the undead lich of a dark wizard tried to murder me. Second year a cursed diary controlled a bloody great basilisk in the school, compelling it to attack Muggle-borns, before I finally killed the monster, but not before I nearly got eaten again by giant talking spiders in the Forbidden Forest. Third year I found out my best friend's pet rat was actually a disguised Death Eater, and there were soul-sucking monsters around a bloody school, supposedly to protect me from a violent murderer who turned out to be my innocent godfather. And now this year, there's this whole Triwizard BS. I nearly got killed by a dragon, and who knows what I'm gonna have to do as an encore. The wizarding world is insane. If I survive long enough to see Moldyshorts pop his clogs for good, I'm going to work on making it a little less insane.”

Karkaroff and Maxime turned to look at Dumbledore, as if his story was too ridiculous to believe unless it was confirmed.

“Sadly, I do believe Mr. Potter has made an accurate summation of the events of the past three and a half years.”

“Giant talking spiders?” Karkaroff said, incredulous. “There are acromantulas in your Forbidden Forest?”

“Yes. That is one of the reasons the forest is forbidden, in fact.”

“Dumblydorr, you kept a cerberus in a school?” Maxime asked, bewildered. “Are you mad?”

Karkaroff laughed harshly at Dumbledore's expense.

“To be fair to him, he was trying to keep an undead Moldywart from getting a new body. But he could have put a proper locking charm on the door at least. Hermione opened the door several times with a simple bloody alohamora.”

Karkaroff's laughter intensified, and he started pointing at Dumbledore and slapping the table. But then something seemed to finally connect in the man's brain, and he froze.

“When you say... that name... you do not mean the Dark Lord, surely?”

“Yeah. Met him twice; once as an adult, and another time I met Tom Riddle, his 16 year old self. Can't say I liked him much, either way. But I have to admit, as a teenager he was, at least, kinda handsome. Sometime between age 16 and now he apparently fell out of the sky onto the Ugly Tree, hit every branch on the way down, and then the tree fell on him. Then the Ugly Meteor struck the site and leveled the forest.”

Dumbledore chuckled at this, as did Krum. Fleur looked shocked. Everyone else had gone pale. Alastair pretended not to notice as he ate some more rice pilaf.

“You dare speak of... of him that way?” Karkaroff whispered hoarsely.

Al shrugged. “Tommy boy wants me dead either way. I figure if I taunt him, he'll kill me faster so I don't have to suffer.”

The awkward silence grew palpable. He looked up with a forkful of rice halfway to his mouth.

“A little too blasé, was it?” he asked.

“Yes, Alastair, I believe it was,” Dumbledore said.

“Hey, humor is how I cope with the crippling terror.”

When all the food had been consumed, Dumbledore stood up and asked the students to do the same. Then, with a wave of his wand, all the tables zoomed back along the walls leaving the floor clear, and then he conjured a raised platform into existence along the right wall. A set of drums, several guitars, a lute, a cello, and some bagpipes were set upon it.

The Weird Sisters now trooped up onto the stage to wildly enthusiastic applause; they were all extremely hairy and dressed in black robes that had been artfully ripped and torn. They picked up their instruments, and Al, who had been so interested in watching them that he had almost forgotten what was coming, suddenly realized that the lanterns on all the other tables had gone out, and that the other champions and their partners were standing up.

The Weird Sisters struck up a slow, mournful tune; Al walked onto the brightly lit dance floor arm-in-arm with Javier.

“May I have this dance?” he asked Javier, whose cheeks were already reddening.

“Y-yes, thank you,” Javier said.

“Lead or follow?”

“You can lead.”

“Okay,” Al said.

Al placed a hand at Javier's waist and took one of Javier's hands in his other. A minute into the song, everyone else joined in too, so the Champions were no longer the center of attention. Al kept his attention on Javier, but he could feel Iliana's attention wandering wherever Al's control of their eyes would let her look. And so it was that she noticed Sirius had come to the ball, probably getting in because he was their guardian. He had on red dress robes with gold trim. His cuff-links were lion's-head shaped and made of gold with orange zircons in the mane, and ruby eyes. Unlike the outfits Zoey had made, this one was most likely real, gemstones and all.

A few minutes in, she noticed Luna dancing around by herself, swaying and moving to the music like she hadn't a care in the world. Which, knowing Luna, was probably true. And while it was hard to pick one mind out of the mass of people in close quarters like this, Iliana thought she'd pinpointed Luna well enough to sense that Luna was indeed having fun.

Finally caving to Iliana's insistence, he started peering over the heads of the watching people. Neville and Ginny were dancing nearby — he could see Ginny wincing frequently as Neville trod on her feet — and Dumbledore was waltzing with Madame Maxime. He was so dwarfed by her that the top of his pointed hat barely tickled her chin; however, she moved very gracefully for a woman so large. Dean and Seamus were dancing together as well, but he couldn't tell if it was on a lark or on a date. And Mad-Eye Moody was doing an extremely ungainly two-step with Professor Sinistra, who was nervously avoiding his wooden leg.

After a while, the song ended and the Weird Sisters struck up a faster song. He moved to the beat as best he could, not really knowing any other dances, as did Javier.

A few moments later, Ron and Lavender drew near. They both looked like they were having fun, for which he was glad. Also nearby were Fred and Angelina, dancing so exuberantly that people were backing away in fear of getting hurt.

Al and Javier later danced another slow dance before taking a break to drink some butterbeer. They sat there in happy silence for awhile. When they finished their butterbeers, Javier said, “Iliana's turn?”

With a sigh, Al nodded. “See you in a few more turns,” he said, then switched to Iliana in her emerald-green dress and her fancy silver mail evening gloves, her red hair in a crown shape again.

“I don't suppose you want to dance with me,” she asked Javier, sounding like she hoped he'd say no.

“Maybe later, just for fun. But not now.”

“Right. Ciao.”

She walked back onto the dance floor, at the tail end of a song. She was looking around for someone to cut in on, but someone beat her to it.

“I know you're not with anyone, but can I cut in, Miss Potter?” asked the gruff voice of Moody.

“Um... well...”

“Yeah I know I'm not much to look at these days, Missy, and I'm old enough to be your grandfather, but I'm not looking for a date or anything else creepy like that, so don't worry about that. I just wanted an excuse to talk with you.”

“Well, okay I suppose.”

He took her arm and waist as was the custom, and they started to dance in just as ungainly a two-step as he'd done with Sinistra earlier. The moment he took her hand in his, she felt a strange sensation in her head that she couldn't identify, but it soon passed. But that was followed by the perception of a knot forming in her abdomen, but she didn't know what that was about, either.

“So I hear you figured out your egg.”

“Er... yes. Why?”

“Because I'm trying to get you through this tournament with your skin intact, Missy, that's why. I thought your Alastair didn't mind cheating to save your neck?”

“Yeah, I guess that's true,” she agreed.

“Good. So you know what the Second Task is, I take it?”

“Going into the Black Lake to retrieve something. In the middle of February. There will be obstacles and creatures, I take it, as well. And I'll have two hours.”

“Aye, that's the gist of it. As to what you'll be retrieving, it's hostages.”

Her eyes widened. “Hostages? Like, people?”

“Don't get your knickers in a twist, Missy. They'll be in an enchanted sleep, cast by Dumbledore himself. They won't need to breathe to stay alive.”

“But the song said--”

“That was just poetic license, for the sake of drama.”

“Oh, okay. But is that even legal? The hostages thing, I mean.”

“Of course it is. They have to agree to it, you see. And so do their guardians, come to that. Honestly, girl, the school makes your guardians sign a permission slip just to pop outside the gates to go shopping or snogging every so often, do you really think they wouldn't have permission slips for something this serious? After all, enchanted sleep or not, it's still mildly risky.”

“Okay, that makes me feel better.”

“Good. Now, do you know what you're going to do?”

“Oh that's simple. Tier can give us gills. We've already tested it. This morning, in fact. And he could easily give us flippers or something, too.”

“Good. I thought it might be something like that, but I had some other ideas just in case. But yeah, there's gonna be obstacles and creatures indeed. If you need any books about underwater defensive spells, I can get you a list of them so you know what to ask the librarian for. And as to it being in the middle of February, well... I don't know how good your Tier is at shape-shifting, but if he can, I know animals like seals and dolphins have a layer of blubber that keeps them warm in cold weather. It's probably easier than trying to master Warming Charms that are up to the task of underwater use.”

“Er... okay. I'll keep that in mind.”

“Good.”

They still had some time left in the song, so she asked, “How's the investigation going? You know, to find out who put our names in the goblet?”

“Not well. The problem is, someone could have been Imperioused or a dark wizard could have used Polyjuice Potion to pretend to be someone else, so it's hard to get any leads.”

“I'd say to look into Alder, but honestly, he was giving me bad vibes even over the summer.”

“Alder, you say? Well, could be. But I doubt it. He's a good man, so far as I know. But I'm glad to see you're remaining ever vigilant. You should always trust your gut. It might steer you wrong sometimes, but it's best to trust it anyway. And if you see any suspicious activity, let me or Dumbledore know at once, okay?”

Speaking of which, Al thought, there was that sighting of Crouch on the Map.

#Right,# she thought back at him.

Iliana started to open her mouth to tell Moody this, but something held her back.

“I'll do that, Professor,” she finally said.

Thankfully, the song ended then, and she left Moody to go look for someone else to spend time with. She soon ran into Luna – literally ran into her.

“Ouch! Oh sorry, Luna.”

“I'm fine, Iliana. Are you okay?”

“I'm good. I didn't actually get hurt, even though I said 'ow.' Force of habit.”

“Good to hear you're alright. I-- Oooh, I like this song,” Luna said, and started doing a dance that was distinctly odd, revolving on the spot, her arms in the air and eyes closed, swaying to the music.

Iliana chuckled at her friend's antics and decided to do something similar. Doing a dance that had her turning as she moved forward and backward, she moved her arms in front of her and at her sides as though trying to move air with magic, her hands doing gestures she later learned from Chandra were similar to something called mudras.

She noticed, then, that Luna was barefoot again, but saw that her shoes were hanging from the cord of her purse. Getting into the spirit of things, she took her own shoes off and told Chandra to do something about them while she danced alongside Luna. (He ended up making them float along behind her.)

As she really began to get into this new dance style, she found herself dancing a lot on tiptoes, sort of, and occasionally crossing one leg past another, then switching them. There wasn't a point to it, since her legs were hidden by her dress, but it would have looked interesting if her legs were visible.

The song ended, and the two girls stopped. By some unspoken signal, they both set out to get refreshments. When she got to one of the refreshment tables, Viktor and Hermione were there as well.

“That vas a very interesting dance just now, Miss Potter and Miss...”

“Lovegood. Viktor Krum, meet Luna Lovegood. Luna, meet Viktor Krum.”

“Hello, Mr. Krum,” she said, shaking the boy's hand. “Daddy and I were at the Quidditch World Cup this summer. You are an incredible flyer.”

“I know. But I do like hearing it all the same, Miss Lovegood. It is pleasant to meet you.”

“Yes, I think you'd like Luna. She treats famous people like regular everyday people, for the most part.”

“Ah yes, that is alvays a good thing in a friend, no?”

“Quite,” she agreed.

“I'm glad you convinced me to come tonight, Iliana,” Luna said. “I'm having a lot of fun. What about you?”

“Oh yes. Aside from Moody pulling me into a dance, it's been fun. And the dance with Moody was... enlightening,” she said, giving Hermione a significant glance. Hermione blinked, then nodded.

“Oh, a slow dance,” Luna said as the music changed.

On a whim, Iliana held out her hand. “May I have this dance, Miss Lovegood?”

Luna giggled, and took the proffered hand. “Yes, that would be lovely, Miss Potter.”

And so, pausing only to put their shoes back on, they spun slowly onto the dance floor together, Iliana leading. She pulled Luna closer, their foreheads touching, both girls giggling as they swayed back and forth, moving gracefully to the slow music.

When the song's pace picked up a bit, they chanced some twirls and the occasional spin, all in giggly excitement.

And then she caught Luna in a perfect dip. She stared down at Luna's face, feeling her cheeks grow very hot, as well as a strange but familiar sensation in her abdomen. Several people catcalled or wolf-whistled, and she felt her entire head and neck grow hot, so she put Luna back up on her feet at once.

“Oh, uh... well that was fun,” Iliana said nervously, “but uh, it's Adira's turn now. See you later!”

“Later, Iliana!” Luna said, smiling and waving.

A moment later, Iliana was gone and Adira had taken her place. Adira smiled, said Hi to Luna, and wandered off onto the dance floor.

~

The ball lasted until past midnight. Al, Adira, and Iliana all got at least two turns there, and even Zoey made an appearance, spending half an hour standing on Sirius's shoes and dancing with him. Everyone there had fun, many couples sneaking off outside to have fun elsewhere, at least until Snape caught most of them and scared the others away.

At the end of the night, Adira went back to her room, barefoot because her feet hurt so much, and the cold stone of the castle soothed them. She was lying on bed to rest a few minutes before changing into her Pjs when there was a faint knock at her door.

“Who 's it?” she slurred, exhausted.

“It's me, Ron. Is it safe to come in?”

“Yeah, you can come in. Whadda ya want?”

He opened the door and came in. “I heard something you should probably know. Lavender and I, er... we went outside around the rosebushes--”

“I don't want to know.”

“Oy! This isn't about that. It's something else.”

“Fine, what is it?”

“Well, a couple things, really. We overheard Snape having a conversation with Karkaroff. Karkaroff was scared about something, said 'It's been getting clearer all the time' in reference to something on his left arm. And then Snape said, 'Then flee. I shall make your excuses for you.' But it didn't sound like Karkaroff was ready to flee yet.”

“Something on his arm? I wonder what that could be about.”

“No idea. But there's another thing. We got stuck between a really amorous couple and Snape, and were forced to overhear Hagrid's date with Madam Maxime.”

“Awkward. Don't know why I should--”

“Because Hagrid said he's half giant! And he assumed Maxime was too, which she must be, she's as big as he is!”

“Okay. And...?”

Ron spluttered. “AND? Whadda ya mean, AND? He's half giant!”

“Well duh. I knew the first time I saw him he was at least half giant. I didn't know for sure until now that giants were real, but given that the tallest full-blooded human ever was only nine feet tall, and Hagrid's almost 12 feet tall, it was kind of obvious. I knew he couldn't be full-blooded giant, because he's a wizard, but I knew he had to either have giant blood or he got on the wrong end of an engorgement charm or something as a kid.”

Ron sighed. “I keep forgetting how little you know about the wizarding world. Adira, giants are... well, they're like trolls, but worse. Smarter, but violent to the point where they're nearly extinct and yet they still keep attacking and killing each other.”

“They can't all be bad. Hagrid's dad had a kid with one. Which, now I'm thinking about it, is something I don't want to think about anymore. I do not want to know how they managed that.”

“Yeah well, Hagrid said she abandoned him as a kid, cuz he was too small for her liking.”

“God,” Adira said, as though Ron hadn't spoken, “I hope Maxime's mom is a giant, too. I don't want to think about it being the other way around, for so many reasons.”

“Can you concentrate?”

“Why? Hagrid's alright. It wasn't fun that time he tried to put all his considerable tonnage of weight on me last year when he was distraught, but he's alright.”

“Well yeah, we know that, but if word ever gets out...”

“How could it? Maxime isn't going to tell. Unless... do you think Lavender will tell?”

“Maybe, I dunno. She was pretty freaked out. I had to remind her that aside from a few eccentricities, Hagrid's a nice bloke. She seemed calmer, then. I asked her not to tell anyone. She said she didn't want to scare anyone, when he's so nice, as I pointed out.”

“Hmm... well what about Maxime?”

“Nah, she's definitely not gonna tell anyone. She about had a fit when he assumed she's half giant. Obviously she is, but clearly she's trying to cover it up, which I get. Anyway, I don't know who else was out there, and he was loud enough I don't know who heard. I just have a bad feeling about this.”

“Okay,” Adira said, sounding very tired.

She rolled over a couple times until she fell out of bed in a controlled sort of way, then rolled onto her back.

“Help me up, please?”

Ron grabbed her hands and pulled her up.

“Thanks. I'm gonna get ready for bed, now. See you later, Ron.”

“Right. Bye, Addy.”

“Ugh,” she said at the hated nickname, turning away when he closed the door.

~

Because of the Yule Ball the night before, the Hogwarts Express wouldn't leave for the holidays until after lunch, giving people plenty of time to sleep in and still get ready for the trip home. Adira, Ron, and Hermione traded gifts on the train. Adira even gave Luna a couple gifts, one from the collective and one specifically from Iliana. She had also given Dobby the house elf a gift of elf-sized wizard robes, which he had been delighted to receive.

She was in for a surprise when she met Sirius on the platform. She knew he'd be there, because he Apparated home after the ball the night before, but it was how he was dressed that surprised her. In fact, she almost didn't recognize him until he spoke, for he was dressed like a thin, hard rocking Father Christmas in red leather pants with white fur trim, a red and white leather jacket, and a red helmet. He even had the beard, more like a ZZ Top beard than a Santa beard.

“Merry Christmas, Adira!” Sirius shouted, hugging her.

“M-merry Christmas, Sirius. Er... nice outfit.”

“Thanks. I had some trouble with the beard. Took a bit too much beard-growth potion, had to trim it down once it finally stopped.”

“How long did it get?”

“Let's just say it put Dumbledore's beard to shame. I was the Rapunzel of beards for about an hour.”

She giggled at that mental image.

“Anyway, pup, you got your bike leathers on?”

“Yeah, under my robes. Which I forgot to take off.”

Shrugging, she pulled her robes off right there, and sure enough, she had her bike leathers on underneath. She folded her robes and put them in her knapsack with her other holiday stuff. As she did, though, she heard a muffled voice complaining.

'Human, free me from this place!'

'Oh, sorry Aqua,' she said in Parseltongue to their pet snake. She was usually curled around her warm rock in their room, but she had to come with them so she could be looked after.

Adira freed Aqua's head from the robes.

'So cold!'

'Worry not, I will warm you.'

She cast a warming charm into a pocket on her vest, and moved the grass snake into the warm pocket.

'Thank you, human.'

'You are welcome.'

“That your pet snake?” Sirius asked, ignoring the Parseltongue.

“Yes, that's Aqua.”

“You ready?”

“Yeah, I am now,” she said, slinging the knapsack over her back.

“Good.”

They left Platform 9 and three quarters, drawing a lot of attention to them with Sirius' outfit. As they left, she wondered how Muggles never noticed groups of kids with trunks and sometimes owls in cages disappearing through the barrier between two platforms, and decided there must be some kind of magic on it that forced Muggles to not notice this oddity, just like they didn't notice The Leaky Cauldron.

Soon enough, they were at Sirius's motorbike.

“Where should we go for dinner?” Sirius asked. “That train ride is long, I know, and sweets don't do much to help hunger.”

“Let's get some curry,” Adira said.

“Our usual place?”

“Yes.”

“Excellent.”

They put on their helmets, Sirius got on the bike, and Adira got on behind him and held him round his middle. He revved the engine, and then they were off.

After a meal of curry, they stopped by the house to drop off her knapsack and her pet snake, and then they went for a motorbike ride around the city just for the heck of it for an hour, before heading back because it was dark.

When they got back, they changed into everyday wear then talked for hours, catching up on all the things you couldn't get in a letter. Eventually, the topic came around to the ball.

“So I saw Iliana and Miss Luna Lovegood dancing together several times. Including a slow dance.”

“Yeah, it was a lark though. A sudden whim she had. Luna's a good friend for Iliana, she really comes alive around Luna. Did she tell you about the time Luna went into a giggle fit so long she had to go to the hospital wing to get a calming draght?”

“Really? She laughed that long?”

“Yes. And it was... let's see if I remember this right... the third time that month it had happened up to that point.”

“Wow. I've seen Luna, she doesn't seem the type for that.”

“Yes, she is rather calm, usually. But occasionally her emotions boil over.”

There was a knock at the door.

“Hold on, pup.”

He got up to check the door, his wand out, and she followed behind him, her own wand out.

“Who's there?”

“It's me, Sirius,” said Remus.

“Moony? Come on in,” he said, opening the door. Sure enough, it was indeed Remus.

“I tried coming around earlier, but you were out, so I went for a walk to wait for you. I may have gone a bit far afield. How long ago did you get back?”

Sirius closed the door. “About an hour and a half ago, Moony.”

“Ah. So I wasn't out quite as long as I feared.”

“Sit down, Moony old boy,” Sirius said, pulling a chair out for him at the table.

“Thank you, Padfoot old pal.”

“We were just talking about the ball.”

“Yeah. I can't wait til Colin gets his photos developed. He got loads.”

“I'm sure they'll be quite lovely,” Remus said.

“Oh hey, by the way...” Adira said, and told them everything Ron had told her the night before about Hagrid and the conversation Snape and Karkaroff had with each other.

“Karkaroff showed Snape something on his arm? Moony, do you know what that's about?”

“No idea, sorry Padfoot.”

“That's alright. Hmm... another mystery. Or part of the bigger mystery.”

“Adira,” Lupin said. “We never got to talk more about what you did for the First Task. Distracting that dragon with six Patronuses, quite impressive.”

“Yeah, how'd you hold onto all of them at once? That had to have taken a lot of power out of your shared body.”

She shrugged. “I think it's because we transform so frequently. Our body has gotten used to frequent high outputs of magic. I guess that plus the adrenaline worked together to allow for six Patronuses at once.”

“I wonder what you're gonna be doing for the Second Task,” Sirius mused.

“Oh that, we solved the egg clue. Ah, that reminds me,” she said, and explained what she and Moody had talked about during the Yule Ball.

“Ah, I wondered why Iliana and he were dancing. She didn't look too happy about it.”

“Yeah, well, she doesn't really like looking at him. Don't tell him we said that, though.”

Lupin chuckled. “Your secret is safe with me. But I do confess to being a little disappointed in her for her attitude toward someone so scarred.”

“Yeah, well, you have to admit, he's like a walking, talking scar. Compared to him, Moony, you have a couple cute scratches. Don't get me wrong, they make you look distinguished.”

“Thank you for that, Adira. Seriously. No Padfoot, don't say it! It got old years ago.”

“Eh, you're no fun,” Sirius said, putting his feet up on the table.

Endnote: I designed, in my mind, the dresses/dress robes for Al, Javier, Sirius, Remus, Iliana, Luna, Zoey, and Adira. I'm sure they'd look awesome if I could draw them. Maybe I'll do that, sometime. I am an artist as well as a writer. I can't draw clothes as well as I draw people, though, so I had to look online for things that were similar to what I was imagining.

Also, my attempt to describe Iliana's version of Luna's dance is not great. It's actually a kind of dance I do myself sometimes, which should have helped me describe it, but didn't.



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