The start of December brought wind and sleet to Hogwarts. The castle was as drafty as usual with fires roaring to keep the chill at bay. The poor Durmstrang ship on the lake was pitching in the high winds, its black sails billowing. It made Rowan seasick just to see the ship tossing and turning. She hoped that the ship was enchanted on the inside for the motions not to be felt. Or she had the terrible feeling that plenty of the Durmstrang students were going to be puking their guts out from the severe motion sickness.
Madame Maxime was in much better shape though. Beauxbatons carriage resided within the tree line, where the trees broke most of the fierce wind. Though it was still likely to be pretty chilly, then again with magic, who knows. For all Rowan knew there was a chimney inside there somewhere.
However, that was not the only change, the Wizarding World had elected to regain Minister Jenkins as Minister of Magic. It came as a bit of surprise to many as for sure the wizarding world journalists believed that the Minister of Magic would lose the pureblood vote due to her reforms just before elections. But for one reason or another more than half of the purebloods voted in her favor to continue to retain, Eugenia Jenkins as Minister of Magic. And with the added votes of muggleborn wizards, muquibs, squibs, former werewolves, and a fair portion of the rest of the wizarding world, Minister Jenkins won by the election by a landslide once more securing her position as Minister of Magic until the next election.
Though the news did not much impact Hogwarts except for many of the pureblood children in all the four houses, who privately discussed the ramifications of next year's sorting. There were rumors already that it would be the largest first-year class in Hogwarts history not even including the huge influx of transfer students that would be entering. They were all wondering if said transfers would change the dynamics of the four houses? Either way, it was something to bear in mind with the next upcoming year.
Despite everything, classes continued as before. One day while in alchemy, Professor Boas said, "I vas told by Professor Slug'orn to make di announcement to di bot' of you. The Yule Ball iz approaching, a traditional part of di Triwizard Tournament and an opportunity for us to socialize vith our foreign guests. Now, di ball vill be open only to fourth years and above. Although di both of you may invite a younger student if you vish."
Rowan chokes as Severus shyly begins to turn red. She'd forgotten all about the blasted ball until now. And as champion she'd for sure have to ask someone out in order to dance. But who?
"Dress robes vill be vorn," Professor Boas continued. "And di ball vill start at eight o'clock on Christmas day, finishing at midnight in the Great Hall. Good luck to di both of you."
Thankfully the bell rings as Rowan and Severus make their escape. Severus is clearly rather excited to go and ask Lily in their next shared class period, DADA. While Severus was excitedly dreaming about attending the ball, Rowan pondered on who to invite.
Regulus would no doubt be asked by Bethanie. Terry would ask Silvia for sure. Pettigrew was with Quyen Crowley. Lupin with Mary. Xeno with Pandora. That left her with James, Sirius, or Andrew Abbot. Out of those three, she'd rather ask Andrew. She could at least count on him not to abandon her mid-ball.
Rowan hadn't gone very far when she suddenly bumped into someone. "Sorry," Rowan apologized as Severus didn't even notice that she'd stopped swept past her. Glancing up in surprise she realized she'd bumped into one of her classmates in her six-year level classes, Advanced Arithmancy and Ancient Studies, Barrett Boone.
The Ravenclaw team captain waved her apology way and said, "It's fine, I wasn't paying any attention either." The ash brown-haired youth weakly smiled at her as his silver eyes seemed rather distracted. He was still slim, toned and handsome as ever, but he seemed like he wanted to cry almost.
"Are you truly alright?" Rowan asked despite knowing it wasn't any of her business.
"I'm fine, Prince," Barrett insisted as he turned to move away.
"Did you break up with Travers?" Rowan asked as she always thought the two boys were a cute couple. A bit of a Romeo and Juliet given that they were a Gryffindor and Slytherin.
Barrett's silver eyes widened with fear and distrust as he dragged her into a nearby empty classroom. Startled at his reaction, Rowan blinked as he slammed the door shut and put his arms on either side of her to pin to the wall. "How do you know that?!" Barrett growled in anger and dismay.
"I mean, the way the two of you two looked at each other," Rowan explained. "Was I wrong? I mean, I always thought the two of you made a lovely couple. Rather romantic really."
Barrett slowly eyes her to confirm that was the truth and finds that is indeed the case. "Sorry," Barrett suddenly withdraws back. "I didn't mean to overreact."
"Want to talk?" Rowan cautiously suggested.
"Why not?!" Barrett mockingly said to himself. "I just lost the one person I cared for, why not tell my woes to a complete and utter stranger?"
"Because it's easier," Rowan wryly said as she walked over to a desk. "A stranger won't judge, there are no lingering attachments, no niceties, no context nor any real repercussions." Sitting down on one of the desks, she motions for Barrett to have a seat and waits for him to start talking.
"I know you're a half-blood," Barrett began to explain. "I don't know if you are aware or not, but homos.e.x.u.a.lity is not viewed very kindly by the pureblood families."
Rowan understood why, the purebloods were dying off and it was seen as a crime not to reproduce. Why even Dumbledore kept silent about it. He never openly acknowledged that he was bent that way so to speak. It was only through very mild suggestions that the conclusion was drawn.
"I love him," Barrett whispered softly. "But he's a Travers and he's expected to marry a girl his parents already picked out for him. I told him that we could always continue to see each other even when we're married. Plenty of other such couples do so as they keep their families and lovers separate. But the bloody honorable snake won't betray his betrothal vows. He'll be loyal to a woman he doesn't love until the day he or she dies first!" Barrett loudly sniffed as his eyes filled with tears.
Rowan gently pats him on the back and says, "What you're suggesting is something that Traver's can't live with. Why must he be forced to throw away his ideal? Is that not what makes him and what you love about him in the first place."
"I know," Barrett mumbled from between his hands that were covering his face. "But I don't want to let him go."
"I'm not going to say that foolish phrase, that it is better to have loved than to have never loved at all," Rowan firmly said. "But rather, if he doesn't change his mind, what will you do then?"
"I don't know," Barrett said as the bell rang. Barrett glances up at the closed door as if lost and unsure of what to do next.
Rowan shrugs and says, "I can stand to be late to class for just one day. I think it's much more important, what we're talking about."
Barrett gives her a weak smile as she takes out a clean silk hankie for him to wipe his face dry. "If you would allow it, I'd like to tell you a story," Rowan softly said, before muttering the Muffalito spell.
Barrett dries his face as Rowan stands up and subconsciously wraps her arms around herself. "My father and mother once loved each other so much that my mother ran away from her
pureblood family to marry a mere muggle man or so we that," Rowan solemnly recounted the tale.
"My father was a good man when we were young but all that began to change when he discovered our magic. He began to change as he drank more and losing his job at that time certainly didn't help either. By the end of it, we were eleven years old and our mother finally had to leave him as our father had become physically violent."
Rowan stared Barrett straight in the eyes as she says, "I don't know much about love, but what I do know is that love can twist into horrible, terrible things. I can assure you that if you continue down this forced path, there will come a day when all that is left is hate. And when that day comes, will you still be glad that you forced him in the end?"
Barrett smiles a heartbreaking smile at her and says, "I won't... I guess that's my answer, huh?"
"Yes," Rowan quietly affirmed, before offering him a hand to aid him back up to his feet.
Barrett gratefully took her hand as he said, "Thanks, Prince."
Rowan nods before opening the door to leave. "Hey Prince," Barrett called out to her.
Turning around Rowan blankly stares at him as he says, "You have a date to the Yule ball yet?"
"No, why?" Rowan asked in utter bewilderment.
"Because I need a new one," Barrett weakly croaked.
"Sure, I'd be honored," Rowan softly replied as Barrett nodded his thanks. Closing the door behind her, she made her way up to the DADA classroom. The moment she stepped in through the door, Professor Lye said, "Miss Prince, you are late! Sit down immediately and ten points from Slytherin!"
Rowan sat down with a shrug. It was worth it. For a wise man once said, "Because even in winter, the cold isn't always bitter, and not every day is cruel." And even Rowan had a heart.