Daily Prophet that related to her in some way, be it a direct reference or something obscure like the recent travel article that had invited witches and wizards to holiday in ‘Wicklow, home of the infamous Maeve O’Malley – Come and enjoy the magic!’. Maeve herself was rather bored with the whole thing. Part of her wished for the obscurity of Abbeylara and her sheltered existence, but the thought of the vile man that now owned it soon dispelled any nostalgic thoughts she may have had. She knew that Dumbledore had sent someone out there to look at the house in an attempt to ascertain what the man she had once called her father was doing with it. She could well imagine the mischief he would indulge in now she wasn’t there.
With Remus to take some of the pressure off her, she was able to enjoy her lessons more. Time spent with D.A. was valuable, and she knew they were benefiting greatly from the extra lessons. With Severus back to his previous dark self, he had once again refused to take Harry, and so she was finding more time to give Harry the intensive Potions training he needed to bring him up to N.E.W.T. level. He was also proving much more receptive to Occlumency lessons than perhaps she had been led to believe. She couldn’t know it was his sheer relief at having her back from the dead that encouraged him to turn off his thoughts each night and sleep soundly for the first time in over a year.
It was only five days before Christmas and snow was still drifting sedately over Hogwarts, making it look like it had recently been iced. In two days the students would be heading home, leaving only a few behind at the school. Breakfast that morning was an excited affair because visitors belonging to a small community of dwarves from the northern tip of Scandinavia had arrived, and they were busy dispensing sage advice to anyone who would listen. Dumbledore had spent the previous month in deep discussion with the Norwegian Minister of Magic, and it had been decided that a brief visit would prove beneficial for both sides. The headmaster was only too aware that the need for international co-operation between different creatures was becoming increasingly important, and he was keen to promote anything that might make his students more open to other cultures. These dwarves were of a particularly pure line that had lived for centuries in the mountains of Norway, pushed ever northwards by the inquisitiveness of the humans that now shared their country. They were taller than might be imagined, standing at an average height of five feet when fully grown, and they were unusually smooth of face, with the men being clean-shaven rather than sporting the traditional beard. The only dwarves the students had previously met had been surly looking creatures, but these had a different bearing about them. Their faces were gently intelligent, and they appeared willing to engage in animated conversations with the young witches and wizards.
Ron was busy talking to a white-haired female dwarf named Asta, who was arguing the relative merits of Quidditch over Table Archery, a game Ron thought was quite dangerous. The participants played in close proximity to perilously sharp arrowheads, which were fired swiftly at small targets on either side of a fairly average kitchen table. Hermione was also heavily in conversation with a relatively tall dwarf named Eitri, who had dazzled her with his skill as a goldsmith. He had already transformed her thin gold bracelet into an intricate piece of jewellery – which she couldn’t stop twirling on her wrist – using a tiny, leather-shrouded toolkit that he pulled from his tunic. Ron was too busy with Asta to cast Hermione disgusted looks. He even managed to get through breakfast without any veiled references to Viktor Krum, which Harry found quite an impressive feat.
Maeve sat at the teachers’ table, sandwiched between Severus and Remus, ignoring the undisguised looks of contempt that were being fired across her. She had been invited to Grimmauld Place for Christmas and was looking forward to it greatly. She had not experienced a lively Christmas since she had left Hogwarts as a student, so this was an opportunity she was not going to miss. Remus would be there, and Molly had invited Harry. They were also pleased that, at the last minute, Professor Dumbledore had said he would be able to stay for Christmas Day. The whole holiday was filled with a warm promise that she could hardly bear. The only cloud over the prospect was Severus and his refusal to attend. She was doing her best to rectify this, but so far was encountering stout resistance.
As the students and dwarves polished off the scrambled eggs and bacon, Professor Dumbledore stood up. He tapped his glass with a spoon, sending a gentle chime around the Hall that brought each and every conversation to a halt.
“Good morning, students, and, of course, our very esteemed guests.” He raised his glass of bilberry juice in the direction of the Hall. “It pained me, at the beginning of the year, to announce that all visits to Hogsmeade would be curtailed for the course of your time here.”
There was a grumble of assent that ran across each table; Hogsmeade had been missed by everyone.
“And so it gives me great pleasure to announce a special treat for you all. We cannot go to Hogsmeade, but that does not mean that Hogsmeade cannot come to us.”
There were doubtful faces on most of the students, as if they thought Dumbledore had taken leave of his senses. Harry glanced at Ron, who shrugged his shoulders and carried on chewing a piece of bacon. Hermione watched the headmaster eagerly, perhaps expecting some advanced magic that would transport the whole of Hogsmeade to the Great Hall.
“Lessons have been cancelled for today. If you go outside, you will find the grounds covered with all manner of stalls and entertainments for your pleasure. You will have the opportunity to buy Christmas gifts and experience all the usual delights to be found in Hogsmeade.” He smiled widely, satisfied to see the excitement that flashed from student to student as they sat in their places.
“Well, what are you waiting for?” He clapped his hands together in a cheery dismissal. “Go and get your outdoor things on, and have fun.”
There was a rising cacophony of noise as hundreds of feet headed for the doors, a loud chatter erupting from the students as they discussed, in lively tones, what they would buy.
Maeve was as excited as her pupils. Dumbledore had managed to keep his little secret from the teachers, so it was as much a surprise to them as it was to the students. She turned to Severus first, but he gave her such a cold look that she immediately turned back to Remus, an altogether warmer prospect.
“How thrilling,” she said, clapping her hands together, to the accompaniment of a groan from Severus. “It’s so long since I have seen anything like this. It will be like the street fairs we had back at home when I was a child.”
“Dumbledore knows how to keep a secret,” Remus said quietly, admiration for the old wizard woven into his words. “Go and get your cloak. We’ll go and investigate our early Christmas present.”
“Oh, how delightful,” Severus said sarcastically. “False jollity and the opportunity to buy cheap tat… that just epitomises this time of year.”
He stood up at the same time as Maeve, brushing against her as he moved away from the table. She reached out her hand to his and her face softened.
“Severus, why don’t you come? It will be lovely, and you never know, you may actually enjoy yourself.” Her voice was silkily persuasive, but Severus wasn’t to be swayed.
“I think not,” he said, ignoring the pressure of her hand on his arm. “I have work to do, unlike some, who have their lessons taken for them by others.”
“Fine,” she breathed, “go and sulk in your office, for all the good it will do you.”
Remus was standing now, looking almost embarrassed by the interchange between them. Severus refused to meet his gaze, and Remus honestly felt he could have hit him. Why on earth couldn’t he see the lengths this woman would go to please him? He just threw away any attempts at friendship she made. Maeve walked away with one last sad look at Severus, and Remus’ anger was solidified
“Severus, you are an unbelievably foolish man sometimes,” he said with forced restraint. “She would give everything to have your company this Christmas, and yet you continually spurn her.”
“What would you know, Lupin?” Severus spat, contempt dripping from his voice.
“I know she’s distressed by your continued refusal to spend any time with her, although Merlin only knows why she would want to. You have no idea how much it would mean to her if you spent a few hours with her on Christmas Day, and yet the great Severus Snape can’t find the time in his busy schedule to fit her in. It’s not as if you have a demanding diary, is it?” Remus’ pale eyes were lit with anger, and Severus stepped back slightly.
“I do, as it happens, have something I must do on Christmas Day. It does not, however, involve playing fatuous party games and the wearing of silly hats.” Severus’ cold face wavered for a moment.
“Then surely you could involve Maeve in whatever it is?” Remus wasn’t about to relent.
“Not unless she wants to spend the day at St Mungo’s… ” Severus stopped abruptly, as if he knew he had already said too much.
“Why would you be visiting St Mungo’s?” Remus asked.
“That is none of your business!” Severus terminated the conversation abruptly, turning away from Remus and marching off towards the door. He left the other wizard puzzling over this new piece of information.
As Maeve stepped out into the sunlight, the colours and the activity that met her eyes overwhelmed her. Prettily decorated wooden stalls covered the ground in all directions. The shouts of the stallholders mingled to make one exhilarating clamour. From her right she could hear a cry of ‘Get your hot chestnuts here, hot chestnuts fresh from the oven!’ and this was followed by an imploring voice asking people to buy holly and mistletoe, fresh from the Isle of Avalon. Maeve grinned at the exaggeration; she knew perfectly well it had probably been cut from the trees that skirted Hogsmeade that very morning. To her left she could see the very busy candyfloss stall and a brightly coloured tent with a sign above it that stated, in vivid red letters, that this was the tent of ‘Madame Andrasta, Seer to the Stars’. Amongst all the stalls the students moved freely, almost as freely as their saved up pocket money, which had been burning a hole in their pockets since they had arrived at Hogwarts.
As she watched, her breath coming in thick, white clouds because of the cold, she felt an arm slip around her waist and give her a quick squeeze.
“Ready to dive in?” Remus said lightly.
“Oh, yes,” she replied, her eyes bright with happiness. “It looks wonderful, doesn’t it?”
As they stepped into the melee, they could hear a band strike up and the cheering jangle of “Jingle Bells” rang out across the courtyard. Smells assailed their nostrils from every direction, the warm whiff of frying sausages and onions mingled with the sharp smell of pine needles from the huge Christmas tree that had sprung up in the midst of the stalls. The distinctive aroma of mulled wine drifted over from a stall that seemed to be doing rather a lot of business. Remus at once steered her in that direction. They joined the queue, and immediately found themselves being appraised by Luna Lovegood’s wistful eyes.
“Hello,” she said, looking at Maeve. “It’s nice, isn’t it?”
“It’s lovely, Luna. Are you enjoying yourself?”
“Yes, I suppose so,” Luna replied. “We have a stand here somewhere. Dad has sent up a few of the people who work at The Quibbler. They have a stack of magazines to sell.”
“Well, I’ll be sure to drop by and purchase one,” Maeve promised. She had read The Quibbler a few times, and although it had a reputation for publishing the most outlandish nonsense, she had found one or two interesting articles tucked away inside its implausible covers.
“Dad says you are the most popular celebrity around at the moment,” Luna continued. “But I think the stuff they are writing about you is all nonsense. None of them really know, do they?” Luna smiled brightly. “One glass please,” she said to the rosy-cheeked girl who was ladling the warm, red liquid out from the huge bubbling cauldron.
“No, Luna, they don’t know.” Maeve had the unsettling feeling that Luna knew. She had no idea how this girl could possibly have an insight into her life, but the girl’s knowing looks betrayed an awareness that was beyond her years.
“Well,” Luna began as she sipped the hot wine, “you should keep it that way. And you look much better with red hair.”
Remus smiled as the girl moved away, leaving Maeve with a ponderous expression on her face.
“She unsettles me,” Maeve said, as Remus asked for two glasses of wine. “She looks straight through you with those silvery eyes of hers.”
“She is very intelligent in her own way,” Remus said, handing her a steaming glass that smelled of cinnamon and warm fruit. “It is a shame that most of her classmates treat her as if she’s unhinged.”
“They do, don’t they?” Maeve said, sipping the fruity concoction that she had been given. “They are young though, and don’t recognise the quality she has.” They began to walk away in the direction of the impressive bandstand. It towered above the smaller structures with its tall, twisting ironwork, which was painted white and swathed in deep green holly, whose blood red berries stood out sharply.
They both turned at the shout from Scrivenschaft’s Quill stand. Harry was walking across to them with a huge grin on his face. He was glad to escape from Hermione and her new friend, who was going on and on about gold and how it bent easier when it was warm. Hermione had gone on to sympathise with the dwarf about the cold temperatures in this part of the country, and had commented on the fact it must be terrible for him. Harry had given up at that point, escaping to the relative peace of Honeydukes sweet stall. From the bulge in his cheeks, he was working his way through his purchases nicely.
“Having a good time, Harry?” Remus asked, refusing the offer of a sweet from the open bag.
“Brilliant, really good!” he nodded, swallowing quickly. “Professor Dumbledore really pulled it off this time, didn’t he?”
“He did,” Maeve said. “Are you all ready to leave for London?”
“Not quite, although I can’t wait.”
“We need to be careful travelling down.” Remus sounded a note of caution, and the other two frowned at this unwelcome reminder that they had other things to worry about beside roasted chestnuts and what they were going to buy each other for Christmas.
Shrieks came from the ‘Hook a Horklump’ stand as Seamus Finnigan managed to catch one on the end of his long fishing rod. Instead of allowing the stallholder to unhook it and give him his prize, he somehow managed to flick the rod backwards, and the mushroom-shaped creature flew through the air, landing in the hood of Lavender Brown’s cloak. She was jumping up and down, begging Parvati Patil to get it out for her, but Parvati was standing back with her face screwed up in disgust. The exasperated stallholder jumped across the wooden slats that formed the side of his stall and scooped it out with his hands, before expertly flicking it back into the miniature garden in the centre of his stall.
“Snape’s not coming, is he?” Harry asked as the commotion subsided.
“Professor Snape, Harry,” Remus corrected him automatically.
“No,” Maeve said. “Professor Snape doesn’t appear to be coming, though goodness knows where he will go. Silly man.” She said the last part under her breath and Harry didn’t catch it. Remus looked like he was about to say something, but he felt it would be better if he waited until they were alone before he mentioned Severus’ mysterious visit to St Mungo’s.
“How are you getting on with the dwarves?” Maeve asked, turning the conversation away from Severus and onto lighter ground.
“They’re boring and serious.” Harry pulled a face. “Ron has been totally sucked in by that blond one, and Hermione is drooling over Eti-something. He never stops going on about gold and necklaces. Of course, Hermione thinks it’s all very clever.”
“They are very wise people,” Maeve said, admonishing Harry gently. “We are lucky Professor Dumbledore moved to bring them back within the fold. They would make formidable enemies.”
“I can imagine. If Ron’s new friend is anything to go by, they are pretty hot with an arrow. I always thought they were too clumsy for that, but they’re pretty agile really.” Harry couldn’t help letting a little admiration creep into his voice.
Maeve pulled her cloak tighter around her as she felt a deepening chill pass through the already cold air. She looked around anxiously, wondering where the feeling had come from. Between the stalls she could sense someone, or something, watching her, and Remus noticed her sudden pensiveness.
“Everything all right?” he asked.
“Yes,” she said, but she shook her head slightly. “Just a feeling that... oh, never mind.” She laughed, but her laughter contained a slightly nervous note and Remus wondered what was suddenly troubling her.
“Let’s go and listen to the band,” he said, in an attempt to cheer her up. They were now playing a gentle rendition of “Silent Night” so all three of them went to join the crowd pressing around the edges of the bandstand.
On the fringes of the forest, a lonely shadow crouched, keeping away from the crowd of students and the happiness they exuded. The time was nearly right and soon all trace of this merry making would be gone, devoured by the darkness that would descend. They couldn’t obliterate the light while that woman was still around though. There she was now, and she was talking to the boy. The creature shuddered at the sight of two of the people who stood between his master and complete control of the wizarding world. The woman stopped and looked directly at him. He drew back into the trees quickly because he could have sworn she looked straight into his eyes. He felt, rather than saw, the shudder that ran through her. He smiled to himself at the thought that his presence had the power to affect her. They turned their backs to him and began walking away so he pulled even further back into the forest, relaxing under the darkness of the trees. The New Year wasn’t far off, and then both wizards and Muggles would feel the power of the Dark Lord. There would be wonderful times ahead as they fought and won a glorious fight. With a flick of its tail and a flash of clouded, white eyes, the weasel scurried deep into the forest where it would be able to transform itself back to its normal form in safety, away from unwelcome eyes.
By early evening the teachers and students were exhausted, but happy, as the people of Hogsmeade began to clear away their wares and pack up their stalls. The sun had long since sunk below the horizon and hundreds of flitting fireflies lit what remained of the fair. The students began to go inside in weary groups, and a hush descended on the grounds of Hogwarts. Maeve was one of the last in; her earlier feeling of disquiet had kept her outside, trying vainly to put her finger on what it was that had upset her so much. Clouds were gathering above the school, and cold winds began to blow in off the mountains. As the last of the stallholders rattled away down the long drive, she huddled into her cloak and stood on the steps, watching the night.
There was still the faint scent of food and cinnamon in the air. The huge Christmas tree that had magically appeared had now disappeared, leaving behind a few needles scattered on the ground.
“You shouldn’t be here alone.” The voice made her jump, and she turned to face Severus, whose black outline was emphasised by the glowing lights behind him.
“Ah, you have come out of your hiding place now there’s no longer the danger of fun catching you unawares,” she said with a grin.
“It is not my idea of fun, Maeve, as well you know.”
Her habitual affection for the harsh figure resurfaced and she found herself being gentle with him. “I know,” she said, “but it doesn’t stop me hoping that one day you will just let yourself go ever so slightly.”
Severus gave a grunt, which implied there was no danger of that ever happening.
“Come out of the cold,” he suggested. “It’s hard to tell what’s lurking out there. It isn’t safe.”
“I know,” she said, turning back inside. “I know it isn’t safe, Severus. There is darkness out there waiting patiently for something, and we don’t know what that something is.”
They walked together to the staff room in companionable silence and found the room unusually empty. She dropped into the chair nearest the fire, slipping her cloak over the back of it.
“I am not being deliberately difficult about coming to Grimmauld Place for Christmas,” he said, surprising her by broaching the subject.
“Oh,” she said, waiting for him to get to the point.
“I have something else I must do.” He broke off and poured a measure of Firewhisky into a glass.
“Really?” She was intrigued, but deliberately kept her voice from sounding too in need of the information.
“I have to… ” But what he had to do was interrupted by the door opening, and a distracted-looking Professor Dumbledore walked in.
“Ahh, Maeve, just the person I have been looking for,” he said, nodding a greeting to Severus.
“What is it, Professor?” she asked, getting up from her position by the fire. She glanced at Severus, who was looking thunderous at the sudden interruption. She had no idea how long it had taken him to come to the decision to tell her exactly where he went on Christmas Day, and now he couldn’t. Not with Dumbledore in the room.
“I’m afraid we have discovered exactly why Niall O’Malley wanted your house.” He was careful to use the word ‘your’, because Albus Dumbledore wasn’t entirely sure Maeve had seen the last of Abbeylara.
“Really?” she said. “Do I want to know?”
“You need to know,” he insisted. “We have good reason to believe, via our spies in the area, that Abbeylara is now a meeting place for Death Eaters, and for all we know, it may well be where Voldemort himself is hiding.”
Severus stood with his arms folded across his chest, his face impassive. His eyes flicked quickly towards Maeve’s face to see how she was reacting, but she turned away and watched the flames flicker in the fireplace.
“I’m sorry to bring you this news,” Dumbledore said quietly. “And so close to Christmas. There is nothing we can do at the moment but keep a close watch on the situation. At least we know where a lot of them are congregating.”
“Yes,” she said to the fire. “Do you think Niall has always worked for Voldemort, or is this a recent affectation?”
“I think it is fairly recent,” Dumbledore paused, aware that Severus was watching him intently. “We have reason to believe it is Malachy Meany who has precipitated this outpouring of darkness on the part of Niall O’Malley. There can be no doubt they are both firmly allied with Voldemort, and you are becoming a focus for their hatred.”
She puffed her cheeks out slowly and faced Dumbledore; the flames from the fire reflected in her eyes. Again she could feel the dark edges at the periphery of her vision, a pressing feeling of something trying to get in and being held back by the flimsiest of barriers. She picked up her coat from the back of the chair and walked towards the door, a worried Dumbledore not taking his eyes off her.
“Well, Professors,” she said as she opened the door. “If they wish to kill me, they will have to do better than their previous attempts. It would seem I am well enough connected to thwart Voldemort’s many attempts upon my life.”
She closed the door softly behind her and climbed the stairs to her rooms. She wasn’t sure what concerned her the most, the fact that Voldemort would appear to have a base, and that that base was her ancestral home, or the fact that she didn’t care.
The castle was settling down around her as she reached her door, the sounds of the students died away as they all reached their common rooms to discuss the day’s events. The dwarves had left, leaving some of the students sadder than others; Hermione was already missing the charms of Eitri, causing Ron to make quite a few barbed comments about Viktor, and the fact he was out of sight, out of mind. Harry laughed at their faces as they sat opposite each other in the Gryffindor common room.
“I wish you two would stop bickering like an old married couple,” he said as he sorted through his purchases from earlier. “Really, I can’t understand you.”
“What are you talking about?” Hermione said in a cool voice. “Ron and I don’t bicker.”
“No, we don’t,” agreed Ron, although he did have the grace to blush slightly when he said this. “If we bickered, I wouldn’t have asked Hermione to the Christmas feast, would I?”
“You asked Hermione because you didn’t want to be left without a partner two days before the feast,” Harry said, and watched as Ron squirmed a little in his chair. Hermione looked even more indignant than she had a moment ago, protesting that this was not the case at all.
“Who are you going with then?” Hermione asked acidly. She was extremely satisfied when Harry just shrugged and said he hadn’t arranged anything yet.
“But the dance is tomorrow!” Ron said, spilling the Chocolate Frog cards he was sorting through all over the floor.
“I know.” Harry placed his little packages back into the large bag he had had them in and made for the stairs. “In fact, I am just going to put these away and then I am off to do something about it.”
“You’ll never find anyone now, mate,” Ron said, pointedly looking across at Ginny. “Unless you fancied taking someone that was already going with someone, and that someone was highly unsuitable.”
Both Hermione and Harry followed his gaze and spotted Ginny, who was busy laughing at something Dean Thomas had said. She looked up and found the three friends staring at her. She immediately gave them a look that plainly said ‘get lost’ before turning her attention back to Dean.
“It’s not good that,” Ron said gloomily. “Not good at all.”
“You’re just being silly,” Hermione said, her voice heavy with scorn. “Dean’s nice enough, and he’s pretty clever too.”
“You see,” Harry sighed as he moved away, “bickering again.” And with that he was up the stairs and depositing his purchases under his bed, before making his way back down the stairs and out of the common room. As he left he could hear Hermione muttering something about him not going anywhere alone. He ignored her and headed off towards where he imagined the Ravenclaw common room to be, on the off chance he might see someone he wanted a quick word with. As Harry turned a corner onto one of the landings, he could hear muffled voices and slowed down to get a better idea of where they were coming from. He leaned over the side of the landing and saw the shining, blonde head of Narcissa Malfoy. She was speaking quietly with Professor Snape. He couldn’t hear much of what was said, but Professor Snape looked angry, while Narcissa was tapping her foot impatiently.
“It’s not too late,” he heard her say as her voice rose slightly. Severus replied and Harry could see her face harden before she hissed something that ended in 'death'. The Potions master turned sharply on his heel and vanished, leaving Narcissa alone in the hallway. She shivered a little, moving around, peering at portraits and running a finger along the occasional mantelpiece. Harry felt the chill too, and couldn’t help but rub his arms to ward off the goose bumps that had appeared beneath his jumper. The clatter of feet alerted him to the fact someone was coming and he shrank back a little from the edge.
“Draco, my darling!”
“Get off, Mum.”
Harry risked peering over the top again, and could see Draco Malfoy being enveloped in his mother’s arms as she kissed the top of his head. Draco looked deeply upset at this display of maternal affection and wriggled free. Harry decided it was worth the risk of being caught to move closer to them so he could hear what they were saying. He slowly crept down the first few stairs and found he had a much better position.
“Are we going to see my father now?” Draco asked curtly. Severus, who had returned with him, gave a little smirk at the mention of Lucius Malfoy and raised an eyebrow at Narcissa.
“Yes we are, Draco darling. Your poor father hasn’t seen you for the whole of this term and he is desperate to talk to you.” Her fingers absentmindedly stroked Draco’s arm as she spoke, although her eyes never left Severus. “If you would care to escort us to our carriage, Severus, I would be most grateful.”
“I don’t think that will be necessary, Narcissa,” Severus said firmly. “After all, it is waiting just by the door, and you do have Draco here for protection. Good evening to both of you.” As usual Severus didn’t waste any time, and was gone before Narcissa had the chance to say anything else. Left alone with her son, she picked up his case and placed an arm across his shoulder.
“Such a difficult man, and in so much danger should the Dark Lord get hold of him,” she muttered to herself. “And yet… Come, Draco, we must be leaving. I have some house-elves to discipline later and I don’t want to be home too late.”
Draco gave a malicious laugh as mother and son headed for the main doors and out into the night. Harry knew he should have felt gleeful that someone else had trouble with Snape. He should have been glad by the implied threat against Snape’s life, but somehow it made him uneasy.
He quickly rose from his crouching position and almost ran towards the general area of the Ravenclaw common room, where everything was quiet, and for the first time he began to have doubts about his plan to acquire a partner for the Christmas dance. After loitering for a good half an hour, he was on the point of giving up. He could hear faint laughter from somewhere above him and wondered if maybe he was being just a little bit big-headed in assuming that his target for the evening wouldn’t already have a partner. He was just about to give up when one of the oak doors that lined the corridor swung open, and he gave a quick thank you to whomever it was that had sent Luna Lovegood down those stairs that night.
“Oh, Harry,” she said as if she were surprised, but something in her eyes suggested she wasn’t surprised at all.
“Luna, I wanted to see you,” Harry said with some relief.
“I know,” she answered. “I thought I had better come down, because you looked like you were here for the night.”
Harry looked at her in bemusement; how on earth could she have known he was waiting for her?
“Well, I just wanted to ask you… if you would,” Harry was tongue-tied, a strange occurrence considering he never normally had a problem talking to Luna. She was one of the few people he felt he had any understanding of. “Do you have a partner for the dance?” he said finally, the words tumbling out in a rush of embarrassment.
“No,” she said, twisting her fingers around the old quill that she had stuck in her hair.
“Would you like to go with me?” Harry asked, and he couldn’t keep the hopeful lilt out of his voice.
“Thank you, Harry, that would be nice.” She turned around and pushed open the door that she had just walked through, preparing to leave him.
“Ermm…” Harry began, and then realised he didn’t have anything else to add.
“Yes, Harry?” Luna turned her eyes to him.
“Nothing,” Harry said hurriedly. “See you tomorrow.”
“Will you? Oh, okay then.” She smiled at him. “Sleep well, Harry.”
And as Harry ran back along the corridors, he felt strangely happy about the outcome of that conversation.