After the fiasco that was the Triwizard Tournament, Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry pretty much put the kibosh on anything related to the competition. This included balls, for a good number of years–at least until the students’ cry for chaperoned romance became so loud that even Headmistress Professor McGonagall threw up her hands in surrender. Since that time, the school held one ball a year, each on the same day: Halloween.
It came as no surprise to anyone that Professor Longbottom tried his best to stay away from such festivities. A near-run-in with a troll on Halloween of his first year left him a little nervous about the day, even as a full-grown man nearly as famous as Harry Potter. That didn’t stop Professor McGonagall from trying to convince him to chaperone every year, but Neville preferred to spend the evening looking after his mandrakes.
When he wandered back into the castle that Halloween night, however, the ball was still in full swing. An unexpected frost had killed much of his stock, leaving Neville with very little to do outside of fit the rest of the mandrakes with scarves. The music was sure to continue for several hours, rendering an early bedtime moot. He lingered in the hallway, listening to sounds of revelry drifting from the great hall. At least the ball had food, and there was nothing to be afraid of except a few students getting a little too intimate with their dates.
Or so Neville thought until he heard some very strange banging coming from a nearby classroom. He nearly leapt out of his skin, then paused, waiting for the sound to come again. When it did, the bumps accompanied a cry of “No! Not like that. Oh, come on! It’s nearly over!”
He stepped closer, and then closer still. Almost without thinking, Neville lifted his hand toward the room’s door’s handle.
Before Neville could work up the nerve to open the door, someone burst out of it–or maybe two someones. The first careened straight into Neville’s chest before he could get a good look at things.
“Oh!” you said as you pushed yourself off of him. “Longbottom!”
“Um…[L Name],” Neville answered with a frown. One of your hands had encircled his arm so that you could steady yourself. Your other hand was preoccupied by the skeleton standing behind you wearing a set of dress robes. Once you righted yourself, your eyes followed Neville’s gaze even as you brushed the hair from your face.
“Where are my manners?” you said, and tugged on the skeleton’s arm. The laugh that followed sounded distinctly uncomfortable. “This is Roger. Roger, this is Professor Longbottom.”
“Hello…Roger,” Neville said with a small wave. Roger turned his head away, as though disgusted by Neville’s appearance. You elbowed Roger in the ribcage.
“Roger! Be nice!” By then, Neville was frowning at you. Your hair was in disarray, though you’d clearly tried to do it up nicely to go along with your dress. Your ditzy demeanor was nothing new, however; Neville often wondered how in the world you had convinced Professor McGonagall of all people to give you the Charms position. That did not stop him from being curious, though, especially as Roger began to drag you down the hall toward the ball.
“What were you doing in there with a skeleton?” Neville asked as you managed to get Roger to stop. He sincerely hoped it wasn’t what he often caught the sixth years at in vacant classrooms after dark. At first, he thought that would be quite the feat, considering Roger’s missing several important fleshy bits, but then you turned a light shade of pink. A second later, you looked back at Roger, who quickly shook his head. You released his bony fingers and took a step toward Neville.
“You can’t tell anyone okay?”
“Uh…” was all Neville said in response. He really, really didn’t want to know about your kinks. You both planned to stay at Hogwarts for quite a while still, and it would make talking to you in the break room difficult. Clearly, you had no idea where Neville’s mind was headed though, because you continued in a pleading whisper:
“I just really wanted to go to the dance.”
“I…see,” said Neville, though he apparently did not.
“Please don’t tell Professor Pendragon!” you squeaked. “I was going to put Roger back as soon as the ball was over, and I was going to take the charm off of him, too!”
Slowly, Neville nodded. Then it occurred to him that feigning understanding would get him nowhere. “Okay, I have no idea what’s going on here. Are you saying you charmed the Alchemy professor’s skeleton so you could take him on a date?”
“I didn’t want to,” you said in a rush. “But…no one asked me, and I…really wanted to go. If I danced by myself, I’d look like an idiot.”
Before you even finished, Neville was chuckling. Your last words trailed away into a tear-filled stare as you watched.
“It’s not funny! You don’t know how it is, being a single woman in a castle full of children and elderly teachers. I’m never going to get married, never!”
“You could date Professor Pendragon,” Neville offered, and got only a shove for his suggestion. “All right, all right. I won’t tell him. But it would probably be better if you went ahead and put Roger back. Won’t Pendragon notice when he sees you two dancing?”
Maybe you hadn’t thought of that; you paled instantly at Neville’s words. Still, the look you threw Roger was one of great remorse. His only response was to tap his feet against the floor. You turned back to Neville.
He reached out and placed a hand on your shoulder. “I’ll go with you. That way both of us have an excuse to be there.”
Neville nodded. If Roger had eyes, the look he shot Neville as you lifted your wand definitely would have been a glare. Unfortunately, the skeleton had no time to prevent his second demise. With a flick of your wand, all life disappeared from the bones, and you caught the collapsing structure easily in your arms. A moment later and Roger disappeared.
“Well, what are we waiting for?” you exclaimed, and took Neville’s hand. “I’ve never had a date with someone living before!”
Somehow, Neville thought to himself as you yanked him after you into the great hall, he wasn’t surprised.