He would have gotten there faster, of course, if it were possible to just apparate to Hogwarts, but that wasn’t possible at the best of times, and with the tournament security had been tightened even further. Since that extra security was, however, in a roundabout way the reason he was here, he forced himself to be content with apparating to Hogsmeade and taking a carriage up to the school itself, hoping that he remembered his anti-wrinkle charms well enough to prevent his robes from getting completely rumpled on the way.
Stepping into the ballroom, though, made it all worth it. He spotted her at once, of course, across the room. She was wearing an emerald green silk gown that hugged her slim figure like water, making her red hair gleam even brighter by contrast. Not that she was the only redhead in the room–with a passel of Weasleys about, that was impossible–but to Carson’s eyes, she might as well be.
He had almost reached her when she turned and their eyes met, a smile spreading quickly from the corners of her mouth all the way to eyes that brightened with a familiar teasing sparkle. “There you are. I’d begun to think I’d been stood up, or perhaps that some other witch had snatched you up.”
“Do you think so little of me then, love?” he scolded lightly in return, offering her his arm. “That you’d believe I could decline the opportunity to escort such the most beautiful lady I know to the social event of the season?”
Jane grinned. “Hardly. Though with all this talk of beauty, I begin to wonder if someone hasn’t laid a charm on you without your knowing. Perhaps I ought to warn Dumbledore–”
“I’ve not said anything I haven’t told you before,” he retorted.
Jane chuckled softly and laid her head on his shoulder. “No, but you’ll forgive me if a lifetime of conditioning makes it difficult to believe. I don’t doubt your sincerity…merely your objectivity.”
“I’ll be frank, Janie, I make no claim to objectivity as concerns you.” He smiled warmly at her. “Now. Am I safe to ask for a dance, or are you on duty?”
Jane lifted her head to glance surreptitiously around the ballroom. There were more than a few he recognized as aurors standing about, and likely a few undercover as well. And no wonder: not only was the Triwizard tournament one of the major events of the wizarding world–rather like the Muggle Olympics, only perhaps not so well represented outside of Europe–but this particular tournament had already had more than enough go wrong to warrant a bit of extra caution.
When she turned back to him, her eyes were full of a warmth that still amazed him as much as it had when they were both students and he’d seen for the first time the beautiful swan who hid inside the “Plain Jane.”
“I suppose one dance won’t hurt.”