Disclaimer: All HP belongs to JK Rowling. Nayda and the plot belong to me. That’s it. Oh, and I own two HP posters. But that’s it. Really.
A/N: To those who have waited, here’s the next chapter. For those who have stumbled upon this tale now, welcome. Please note that I’ve taken a few creative liberties with cannon facts— nothing major I promise. But any discrepancies are my own, and done on purpose. As always, Read, Review, and Enjoy! ~Manya
Chapter 3: dinner plans, part two
"Take a deep breath, Nayda. You’re paler than Sir Nicolas." Remus examined his friend with a touch of concern, wondering if he should offer something—a paper bag perhaps; she looked about ready to hyper ventilate, and they hadn’t even entered the house yet. The moment they stepped out of the carriage, she’d gone stiff as a rod, staring wide-eyed and white-faced at the massive double doors to the Larkin Mansion, unmoving.
Nayda inhaled several lung-fulls of air before her grip on Remus’s arm lessened enough for circulation to return. It was easy to be calm about visiting relatives she detested when she couldn’t see them, but now that it came down to it, her nerves were getting the better of her. The minute she stepped in that door, she’d be scrutinized down to the shoes she wore, and that fact alone was intimidating enough to warrant a strong desire to run far, far away.
"I’ll be fine," she choked out, trying to convince herself as well as he with the words, "Just give me a minute."
Remus nodded. "Of course, but you do realize we have to go in eventually," he added the last bit with as much reassurance as he could muster. From the moment he agreed to be her escort, she’d assured him it would be a piece of cake to come, but right now he wasn’t so sure.
Nayda rolled her eyes but acknowledged the unfortunate truth despite her discomfort. "I know," she said, "but I don’t have to like it." She let out another sigh and met his gaze squarely. "Are you sure you want to do this? My family isn’t the nicest bunch of wizards on the planet. Not as bad as the Malfoy’s, but just as full of themselves, their noses permanently fixed in the air—"
"Don’t worry about it," Remus cut her off. "Put on a smile, as fake as you please, and try to remember that you have one friend in the place, the guy you came with and will leave with. The evening may be painful, but it won’t be a total loss."
Nayda forced herself to relax, even managed a smile. "Thanks." Reaching down, she lifted the hem of her floor-length purple velvet gown off the ground and nodded towards the mansion. "Shall we proceed?"
Remus covered her hand with his own and returned the smile. "Why not?"
A butler met them as they entered, taking Remus’ cloak and Nayda’s wrap with a curt, respectful bow. Nayda’s parents stood by the ballroom entrance, which was the first door on the right. Her mother was dressed in a stunning gold dress that shimmered, her raven hair pulled up and back away from her face in dozens of carefully pinned corkscrew curls. Her father was the picture of a gentleman wizard in his sharp black dress robes, carefully slicked back hair and a smile that could charm a bird to fly into the Whomping Willow.
Shooting a quick look to Remus to say she’d talk first, Nayda stepped towards her parents and greeted them with a wide smile.
"Mother, father, it is very good to see you." Nayda stepped into her mother’s quick embrace, careful to mask her true thoughts from her expression. She was spending all her time at Hogwarts distancing herself from these people; this event seemed like it as pulling her back into their influence. Stepping away from her mother, she held her hand out to her father in the proper fashion of a lady greeting a gentleman. He took it gently, kissed it, and returned her smile with his own.
"Nayda, my dear, I am pleased that you could come," he said. His gaze traveled to Remus as he released her hand. "Who is your escort?"
Remus stepped forward and Nayda made the introductions. "This is Remus Lupin," she said. "He is a classmate of mine from Hogwarts. Remus, these are my parents, Caroline and Alexander Larkin."
Remus bowed slightly from his waist. "It is an honor to meet you both," he said pleasantly.
Caroline met her daughter’s eye with a raised eyebrow. "The honor is ours, I assure you," she replied with equal civility. "I am pleasantly surprised to see that you have taken my advice, Nayda, though I hoped the Blacks would be under consideration."
Nayda inwardly cringed on behalf of Remus, then for Sirius, though the latter wasn’t even present to receive the veiled insult. "I am afraid," she answered with practiced calmness, "the only one who was not spoken for when I received your invitation is no longer spoken of. Remus kindly offered to take his place. I hope this is not disagreeable?"
"Of course not, love," put in Alexander, cutting off the reply that his wife seemed about ready to make. "Any friend of yours will surely soon be one of ours, no?"
Nayda smiled at her father. "Of course." She stepped back a pace, took Remus’ arm again and together they walked into the ballroom.
The ballroom was decorated to the nines. The floor was polished to a mirror-like seen, reflecting the four crystal chandeliers as if their light were flames dancing in time with the couples spinning around to a waltz.
"That wasn’t so bad was it?" Nayda said softly to Remus as they entered. She steered him to the far corner, where the refreshment table was set up. It was too bad she wasn’t of age; a strong drink would be really helpful right now, she mused.
Remus shrugged. "I don’t know," he answered just as quietly, "Padfoot might not agree with you, but then, he’s probably used to this kind of treatment."
Nayda smiled grimly. "His family is worse than mine," she said. Walking to the refreshment table, she procured two goblets of pumpkin juice and handed one to Remus. "His will outwardly insult you, mine will only hint at it. If I were still living at home, at the end of tonight I’d get a lecture on how you’re not marriageable material and wouldn’t I consider that lovely Lestrange boy again? It’s enough to make a person want to Crucio themselves in the foot, I tell you."
Remus colored a bit at the word "marriageable" and coughed into his pumpkin juice. "I wouldn’t resort to that just yet," he said. "Though I admit that half of me thought the two of you were kidding when you said I’d need endurance lessons to even be in the same room with these people."
"Only if you want to live past the night," Nayda said wryly. She sipped at her pumpkin juice, grimaced, and peering at the surrounding crowd to make sure no one was watching, reached into the sleeve of her renaissance style gown and removed a vial of dark amber liquid. The contents she poured into her goblet without hesitation. When the vial was half-empty, she corked it again and returned it to a small pocket in her sleeve.
"What was that?" Remus wanted to know. He was staring at her with a partly curious, partly cautious expression on his face, as if fighting to either reprimand or encourage her actions. "What did you just put in your drink?"
Nayda considered not telling him, but it was going to be a long night, and secrets were best kept from her family only. He was her friend, and though she wasn’t quite used to it yet, friends shared secrets with each other. "It’s a calming potion," she admitted. "Pacifies my nerves, that’s all, I promise."
"You carry a calming potion to family gatherings?" Remus was surprised. To have to resort to such measures spoke a lot to what conditions had to be endured. "Does it work?"
"Sometimes," Nayda said, smiling. Another swallow of her drink and she sighed. "I have to try."
"Perhaps." Remus finished his own unadulterated drink and set the goblet on the table. "Want to try something different?"
Nayda raised an eyebrow in a similar manner to her mother, though decidedly less sinister in intention. "Like what? Fire whiskey? If you’re holding out on me, Lupin—" She pointed a finger at him, indicating she was threatening his well-being; only mockingly of course.
Remus shook his head. "Not fire whiskey," he said, laughing at little at his friend’s tone. "Would you care to dance?" Without waiting for an answer, he took her goblet from her and replaced it with his hand, then gently but insistently guided her out onto the dance floor. He paused a moment to catch the beat of the music, then gracefully led her in a waltz.
Nayda couldn’t help but smile. Dancing was the one thing at all of these events she’d endured without complaint, though until this evening her partners were self-important prats who’d rather hear themselves pontificate on their ridiculous accomplishments than hear her speak a solitary word about even something as mundane as the weather. All the pleasantness of the exercise came back to her with the simple infusion of a friend to share it with. Remus spun her out, and she laughed as she stepped back to him. This was the good part, and she was going to savor it.
(to be continued…)
A/N: sorry for the semi-abrupt cut off, but I wanted to post something for those of you who are reading this while its still a work-in-progress. The next part will be posted as soon as I can type it. Please use the review box below to tell me what you think so far. Thanks to all my reviewers! ~Manya
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