Author's Notes: This fic is currently being published in pieces on the Ask-Magical-Total-Drama blog that I run on Tumblr; I'm compiling it into three chapters for this site. Hopefully people who don't follow the blog will be able to follow, and I hope that you enjoy!
"Alright, class, please settle down…I have an announcement to make before the bell rings…"
The sixth-year Ravenclaws, who had been packing up their wands and books, quieted down and looked up at Professor Don. He regarded them with a dignified and winning smile.
"As you may have heard, Headmaster McLean has decided to hold a 'Yule Ball' this year—"
Sierra shrieked so shrilly that it was amazing the windows didn't shatter. Staci, having anticipated this reaction, already had her ears covered; everyone else followed suit except for Cody, whose arms were being restrained by Sierra's bone-crushing hug.
"Uh…yeah," Professor Don said when it finally seemed safe to uncover his ears. "Anyway, it will be held from eight o'clock to midnight on Christmas Day."
Cameron raised his hand. "Christmas Day? So we won't be able to go attend unless we stay here over the break?"
"That's right. And we teachers are going to have to Floo back here at night to chaperon! Because that's…really what I wanted to do on my holiday." Professor Don looked bitter for a moment. "Anyway, dress robes are mandatory. If you don't have any, the school will be renting some secondhand for an exorbitant fee. Only fourth-years and older can attend, unless accompanied by an older student." He paused. "Not that any of you should invite somebody that young. Remember, kids, half your age plus seven."
The bell rang. Everybody stood, except for Sierra, who was still making soft coos of excitement, and Cody, who was still being held in her vice-like grip.
"Oh my gosh, oh my gosh, isn't this exciting, Cody?! So…" She giggled, pressing her cheek against his, "have you picked out a girl that you want to ask out?"
What Sierra failed to notice was that Cody's eyes had wandered over to Gwen, who at that moment was walking out of the room, trying to ignore a babbling Izzy.
"Yeah, I…have an idea."
"So, you two hear about this crazy Christmas dance?" Leshawna asked as she, Bridgette and Gwen walked down the corridor during break.
"Yeah," Gwen said, scoffing in a way that seemed a bit insistent. "Prom as imagined by Headmaster McLean. Sounds like a blast."
"Aw, come on," Bridgette said, elbowing her friend. "I thought it might be fun. And you said you had to stay here during Christmas break anyway, right?"
"Yeah…but still. It doesn't exactly sound like my thing."
"Oh, but what if a certain dark-haired, green-eyed Quidditch captain asked you to be his date?" Leshawna teased, feigning a swoon.
Gwen felt her cheeks heat up. "Stop it," she groused. "Trent and I broke up, remember?"
"Yeah, and if you had any sense you'd have gotten back together months ago! Heck, the only reason you two broke up was because of that no-good, conniving, evil little—"
At that moment the three turned a corner, and Leshawna walked right into someone coming the other way.
"HEY! Watch it!" Heather snapped.
Leshawna crossed her arms and glared. "Well, speak of the devil, she will appear."
Suddenly Harold, who had been walking with Heather, also rounded the corner. "Leshawna!" he said, a big grin spreading across his face. "I was just about to go looking for you!"
He suddenly noticed that Leshawna, Gwen and Heather were all glaring, and frowned, pulling nervously on the collar of his uniform. "So…how are you today?"
Heather rolled her eyes, sidestepped the other girls and marched off. Harold hastily called after her. "Uh, I'll get you your Transfiguration notes back by Friday!"
"UGH, I do not know why you put up with that girl, Harold!" Leshawna snapped, making no effort to hide her voice from her retreating enemy.
"She's my friend," Harold said, awkwardly looking away.
"Yeah, and you ever notice that all her other friends have dumped her by now?" She shook her head, giving her boyfriend a stern look. "I swear, sometimes you are too nice for your own good."
"Yeah…but that's what you love about me, right?"
Leshawna's expression softened at his ridiculously dorky grin, and Bridgette giggled as Gwen rolled her eyes. "Uh, Bridgette and I are gonna go on ahead, okay, Leshawna?"
"Alright. I'll catch up in a minute."
The other girls left, leaving her and Harold alone in the corridor. He put his hands behind his back and leaned closer to her. "So, did you hear? Chris is holding auditions for a band to play the Yule Ball. Me and the guys are going to try out."
"For real? That's pretty cool."
Harold grinned. "But if get the gig, I'm gonna need to find a beautiful girl to be my groupie."
"I'd love to, Harold—"
"Oh, no!" Harold's whole body slumped. "We're not breaking up again, are we?"
"No, babe. It's just that I ain't throwing away my Christmas break to stay in this dump! I got family to see. Wouldn't you rather spend the holiday with your parents than see what kind of half-baked fiasco Chris is gonna throw?"
Harold grimaced. "We don't celebrate Christmas, remember? Plus I'd rather avoid our house until my brother moves out again in a few months."
"I'm sorry, babe." She put her hand on his cheek, then said "Tell you what. You go to the ball and have fun without me. I'm sure you can still have a great time hanging out with your friends, right?"
Harold smiled wanly. "Yeah. But I'm gonna miss having a groupie."
Leshawna chuckled. "Tell you what—if Gwen can't get a date, I'll rope her into groupie duty for you. Maybe that'll give her some motivation to get over this whole mess with Trent."
Duncan, a Gryffindor, was sitting at the Hufflepuff table in the Great Hall, while his best friends, Geoff and DJ, watched him anxiously between bites of their dinner.
"Grumble grumble…stupid, inbred, ginger—"
"Hey, dude, that's not cool. Scott's hair color has nothing to do with this situation."
Duncan ignored him. He had been in a foul mood ever since he found out that Scott had asked his ex, Courtney, to the Yule Ball. Now he was watching them talk from across the Great Hall, pounding his wand rhythmically against his leg and ignoring the red sparks that came out.
"Uh, Duncan?" said DJ.
"Your robes are on fire."
"What are you—AGH!"
He stomped on the hem of his robes, while a few seats down, a fifth year named Max gave a loud, barking laugh.
"Oh, shut up!" he snapped, finally breaking his gaze away from the Slytherin table. "And could you two keep in down?! Some of us are trying to think over here!"
He was speaking to the other Gryffindor at that table, Zoey, who was sitting with her boyfriend, Mike. They both gave a start at his outburst, because they had not, in fact, been making any noise, save for some quiet coos as they snuggled close to each other.
"What's up with him?" Mike whispered.
"He's been like this ever since Courtney started dating Scott."
"But he broke up with Courtney. And cheated on Courtney. And their relationship was kind ofdysfunctional even before that." Mike gave the glaring Gryffindor a sideways look. "Does he actually want to get back together with her?"
"That's certainly what I want to know!"
Mike jumped out of his seat in terror as Sierra's head suddenly emerged from under the table. Several people turned to stare as she and Staci clambered out, squeezing into Mike's empty spot as he stood awkwardly off to the side.
"I hope you don't mind, but the two of us are just taking a survey to find out who's going with who to the Yule Ball," Sierra said brightly. "I already know that Tyler is going with Lindsay, and Sam with Dakota…Mike, Zoey, I assume we can add you two to our list?"
"Actually, Mike and I are both planning to go home for Christmas break."
Sierra looked flabbergasted. "Go home?! But why?"
"Because we have families?" said Mike, who was still standing back and looking disconcerted.
"But we're going to try and get together sometime anyway," Zoey added.
"You can cross me off of any crazy gossip list you got going too," DJ said. "No way am I passing up a chance to see Mama for the holidays. Especially when I probably couldn't find a date anyway."
"But I have a whole list of people I was going to suggest for you!" Sierra said, sounding hurt.
Staci turned a page of her clipboard. "Yeah, Eva, Katie, Sadie, Anne Maria—"
"Forget these party poopers," Geoff said with a good-natured grin. "You can put me and Bridge down for sure."
"Great! And what about you, Duncan?" she said, leaning across Geoff to poke the brooding boy in the shoulder. He kept his back to her, eyes still on the Slytherin table, but his hand clenched into a fist. "Are the rumors true about you wanting to take another shot with Courtney?"
Sierra was remarkably indifferent to the tension in the air, responding with a teasing, "Are you suuure—"
The gossipmonger let out a squeak and jumped back, as Duncan suddenly rose to his feet and stomped out of the Great Hall, grumbling under his breath.
"Yeah…he's repressing something," Staci said, taking a note.
"You got that right." Geoff tried to sound teasing, but there was a slight tone of worry in his voice. To cover it up, he turned to their Ravenclaw guests and asked, "So, do you gals have any plans for the big day?"
Staci opened her mouth to say something, but Sierra cut her off. "Well, I'm going with Cody, of course!"
"That's…great!" Zoey said, sharing a look with Mike. "And he's…consented to this?" she asked, trying to sound casual.
"Of course! I mean, we are married! Well, engaged. Well—engaged to be engaged." She leaned in close. "But I think Christmas night just might be when he pops the question!"
Even Staci was savvy enough to roll her eyes at her friend's delusions.
Dave reached the top of the tower, pausing to catch his breath at the door to the Owlery. "I really should have just borrowed someone else's owl at breakfast," he panted. "I hate coming up here."
He pushed open the door, shivering as he entered the cold, drafty room.
He spun around to see Sky sitting in one of the large, glassless windows, a Northern Pygmy owl sitting on her shoulder and a book open in her lap.
"Oh! Sky! Hi! Hey, that rhymes!" A beat passed. "Hi," he said again. "So, uh—what are you doing up here?"
"I just like to come up here and think sometimes."
"Why? It's so cold," Dave said, crossing his arms. "Not to mention dirty, with all these stupid birds dropping their feathers and poop and—"
He suddenly noticed that every conscious bird in the room seemed to be glaring at him, and Sky—her owl still sitting on her shoulder—looked a bit cross as well. He quickly cleared his throat. "So, uh—w-what you got there? A letter?"
Sky jumped a bit as Dave pointed to her book; inside was a piece of ordinary notebook paper, clearly distinct from the parchment that everyone at school used. "Oh—yeah. It's from my—one of my friends back home." Dave was so nervous himself that he didn't seem to notice Sky's sudden stutter.
"Oh. Cool, cool."
Dave rocked on the balls of his feet, waiting for Sky to say something else. She stared back.
"So, do you…need to use an owl or something…?"
"What? Oh, right!"
He quickly took a letter out of his pocket, woke up one of the many school owls lining the walls and sent it away. Then he turned back to Sky, taking a deep, silent breath. Okay, Dave, here's your chance. Just try to act cool.
"So, uh…are you planning to stay at school? For that…Yule Ball thing, I mean?"
"Um…I'm not sure. I wasn't really planning on going."
Dave felt his stomach plummet to his knees, but he leaned against the cold stone wall, trying to look insouciant. "Yeah. I mean…it sounds pretty stupid, doesn't it?"
"…Actually, I really liked the idea. I just…didn't really plan on finding a date."
Dave's heart swelled and sank at the same time. It was a rather peculiar feeling. "Oh. Well, when I said stupid, I didn't mean that, you know, you're stupid. Smart people can like all sorts of stupid things!"
Sky's eyes widened, then narrowed, and Dave groaned, slapping himself on the face. "Wait! I always say dumb things just before I ask a girl—" He paused, taking a deep breath. "Would you like to go to the Yule Ball with me?"
For a moment Dave looked hopeful as Sky just stared. Then Sky's face contorted, and she suddenly let out a belch so loud that several owls woke up and began to hoot indignantly.
"Sorry! That always happens when I'm—"
"Nervous! I know! I mean," he chuckled, "I remember before our last Quidditch game, you burped so loud that…" He caught the look on her face. "Still…doing it. So…was that belch a yes, or a no?"
She hesitated. "It was a 'yes,' but—"
Dave's swollen heart had quickly leaped back into its proper place. "Don't want to hear the 'but!' As long as you want to go, I'm golden."
It was too late; he had already turned and strutted out of the room, too high on his own success to be listening.
Ella had fewer birds than usual, since most had already flown south to escape the Ontario winter, but she was still humming merrily as she went to breakfast, as graceful and pretty as one could look in a standard black school robe.
Glancing up, she noticed her beloved also approaching the Great Hall, looking even handsomer than usual with his back straight and his head held high. She walked quicker to catch up with him, one of her fluttering friends landing on her shoulder so that he wasn't left behind.
"Good morning, Prince David!"
Dave looked back, his large grin fading slightly. "I keep telling you, you can just call me 'Dave.' Oh,wow."
They had just walked into the Great Hall, which had been decorated for Christmas during the night; a Christmas tree was standing in every corner, holly and mistletoe decorated the walls, and the candles hanging in the air were now all red, green or gold. Dave (who had not been around to here Chef Hatchet grumbling as he did all that work the previous night) found himself grinning.
"Ah…isn't this the best time of year! Isn't today just the best day ever?"
Ella clapped her hands cheerfully as she stood with Dave in the doorway. "Well, someone seems happy this morning!"
"Yeah. Just…really excited for the dance on Christmas, I guess."
Ella's breath caught in her throat, and she leaned in closer, her cheeks turning pink. "Really?"
"Yeah. I'm going with someone very special—"
"Oh, David, I'm so—"
"—and I guess I'm just—so excited that she said yes! I mean, I was never really sure if Sky was actually into me, but—well, anyway, sorry to start gushing like that," Dave said, finally turning back to Ella but somehow missing the shocked look on her face. "I'm gonna go get breakfast. Hope you're day's as good as mine!"
He strutted toward the Ravenclaw table, singing "Walking Through a Winter Wonderland" under his breath. Ella remained rooted in the doorway for a moment; her bird friend cooed and rubbed its head against her cheek. ELLA sniffled, turned and ran back into the corridor.
"HEY! Watch where you're going!" Max snapped as she ran past, almost caused him to spill his bag of potion ingredients.
Heather was on her way to Charms, reading her essay as she walked, when she felt somebody familiar saddle up beside her.
"Good morning, my dear. I hope you don't mind an escort on your way to class?"
"Actually, I do. Go away."
Alejandro's unctuous smile twitched a bit, but he kept on walking beside her. "So, about this little Christmas party that Headmaster Chris decided to throw…"
Heather suddenly stopped, clapping her hands together and broke into a wide-eyed grin. "Oh, Alejandro? Are you asking me to go as your date?"
Alejandro smirked, but almost instantly, Heather's expression returned to disdain, her arms falling back at her side. "Funny. I thought you would have gotten the hint the last fifty times that I turned you down."
She swept away again. Alejandro blinked, then took off after her.
"You can't fool me, Heather! I know that you crave Alejandro the way that a baked chicken cravesmole sauce!"
"Hmph!" Heather said, turning up her nose, but Alejandro could see the slight flush in her cheeks.
"And besides," he continued, letting his smirk return, "it's not like you're planning to go to that ball on your own, are you?"
Heather stopped walking, but this time it was to spin around and glare at him. "And what is thatsupposed to mean?"
"I'm just saying, the average simpleton at this school just doesn't appreciate a girl with such…" He seemed to enjoy thinking for a moment. "…ruthless determination. Aside from me, who else is going to ask you?
"Are you saying that I'm your pity date because you don't think I could find anybody else?!"
Heather's voice had risen to much that passersby were starting to stare. Alejandro's grin widened; Heather was just so…cute when she was riled up like this.
"I'm just saying, the last time you had a boyfriend, it was because you slipped Trent a Love Potion. So if I were—AGH!"
As Alejandro fell to the floor, holding onto his rapidly-swelling face, Heather pocketed her wand and stormed off down the hallway. "Let's see how well you can find a date if the can't deflate your massive head!" she called, not looking back at him.
Heather now had an unpleasant task: find a stupid date for this stupid ball so that she could show up that stupid Alejandro. Preferably one as hunky, popular, or likely to annoy her rival as possible.
"Wait…is this normal flirting or 'I want a date to the ball' flirting? Because I've already got more ofthat than I can handle," said Justin.
"As funny as it would be, Burromuerto men do not steal each other's señoritas," said José.
"I'm already going with Beth," said some ridiculously handsome guy whom Heather was pretty sure she had never seen before.
"Uh, thanks for the offer, but I'm going home for break," said a confused Brick.
"Why you keep blinking so much?" said an even more confused Lightning.
"You're just flirting with me because it would tick off Alejandro. Which is a worthy goal, but no," said Noah.
"YOU USED A LOVE POTION ON ME!" screamed Trent, storming off.
Hmm. Maybe she would need to try outside of her year.
"Uh, I'm already dating someone," said Ryan.
"I am already going with Josee," said Jacques.
"You're not really my type," said Tom.
"UGH!" Heather seethed, storming down the hall. "What is wrong with everyone?! The hottest girl in school ispractically throwing herself at you and suddenly everyone's become a freaking eunuch?!"
At the same moment, Duncan was walking down the hall in the opposite direction, grumbling about "Stupid Courtney…if she can find a date, I'm sure I can—"
The two were so distracted that they ran right into each other, stumbled back, then glared, before pausing to regard the other with a moment of contemplation.
"No. Not that desperate," they said in unison, then sidestepped each other to continue in their respective searches.
Auditions to play the Yule Ball were held in the Great Hall, on a makeshift stage that had been Conjured up for the purpose. Trent was backstage with his band mates, tuning his guitar and biting his lip.
"I have to admit, I'm really nervous."
Cody gave a cocky grin. "You kidding? We're a shoe-in! Especially since there's only one other group competing," he said, motioning over his shoulder to a trio of fifth years.
"Alrighty then!" called Headmaster Chris McLean. "First up is…the Weird Brothers!"
Trent took a deep breath as they headed on-stage. "I hope you're right, man."
He was totally wrong, man.
"And the winners are…the Wrockers!"
"YES! Diddily-diddily-diii!" Rock said, air-guitaring as Spud cheered and Beardo made a happy siren noise.
Trent and Cody both groaned, as Justin threw his tambourine to the ground and Harold screamed "Idiot!"
"Sorry, boys," Professor Dwayne Crone, who was one of the judges, said with an awkward smile.
"Yeah…sorry you stunk!" said Professor Pete Starek. His friend, Professor Gerry Attridge, chortled.
Cody forced himself to smile as the four of them filed out of the Great Hall. "Well…look on the bright side. Now we can all bring dates!"
"I can't. Leshawna's going home," Harold said morosely.
"And I don't really feel like hunting down a girl to ask," Trent mumbled.
At that moment he raised his eyes and noticed Gwen walking by herself down a side corridor. He stared for a moment, then grimaced and looked away.
Cody didn't notice the look on his friend's face, though he also spotted Gwen and perked up. "Speaking of which…sorry, guys, I gotta go. Opportunity knocks!"
He ran off after Gwen. Justin, mumbling "At least I still have my looks," shuffled off toward the Slytherin Common Room, leaving Harold alone with Trent. He eyed him curiously, remembering what Leshawna had said before.
"Hey…you sure there's no one you wanna ask, Trent?"
"Yeah. I'm sure. Look, I gotta go," he said, before Harold could say anything else.
He made his way back toward the Gryffindor Common Room, his guitar case heavy in his hand. "There's no way Gwen would want to go with me," he murmured to himself. "What am I even supposed to say? 'Gee, Gwen, sorry I acted like a total tool and broke up with you? Sorry I was too stupid to realize that suddenly being in love with the worst person in school was maybe a little bit suspicious?' Pfft."
He reached his common room and made his way up to his dorm. It was empty except for Brick, who was holding a clipboard. As soon as he saw Trent he looked relieved.
"Thank goodness! I've been looking all over for you! I'm supposed to have gotten this to Chef an hour ago," he said, motioning to the clipboard. "Are you staying over break or not?"
"Huh? Oh." Brick was a prefect, so it was his job to poll the students about their plans for Christmas break; Trent had kept putting him off until after the tryouts. "You know what? Put me down for leaving."
Brick made a note on the parchment, then ran off to deliver it to Chef.
She looked up to see Cody strut up beside her, flashing his winningest (and unintentionally goofiest) grin. "Where you headed?"
"Just to the library. I need to study before my last exam."
"Ah, cool, cool," he said, nodding. He cleared his throat. "So, I was wondering—"
"There you are, Codykins!"
"Oh, no," he said, having not time to react before Sierra had him in a strangle-hold.
"I've been looking everywhere for you! What were you two talking about?!" she asked, still grinning as she turned to glare at Gwen.
"My…Defense Against the Dark Arts exam?"
"Oh, right." Sierra paused for a beat, then began to drag Cody away. "Come on, sweetie! You can help me and Staci compile dating data!"
Gwen smiled sympathetically as Sierra dragged him away.
"I can't believe it!" Heather said, as even freaking Ezekiel ran by, cheering that he got a date. "Who's left?!"
She spun around; Harold walked towards her, smiling, a collection of parchment in his hand. "I got your Transfiguration notes! Thanks, they were a big—"
"Leshawna's going home for Christmas break, right?"
Harold blinked. "Yeah."
"But you're staying?"
Heather hesitated a beat. "You're in luck. As your friend, I'm going to save you the humiliation of going to the Yule Ball alone."
"No need to thank me," she said, with a dismissive wave. "Just make sure that you have presentable dress robes. Mine are silver, please try to find something that matches."
"What's this about, Heather?"
"What?! Nothing! I am just trying to—"
"You're just doing this because no one but Alejandro asked you, did they?"
Heather's face turned red. "Just meet me in front of the Slytherin Common Room if you know what's good for you!" she snapped, snatching her notes back and storming away.
Harold watched her go, then sighed. "I just hope Leshawna never finds out about this," he mumbled.
Well, if Trent was going home the next day, he needed to take care of a few things around the castle. After packing his trunk, he headed down to the library, a copy of Quidditch Through the Ages tucked under his arm.
Gwen as coming out just as he was about to enter.
They both smiled awkwardly. They hadn't talked much since their break-up, and things still felt horribly awkward between them. "So, uh…where you headed?"
"Defense Against the Dark Arts. We have one last exam before the end of term."
"Oh. Okay, then."
A pause ensued; just as Trent was going to break it with a vague "Well, nice seeing ya," Gwen steeled herself and asked, "So, do you have any plans for this Yule Ball thing?"
"Huh?" Trent said stupidly. "Um—no. No plans."
"Oh." A slow smile spread on Gwen's face. "Well, then…maybe we could—"
"No, I mean…I'm not going. I'm heading home for break."
It took Gwen a moment to process that. "Oh."
Trent felt like kicking himself right in the head. "Did you, uh…I mean, were your asking—"
"You know what?" Gwen said, trying to sound casual so that a black hole of awkwardness didn't just rip open right under their feet. "Never mind. Anyway…I gotta go."
"Right. Um—good luck on that exam."
And the two walked off, each feeling like a complete moron.
"Max! MAX! Come along, Cody!"
Cody didn't bother resisting as Sierra dragged him by the arm. He was holding Staci's clipboard, filling in as Sierra's secretary while the other gossipmonger was busy. It wasn't a fun job.
"What do you want?" Max asked, barely glancing up from the cauldron that he was carrying down the hall. "Can't you see that I'm busy?"
"I just wanted to ask about your plans for the Yule Ball! I'm compiling data on all the fifth-through-seventh years. So," she leaned down to be closer to his eye level, which was quite a trip for her. "Are the rumors true about you and Scarlett?"
"Careful!" Max snapped, snatching the cauldron away from her face; Cody caught sight of an ugly purple sludge bubbling inside. "This potion is extremely volatile! You don't want to see what happens if it gets on your skin," he added with a sadistic smirk.
Sierra jogged in front of him and started walking backwards to face him; Cody followed a few steps behind. "Whatever. So, the Scax rumors?"
"The wh—? I will be going to the Yule Ball to spread ee-vil and mayhem! Unfortunately, that good-for-nothing sidekick of mine decided to have a 'study date' instead. She's just going to waste the whole night with her two dormmates, What's-Her-Name and The Other One."
"Ellody and Mary?"
"Possible polyamorous lesbians. Cody, write that down!"
Cody rolled his eyes and began to write as Sierra continued, "What about Rodney? Oh, and Crimson and Ennui will be going, right?"
"How should I know?! Just because you have time to keep track of all this clishmaclaver doesn't mean that I—"
"Hey, how do you spell 'Ellody?' And am I supposed to be writing last names or just—whoa!"
Since writing and walking were difficult tasks to do together, Cody wound up tripping over his feet and crashing right into Max. He, in turn, lurched forward, causing the contents of his cauldron to splash all over—"
"AAAAAGGGGGHHHHH!" screamed Sierra.
"AGH!" screamed Cody, dropping the clipboard and racing over to help her.
"Hmm," said Max, looking from the writhing girl to the near-empty cauldron in his arms. "I guess you can add too much venom after all."
About an hour later Cody burst into the Ravenclaw Common Room. His dormmate Ezekiel, who had been sitting on the couch playing with his pet rats, jumped up as he entered, grinning.
"Guess what?! I asked Anne Maria to the Yule Ball and she said yes, eh!"
"Awesome!" Cody held up his palm; Ezekiel stared blankly. "High-five," he explained.
They high-fived, and Cody said, "I have great news, too! Sierra's in the Hospital Wing, and she won't be out for at least a week!"
Ezekiel's grin faded. So did Cody's, and he scratched the back of his neck awkwardly. "Okay, put like that it sounds kind of mean-spirited," he admitted. "But she's gonna be alright! She just won't be able to get around until after the Yule Ball. That means a whole week where I won't have to put up protection spells when I sleep, where she won't be stealing all of my clothes, and best of all…"
Gwen entered the common room, and Cody's grin returned. "One sec, Zeke. Hey, Gwen!"
She paused just as she was about to enter the girls' dorms. She looked stressed, probably because of that exam she just took. "Yeah?"
"Wanna go to the Yule Ball with me?"
"Huh? Um…Cody, I don't…"
Gwen watched his smile start to fade, and she hesitated. It wasn't like she had a second choice after Trent. Of course, she could just skip the whole stupid dance, but Cody the thought of staying over Christmas break and just spending the whole night alone in her dorm was less than appealing. Plus Cody was her friend, and he looked so much like a little kid that it was hard to say no to him sometimes…
"If we went together, it would only be as friends," she warned.
Cody's smile was instantly back. "Sure! No problem!"
She gave him a wary look, then went into the girls' dorm, already sure this had been a bad decision. Once she was gone, Cody rushed back to Ezekiel, punching the air in triumph. "YES! I'm in the friendzone! Which is the first stop on the way to the Maybe-Boyfriend Zone!"
Ezekiel smirked, held up his hand and they high-fived again. Their laughter was interrupted by a gruff voice saying, "Ezekiel?"
They turned; the door to the common room had opened again, except this time it was Professor Bouctouche, their Head of House and Ezekiel's father.
Ezekiel immediately turned serious. "Yeah, Dad?"
"Go grab your things. I want you to Floo home with me tonight instead of taking the train tomorrow."
"Um…" Ezekiel glanced over his shoulder, allowing him and Cody to exchange a confused look. "Okay."
He disappeared up into their dormitory. Cody frowned. He had already known that Ezekiel planned to go home for break and just Floo back for the ball—something not really allowed, but a privilege he could get from his dad being a teacher—yet he wondered if this had to do with something other than convenience. Did it have something to do with the other reason Ezekiel sometimes Flooed home with his dad. It wasn't a full moon tonight…
Ezekiel came back, carrying a bag stuffed with robes and books. "See you tomorrow, I guess."
Ezekiel and his dad left the common room. Once outside, Ezekiel dropped his voice and said, "I could have just taken the train, eh."
"I'm not so sure about that," his father muttered as they walked toward his office. "McLean has been acting…sneaky lately."
"Huh? Like how?"
"I dunno…saying things like 'I don't think anyone should miss this stupid ball I'm putting together,' talkin' a lot about the weather like he knows something we don't…maybe I'm just being paranoid, but I don't want either of us around if he tries anything funny."
They reached Professor Bouctouche's office a minute later, and were back at their Alberta farm a minute after that.
And then, after yet one more minute, a sudden blast of wind whipped the trees outside and it started to snow.