Disclaimer: standard rules--I own nothing HP. Only the plot spin and the character Nayda Larkin belong to me. Everything else is JK Rowling's.
A/N: Sorry for the wait. Here's the next chapter.
Chapter 2: dinner plans
Accepting a friendship was one thing. Dealing with the implications of such was quite another. Nayda strode hastily between classes, trying to sort out her thoughts as she weaved around fellow students scurrying every-which-way. It’d been two days since she accepted the invitation from Remus to be his friend, and also, friend of all four of the Marauders. It was hard to process, suddenly having friends to tell things to, count on, and most of all, talk to during the free periods. She was…grateful.
Dodging a harried first-year who seemed to be carrying his weight in reference books from the library, she slipped into her next class’s room and took a seat in the back row. History of Magic was hardly to be considered a class, but it was mandatory so she went. The first week of school she took it upon herself to read the text book beginning to end so she wouldn’t have to pay attention to the perpetually monotonous Professor Binns. One night a month was all the suffering she could take—add a three-day a week lecture on obscure, dead ogres and the wizards who defeated them and she was ready to voluntarily take up permanent residence in the middle of the Forbidden Forest.
She pulled out an envelope from her satchel, a letter received at breakfast left unread, and unfolded it. It was from her mother.
To the address of Nayda Ann Larkin, daughter of Caroline and Alexander Larkin
From Caroline Larkin, Greetings
You are hereby invited to the Fiftieth Annual Larkin Anniversary Ball, to be held on December the First at the Larkin Manor House located at 351 Cherry Wood Drive, Willow-brook.
Please respond by owl to indicate attendance or absence.
We look forward to your presence at this festive event.
We look forward especially to seeing you, our daughter, who has been missed at each event since the beginning of the fall season. If you can manage it, we would love to see you accompanied. You know my opinion of unaccompanied females. It would do our family name good to have you uphold it, just this once. I know the rest can’t be helped, but perhaps you can manage an exception for one night. Yours&etc.
Only a concentrated effort kept Nayda from whipping out her wand and setting the parchment on fire. She was fuming by the last word, and couldn’t help a sharp glare that if looks could kill, would’ve lightning-bolted her insufferable relatives in an instant.
Class ended shortly after she planned the exact way she would respond—a few words she wanted to call her mother were neither polite nor easily pronounceable, nor even in English. Private tutoring until the age of ten warranted her more than just the knowledge of how to act like a lady, but had the added benefit of bestowing upon her the ability to swear in four separate languages, not including Latin and Greek.
Only her mother would think it appropriate to, even slightly veiled, mention a family curse as if it were the cursed one’s fault. Nayda gripped the missive tight in her hand, unwilling to let it go until she was out of hearing range of every authority figure she knew. Screaming would feel awfully good right now…she thought darkly.
"Wow, do I know that look," said a voice beside her. "Communication from a relative, I presume?"
Nayda glanced over at the interrupter to her reverie—Sirius—then rolled her eyes at the flippancy of the comment, though she acknowledged the truth of it with a nod a moment later. "My mother," she spat out. "Damned woman can’t even send me an invite to a party without insulting me. I swear she’s determined to make my life miserable just because I’m the first girl born in ten generations."
"What does that have to do with it?"
The question came from her other side, where Remus was also keeping pace beside her. She was still getting used to the fact that her new-found friends would all of a sudden flank her without warning and demand access to her thoughts.
"My furry problem," she stated simply, softly, so passersby couldn’t overhear, not that they’d know what she was speaking of even if they did. "Only the females are influenced by it. My parents have hated the fact that they had a daughter instead of a second son."
"There was a first son?" Sirius wanted to know.
Nayda nodded, rounded the corner of the passageway and headed towards the kitchens. She’d skipped lunch to study for a potions exam and was now regretting that choice. Her stomach was growling worse than a kicked hornets’ nest. "My older brother, Kirk. He’s the only Larkin that treats me as more than a stain in the family tree."
"Try being blasted out as soon as you get sorted to the wrong house," Sirius remarked. "Officially, Sirius Black doesn’t exist, at least, not in the infamous Black family records, courtesy of my dear damnable mother." He muttered a few more dark words under his breath that caused a frown to cross Remus’ face, but he ignored his friend for the moment.
"That’s got to suck," Nayda agreed. She stopped walking, faced the wall and examined the painting of fruit for a second before reaching up and tickling the pear depicted there.
After a few house elves had come forward and given the food that Nayda and her companions requested, she answered the question that Remus had asked to begin with. Why she was upset held many different sources, but only one was current cause.
"That letter invites me to the annual ball at my parents’ mansion," Nayda indicated the discarded missive, which was currently being examined by Sirius, "which wouldn’t be such a big deal unless it didn’t insist I bring an escort."
Remus cast her a sympathetic look and held out the bottle of chocolate sauce, which he’d just finished using to douse his ice cream with. Nayda took it and proceeded to lavish her own frozen dessert with it, so much so that the original color—white, for it was vanilla flavored—was soon lost completely.
"Why don’t you just pick someone?" suggested Sirius, tossing the invite down on the table again, ignoring the fact that doing so put it directly in a puddle of marinara sauce spilt earlier. "All you need is a pretty face from a stuck up family, right?"
Nayda nodded. "Yea, but I’d rather not have to suffer through the night with an idiot on my arm if I don’t have to," she said. "Got any bright ideas on how to get out of it?"
Sirius thought about this for a moment, twirling his spoon with his hands absently from one hand to the other. "I’d suggest myself, as I am of the Black family," mentioning this brought an ugly look to his otherwise handsome features, "but I’ve been ex-communicated, and I’m sure your parents have invited the actual members, so me showing up might be more trouble than it’s worth."
"I agree," Nayda said readily. "Though I appreciate the offer." Having a friend there would’ve been nice. "Know any un-ex-communicated wealthy wizard aristocracy members who aren’t Slytherins or complete and utter snobs?"
Remus coughed into his water glass at the complicated turn of phrase Nayda rattled off as easily as if it were a nursery rhyme, and managed to keep from laughing with a concentrated act of will.
"Not really," Sirius admitted after a time, "but I think Remus should go with you."
Nayda sputtered, half-swallowing down the wrong pipe and causing a momentary burst of involuntary asphyxiation. "Why’s that?" she asked, then added to Remus, "no offence."
"None taken," Remus replied, raising an eyebrow at his friend, while at the same time passing Nayda his glass of water. "What are you getting at Padfoot? I’m a half-blood. They’d kick me out faster than you could say ‘furry little problem’."
"Doesn’t matter," said Sirius, dismissing the concern with a wave. "If you look and act like you have enough money, they won’t care. Besides, you won’t be going as an official guest, you’ll be going as the date of a guest, which can supersede the blood-rule in certain cases."
"Like this case?" Remus wanted to know. Sirius nodded.
"Yes, like in this case," he agreed. "Nayda, really, I think it’s a good idea."
Nayda tried (and failed miserably) not to stare at the two of them. She hated these gatherings, had hoped that her new-found friends would catch on to this and help her think of a way out
of it, not how to find an escort...
"You really think it'll work?" she had to know.
"Yes, I do," Sirius confirmed emphatically. Perhaps a little too much so, but that was Sirius for you.
"What do you think Remus? Are you willing to endure my relatives for the sake of a friend?" She wasn't sure if she wanted to endure them, let alone ask him to do so. But the thought of seeing her relatives' faces when she actually followed an edict of her mother's--something never done since she was three years old--was a rather appealing idea.
Remus spooned the last of his ice cream into his mouth, swallowed, then nodded once. "If it'll help you out, then I'm happy to oblige."
Nayda smiled for the first time that day. "Thanks. I'll brief you on the details tomorrow."
Remus frowned slightly. "Details? How much do I need to know? It's just a party, right?"
Sirius and Nayda laughed together at this comment. Remus' confusion was clear on his face, so Nayda took pity on him and explained.
"This is no ordinary party, Remus," she began, containing her mirth for the moment, "This is a group of stuck-up, affluent, spoilt wizard aristocracy gathering together to celebrate their own importance. Trust me, you need details just to survive."
...to be continued...
A/N: Please review and let me know what you think so far! I love to hear from my readers. I promise to post more as soon as the server allows me to...
Thank you to my lovely reviewers! Your encouragement is unfathomable. ~manya