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Napoleon's Complex by GubraithianFire
Format: Short story
Chapter 1: I.
Author's Note The 12+ rating isn't about sacrificing any sense of "reality" or "drama." You don't need strong language or scenes of a sexual nature to create a story with depth. My entry for the challenge is definitely a story about two people, and only possibly a story about love, depending on your perspective. It's all written up (with two versions to boot), so updates should be fairly often.
All of my love to Susan, for the challenge, and Rachel, for assuring me that I haven't gone completely insane. Thank you and enjoy.
I suppose you could say the problem started when we first met. It was in some class in first year, doesn’t matter what it was now. Rose insisted that she and I sit together, support each other, and I didn’t feel like arguing the point. Besides, it would be nice to have her there with me as we braved the intimidating castle and all its denizens. Rose being Rose and me being me, we got there later than intended, and there was no remaining table with two seats at it. There were, of course, two separate seats available. One was front and center. The other was in the exact middle. Rose being Rose and me being me, we got the seats we wanted.
The girl sitting next to me appeared to find my arrival a welcome distraction from waiting for the professor to show and class to start. “Hi,” she said stiffly. “I’m Eugenie.”
“You-genie,” I repeated. “Is that French or something? My cousins are part French. I don’t like them all that much. I’m not French myself, though.”
“It was the name of a French empress, if that’s what you mean, and that of several British princesses.”
“So you’re royalty.”
I don’t know why I was so charming that morning. Something in the pumpkin juice up north, I suppose.
“I think I’d know if I was royalty. What’s your name, anyway?”
She snorted, I think. There were so many other peripheral conversations that I couldn’t distinguish her breathing patterns. “Well, that explains that.”
It did, a little bit, but not really.
The next time we had that class, after I’d given her an obligatory greeting, she blinked and said, “Aren’t you forgetting something?”
I had all my books, and parchment, and even a backup quill in case the one broke.
“You didn’t greet me with my proper title.”
It didn’t even occur to me not to indulge this. It probably should have. I hadn’t done the reading.
“Her Royal Highness the Princess Eugenie of Leeds.”
Was she, though? I wasn’t sure at the time.
“Your Royal Highness will do, and if you’re feeling lazy, I’ll accept Ma’am.”
“I’ll call you by your full title if you call me by mine.”
“His Royal Highness the Wizard-King of Britannia, Albus of the House of Potter.”
It’s amazing what one can pull out of one’s bottom at the strangest of times.
“That’s much longer than mine.”
“Well, you said it yourself. I deserve mine. I’m a Potter.”
Trust me, I’m not this bad usually. Or don’t trust me. But as long as you’re here, you should probably trust me.
“I’m not going to call you that.”
“Fine. I won’t call you Your Royal Highness, or Ma’am, neither.”
I think she was a little annoyed with me after that. I’d say I don’t blame her, but I do. She started this whole thing. And I still didn’t know if she was at all French.
She wasn’t. Not even sort of.
Actually, that’s a lie, she was sort of French. I found out that after a few months spent in her company. I had considered asking her about it before, but it seemed so out-of-nowhere that I didn’t want to. But you can’t say that our conversations were ever from somewhere, if you know what I mean.
One day, for example, once Rose had barged her way into our partnership outside of class, we got to talking about pets. I don’t remember how that got started. I think it was breakfast and we were watching owls swooping in and delivering mail.
“I’ve got a dog,” said Rose, for Eugenie’s benefit and not mine. I knew that already. “Our neighbor’s dog had puppies and she gave one to us.”
“What kind of dog?” asked Eugenie. I don’t think she liked dogs. She was a cat person. I could tell those sorts of things. My own magical power.
“Oh, he’s a corgi. He’s adorable. His name’s Wolfgang because he thinks he’s intimidating and all.” Rose dug in her bag and, after a good twenty seconds of rustling, managed to pull out a creased picture of old Voolfgahng chasing some blurry figure around our house. The figure I knew was Nicky, but I didn’t tell her that. Nor did I tell either of them that I was the one who set the vicious puppy on my cousin.
“I’m allergic to most four-legged mammals,” said Eugenie, without a hint of regret. Rose frowned a little bit in sympathy anyway. “That’s why we have a hairless cat.”
I almost choked on my own spit. “Hairless cats? How does a cat have no hair? How is that still even a cat?”
Rose nodded solemnly in accordance.
“It’s not technically hairless,” she admitted. “It’s a Sphynx cat. It’s got tiny, tiny hairs on its body, like a peach.”
“Let me guess,” I said, still a little sickened. “Her name is Peach, right? Very creative, Genie. Who’d have thought?”
“His name is Napoleon, if you must know. And I didn’t name him, my dad did, so there.”
After that, I shut up.
Later on, as we began to associate more regularly and with more people, I learned more about Eugenie. I learned one new thing a week. The facts didn’t usually fit together, but I like to organize things in pairs.
She hated chocolate. She loved ice cream. She didn’t get football. She got Quidditch. She had never left the kingdom. She had always wanted to. She was a good listener. She was a bad talker. She didn’t like me. But she did.
But we were give-and-take conversationalists. She learned about me, too. And I made sure it was organized in pairs.
I liked chocolate frogs, not sugar quills. I supported Puddlemere, not Holyhead (sorry, Mum). I wanted to be a Hit Wizard, not an Auror (sorry, Dad). I was a kneazle person, not a cat person. I liked her. But I didn’t.
We disagreed on a lot of things (sport, school, et cetera) and agreed on some more (people, places, et cetera). But I don’t think we’d ever really figured out if what we had was a friendship at all. At some points it was. Sometimes it wasn’t. We were give-and-take conversationalists, after all. Sometimes the balance tips towards one side and not the other.
For the record, I still don’t know. I would like to think so. Which means that, most likely, she wouldn’t.