Potter and Black: The Goblet of Fire

The Unexpected Task

disclaimer: I do not own Harry Potter, just Arabella. Hope you like it!

The Unexpected Task

'Potter! Weasley! Black! Longbottom! Will the four of you pay attention?!'

Professor McGonagall's irritated voice cracked like a whip through the Transfiguration class on Thursday, and Harry, Ron, Arabella and Neville jumped and looked up.

It was the end of the lesson and the bell was due to ring at any moment. Harry and Ron, Arabella and Neville were having a sword fight with a couple of Fred and George's fake wands at the back of the class. It took a while, but Arabella finally managed to get Neville to join in.

'Now that Potter, Weasley, Black and Longbottom have been kind enough to act their age,' said Professor McGonagall with an angry look as Neville's wand dropped as fell silently to the ground, 'I have something to say to you all.'

'The Yule Ball is approaching - a traditional part of the Triwizard Tournament and an opportunity for us to socialize with our foreign guests. Now, the ball will be open only to fourth years and above - although you may invite a younger student if you wish -'

Lavender let out a shrill giggle. Parvati nudged her hard in the ribs, her face trying not to giggle. They both looked around at Harry, Professor McGonagall ignored them, which Arabella thought was unfair, as she just told the four of them off.

'Dress robes will be worn,' Professor McGonagall continued, 'and the ball will start at eight o'clock on Christmas Day, finishing at midnight in the Great Hall. Now then -'

Professor McGonagall stared deliberately around the class.

'The Yule Ball is of course a chance for us all to - er - let our hair down,' she said, in a disapproving voice.

Lavender giggled harder than ever, with her hand pressed hard against her mouth to stifle the sound. Arabella understood what was funny: Professor McGonagall, with her hair in a tight bun, looked as though she had never let her hair down in any sense.

'But that does NOT mean,' Professor McGonagall went on, 'that we will be relaxing the standards of behavior we expect from Hogwarts students. I will be most seriously displeased if a Gryffindor student embarrasses the school in any way.'

The bell rang, and there was the usual scuffle of activity as everyone packed their bags and swung them onto their shoulders.

Professor McGonagall called above the noise, 'Potter - a word, if you please.'

Arabella left the classroom with Neville beside her, walking towards the Great Hall.

'So, Neville,' said Arabella, smiling cheekily at him, 'have somebody in mind for the ball?'

'No,' said Neville, blushing furiously.

'Liar,' said Arabella, her smiled widening. 'Come on, you can tell me. I won't tell anyone, except maybe Hermione, unless you don't want me to. Come on, Neville, I know you have a bet one me going on with Seamus and Ron. You have to tell me, it's your obligation.'

If it was possible, Neville turned redder. He then mumbled something under his breath that she couldn't hear.

'Sorry Neville, dear, didn't quite catch that,' said Arabella, leaning closer.

'Ginny,' whispered Neville.

'Ginny?' spluttered Arabella quite loudly. 'You – Her – What? When? How?'

Neville shrugged, obviously mute from embarrassment. After thinking about it for a bit in her head, it did make sense. They would make a nice couple.

'Are you going to ask her?' said Arabella.

Neville shrugged, looking down as they continued to walk.

'Come on, Neville. What, are you scared for her brothers?' asked Arabella.

Neville shrugged again. Arabella sighed.

'You should really ask her to the ball,' said Arabella, 'and I'll deal with Ron, Fred and George.'

'I don't know,' said Neville, looking nervous. 'What if she doesn't want to go with me?'

'Maybe she does want to go with you,' said Arabella, smiling at him. 'Just ask her. You've got nothing to lose.'

Arabella had never seen so many people to put their names down to stay at Hogwarts for Christmas. She always did because during Christmas time, Hogwarts was always decorated beautifully and they usually had a plan to plot. This year, however, everyone on the fourth year and above seemed to be staying, and they all seemed to be obsessed with the coming ball – at least all the girls were. Arabella was excited for the ball, but not like the way they all were. They were all comparing notes on what they were going to wear giggling with laughter as boys passed them. It was all nauseating.

'Did you ask her yet?' asked Arabella to Neville as they walked together with Hermione after their potions lesson. Neville was stuck between the two of them.

'Ask who?' said Hermione.

'Ginny,' mumbled Neville, looking really nervous.

'Well, there she is,' said Arabella, pointing down the corridor. 'And she's alone. This is your chance. Go on, you can do it.'

Hermione was nodding in encouragement beside him. Neville took a big gulp before heading towards Ginny. She looked up and smiled at Neville, a bigger one than she's ever given Harry. They were talking as Neville was looking at the ground, while Ginny kept smiling at him. After she finally said a single word, Neville finally looked up at her face. He was grinning widely and they exchanged goodbyes as he walked back towards them.

'She said yes!' said Neville, looking delighted. 'I can't believe it! She actually said yes! I have to go find my dress robes… wonder where I left them…'

Neville kept muttering to himself with happiness and wonder as he walked towards the Gryffindor Tower by himself. Arabella gave out a little chuckle as she watched him walk off. Hermione was smiling.

'I always thought they would make a good couple,' she said. 'We should get going. I'm hungry.'

They walked to the Great Hall, hungry and tired form the whole day. They were smiling and talking about Neville and Ginny before they were stopped right outside the doors.

'Hello Arabella,' said Nikola, actually giving her a smile and his hands were behind his back, hiding something. Krum was standing a bit behind him, looking nervous and not in his sulky mood.

'Hello,' said Krum in a small voice, looking at Hermione. 'Can I talk to you?'

Hermione nodded, walking away with him towards the end of the corridor. Arabella was watching them with her eyebrows raised.

'Is he going to -?'

'Ask her to the Yule Ball?' said Nikola, looking her with a smile. 'He is.'

'Really?' asked Arabella, turning back to him in disbelief. 'Since when does Krum like Hermione?'

'Since he's been hanging around in the library, watching her behind the bookshelves,' said Nikola, smirking.

'Interesting…'

'I would like to ask you something,' said Nikola, bringing his hands out from behind his back. He was holding a long single stem red rose. 'Would do like to go to the Yule Ball with me?'

'Oh,' said Arabella, taken back, though she really should have seen this coming weeks ago. She knew that Nikola was interested in her in the sort of way, and he is nice and handsome. She was hoping Harry would ask her, but he did nothing.

We're just friends whispered a voice that sounded like Harry. That's all she will ever be to him, a friend. She should be able to move on from this little crush.

'Yes,' said Arabella, smiling a bit, taking the rose from his hand. Their hands touched briefly before Nikola took it in his hands. 'I would like to go to the Yule Ball with you.'

'Brilliant,' smirked Nikola. He then leaned in a kiss her. Arabella was caught off guard before returning the kiss. It was a bit forceful and somewhat unpleasant, but she really had nothing to compare it to. It was her first kiss, and Arabella guessed that it would be unpleasant. They moved away from each other as they heard footsteps coming from the end of the corridor. They looked there and saw that it was Hermione and Krum, both with smiles on their faces.

'I shall see you later, Arabella,' said Nikola, kissing the back of her hand and walking away with Krum, a smirk on his face.

'I'm guessing you said yes?' Arabella asked Hermione.

'I did,' said Hermione, smiling. 'You?'

'Said yes, too,' said Arabella. She thought that there might have been butterflies in her stomach, but it was empty.

The last week of term became lively as it progressed. Rumors about the Yule Ball were flying everywhere, though Arabella didn't believe half of them. For instance, Dumbledore had brought eight hundred barrels of mulled mead from Madam Rosmerta. It seemed to be fact, however, that he booked the Weird Sister. She couldn't wait to see Kirley Duke, the lead guitarist.

Some of the teachers had given up on teaching when their minds were on something else. Professor Flitwick allowed them to play games, and spent most of the time talking to Harry about his Summoning Charm he used during the First Task. Other teachers weren't so generous. Professor McGonagall and Mad-Eye kept them working until the last second of their classes, and Snape informed them that he would be testing them on poison antidotes during the last lesson of the term.

'Evil, he is,' Ron said bitterly that night in the Gryffindor common room. 'Springing a test on us the last day. Ruining the last bit of term with a whole load of studying.'

'Mmm…you're not exactly straining yourself, though, are you?' said Hermione, looking at him over the top of her Potions notes. Ron was busy building a card castle out of his Exploding Snap pack - a much more interesting pastime than with Muggle cards, because of the chance that the whole thing would blow up at any second.

'It's Christmas, Hermione,' said Harry lazily; he was rereading Flying with the Cannons for the tenth time in an armchair near the fire. Hermione looked severely over at him too.

'I'd have thought you'd be doing something constructive, Harry, even if you don't want to learn your antidotes!'

'Like what?' Harry said as he watched Joey Jenkins of the Cannons belt a Bludger toward a Ballycastle Bats Chaser.

'That egg!' Hermione hissed.

'Come on, Hermione, I've got till February the twenty-fourth,' Harry said.

'But it might take weeks to work it out!' said Hermione. 'You're going to look a real idiot if everyone else knows what the next task is and you don't!'

'Leave him alone, Hermione,' said Arabella, watching Ron.

Ron placed the last two cards on top of the castle and the whole lot blew up, singeing his eyebrows.

'Nice look Ron… goes well with your dress robes, that will.'

It was Fred and George. They sat down at the table with Arabella, Harry, Ron, and Hermione as Ron felt how much damage had been done.

'Ron, can we borrow Pigwidgeon?' George asked.

'No, he's off delivering a letter,' said Ron. 'Why?'

'Because George wants to invite him to the ball,' said Fred sarcastically.

'Because we want to send a letter, you stupid great prat,' said George.

'Who d'you two keep writing to, eh?' said Ron.

'Nose out, Ron, or I'll burn that for you too,' said Fred, waving his wand threateningly.

'So…you lot got dates for the ball yet?'

'Nope,' said Ron.

'Well, you'd better hurry up, mate, or all the good ones will be gone,' said Fred.

'Who're you going with, then?' said Ron.

'Angelina,' said Fred promptly, without a trace of embarrassment.

'What?' said Ron, taken aback. 'You've already asked her?'

'Good point,' said Fred. He turned his head and called across the common room, 'Oi! Angelina!'

Angelina, who had been chatting with Alicia Spinnet near the fire, looked over at him.

'What?' she called back.

'Want to come to the ball with me?'

Angelina gave Fred an appraising sort of look.

'All right, then,' she said, and she turned back to Alicia and carried on chatting with a bit of a grin on her face.

'There you go,' said Fred to Harry and Ron, 'piece of cake.'

He got to his feet, yawning, and said, 'We'd better use a school owl then, George, come on…'

They left. Ron stopped feeling his eyebrows and looked across the smoldering wreck of his card castle at Harry.

'We should get a move on, you know…ask someone. He's right. We don't want to end up with a pair of trolls.'

'Sorry? A pair of what?' said Arabella, looking just as annoyed as Hermione.

'Well - you know,' said Ron, shrugging. 'I'd rather go alone than with – with Eloise Midgen, say.'

'Her acne's loads better lately - and she's really nice!'

'Her nose is off-center,' said Ron.

'Oh I see,' Hermione said, bristling. 'So basically, you're going to take the best looking girl who'll have you, even if she's completely horrible?'

'Er - yeah, that sounds about right,' said Ron.

'I'm going to bed,' Hermione snapped, and she and Arabella swept off toward the girls' staircase without another word.

Entering the common room, Harry looked around, and to his surprise he saw Ron sitting ashen faced in a distant corner. Arabella and Ginny was sitting with him, talking to him in a low, soothing voice.

'What's up, Ron?' said Harry, joining them.

Ron looked up at Harry, a sort of blind horror in his face.

'Why did I do it?' he said wildly. 'I don't know what made me do it!'

'What?' said Harry.

'He - er - just asked Fleur Delacour to go to the ball with him,' said Ginny. She looked as though she was fighting back a smile, but she kept patting Ron's arm sympathetically.

'You what?' said Harry.

'I don't know what made me do it!' Ron gasped again. 'What was I playing at? There were people - all around - I've gone mad - everyone watching! I was just walking past her in the entrance hall - she was standing there talking to Diggory - and it sort of came over me - and I asked her!'

Ron moaned and put his face in his hands. He kept talking, though the words were barely distinguishable.

'She looked at me like I was a sea slug or something. Didn't even answer. And then - I dunno - I just sort of came to my senses and ran for it.'

'She's part veela,' said Harry. 'You were right – her grandmother was one. It wasn't your fault, I bet you just walked past when she was turning in the old charm for Diggory and got a blast of it.'

'This is mad,' said Ron. 'We're the only ones left who haven't got anyone - well, except Neville. Hey - guess who he asked? Hermione!'

'No he did not!' said Ginny hotly.

'He never asked Hermione,' said Arabella, shaking her head. 'He has a date.'

'No I'm really miserable,' mumbled Ron. Ginny hit him over the head.

Just then Hermione climbed in through the portrait hole.

'Why weren't you at dinner?' she said, coming over to join them.

'Ron asked Fleur Delacour to the Yule Ball and, well she didn't answer, but it's a no,' said Arabella.

Hermione snorted in surprise.

'All the good-looking ones taken, Ron?' said Hermione loftily. 'Eloise Midgen starting to look quite pretty now, is she? Well, I'm sure you'll find someone somewhere who'll have you.'

But Ron was staring at Hermione as though suddenly seeing her in a whole new light.

'Hermione, you are a girl…'

'Oh well spotted,' she said acidly.

'Well - you can come with one of us! And Arabella, can come with the other one!'

'No, I can't,' snapped Hermione.

'Oh come on,' he said impatiently, 'we need partners, we're going to look really stupid if we haven't got any, everyone else has…'

'I can't come with you,' said Hermione, now blushing, 'because I'm already going with someone.'

'What?' said Ron. 'Who?'

'Just because it's taken you three years to notice, Ron, doesn't mean no one else has spotted I'm a girl!'

Ron stared at her. Then he grinned again.

'Okay, okay, we know you're a girl,' he said. 'That do? Will you come now?'

'I've already told you!' Hermione said very angrily. 'I'm going with someone else!'

And she stormed off toward the girls' dormitories again.

'She's lying,' said Ron flatly, watching her go.

'She's not,' said Arabella.

'Who is it then?' said Ron sharply.

'I'm not telling you, it's her business,' said Arabella.

'Right,' said Ron, who looked extremely put out, 'this is getting stupid. Ginny, who you going with?'

'I'm going with Neville,' said Ginny, trying to fight off the blush and the smile coming on her face. 'I think I'll go and have dinner,' she said, and she got up and walked off the portrait hole with a grin on her face.

'Arabella, are you going to the ball with anyone?' asked Harry softly.

'Yeah,' said Arabella, unable to look him in the eye. 'I'm going with Nikola.'

'Nikola?' asked Harry angrily. 'Why are you going with him?'

'What's wrong with Nikola?' said Arabella, matching his tone. Ron was looking nervously between the two of them.

'Nothing,' said Harry bitterly with a scowl. 'Nothing at all.'

'I'm going to bed. Good night,' said Arabella, standing up quickly and walking towards the girl's dormitory without another glance backward.

'What's got into them?' Ron demanded.

But Harry had just seen Parvati and Lavender come in through the portrait hole. The time had come for drastic action.

'Wait here,' he said to Ron, and he stood up, walked straight up to Parvati, and said, 'Parvati? Will you go to the ball with me?'

'What about Arabella?' said Parvati.

'She's going with Nikola,' said Harry, trying to make it sound like it didn't bother him.

Parvati looked stunned.

'Really? That cute Bulgarian?' she said.

'Yes,' said Harry through his teeth.

'All right then, I'll go with you,' she said finally, blushing furiously.

'Thanks,' said Harry, in relief. 'Lavender - will you go with Ron?'

'She's going with Seamus,' said Parvati, and the pair of them giggled harder than ever.

Harry sighed.

'Can't you think of anyone who'd go with Ron?' he said, lowering his voice so that Ron wouldn't hear.

'What about Hermione?' said Parvati.

'She's going with someone else.'

Parvati looked astonished.

'Ooooh - who?' she said keenly.

Harry shrugged. 'No idea,' he said. 'So what about Ron?'

'Well…' said Parvati slowly, 'I suppose my sister might…Padma, you know…in Ravenclaw. I'll ask her if you like.'

'Yeah, that would be great,' said Harry. 'Let me know, will you?'

And he went back over to Ron, feeling that this ball was a lot more trouble than it was worth, and hoping very much that Padma Patil's nose was dead center and that Nikola somehow jumped off a cliff.

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